Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe,
Another Boston win here Thursday would be the de facto series closer. The difference in these two teams is as obvious as it is stark for the Wings. Their alleged speed has been neutralized, if nonexistent. Their goaltending less than average. Their will, sense of urgency, and pushback just not there.
True, it’s the playoffs, and crazy things do happen, but right now it would be crazy to think this ends well for the Wings. Their feet have failed them, and when that happens, everything else usually follows.
The game was played on the eve of what promises to be one of the more emotional days in the history of Boston. The game was played on the one-year anniversary of David Ortiz declaring, “This is our [expletive] city.’’ It was on national television, and there was simply no way the Bruins were slinking out of town trailing two games to none to the eighth-seeded Red Wings. No team in the Hub does Boston Strong better than the local hockey team. On the Garden ice, all the words are fighting words.
-Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe on yesterday's Boston/Detroit Game. Read more on the game...
from Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe,
The Bruins, their mind-set fixed that Detroit’s speed was too much to handle, spent the night like a bunch of flat-footed window shoppers, looking longingly through the glass, ready to purchase, the game never quite in their hands. The few times they appeared set to buy, they were denied entry to the store or they were essentially told, too bad, the model in the window wasn’t for sale. They landed a total 25 shots on net (one more than those blazing, too-fast-to-handle Red Wings), but few were of much value, and even fewer led to follow-up sustained pressure on goalie Jimmy Howard or even fewer to a second or third shot on net. One and done. At best.
Shift after shift, the Bruins were short on possession, presence, and patience. Give the Wings credit for that, too. But overall, the Bruins needed to display more faith in their game, one constructed all season on strong, confident, and physical play. Rarely, if ever, did they display that in Game 1. The Wings did not burn by them. The Wings did handle the puck very well in their end — better, in fact, than they handled it in Boston’s end — and that is where the Bruins will have to reestablish themselves in Game 2.
Now, that’s easier pointed out than it is implemented. To negate Detroit’s fine work and finesse back there, it will mean the Bruins increasing their possession, presence, and patience game. How to do that? With a faster forecheck, hand in hand with creating mismatches against Detroit’s defensemen, ideally by putting pucks into areas and fixing battles where Bruins forwards know they can regain those pucks and then do something with them — like, say, bring them to the net to create real, meaningful pressure on Howard. The ex-University of Maine goaltender saw far busier, hectic games in his Hockey East days.
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 Craig Custance of ESPN,
After the Detroit Red Wings clinched their 23rd consecutive playoff berth on Wednesday night, Detroit sports business reporter Bill Shea pointed out that Mike Ilitch bought the team from the Norris family in 1982 for $8 million. That's roughly what the Red Wings will earn with a few home playoff games this year. It's meant a handsome profit for the Ilitch family, but also three decades of stability for the franchise.
When you look around the league and see the New York Islanders struggling year after year under an owner looking to sell, or to Vancouver where ownership is believed to be part of the problem during a regime change, it's a reminder of what the best owners look like.
They are owners in for the long haul, willing to invest in their team and who know how to pick the right people to run it. Then they get out of the way and let them do their job. Credit GM Ken Holland, coach Mike Babcock and his young group for finding a way this season, but look a little higher up the food chain in Detroit to find the true reason for the long-term success.
read on for Burnside on the Blue Jackets, LeBrun on the Pacific Division and Strang on Kris Letang.
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?
... But, more than anything, the Canucks need leadership from the most important men in the organization, the kind of leadership the Red Wings have with Holland and Babcock. What they don’t need is the GM calling out the coach and the coach having to defend himself in a public forum. They don’t need the perception that ownership meddles in the affairs of the general manager. They don’t need the constant whining about the league, the rulebook and anyone who criticizes their operation.
Gillis had the right idea all along when he looked at the Wings and said, “That’s the way to do it.” That, at least, was the easy part. As for the hard part, he’s still trying.
-Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province on the Vancouver Canucks. Read more from Willes on this topic...
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
The fishing trips always bring out that smile his sons love and cherish.
Gordie Howe never was one to sit around, and that hasn’t changed even as dementia roils his health. He turns 86 today, an event that will appropriately be celebrated in Detroit, because no city ever has celebrated Howe more. He reigned here as a local hockey folk hero for three decades, defining what it meant to be talented and tough.
Howe doesn’t come to Detroit a whole lot any more, because he cannot be on his own. He has spent the past four months in Lubbock, Texas — staying with his daughter, Cathy, and her husband, Bob — escaping the harsh winter that would have impeded his physical activity. The man who six decades ago dominated opponents in hockey remains a man who doesn’t like to be still.
Keeping Howe active can be as simple as buying a rake, but there’s nothing better than getting him onto a body of water.
from Stephen Whyno of the CP at Canada.com,
Hasek played his final NHL game five years ago, and then officially retired in 2012. It's taken time since he left the league for his true place in NHL history to come into focus.
Six Vezina Trophies as the league's best goaltender, two Hart Trophies as MVP, one Olympic gold medal, six first-team all-star selections and two Stanley Cups — one as a starter — don't even tell the whole story. Few goalies during the 1990s and 2000s could do what Hasek did to opponents.
"He mentally and physically intimidated you," said St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who beat Hasek in the 1999 Cup final with the Stars. "I think there were games that you knew you were never going to score on him, and I think it was very discouraging at times. I think that's a great quality. I'd never seen the guy quit on a puck, I'd never seen the guy give up on anything. And that's hard to play against."
Hasek's .922 save percentage is the best of any goalie since the league started keeping track in 1982-83. His 2.02 goals-against average is the best in the modern era, slightly lower than Ken Dryden and Brodeur.
Brodeur has many more shutouts, but when Hasek was on his game, he had the ability to almost will teams to win.
Below, watch the Top 10 Hasek moments, TSN style...
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.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org