Kukla's Korner Hockey
NEW YORK (May 13, 2015) – The National Hockey League today announced the dates, starting times and television information for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals.
NBC Sports in the U.S. and CBC and TVA Sports in Canada provide exclusive national television coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals. All times listed are ET and subject to change.
from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Despite all his offensive gifts — his pure skill, his otherworldly hands, his remarkable vision — Patrick Kane isn’t sure he’d even be a professional hockey player had he been born in the 1970s instead of the 1980s. Not at 5-11. Not at 177 pounds.
“In the early 2000s, or the late-90s, it seemed like it was a bigger man’s game, and it would be tough for guys our size to end up even making the NHL,” Kane said. “But I think with the rule changes, and the way the game has changed as far as what you can do defensively, I think smaller guys are able to get away with a little bit more, and are able to be a little bit more productive.”
A little bit, yeah....
The changes that came out of the 2004-05 lockout were designed to open up the game and kill the neutral-zone trap that slowed the game to a crawl in the 1990s and early 2000s. The red line was eliminated, opening up the two-line stretch pass that the Hawks have since mastered, and the league cracked down (for the umpteenth time) on obstruction and the clutching-and-grabbing that made teams such as the New Jersey Devils so effective.
Without a mass of humanity to muscle their way through in the neutral zone, smaller, faster players suddenly had a chance again. And now they’re often making the big guys look silly.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Both these teams have earned their way here. Chicago is 8-2 in the postseason, including a second-round sweep of the Minnesota Wild. The Ducks arrive with an 8-1 postseason record after sweeping Winnipeg and dispatching a plucky Calgary team in five games.
But the Blackhawks and Ducks have reached this point playing very different styles.
The Blackhawks rely on skill and speed up and down the lineup, which allows them to track down the puck and keep it. And they're a battle-tested lineup that has won two Stanley Cups (2010, 2013) and appeared in another conference finals (2014) in the past five years.
The Ducks, meanwhile, are a big, physical team built more in the image of the Los Angeles Kings. They're happy to dump the puck in and then punishingly retrieve it before, usually, heaving it into the opposing goal. The Ducks may not have the playoff experience of Chicago, but they have the hunger of a team that has been knocked down a time or two in recent playoff years and is ready for the final steps toward a championship.
This series should be a rollicking affair, and our guess is the winner will be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times,
“It’s been proven time and again that competition raises people’s games,” Bowman told the Sun-Times. “When there are nine candidates for two spots, you’re better off than if you have three candidates. If, for whatever reason, the guys don’t play as well, or don’t fit the way you envision, and you only have three of them, you’re in a tough spot. It’s hard to find players in October. We’re trying to manage our assets and prepare ourselves for the future.”
That future remains uncertain thanks to the sagging Canadian dollar and the potentially stagnant salary cap. With 13 players locked up for more than $63 million (the cap is expected to be around $71 million), new contracts owed to Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, and seven or eight other spots to be filled, the Hawks certainly will be parting with at least one core player, and will be getting younger in a hurry.
In a salary cap universe, with free agency at 27 or younger, that may be as good as it can possibly get for any team. Indeed, the Hawks are going to be facing some hard financial decisions this summer, and so seem utterly determined to make the most of the opportunity at hand.
-Damien Cox of Sportsnet on the Chicago Blackhawks. More on Chicago's win over Minnesota last night.
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
“Bottom line is until we … prove that something’s different, then nothing’s changed.” – Wild coach Mike Yeo prior to Game 1.
Nothing changed. In fact, it got worse.
A year after many in NHL circles felt the Wild very easily could have beaten the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference semifinals, the Wild was eliminated for a third consecutive season Thursday night by the mighty Hawks in a sweep.
The Wild’s stellar second half and first-round elimination of the Central Division champion Blues was long forgotten in the aftermath of a disappointed, dejected locker room Thursday night after the Wild fell, 4-3.
