Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
from Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune,
Nikolai Khabibulin is the most experienced of the Blackhawks and also the most stoic, but the goaltender is as excited as many of his younger teammates about the team’s first postseason appearance since 2002.
“I wish it would have happened sooner, but we finally made it,” Khabibulin said Saturday, one day after the Hawks clinched a Western Conference playoff berth. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Khabibulin, 36, joins Andrew Ladd and Sammy Pahlsson as the only Hawks who have won a Stanley Cup. Khabibulin, who helped Tampa Bay to the NHL championship in 2004, looks forward to using his experience to help the youngest team in the league adapt to postseason play.
“It’s easy for me; I just stop the puck,” said Khabibulin, who has a 31-25 record and 2.27 goals-against average in 57 playoff games. “It’s going to be a little more intense. We don’t have too many veterans here, but we have to make sure guys are not nervous and just stay calm.”
via Tim Sassone of Between The Circles,
When coach Q met he media following Friday’s playoff-clinching win over Nashville, he said what he normally does about an injury, this one to Patrick Sharp.
Quenneville called Sharp day-to-day and said more would be known Saturday.
There’s no reason to think Quenneville wasn’t telling the truth, but there were rumblings in the halls of the United Center basement that Sharp’s injury, believed to be to his knee, was more serious than the Hawks were admitting.
Chris reflects on his career, mentions some of the great players he has played with and will remember the respect other players have given him.
from Len Ziehm of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Cristobal Huet once thought he was the Montreal Canadiens’ goalie for the long term. After winning 37 games spanning two seasons as a part-time player, he had a 21-12-6 record for them last season when he was traded.
Huet made his return to the Bell Center on Tuesday and didn’t get the result he wanted. His Blackhawks teammates gave him little support in a 4-1 loss, another indication a good season might be fading away. The result dropped the Hawks into fifth place in the Western Conference standings—and out of home-ice advantage in a first-round playoff series—with seven games left.
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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