Kukla's Korner Hockey
Scott Burnside of ESPN breaks down both the East and the West Conference Finals…
The Flyers, who won five of eight matchups against Pittsburgh during the regular season, will try to establish a physical tone with the skilled Penguins, who have shown a surprising level of grit of their own. Both teams have displayed timely, balanced scoring, superb defensive play and stellar goaltending. Oh, and did we mention they can’t stand each other? Stay tuned.
The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, struggled midway through their opening-round series against Nashville but took advantage of woeful netminding by Jose Theodore and cruised to a four-game sweep of the Colorado Avalanche in the West semis. The Stars, who have terrific depth down the middle, now have an identity they lacked the past three or four postseasons. Marty Turco, fresh off a 61-save effort, will represent a much sterner test than the Avs, or he should.
Still, the Red Wings seem to be firing on all cylinders and will be very difficult to knock out.
Here are the final confirmed times and dates of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
Below, a couple updated brackets people might find useful.
The Conference Finals Previews from The Hockey News:
What’s old is new again in the West with two perennial superpowers butting heads, while in the East two young teams that both spent time in the NHL’s basement are rising to the challenge of establishing themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
It’s amazing that since the 1996-97 season the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings won four Stanley Cups between them, but only faced off against each other once, when 10 years ago the Wings downed the Stars 4-2 in the Western final.
Meanwhile, the Eastern final has become the battle of Pennsylvania, where the gradually maturing and shifty young Penguin stars will battle the sudden revival of the big, bad, banging Flyers.
However the series play out, the Stanley Cup final will be the showdown of old and new, experience and youth, persistence and patience.
From Mike Brophy at The Hockey News,
Anyway, Turco wins and he immediately becomes the answer to our next trivia question: Can he lead the Stars past the Wings? Given his play through two rounds, the answer is a resounding yes! Until the games start, naturally.
Looking ahead, the Red Wings will be huge favorites in the Western Conference final. The Stars looked dead in the water through most of overtime Sunday, so how can anybody expect them to beat the best team in the league?
The answer is Turco. Muddle through poor play, long stretches of non-scoring chances and questionable defensive protection. Turco will save the day.
TSN picks a hero of the second round, from each team that made it through to the Conference Finals:
[Philadelphia:] R.J. Umberger, who was considered a third or fourth-line player at the start of the season, has become Philadelphia’s top gun in the playoffs. Case in point: He scored an eyebrow-raising eight goals and nine points in five games against the Habs, and scored the first goal for the Flyers in each victory. While many credit Martin Biron for stellar goaltending that held off the Montreal offence ( and deservedly so), Umberger, a former first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, broke down the Canadiens early and often.
more heroes from Detroit, Pittsburgh and Dallas
from the 2008 Stanley Cup Blog at CBC,
On the cover of the Dallas Stars media guide, Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen amd Sergei Zubov prowl in the background in black and white, while Brenden Morrow and Marty Turco stand defiantly in color in front of the aging veterans.
The statement is clear - this version of the Stars belongs to Morrow and Turco.
The captain and the goalie have taken over and become the core of the team. While Modano, Lehtinen and Zubov are the sole remaining components of the 1999 Stanley Cup championship team, they are taking on different roles this time around.
from Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Star-Telegram,
Nor was this just any overtime.
The Stars were either going to be staring down the reality of frittering away a 3-0 series lead, thus and thereby trying to wrangle up an ounce of belief that flying to San Jose for Game 7 was not a colossal environmental waste. Or preparing for their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 2000.
Of course, overtime hockey is always a dicey proposition. You are always a bounce or a stumble or just really bad luck away from skating off the ice a loser.
But with each squandered chance, the Stars seemed to be losing their grip on a series they once had in a bear hug.
Just like you can sometimes smell a horrendously bad day coming on, you can likewise smell a cruel overtime.
And that is what overtime felt like at times in Game 6.
Game times aren’t available yet, but here is the schedule as we know it for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals starting this week. (Update May 5th: times and dates finalized and available here)
...and it ‘only’ took 129 minutes and 3 seconds, the 8th longest game in Stanley Cup Playoffs history (so sayeth TSN).
From Richard Durrett at the Dallas News blog:
The half asleep AAC is now fully awake. Stars headed to the Western Conference Finals.
Wow. What a game. Third longest game in Stars playoff history.
Quite fitting that captain Brenden Morrow got it. He’s been leading this team during the playoffs. He got it on the PP. Marty Turco was sensational. So was Evgeni Nabokov.
The Dallas/Detroit series opens Thursday and the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia series opens Friday. [Complete schedule here]
Update 3:08am ET: More from the AP via the Dallas Morning News here. Game highlights on video below, plus a few more notes.
People in Europe are waking up, and probably can’t believe the Stars/Sharks game is headed to the 4OT period.
Eastern time zone folks are barely hanging on, making up an excuse to miss work tomorrow.
West coast fans are starting to feel a little sleepy-eyed.
Will anyone score?
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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