Kukla's Korner Hockey
from John Glennon of the Tennessean, —
With players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa gracing the roster, it’s no surprise the Chicago Blackhawks are known for their explosive offensive potential.
But Chicago’s rise to the upper echelon of the NHL this season was fueled at least as much by its stifling defense as its goal-scoring ability.
Living proof comes in the form of the Predators, who open their best-of-seven first-round series against Chicago tonight at United Center.
In six games against the Blackhawks during the regular season, the Predators managed just 12 goals. Even more telling numbers: Chicago held a quintet of top Nashville forwards — Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, Steve Sullivan, David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist — without a single goal in a combined 28 games.
from Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune,
“This is another great chance,” said Hossa, who signed a 12-year, $62.8 million deal with the Hawks on July 1. “The two times had disappointing ends, both of them. On the other hand I still consider myself lucky because some great players didn’t even go to the Stanley Cup finals. I know I didn’t win it but it’s the motivation again. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
That challenge gets under way Friday night at the United Center when the Hawks face the Predators in Game 1 of the playoffs. After rolling through a regular season that produced their first division title in 17 years and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, the Hawks seem primed to make an even deeper run than last season’s team that fell to the Wings in the conference finals.
“We have a great team and great thing going here,” said Hossa, who had 24 goals and 27 assists in 57 games after returning from offseason shoulder surgery. “We all believe we can go all the way. Expectations are high and we’re looking forward to it.”
via the CP at TSN,
Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brian Campbell has returned to practice for the first time since he broke a collarbone and a rib after a hit from Washington’s Alex Ovechkin on March 14.
The Blackhawks initially said Campbell would miss seven or eight weeks.
Campbell says he still doesn’t have a timetable to return. He won’t play Friday when the Blackhawks open the playoffs at home against Nashville.
Chris Kuc tweeted this about an hour ago…
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he hopes defenseman Brian Campbell can return sometime during first-round series.
from David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune,
Asked when he would be able to forget the disappointment of giving up a game-winner with home ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs on the line in order to focus on the Predators, Niemi didn’t blink.
“Today, tonight, before tomorrow,’’ Niemi said. “I am almost as ready as I can be.’‘
A hopeful hockey city can think optimistically along with Niemi, but truthfully nobody really knows for sure. Experience removes doubt and Niemi has none. His playoff start in Game 1 Friday will be his first.
To say Niemi is the biggest factor in how long the Blackhawks’ postseason lasts is like saying April showers are key to May flowers. Nothing has been more obvious about this 112-point season since coach Joel Quenneville installed Niemi as the goaltender March 28 after Cristobal Huet lost his confidence, then his job.
from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,
Last season, the Blackhawks’ resurgence was one of the feel-good stories in the NHL. Dragged screaming into the 21st century after epitomizing the era when marketing was considered to be making sure the beer taps worked, the franchise went through an amazing turnaround on every levelfrom the ice through ownership.
The Hawks’ run last year to the Western Conference finals, where they fell to the Red Wings, was exciting and a boon for the league.
Now, with the Blackhawks again a marquee act in the nation’s third-largest market, the attitude and expectations will be different in this postseason.
The pressure’s on.
Chicago, which finishes the regular season at home today against Detroit, went into the final weekend of the regular season still fighting San Jose for the conference’s top seed.
from Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune,
Blackhawks season ticket-holders will feel the impact of the team’s success in their pocketbooks next season.
In a letter sent to those holding season plans, the Hawks — who are battling for the top spot in the Western Conference after setting franchise records for victories and points — announced the average price for seats for next season will increase by an average of 20 percent.
The largest increase will be for the most inexpensive seats (6 percent of the tickets), which will go from $12 to $20 (67 percent). For all other tickets beyond the $20 range, the average increase is less than 12 percent, according to the team. All price levels experienced some increase.
from Bob Verdi at ChicagoBlackhawks.com,
You can wonder what Eddie Olczyk does with all his money. I want to know what he does with all his miles. As television analyst for the Blackhawks, NBC and Versus, he will wind up broadcasting 125 or so games by June. Granted, when working locally for Comcast or WGN, Olczyk travels on the team charter. But otherwise, he is on his own, a very frequent flier.
Take, for example, Olczyk’s itinerary during his Olympic “break.” After seven double-headers on national TV, capped by the Canada vs. United States Sunday afternoon gold medal finale in Vancouver, he really should have gone to bed. Instead, he went to the airport for a flight to Los Angeles, then a red-eye to Tampa to resume the NHL regular season Monday night.
Is he crazy, or does he just like eating peanuts at 30,000 feet?
from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province at Faceoff.com,
On Wednesday, Scotty Bowman was just wrapping up his time in Florida, where he lives most of the year, on his way to Chicago to join the Blackhawks as they attempt to win the Western Conference and their first Stanley Cup since 1961.
His insight is always more than you expect and, as always, delivered in the stream of consciousness that was his trademark as a coach, and the sign of a mind that never rests and is as bright and as clear as ever:
“Detroit is a team that would scare me because they had eight guys out at one time, and they’ve got those two great defencemen in [Nick] Lidstrom and [Brian] Rafalski who make so many great plays for them. You know, how many points they [the Red Wings] would have had if they’d been healthy all year? 115 maybe. The way the game is played now, with so much room in the end zones now, that they’ve taken room away from the neutral zone, so much depends on your defence.
“Ninety-five per cent of your teams have decided they’re going to protect the area right in front of the net. That leaves the guys with the most time and space, your defencemen at the points, and those guys Lidstrom and Rafalski, they make so many plays from back there. And [Niklas] Kronwall, he’s not as good as those two but he’s a great No. 3 with [Brad] Stuart.
via the CP at TSN,
Chicago forward Marian Hossa left the Blackhawks’ game against the St. Louis Blues early in the second period Wednesday night because of an unknown injury.
Hossa appeared to have sustained the injury after being hit and knocked to the ice by St. Louis left wing Brad Winchester at 8:07 of the first. Hossa continued to play, but left after one shift in the second period.
This time of year, it is doubtful we will hear much on the injury.. Get ready for the day-to-day updates.
added 11:40pm, via a Chicago Blackhawks tweet,
Coach Q postgame on Hossa: “Nothing serious, should be fine.”
from Stan Fischler at the Hockey Journal,
Joel Quenneville of the Blackhawks, Bruce Boudreau of the Capitals and Dan Bylsma of the Penguins share a common woe: Their respective teams fared well enough to clinch a playoff berth earlier than lower tenants, which is fine and dandy to a point.
But, in each case, it’s safe to say that once in the comfort zone, the players subconsciously ease off their A game and the results have been obvious.
The trick now is for Joel, Bruce and Dan to rev up the playoff engines before the rust sets in and we view an upset or two that certainly will displease their respective owners.
more hockey notes from Stan…
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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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