Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
Fleury's toast now. He's a train wreck that not even a team of the planet's most advanced sports psychologists could cure. He'll give up floater after floater in Game 5 and beyond, right up until the Penguins are eliminated and, then, spend their summer searching for another franchise goaltender.
If I know my city, the invectiveness sprayed at TV sets across Western Pennsylvania was all that and a whole lot uglier.
Well, count me out.
Don't misunderstand, please. Fleury blew it. He blew it big-time. He had no business straying from his net or conceding Foligno's shot from somewhere south of Cincinnati. He let the team down when it needed him most.
But sorry, this just doesn't come with the same feel of the Fleury we've seen flop in years past.
I remember Fleury on Long Island last spring, ramming his forehead against a cement-block wall at the back of the locker room. He was a mess of the worst kind. Dan Bylsma didn't want to turn to Tomas Vokoun, but he had no choice.
This just isn't that. Not yet, anyway.
more and below, watch the game tying goal and OT goal by Columbus to even the series at 2 games...
from Aaron Portzline of Puck-Rakers at the Columbus Dispatch,
This first-round series between the Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins has made for immensely compelling hockey. The Blue Jackets must exert their will to keep the Penguins from exerting their skill.
Last night, the Jackets had the Penguins tangled and frustrated for the better part of two periods before a delirious crowd of 19,148 in Nationwide Arena, which hosted its third-ever Stanley Cup playoff game, the first in five seasons.
But all of the Jackets’ good work came unraveled in a dizzying span of 2:13 of the third period, when the Penguins scored three goals to take a 4-3 lead and, eventually, a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 4 is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Nationwide.
“I don’t think Game 4 can come fast enough for us,” Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said.
from Aaron Portzline of Puck-Rakers,
The Blue Jackets will be backed by a sold out crowd in Nationwide Arena tonight -- the diehards who have endured all along, those who drifted away and have fallen back in love, and the newbies who are getting their first look at the greatest spectacle in sports ... the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said he was concerned about his players getting too caught up in the emotions of the moment and suffering an energy crash as the game moves along. But mostly he's excited, too:
"The city has earned this, the fans have earned this," Richards said. "There will be great energy in here. We've seen it before (against Nashville in the last game of last season), but it's going to be elevated here tonight."
from Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
The Blue Jackets had no business getting back in this game. Bylsma left the screen door open. Columbus had been dangerous on the penalty kill all season and had scored a short-handed goal in Game 1. There was no reason to take a chance.
Sure enough, Malkin fumbled a puck at the right point. He escaped unscathed. He then was victimized at the left point, which led to a 2-on-1 and Matt Calvert's short-handed goal.
This was sheer Penguins arrogance — and it changed the game for good. They never recaptured control. After outshooting the Blue Jackets, 15-4, in the first period, they were outshot 41-27 the rest of the way.
Afterward, Bylsma explained that he went with four forwards because it worked so well during the regular season. That is true. The Penguins had the league's top-ranked power play. But the playoffs are a different animal. Coaching staffs have way more time to break down opponent's special teams. They look for weaknesses.
The latest from Rick Gethin at Fox Sports Ohio regarding the Columbus Blue Jackets:
Ahead of Game 2, RJ Umberger is making his return to the lineup after being out with injury. Although he has been to the playoffs before, this is a big game for him. He's a Pittsburgh native that calls Columbus home now.
Columbus head coach Todd Richards was asked what he expects from Umberger in Game 2. "I'm expecting him to come out, play fast and play big. He's one guy, what he's done well consistently all year for our team is he's gone to the net and played hard at the net."
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Columbus Blue Jackets
When you're making just your second playoff appearance in franchise history, "dark horse" is a label that applies. If they are somehow able to take down the Metropolitan Division-winning Pittsburgh Penguins, we'll upgrade them to Cinderella status. Could it happen? When you have the defending Vezina Trophy-winning netminder in Sergei Bobrovsky, that's a good place to start....
