Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star,
Through earlier upsets of New Jersey and Boston, it was the stellar goaltending of Ward combined with the relentless offence of Staal that carried the Cardiac Canes.
But now, two losses into the series, Carolina desperately needs a big performance from both those players in order to keep that deficit from becoming insurmountable.
Staal has not scored in the last five games and has but a lone assist in the conference final. Ward gave up six goals in a 7-4 loss Thursday, the most he has ever allowed in a playoff game. In 38 previous post-season appearances, Ward had never given up more than four goals.
As he watches Crosby and Malkin put up big numbers – nine points between them in the first two games – Staal understands he also has to produce.
from Chip Alexander of the News & Observer,
They simply call him “Geno,” which doesn’t have much of a menacing—or marketing—ring to it. A native Russian, he still speaks halting English and shies away from media interviews.
But it was Malkin who was the NHL’s leading scorer this season, winning the Art Ross Trophy. It is Malkin who could be the league’s MVP. It is Malkin, at 22, who is making many wonder what’s next and how high the center’s professional ceiling can be.
More than that, it is Malkin, No. 71, who quickly is becoming the Carolina Hurricanes’ No. 1 headache in the Eastern Conference finals.
Q. Any update yet on Cole and Ruutu.
COACH MAURICE: It happened 12 hours ago. We’re not going to know for a little while. Haven’t seen the guys. Usually they don’t take my medical thing anyway.
Q. Did you encourage the NHL to take a look at that?
COACH MAURICE: No, I nothing to do with that. I just coach.
Q. Would you expect them to do that?
COACH MAURICE: They do. They watch the games actually.
from Paul Branecky of CarolinaHurricanes.com,
Now we face the first of three agonizing sets of two-day breaks in this series before these teams go at it again on Thursday. After the game, Fleury said that the Penguins would like to get right back into it and play Game 2 as soon as possible, which I think the Canes might also say after a game in which they played pretty well for the most part, with the exception of a brief but damaging meltdown in the first period. They should be eager to atone for that in Game 2.
However, the scheduling should actually do them some good as Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu get a chance to rest. Both players left the game with lower body injuries, with an immediate update on their status not available.
While they’ve combined for just one goal this postseason, they are important in establishing the team’s forecheck and cycling game in the offensive zone, and would be sorely missed if they can’t go for the next game. We’ve seen two-day breaks work out both ways momentum-wise, so I don’t think that side of it matters much, but playing just three games in the next 10 days could be crucial for those two.
from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
This is a big-time goaltender, folks.
Like all of ‘em, Fleury gives up a bad goal here and there. It happened in the Washington series and the Philadelphia series before that.
But like only the truly great ones, Fleury makes the huge saves when they mean the most. That’s why you can’t just look at his statistics, which couldn’t match Ward’s coming into the series. Against Philadelphia, the big stop came in the third period of Game 2 when Fleury stopped center Jeff Carter with a fabulous skate save, giving the Penguins a chance to win in overtime. Against Washington, it was stealing the Capitals’ great Alexander Ovechkin blind early in Game 7 with a glove save that led directly to the Penguins’ 6-2 win.
Then, last night.
Fleury was a wall early in a 0-0 game, making great saves on Tuomo Ruutu, Eric Staal, Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen during a Carolina power play. He robbed center Chad LaRose in the second period, somehow stopping his backhander after a rebound. And he was big late, diving to make a save that prevented Staal from scoring the tying goal in the final 30 seconds.
from Luke DeCock of the News & Observer,
The Hurricanes lost Erik Cole midway through the third period after Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke caught him knee-on-knee in front of the Pittsburgh net. Cole played only one shift after that, and an angry Paul Maurice wasn’t happy about the hit afterward.
Asked if he thought it was a knee-on-knee hit, with the implication that it was an illegal one, a curt Maurice said, “Yes, I did. I felt that was, yeah.”
Cole officially has a “lower body” injury, but he clearly hurt his left knee in the collision. Cooke said the contact was accidental.
“He was cutting across the middle,” Cooke said. “I turned sideways to hit him, and he turned the other way. I almost fell over, too.”
continued and watch the hit (1:15 mark) within the video highlights below…
Pittsburgh wins 3-2 in a game filled with numerous scoring chances.
It looks like this series could go deep.
Related story from Scott Burnside of ESPN…
from Luke DeCock of the News & Observer,
So no matter how well the Hurricanes play defensively, they’re still going to need Ward in this series. The Penguins are going to get their chances. Ward is going to have to stop them.
Those are difficult circumstances for a goaltender, but they are the kinds of circumstances in which Ward really thrives. He’s a big-game goalie, and he showed that in the regular season when he denied Crosby on a breakaway and Malkin on a penalty shot in a 3-2 Carolina overtime win on April 4.
At 25, he has never lost a playoff series, and watching him shine in the playoffs after a two-year absence drives home what a missed opportunity those two seasons really were for the Hurricanes.
Because with Ward in net, there’s always a chance. Had the Hurricanes made it in 2007 or 2008, they might have gone as far as this team has. But they didn’t, and if anything, that has sharpened Ward’s resolve.
from Stan Fischler of Game On,
• The Red Wings are not unbeatable; it’s just that it’s hard to catch them.
• I’d like to see what would happen if Chris Osgood REALLY was tested in the Detroit goal.
• If Nik Lidstrom got any better he’d be Zdeno Chara.
• I’m very interested in seeing how Sid (Days Of Whine and Roses) Crosby plays against team that can spell D-E-F-E-N-S-E; otherwise known as Carolina.
more bullet points…
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at email@example.com