Kukla's Korner Hockey
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...
At twenty-five minutes past two this morning, a bushy-haired blonde veteran of hockey, Hector Kilrea, a sturdy, scarlet-clad form wearing the white emblem of Detroit Red Wings, went pounding tirelessly down the battle-scarred, deep-cut Forum ice, trying to pilot a puck that was bobbling crazily over the rough trail, almost out of control.
It looked like another of the endless unfinished plays – when suddenly, in shot the slim form of a player, who through this long, weary tide of battle that ebbed and flowed had been almost unnoticed. He swung his stick at the bobbling puck, the little black disc straightened away, shot over the foot of Lorne Chabot, bit deeply into the twine of the Montreal Maroon cage.
And so Modere Bruneteau, clerk in a Winnipeg grain office, leaped to fame as the player who ended the longest game on professional hockey record.
-Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette & Hockey Inside/Out. Stubbs re-created the longest game in NHL history, which went into 6 overtime periods.
The game 'started' 78 years ago tonight.
from Tim Wharnsby of CBC,
Does he want a chance at a threepeat as Canada's head coach?
"That's a real good question that you can ask me again in three years," the 50-year-old head coach of the Detroit Red Wings said. "I don't have a clue at this point. I still perceive myself as a young guy. I plan on coaching for a while yet. We'll see what happens.
"There are great, great coaches in Canada. If someone else deserves the opportunity, they should get it. If I'm still in the running at that time, we'll see. Only time will tell."
more from Babcock on different topics and other hockey notes too...
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Jiri Fischer was at home in suburban Detroit with his 7-year-old son Monday night, catching up on all the NHL action and scores.
"Then the big news hit. I watched the video right away," Fischer told ESPN.com on Tuesday in the aftermath of Rich Peverley's scary collapse and cardiac resuscitation.
Impossible to ignore were the flashbacks to his own near-tragic cardiac episode in 2005 while playing for the Detroit Red Wings.
"The two videos are similar, except I'm getting chest compressions while being unconscious on the bench and they carried Rich into the locker room," said Fischer, before adding about watching Monday's video: "Scary, goose bumps ..."
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