Detroit Red Wings
When was the last time you heard "Detroit Red Wings" and "dark horse" in the same breath? Still, that's what they are, as they will face the NHL's top regular-season team, the Boston Bruins, in the first round. This has been a difficult season for the Red Wings, who have gone long stretches without top players Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Jimmy Howard. But a new generation of Red Wings has emerged, led by scoring sensation Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan, which has more than picked up the slack. With Datsyuk back in the lineup and Howard back to form after a rocky season, the Wings don't look like a wild-card team....
We're going to start charging Wild GM Chuck Fletcher for our services. The team has been on a tear since we wrote that the common belief was the Wild would boast the NHL's worst playoff goaltending and certainly the worst goaltending of the eight Western Conference playoff teams. The goaltending remains a potentially fatal flaw for a Wild team that has shaken off late-season stutters to play some of its best hockey of the season....
more on each of the three teams...
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Jackets are hurting. Nathan Horton (abdominal surgery) is out. Nick Foligno (knee) and R.J. Umberger (upper body) are still mending. Among the three are 1,700 regular-season and 86 playoff games worth of experience. The youngest team in the league is missing its prime veteran forwards as the series gets underway. That is killer.
There is this notion that Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury — a former No. 1 overall draft pick who is in his prime — might somehow falter, and thus give the Jackets a chance. I don’t buy it.
<> Fleury is coming off one of the best regular seasons of his career. What is he going to be thinking about? That he has the worst playoff stats of any goaltender over the past 10 years? That he was so brutal, he lost his job in the middle of the first round last year? That he is somehow inferior to Bobrovsky?
Come on. That would be like saying the Penguins don’t like getting hit.
So, never mind that the Penguins have lost to a lower seed in each of the past four seasons. The Jackets don’t have a chance.
from Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton underwent surgery this morning to repair an abdominal injury, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today. He is expected to be sidelined for approximately six weeks.
Horton, 28, has scored five goals and dished out 14 assists for 19 points in 36 games played this season, his first with the Blue Jackets. The 6-2, 229-pound forward has tallied 203-218-421 and a +54 plus/minus rating in 627 career NHL games with Columbus, Boston and Florida. He was the Panthers’ first pick, third overall, at the 2003 NHL Draft.
The 2013-14 NHL Regular Season wraps up this Sunday.
Remaining games left for teams in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race...
Detroit- at Buffalo on Tuesday, at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Carolina at Detroit on Friday and at St. Louis on Sunday.
Columbus- Phoenix at Columbus on Tuesday, at Dallas on Wednesday, at Tampa Bay on Friday and at Florida on Saturday.
New Jersey- Calgary at New Jersey tonight, at Ottawa on Thursday, NYI at New Jersey on Friday and Boston at New Jersey on Sunday.
Toronto- at Tampa Bay on Tuesday, at Florida on Thursday and at Ottawa on Saturday.
Washington- at St. Louis on Tuesday, at Carolina on Thursday, Chicago at Washington on Friday and Tampa Bay at Washington on Sunday.
At this point int time, do you care to make a prediction? What teams take the two wild card spots and in what order?
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The Columbus Blue Jackets dispatched the New York Islanders 4-0 Sunday, easing the pain of Friday night's painful loss to Chicago in which the Blackhawks scored with 3.9 seconds left to win the game in regulation. Thankfully for the Jackets, the Toronto Maple Leafs were unable to take advantage of that gift, dropping a 4-2 decision at home to the woeful Winnipeg Jets.
Sunday's win puts the Jackets three points ahead of both New Jersey and Toronto and pretty much in control of the second Eastern Conference wild card berth as the final week of the regular season beckons.
Columbus hosts Phoenix on Tuesday night before finishing the regular season on the road with games Wednesday at Dallas (where they will start with a 1-0 lead in the resumption of the game postponed by Rich Peverly's cardiac incident on the bench), then Friday at Tampa Bay and Saturday at Florida.
The Devils host Calgary on Monday night, followed by games Thursday at Ottawa and then home dates Friday versus the Isles and Sunday afternoon against Boston.
The Leafs are on the road to finish off their miserable stretch, at Tampa on Tuesday in Florida on Thursday and at rival Ottawa to wrap things up Saturday night.
I don't see the Jackets opening a window for either team, meaning we should see Columbus in the playoffs for only the second time in team history.
read on for Burnside on the Pacific Divisioon and Custance on the Dallas Stars...
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.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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