Kukla's Korner Hockey
Is there one player you believe needs to step up in the conference finals?
Burnside: Patrick Marleau had two game-winning goals against Detroit in the West semifinals, but he still has only three this postseason. For a player who had 44 goals during the regular season, he’ll need to once again shake the playoff monkey off his back if the Sharks are going to advance to their first Cup finals.
LeBrun: I want to see more from Marian Hossa. He’s been good, but not great. Two goals in 12 playoff games doesn’t cut it, not for a guy making $7.9 million a year.
more questions then answers from Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
Tallon is, above all else, a smart hockey man and one that isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a deal. Maybe the best news of all is that Chicago, his old team, may be in the market to move a couple of warm bodies in the off-season because of a pending salary-cap crunch. With the cap space he has in Florida, and the hands-on knowledge of who makes a difference in the Chicago line-up, Tallon will be perfectly positioned to deal with his former understudy, the current Blackhawk GM Stan Bowman, if they need to dump salary in the offseason.
more on Tallon…
from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun,
Proof positive that no honest-to-goodness bad blood has developed yet between the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks?
The fans here boo Brian Campbell every time he touches the puck.
Brian Campbell, for gosh sakes! The carrot-topped Chicago defenceman is a sweet skater and a nice puck-handler but he isn’t anybody’s idea of a villain. But evidently the good people of San Jose have memories like elephants, because two seasons ago — for all of two months — Campbell was a late-season rental who elected not to re-sign with the Sharks when free agency season opened.
The fans ought to throw him a parade. No knock on Campbell, who had cost the Sharks a first-rounder and winger Steve Bernier to acquire from Buffalo, but his decision to sign in Chicago that summer made San Jose GM Doug Wilson go beat the bushes for another offensive defenceman, and the result was Tampa’s Dan Boyle.
from Bob Verdi of ChicaoBlackhawks.com,
I have in my gnarled and arthritic hands a crinkled clipping from the august New York Times, dated April 16, 2010. The headline is as follows: “Entering Playoffs With Many Stars, Just Not In Goal.”
Surprise! The story is about the Blackhawks and their unknown soldier between the pipes, Antti Niemi, who went from Pelicans Lahti to Rockford IceHogs to No. 1 in Chicago, earns only $827,00 for manning what arguably is the most important position in sports, yet is so green he might as well be a vegetable.
The Times, which has earned numerous Pulitzer Prizes, was not breaking any news here. Most experts throughout the National Hockey League concurred that the Blackhawks would be vulnerable in net, and truth be told, so did thousands of nervous fans in Chicago.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
• How hot are the Flyers right now? Going back to Game 7 against Boston, the Flyers have now scored 10 unanswered goals (four against the Bruins, six against the Canadiens in Game 1 on Sunday). According to our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the longest streak of its kind in a single postseason since 1987, when the Flyers scored 11 straight goals over a three-game period against the New York Rangers and Islanders. Philly went on to lose to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup finals.
• Another indication of the kind of playoff baggage the San Jose Sharks are lugging around this spring as they try to advance to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in franchise history? The horrors of home.
The Sharks have never won a home game in the conference finals. In their only other appearance (against the Calgary Flames in 2004), they managed to lose all three home games. With their Game 1 loss Sunday against Chicago, the streak now stands at four.
from Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Last season’s run to the conference finals, a 4-games-to-1 elimination by the Red Wings, is cemented in my mind by one image: Detroit lug Johan Franzen taking the mouthguard directly out of the teeth of the frail, underaged Kane and throwing it to the ice.
Oh, it’s early. Way early.
But seven more wins and the Hawks can make all that bad stuff disappear.
more and if you need a refresher on the image mentioned above, watch it below…
from Steve Rosenbloom of RosnBlog at the Chicago Tribune,
If the kid netminder ever was going to crack, this would’ve been the game and this would’ve been the period in perhaps the league’s loudest building. But the unflappable Niemi said no.
And now the Hawks have won six straight playoff games on the road, surviving then thriving. This is what great teams do. This is what good teams growing into greatness do.
added 8:14pm, from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Taking a step back and looking at the aesthetic value of Game 1, we appear to be in store for quite a series. How often do you see both teams with 40 or more shots in regulation ... in a playoff game? The game had an electric pace, with two heavyweight contenders slugging it out.
“It was intense. Yeah, it was fast. I think that was one of the fastest we’ve seen,” said Keith. “The Sharks have a lot of guys who can skate and move the puck.”
The question many had entering this series was whether the Sharks could keep up with the Hawks. The answer from Game 1 was an unequivocal yes. Now, the question is, can the Sharks solve Niemi?
Puck drops just after 3:00pm ET and can be viewed on NBC, TSN or RDS.
Should be an entertaining opening game and I say high scoring too.
from Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News,
They have the marquee players, the marquee opponent, the painful playoff history and the big stage all but cleared for them.
Basically, this meeting with Chicago is the series the Sharks and their fans have always wanted and needed.
It’s a threshold moment for the franchise, multiplied by 100, starting with today’s Game 1 at HP Pavilion.
And now, with the East mostly wiped clean of headliners, this highly anticipated Western Conference finals is the series the NHL needs (for ratings and attention), too.
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are done. So, yes, the Sharks and Blackhawks inherit the spotlight.
from Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe,
• Keep an eye on Chicago defenseman/puck-pusher Brian Campbell in the Sharks-Hawks series. He has six years left on a deal that carries a $7.14 million cap hit. By no means an easy deal to shake. But with Bruins goalie Tim Thomas carrying a $5 million cap hit for three more years, and Tuukka Rask now distinctly the No. 1, a Campbell-Thomas exchange is something the sides might explore around the June draft. Campbell, by the way, turns 31 Sunday.
• With five weeks to go before the draft, the Lightning still don’t have a CEO or GM, which could mean Jim Hammett (player personnel director) and Darryl Plandowski (head amateur scout) would make the call on Tampa’s picks, including No. 6 overall.
more hockey topics…
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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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