Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
The Wild felt Game 1 could have gone either way.
Take away a bad game-winning goal and add a little third-period puck luck, the Wild felt it easily could have skated out of United Center with a win.
That was my concern heading into Game 2. The Wild threw away an opportunity Friday, and if it’s true the Wild got the Blackhawks’ attention like Mike Yeo claimed Saturday, you knew the Blackhawks would respond Sunday and play a better game.
The Wild’s response to the Game 1 loss was awful though tonight and that’s why it fell 4-1. You could see it the first five minutes of the game when the Wild was throwing pucks away left and right. The longer the game stayed 0-0 though, I started to get the feeling the Wild may be able to steal a game the way it did so many road games in the second half.
But the Wild’s mistakes with the puck kept coming and ultimately three of the Blackhawks’ long list of game breakers made the Wild pay.
The Wild may be different. The Wild may be more experienced and more mature and all that. But this is a team that still doesn’t have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and if you keep feeding them, they’ll find a way.
Game highlights are below...
from Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times,
What is it about the Hawks that makes them so resilient in close games? “Number one, it’s skill,” Yeo said. “And it’s the ability to finish on opportunities. You can chalk it up to a bounce or whatever you want to call it. At the end of the day, you give them an opportunity and they can capitalize on it.
Yeo still seems to think his team controls its fate against a team that wills itself to victory almost out of habit. “When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of us getting better,” Yeo said, “just being a little more determined in certain situations and limiting a few more of those mistakes that they can capitalize on.”
As Blues coach Ken Hitchcock observed last year against the Hawks, it might not be that simple. “You’re trying to beat their resolve,” Hitchcock said. “You’re not trying to beat their skill. Everybody’s got skill. And it is one hell of a challenge.”
It remains to be seen if the Wild are up to that challenge.
“They’ve won two Cups, so they know what they can do,” Wild defenseman Marco Scandella said of the Hawks. “They have a good team. We just have to bring a lot of speed. We’ve got to be faster next game. It’s definitely one thing we’re going to bring next game that’s going to have an effect.”
Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. The Hawks are like a high-wire act working without a net in the playoffs — always at risk of a calamitous fall. In 24 of their last 27 playoff victories, they’ve had no more than a one-goal lead in the third period, including 19 times when they’ve been tied or were losing. In Game 1 against the Wild, they lost a three-goal lead in 8:09 and didn’t flinch.
from Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune,
The Wild held one obvious and one possible advantage entering the second-round playoff series with the Blackhawks.
The obvious advantage: Devan Dubnyk had played like one of the top three goalies in the NHL for four months, while the Blackhawks had benched Corey Crawford before reinstating him.
The possible advantage: The Wild’s defensive system has thrived since Dubnyk’s arrival.
The latter betrayed the Wild in the first period, and the former betrayed the team when it mattered most.
The Wild’s usually-reliable defense handed Chicago three goals in the first period, and Dubnyk whiffed on a long shot in the last minute of the second. The Wild lost 4-3 instead of finishing what might have become the most remarkable comeback in franchise history.
“I just have to work harder at the beginning of that play,” Dubnyk said. “I have to get down and move to where I can see the puck the whole way.
“I didn’t see it until it was six or eight feet out, and I put my glove where I thought it was going, and I missed it. Simple as that.”
Game highlights below...
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
Patrick Kane knows it’s coming, but he still gets a chuckle every time Zach Parise skates up to him before a faceoff and says, “What’s up, Darryl?”
“He spilled the beans?” Parise laughed.
Parise’s greeting is an inside joke about the skills coach he shares with Kane. It’s just one of those funny things that link two of the NHL’s best American forwards who, frankly, have little in common yet will clash for a third consecutive year in the postseason starting Friday when the Wild takes on the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
“I could be here all day talking about their differences. I don’t know if they have a whole lot of similarities other than their skill and ability to score goals and make plays,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said about Kane and Parise, the Wild’s top scorer whom Toews knows well because of their similar path to the NHL by way of Shattuck St. Mary’s and the University of North Dakota.
“Kaner’s a little more laid back and goes with the flow. Zach’s the go-getter and task-oriented, the what-can-I-do-next type of guy.”
Off the ice, Parise and Kane have different personalities. On the ice, they have completely different styles.
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times,
To be a goalie is to be the target for target practice, the easy excuse for every goal and the person most likely to be benched. Yet goalies eat their gruel and ask for more.
Saturday was another reminder of the job’s wild extremes and why, given a choice, an aspiring goalie might want to seek more stable employment, such as bomb defuser.
Scott Darling, the biggest sports story in Chicago a few days ago, was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period and likely won’t see the ice again during the playoffs. Corey Crawford, treated like a communicable disease around town last week, took Darling’s place to huge roars at the United Center and even louder ones when the Blackhawks came back to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 and advance to the next round of the playoffs.
