Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Tim Sassone of Between The Circles,
Flames coach Mike Keenan wasn’t screaming or yelling after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Hawks in Game 1, even though he felt Andrew Ladd interfered with goalie Miikka Kiprusoff on Martin Havlat’s winning goal 12 seconds into overtime.
Keenan was doing what he does best, subtly sending a message to the NHL that he wants his goalie protected while also warning the Hawks that Nikolai Khabibulin better keep his head up in Game 2 on Saturday.
“There will be a debate about goaltender interference,” Keenan said. “A couple times they had run Kiprusoff over earlier in the game. It’s certainly part of their game plan. It’s a good plan if you can get away with it, and so far they have.”
more on Chicago
Mike Cammalleri delivers a right forearm/elbow to the head of Martin Havlat.
from Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times,
How the precocious Hawks respond to the expected bullying will punctuate a season that has rekindled Chicago’s passion for its Original Six franchise.
‘‘We don’t know any different,’’ second-year winger Adam Burish said with a grin. ‘‘We don’t know what we’re supposed to do, how we are supposed to feel or how we’re supposed to act. We act like we think we should and have fun with it.’‘
from George Johnson of the Calgary Herald,
By the time anthem singer launches into the “oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wa-a-ve . . .” bit on Thursday night, the vast wall of sound will be rising up, moving outward, like a massive rogue wave at sea, bent on levelling anything in its path.
Eardrums might burst. Floorboards will shudder.
And any old-timers at the United Center, those familiar with the long out-of-date, completely out-of-this-world old barn that once stood across the way, those who remember, will dab nostalgically at moistened eyes.
from Allan of the Globe and Mail,
...But the optimistic captain of the Flames sees something else: His best shot yet to win a Stanley Cup.
Seriously. Iginla said that. Even after all the recent setbacks – the losses, injuries, a power play that hasn’t scored since Hakan Loob played here – Iginla has gone on record to say that facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the postseason is “a good matchup for us” and that the Flames will persevere in the end.
“Do I still believe this is my best chance to win the Cup? Absolutely,” he confirmed.
This is what captains say in the darkest hours, and make no mistake, there hasn’t been a lot of sunshine around the Flames lately. Soon after Calgary ended its regular season Saturday night with a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers, several players offered a battle cry that sounded bleak yet hopeful at the same time. “We’ve been bad against Chicago,” the players said. “We can’t be any worse.”
Dustin Byfuglien was awarded a penalty shot on this play late in today’s Chicago/Detroit game.
via Chris Kuc of Icing at the Chicago Tribune,
Winger Kris Versteeg was injured during practice in Bensenville on Friday and is doubtful to play Saturday afternoon when the Blackhawks take on the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
The rookie was skating by himself when he tripped and fell along the boards. He got up slowly and skated to the bench area while holding his right arm. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said afterward Versteeg could play Sunday afternoon when the Hawks and Wings have a rematch at the United Center.
Winger Patrick Sharp, sidelined with a left leg injury, did not make the trip to Detroit and won’t play Sunday but the team is hoping for his return for Game One of the playoffs next week.
from Mike Brophy of Sportsnet,
The trick now, as I see it, is managing expectations. Are the Blackhawks bona fide Stanley Cup contenders?
That is not to say they won’t win it; at this stage of the game I don’t feel confident pointing to any team as a sure bet. Who would have guessed the Carolina Hurricanes would win the Cup in 2006?
Win or lose, the Blackhawks are no flash in the pan. They have been built to be good not only now, but for a long time to come. Chicago’s young one-two punch of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane is as exciting a young duo as you will find in the league—and that includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks.
Kane, 20, was the NHL’s rookie of the year last season and has already bettered his goal total of 21 by four. He needs five more points to surpass his rookie total of 72. Although he looks like he might snap in half in a strong windstorm, Kane has proven to be decidedly durable through his first two seasons and he drives to the net with the reckless abandon of a power forward.
from Steve Rosenbloom of RosenBlog at the Chicago Tribune,
...amid all the good signs I’ve seen from the Hawks this year—at this time of year—the one thing that struck me Tuesday night was Martin Havlat’s empty-net goal.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have seemed so jarring, but it was. In a vaccuum, I’m thinking, whoa, what’s Havlat doing on the ice at the end of a game when the Hawks are trying to protect a one-goal lead?
Yeah, I know, that was the question about the old Havlat, the one-way Havlat, the usually injured Havlat. I guess it still takes some getting used to. It also bears reiterating: This is not your father’s Havlat.
Contract year motivation or not, the guy has been a stud. He has been to the forwards what Duncan Keith is to the defense and what Khabibulin has been in goal.
Havlat leads the team in points with 73. He leads the team in assists with 45. He’s a plus-28, if you can believe that, second only to Keith. And he has missed only one game all season. One game. One game from the Czech version of Mark Prior.
Of all the things coach Joel Quenneville has done right this season, ranking near the top of the list is convincing Havlat he could be a game-breaker on the checking line.
more on Chicago…
from Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune,
Something the young Blackhawks have learned during their run to the postseason is that the more important the game, the more defense-minded the style of play.
Open ice and scoring opportunities are at a premium in late March and early April. Any time an opening arises, teams need to take advantage.
Which brings us to the Hawks’ power play.
The once-powerful unit has been struggling mightily, and if the Hawks plan on making a deep run in the playoffs, they need to flip the switch on the power supply.
It has been five games and 22 opportunities since the Hawks cashed in with a man advantage, their longest skid of the season. In fact, the Hawks have just two power-play goals in the last 42 chances over nine contests. That has dropped them to 14th in the league with a 19.3 percent success rate.
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.
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