Kukla's Korner Hockey
The Blakhawks have defeated the Nasville Predators 4-3 to win the series 4-2.
They will meet te winner of the Minnesota/St. Louis series.
from David Climer of The Tennessean,
The Nashville Predators arrived at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night with one objective:
Avoid being on the wrong end of a congratulatory handshake.
With a 5-2 victory in Game 5, the Predators survived to play another day. In the process, they postponed the traditional handshake that comes with the conclusion of each of the 15 best-of-seven series that comprise the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It's still an uphill climb for the Preds, who trail Chicago 3-2 entering Game 6 on Saturday at United Center.
Even so, this clearly is a team that is not going quietly. And after the events of the third period Thursday night, something tells me the Blackhawks are feeling pressure to close out the series at home Saturday. They don't want to come back to Bridgestone Arena for a decisive Game 7.
Below, Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times with "Everybody Else Wants To Be The Blackhawks"...
from John Glennon of The Tennessean,
Here are five key questions facing the Predators as they prepare for Game 5:
1. Can they slow down the Toews line?
Chicago's line of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad has been dominant in the series, accounting for 12 points (four goals, eight assists) — one third of the team's points total.
Hossa has been the ringleader, seemingly all over the ice while posting five assists, including four primary assists. The absence of Mike Fisher, the Predators' best two-way center, and Shea Weber, one of the league's top defensemen, has really hurt Nashville in trying to match up with the talented trio.
"The challenge is they're a good hockey line," Laviolette said. "They present a lot of challenges with regard to talent and speed of the attack they bring to the game. I thought (Tuesday) for at least the first three periods we did a pretty good job, keeping them in check and not giving them too many quality chances."
2. Can the veterans bounce back?
When it comes to the very important center position, the Predators are an old team. First-line center Mike Ribeiro is 35, current second-line center Matt Cullen is 38 and fourth-line center Paul Gaustad is 33.
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Legs heavy, energy stores on empty, they raced up and down the ice, neither side wanting to give in to the other or to tiredness.
Three periods of playoff hockey had come and gone, with all the sweat and exertion and adrenaline that accompany it. Then one overtime, then a second, then into a third. Tuesday night became Wednesday morning at the United Center. Playoff beards filled in. Marian Hossa turned 45.
The Blackhawks and the Predators were carrying on as if everything was at stake, and maybe it was. Game 4 of their first-round series felt like a line in the sand. Whoever crossed it would win the series. Is that how it would be? Who knew? But with every frenetic rush into the other side’s zone, the desperation seemed to increase.
Neither wanted to cede anything to the other. Not any ground. Not any momentum. Certainly not a goal. Scott Darling was superb in the net for the Hawks. Pekka Rinne was crazy good for the Predators.
Something had to give. Theoretically. But doesn’t pi go on forever? So why couldn’t a hockey game?
Finally, at 1:16 a.m., with a heavy slap shot from inside the blue line and Bryan Bickell shielding Rinne, Brent Seabrook tucked this game in for a 3-2 Hawks victory. Good night to all.
Watch the game highlights below...
from the CP at TSN,
Scott Darling doesn't need reminding that all those other saves, the ones that win big playoff games, wouldn't have happened without the first one.
The 6-foot-6 rookie goaltender may be the toast of the town at the moment, but he had to learn to put down his own beer first. Four years after Darling nearly hit bottom both personally and professionally, he has stepped in twice for Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford and become the defensive anchor for the team he followed as a kid.
Darling stopped 35 shots in the 4-2 win Sunday that nudged the Blackhawks back in front of the Nashville Predators in their first-round playoff series, 2-1. After playing just 14 games during the regular season, he was called in to relieve a shaky Crawford after the first period of Game 1, and promptly played his way into the NHL record book — longest relief stint by a keeper (almost 68 minutes) without surrendering a goal.
But Darling was back on the bench for Game 2, and after being named the starter for Game 3, he struggled early to hold his own. After each of the Blackhawks' first two scores, Darling got beat barely a half-minute later. That would be enough to spook lots of goalies, let alone a rookie with nearly two dozen family members sprinkled in among 22,000-plus rabid fans.