It would be a miracle if neither of these guys has major trust issues in life.
There would seem to be no turning back now for coach Joel Quenneville as it concerns his goalies. Crawford replaced Darling with 11 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first period, and it will be a shocker if we see Darling again in the playoffs. A coach can’t keep yo-yoing his goalies like this. Make a decision and stick with it.
In the end, when the horn went off, there seemed to be extra meaning in the hugs that teammates gave Crawford. First Duncan Keith, who scored the winning goal, then the rest of the Hawks, who know what Crawford has been through.
The Blakhawks have defeated the Nasville Predators 4-3 to win the series 4-2.
They will meet te winner of the Minnesota/St. Louis series.
from David Climer of The Tennessean,
The Nashville Predators arrived at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night with one objective:
Avoid being on the wrong end of a congratulatory handshake.
With a 5-2 victory in Game 5, the Predators survived to play another day. In the process, they postponed the traditional handshake that comes with the conclusion of each of the 15 best-of-seven series that comprise the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It's still an uphill climb for the Preds, who trail Chicago 3-2 entering Game 6 on Saturday at United Center.
Even so, this clearly is a team that is not going quietly. And after the events of the third period Thursday night, something tells me the Blackhawks are feeling pressure to close out the series at home Saturday. They don't want to come back to Bridgestone Arena for a decisive Game 7.
Below, Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times with "Everybody Else Wants To Be The Blackhawks"...
from John Glennon of The Tennessean,
Here are five key questions facing the Predators as they prepare for Game 5:
1. Can they slow down the Toews line?
Chicago's line of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad has been dominant in the series, accounting for 12 points (four goals, eight assists) — one third of the team's points total.
Hossa has been the ringleader, seemingly all over the ice while posting five assists, including four primary assists. The absence of Mike Fisher, the Predators' best two-way center, and Shea Weber, one of the league's top defensemen, has really hurt Nashville in trying to match up with the talented trio.
"The challenge is they're a good hockey line," Laviolette said. "They present a lot of challenges with regard to talent and speed of the attack they bring to the game. I thought (Tuesday) for at least the first three periods we did a pretty good job, keeping them in check and not giving them too many quality chances."
2. Can the veterans bounce back?
When it comes to the very important center position, the Predators are an old team. First-line center Mike Ribeiro is 35, current second-line center Matt Cullen is 38 and fourth-line center Paul Gaustad is 33.
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Legs heavy, energy stores on empty, they raced up and down the ice, neither side wanting to give in to the other or to tiredness.
Three periods of playoff hockey had come and gone, with all the sweat and exertion and adrenaline that accompany it. Then one overtime, then a second, then into a third. Tuesday night became Wednesday morning at the United Center. Playoff beards filled in. Marian Hossa turned 45.
The Blackhawks and the Predators were carrying on as if everything was at stake, and maybe it was. Game 4 of their first-round series felt like a line in the sand. Whoever crossed it would win the series. Is that how it would be? Who knew? But with every frenetic rush into the other side’s zone, the desperation seemed to increase.
Neither wanted to cede anything to the other. Not any ground. Not any momentum. Certainly not a goal. Scott Darling was superb in the net for the Hawks. Pekka Rinne was crazy good for the Predators.
Something had to give. Theoretically. But doesn’t pi go on forever? So why couldn’t a hockey game?
Finally, at 1:16 a.m., with a heavy slap shot from inside the blue line and Bryan Bickell shielding Rinne, Brent Seabrook tucked this game in for a 3-2 Hawks victory. Good night to all.
Watch the game highlights below...
from the CP at TSN,
Scott Darling doesn't need reminding that all those other saves, the ones that win big playoff games, wouldn't have happened without the first one.
The 6-foot-6 rookie goaltender may be the toast of the town at the moment, but he had to learn to put down his own beer first. Four years after Darling nearly hit bottom both personally and professionally, he has stepped in twice for Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford and become the defensive anchor for the team he followed as a kid.
Darling stopped 35 shots in the 4-2 win Sunday that nudged the Blackhawks back in front of the Nashville Predators in their first-round playoff series, 2-1. After playing just 14 games during the regular season, he was called in to relieve a shaky Crawford after the first period of Game 1, and promptly played his way into the NHL record book — longest relief stint by a keeper (almost 68 minutes) without surrendering a goal.
But Darling was back on the bench for Game 2, and after being named the starter for Game 3, he struggled early to hold his own. After each of the Blackhawks' first two scores, Darling got beat barely a half-minute later. That would be enough to spook lots of goalies, let alone a rookie with nearly two dozen family members sprinkled in among 22,000-plus rabid fans.
"To be honest, there was a lot of 'Do I really belong here?' when I first got here," Darling recalled afterward. "And I'm trying hard, even now, to stop saying that to myself."
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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