Kukla's Korner Hockey
Wings defeat the Blackhawks 5-2 as Cleary, Franzen and Zetterberg dominate.
added 5:52pm, Post-game… Chris, how did you guys shutdown Toews? Ozzie: Uh, that was Nick.
added 6:23pm, Video hightlights of game 1 below…
added 6:45pm, from Jason Kay of The Hockey News,
Move over Sid vs. Ovie, we may just have a new best playoff series of 2009.
The anticipation for the Detroit-Chicago Western Conference final was offense-on-offense; the No. 1 goal-scoring team in the regular season (Wings) against the No. 4 (Chicago).
Toss in Detroit’s 19th-ranked defense and a Chicago goalie in Nikolai Khabibulin who sported an .897 save percentage in this year’s playoffs, and the expectation was a smorgasbord of excitement.
And despite the teams combining for a relatively tame seven tallies (it could have easily been double), that’s exactly what we got.
With the conference finals set to start Sunday, our experts ponder what lies ahead. ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun and ESPN The Magazine’s E.J. Hradek answer these 10 burning questions:
There have been a few controversial calls/noncalls in the first two rounds. How would you rate the officiating in the playoffs so far?
Burnside: I think there are always going to be complaints about officiating given the personalities of the teams and the officials involved, so I’m not troubled by what I see in terms of in-game calls. What still boggles the mind is how often the NHL makes itself look cartoonish by failing to even enforce its own rules, as was the case when league officials decided not to suspend Game 7 overtime hero Scott Walker for sucker-punching Aaron Ward earlier in the Carolina/Boston series. Unbelievable.
Hradek: I’m not big on beating up the refs. I think they have an incredibly tough job. On the ice, things are happening so fast and they don’t get a second look (usually). On the whole, they have done a very good job. Do they get every call right? No. But I think they officiate their sport better than what we see in the NFL, NBA and MLB.
LeBrun: I think it’s been decent. People get upset because there’s so much on the line and they believe their team is getting slighted, but obviously there’s no such thing….
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune,
The Red Wings won the Wrigley game 6-4, and they looked like men playing against boys. But the boys have matured. They’re different than they were in January. They’re better and tougher. They won the last two meetings between the two teams after losing four straight….
Let’s not kid anyone. The Red Wings are the defending champions. They’re experienced, and they’ve seen everything there is to see. They rarely make mistakes. And they’re tough too.
Other than that, the Hawks have the Red Wings right where they want them.
But Detroit looked tired at the end of its seven-game series Thursday night against Anaheim.
The Hawks’ legs might be a little fresher.
The Red Wings don’t appear too concerned about it.
Quenneville, Kane, Toews, Campbell and Seabrook met with the media today…
Q. We were talking a little bit earlier with some of the Wings and Mike about the youthful exuberance of your team. Dan Cleary said it could be very dangerous, they’re playing with a lot of confidence. Can you talk about the comparison of the youth versus experience in this series and who it might favor.
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: Well, I’m not going to predict favoritism. Certainly we liked the experience we gained in the first two rounds. We didn’t know how we were going to handle the playoffs for a first time for a lot of the guys. I thought we were on?the?job training every day, gaining experience, preparing in different situations in games, coming out of games, trying to find out how to close out a series. I thought both times we handled those assignments very well.
But I just think as we go into games, the excitement and enthusiasm on our team has been real. We’re getting a lot of good contributions from across the board whether they’re young guys or older guys. The guys are excited about this challenge and this opportunity. Should make for a great series.
Lyle Richardson, Fox Sports contributor, breaks down both conference finals series in audio format. First up, Detroit/Chicago then Pittsburgh/Carolina.
from the CP via NHL.com,
Bowman’s vast knowledge of all things hockey - the Hall of Famer has coached nine Stanley Cup winners and been a part of two others - could now help the young Blackhawks in the Western Conference final against the Red Wings.
Bowman, however, isn’t giving unsolicited advice to coach Joel Quenneville.
“I know all their trends and stuff, but at the same time he’s got to run his own stuff,” Bowman said on Saturday before the Blackhawks left for Detroit, where Game 1 is Sunday.
“You can always get information. You have to process it. That’s basically what you have to do.”
Babcock, Lidstrom, Osgood, Franzen and Zetterberg met with the media today…
Q. Considering you’ve only had one practice to get ready for tomorrow, are you guys ready? I notice you practiced probably an hour, I haven’t seen you practice that long in a long time. Can you talk about your practice today and your preparation for tomorrow.
MIKE BABCOCK: Well, we didn’t practice an hour. We practiced 40 minutes. We got out there late today because we met so much today. Normally you have a couple days. Today we had to jam it in. That’s just the way it is. No different than cramming for a course. I’m sure all of us have done that in the past.
We’re going to be ready and prepared and look forward to playing a good Chicago team.
from Al Cimaglia at ESPN,
At the start of the playoffs my thinking was the Blackhawks could win two rounds and then would probably meet the Detroit Red Wings. I have always had a profound respect for the Wings organization. No matter the changes in rule interpretation or the consequences of the salary cap, Detroit always flourished. More often than not they would put themselves in a position to win the Stanley Cup. Truly the Red Wings are one of the finest organizations in any sport….
We will find out soon if the Blackhawks will have more players being positive factors in this series than the Wings. I believe they have the depth to succeed versus Detroit. It may all come down to “want” and at this point I can’t pick against this group. I don’t have a clue as to how many games it will take, but somehow, some way the Hawks get past the Wings.
Red Wings will win if... They can stay out of the penalty box. Killing penalties has been a rare Achilles’ heel all season—Detroit was 25th during the regular season at 78.3 percent and has only seen that number get worse as the calendar inches toward June. The quickest way for the Wings to fall behind in this series will be to give the potent Hawks’ offense a bushel of power-play chances on which to unleash their young talent.
Blackhawks will win if... They continue to play fast and work the transition to their advantage. While that may be a tough chore against Detroit, there is something special about this group, particularly on home ice where they are 5-1 in the postseason. The Hawks forced both the Flames and Canucks to play their style of game and it would certainly work to their advantage to force the Red Wings to do the same.
Penguins will win if... Pittsburgh will win if: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin create matchup problems for the Hurricanes. Let’s face it, these two make it a tough road to hoe for any team. If they get into a game of “Can you top this?” the Penguins will be tough to stop.
Hurricanes will win if... Cam Ward is the best player in this series. The Hurricanes love to play low-scoring, tight games in the playoffs. Paul Maurice calls it being comfortable in the grind, but basically, the Hurricanes want to keep games close so they can stay in their system and exert mental pressure on an opponent, waiting to exploit whatever cracks appear. To do that against the explosive Penguins, Ward will have to be at the very top of his game.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews participated in a NHL tele-conference today…
Q. Could both of you touch on how Coach Quenneville has helped in your development?
PATRICK KANE: For me, I think obviously with Savard, you can make mistakes, and he’ll draw you right back there on the ice. With Joel, if you take a dumb penalty or make a couple mistakes, he’s not afraid to sit you down and things like that. He makes every shift worth it out there for you. He’s been great. I think he’s come in and done a great job for a lot of us, helped a lot of us enjoy it.
JONATHAN TOEWS: I feel the same way. He definitely expects reliability and smart team play from every player on the ice, doesn’t matter who you are. You know, I think that’s why we’ve been such a good team this year, you know, the ice team is spread out and everyone does their part. Everyone plays the same way and everyone has their role.
You know, he definitely has a lot of discipline over the players. Guys have a lot of respect for him in the locker room. You learn to play the team game with him, for sure.
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