Kukla's Korner Hockey
Scott Burnside of ESPN breaks down the WCF,
Many preseason prognosticators believed this was the Ducks’ season. For those who like their foul West Coast style, Anaheim has done nothing to disappoint. The team is 8-2 through the first two rounds and hit the Western Conference finals for the second straight season, well-rested and hungry to take that next step to the Stanley Cup finals.
Now onto the ECF,
At the start of the playoffs, this looked like an absolutely perfect matchup for the right to go to the Stanley Cup finals. And now that it’s here, there’s nothing to suggest this won’t be anything but a terrific showdown between the two best teams in the conference.
from Mike Brophy of the Hockey News,
The Red Wings were clearly the hungrier team in this series. They refused to let injuries get them down and they pressed on offense. Game 6 was not one for the ages; in fact, it was a bit of a yawner. But the defensive tone was pure Mike Babcock, a coach who leans on his players to get the job done in their own end. Now we will see if Detroit’s weakened defense and so-so offense can contend with the Anaheim Ducks.
more on last night’s game…
from Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press,
As we always say, you can never have enough Swedes on your hockey team. Mikael Samuelsson may not be the first name you think of when rattling off Swedish Wings, but Monday night he was the Nordic Nuke, the Scandinavian Slayer, the Go-To Goteburger. His two goals in less than five minutes continued a streak of Swedish successes that have finally, finally, given the Red Wings two things they desperately wanted:
1) A return to the Western Conference finals for the first time in five years, and ...
2) A day off.
Swedeness and light.
Hasek came up big tonight, frustrating the Sharks and leading the Wings to a 2-0 victory.
Wings open at home against the Ducks on Friday night.
added 11:58pm, from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
On the opening day of their playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks’ coach Ron Wilson was asked about the importance of goaltending.
“That’s all playoffs are,” replied Wilson. “It’s goaltending. I don’t have to say anything more.”
For the normally loquacious and talkative Wilson to say no more was unusual, almost extraordinary, but his words also proved prophetic — for the wrong team. Of all the things that helped the Red Wings advance to the Western Conference finals Monday night, the primary factor was the play of 42-year-old Dominik Hasek in goal.
from Scott Burnside at ESPN,
A number of factors have contributed to what is a modest falling off in arena fan support.
First, the local economy, which is so dependent on the moribund domestic car industry, is in the dumps. The Wings also hiked ticket prices for the playoffs, and the casual fans haven’t anted up as they have in the past. The price increase may be one factor, but another is the unprecedented competition for the attention of the Detroit sports fan.
read on and additional NHL playoff talk too…
fromm Jim Kelley at Sportsnet,
A team that was poised, relentless, blessed with timely (and reasonably proficient) scoring, defensively sound play and soundly physical play in eliminating Nashville in five games seemingly has chucked all of the things it did well in that series. The Sharks haven’t just lost their bite; they’ve gone belly-up in the face of a Detroit attack that has been neither withering nor relentless.
In fact, the Red Wings have pretty much been fortunate given the number of injuries they’ve had before and during this series.
more... plus some Sabres/Sens talk…
from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
Nobody’s looking at Detroit’s goaltending this year, though. Hasek hasn’t given up more than two goals in seven straight playoff games, with the Wings poised to close out the Sharks to-
night. He doesn’t have the Gumby-like reflexes he had at, say, 32, when he was taking the Buffalo Sabres to the Stanley Cup final en route to two Hart trophies, six Vezinas and six first-team all-star berths. He doesn’t lose his stick quite as often, or do as many snow-angels in the crease as he did back in 2002 when the Wings won their third Cup in a six-year span.
Expect the Sharks to lay the body on the Wings defense every chance they get tonight. How the Wings “D” holds up will be the key to the game tonight.
Brent Lebda is a game time decision and if he is not ready to go, Derek Meech will be the Wings 6th defenseman.
from the AP via the Monterey Herald,
Though the Red Wings can finish off Wilson’s faltering club in Game 6 at the Shark Tank on Monday night, the coach isn’t certain what else he can do about his sputtering offense, his awful power play and a club that retreats into a shoddy defensive shell after taking the lead.
He’s just hoping his veteran players, outside of do-everything center Joe Thornton, finally take charge against the Red Wings, forcing their teammates to overcome an inexplicable pattern of retreating with a lead.
“It’s not by design,” Wilson said. “It just seems to have happened. We’ve got to get our defensemen to be more aggressive. We give up a lot of space in the neutral zone, and the ice tilts. ... We can prevent them from tilting the ice by playing hard for 60 minutes.”
from the Mercury News,
So how are the Red Wings - who have beaten the Sharks twice since Holmstrom’s return from an eye injury - a different team with him in the lineup?
“I don’t think they do anything differently. But I think he is doing his job better than anybody in front of the net,” Nabokov said of Holmstrom, mentioning forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary as two Red Wings who played a similar style in the first three games. “But this guy seems like he’s just finding a way to knock the puck out of the air or pass the puck right in there. He draws the defensemen to him. He’s talented.”
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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