Bottom line about this series: The Wild just wasn’t good enough and better take an honest appraisal this offseason of what it has to do to beat the Hawks, who will go to their fifth conference final in seven years against the winner of the Anaheim-Calgary series. The Hawks are going nowhere and in the new playoff format, it’s likely the Wild faces Chicago in the first or second round every year.
The Blackhawks have finishers. The Wild does not.
from Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times,
A week ago, a lot of Blackhawks fans were wondering if the Hawks can win the Stanley Cup with defenseman Michal Rozsival. Now, some of those same fans — at least the most fair-minded of them — have to be wondering if the Hawks can win it without him.
Though the Hawks completed a sweep of the Minnesota Wild with a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of their second-round series Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center, they likely will have to go the rest of the way without Rozsival, the 36-year-old defenseman who suffered an ugly, right ankle or foot injury in the second period.
“Tough loss,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Doesn’t look good.”
Rozsival suffered the injury as he was back-pedaling to defend Wild forward Thomas Vanek at the Hawks’ blue line. Tough-to-watch replays indicated Rozsival’s right ankle turned grotesquely as he fell to the ice with 13:23 left in the second period.
Below, watch how the injury occured...
from Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune,
The Wild felt quietly confident about its chances this series. Instead, Act III has been more of the same, more of the Blackhawks imposing their will on a team that can’t take that next step without first clearing this enormous hurdle.
And here’s something sobering for the organization as it ponders how to conquer the Hawks:
Jonathan Toews just turned 27 years old.
Patrick Kane is 26.
Brandon Saad is 22.
Teuvo Teravainen is only 20.
In other words, the Hawks aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
The Wild counters with Thomas Vanek, who skates as if he’s 45.
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
“Obviously, we know what we’re up against right now,” coach Mike Yeo said after tonight’s 1-0 loss to the Blackhawks.
“Disappointed because we put what, in a lot of ways, we needed to in this game. We fell a little bit short but I thought our guys did a lot of good things. We didn’t get the result that I think we deserved tonight.
“We know what we’re up against, so I’m not going to get up here right now and give a big rah-rah speech. We’ve got to win a game. It’s as simple as that. In all honestly, I’ve never been here before. It’s kind of unfamiliar territory. I guess what you do is try to draw upon previous experiences even though it’s not the same. The only thing I can say is we came back from the dead once before this season, and the only way we did that was with character and belief. That’s what we need right now. The other part of that equation, the reason why we were able to make the playoffs when we weren’t supposed make the playoffs is we were able to look at it one game at a time and that’s obviously what we have to do here, too.”
The Wild has been down 0-3 twice before and swept in one of those. The Blackhawks have been up 3-0 once in the Kane-Toews era and swept the Sharks in that 2010 series.
How do the Wild brush away the frustration and the dejection and all the negative thoughts?
“That’s what we’ll ponder tonight and get ready for [Wednesday],” Yeo said. “I know there’s a lot of character in this room. We’re up against something very tough. It’s not like we’re [down] 3-0 against not a very good hockey team and I know what to expect from them, but like I said, two things, character and belief. There will be no feeling sorry for ourselves. Obviously we’re disappointed to be in this spot, but we’ve got to find a way.”
from Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Sun,
They won’t be eliminated with a loss tonight at the Xcel Energy Center, but there is no coming back from 3-0, and both sides know it.
“Things can turn very quickly,” said Minnesota’s Zach Parise. “If we come out and have a really good game, all of a sudden it’s 2-1.”
That’s what happened last spring. The Wild came home down 2-0 to the Blackhawks and won both game to even the series. That’s cause for optimism, just not too much of it, Parise cautioned.
“There have been a lot of comparisons from this year to last year, but it’s a whole new year," Parise said. "Last year, good or bad, doesn’t have any impact on what we’re doing today and how those first two games went.
“I just don’t think we can expect to come home and play better just because we did it last year. That’s not how it works. We have to be a lot better.”
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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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