"To be honest, there was a lot of 'Do I really belong here?' when I first got here," Darling recalled afterward. "And I'm trying hard, even now, to stop saying that to myself."
via Dave Hodge of TSN,
It's pretty hard to say Detroit has a goaltending problem when the Red Wings are tied 1-1 with Tampa Bay because rookie Petr Mrazek stole the first game with a 44-save performance, but Detroit has a goaltending problem, to which thumbs must be turned down.
It was said here previously that Mrazek runs hot and cold like water taps and Jimmy Howard wouldn't be too long on the bench if the Red Wings didn't play a lot better in Game 2. They didn't, he wasn't, and Detroit goes home without much confidence in either goalie, or in themselves. Mike Babcock says he's sticking with Mrazek and he would probably deny the use of a coin in reaching that decision.
Chicago's situation is somewhat similar. The Blackhawks stole their first game in Nashville because of Scott Darling's superb netminding in relief of Corey Crawford. Coach Joel Quenneville showed faith in his Stanley Cup-winning goalie and started Crawford again in Game 2, but the 6-2 loss to the desperate Predators has forced Quenneville to send Darling out for his first playoff start back in Chicago for Sunday's Game 3.
Crawford shouldn't relax. It's a tough way to win a playoff series when goalies have to be pulled and starters are never certain.
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times,
I think Corey Crawford just let in another goal.
It’s time for a change, but more importantly, it’s time for a spark. Crawford is not the Blackhawks’ biggest problem in their first-round series with the Predators, but it’s very possible that rookie goalie Scott Darling is the biggest solution. That’s a difficult thing to write. It reeks of complete panic, and that’s not what the Hawks are about. This a team that hits bumps, shrugs and bounces back. We’ve seen it over and over again.
And Crawford helped keep the Hawks on track while they struggled during the regular season. Did I mention he has also won a Stanley Cup?
But there’s something missing in this series, even if it’s only two games old. That’s not Crawford’s fault, though he wasn’t at all sharp Friday in a 6-2 loss to the Predators. The defense has been awful in front of him. But in four periods of work, he has given up nine goals on 47 shots. Those numbers speak the truth.
This is a sport of feel and hunches and momentum, and none of it is in the Hawks’ favor in a series that is tied 1-1.
from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Patrick Kane will indeed play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday in Nashville, a mere seven weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a broken clavicle suffered Feb. 24, when he was cross-checked into the boards by Florida’s Alex Petrovic. Kane took some contact over the weekend, practiced with the team on Monday, had an X-ray later in the day and was cleared by team doctors.
Now, with his hair long in the back and the trademark three steps shaved into his temples, Kane is ready to go.
“It’s exciting,” he said after Tuesday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West. “It’s been a long 50 days here, so it’s a credit to a lot of hard work from the doctors and the trainers, and just listening to them and trying to heal as fast as possible.”
By Mike Shackil,
At times, the Chicago Blackhawks have looked like the best team in the entire NHL this year, but their recent play hasn’t been of the high quality variety expected from a championship contender.
During a stretch in November and December, the Blackhawks went 16-3-1 and had everything clicking on all cylinders. But here they are in April, heading into the NHL playoffs on a four-game losing streak, having dropped all four by one goal.
from Tracey Myers of CSNChicago,
“We’ll see how he does again tomorrow but I thought he had real good progress. He got cleared for contact and handled everything pretty well,” Quenneville said. “That line looked good as well, so we’ll see how he is tomorrow but we’re encouraged by today.”
Kane was speaking in more cautious terms than his coach but he said he has felt better with each passing day.
“Yeah, I hope so,” Kane said when asked if he could play in this series. “Where I’m at right now is just to kind of go through practice today and get as ready as possible and try to feel what it’s like to be in a game simulation. I thought it was a good day, a good practice for the team overall. Overall, I feel pretty good. I just have to take it day by day right now.”
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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.
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