Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Barry Rozner of the Chicago Daily-Herald,
What Duncan Keith did was wrong.
Everyone knows that. No one can dispute that. No one would try.
Not even Keith. Certainly not Keith.
But he is not Charles Manson. He's not even Dave Manson, though you would have to watch hockey to have a reasonable picture of the kind of player he is.
Keith is about as honest a defenseman as there is the NHL. He's probably too honest for his own good, and larger forwards frequently take advantage of that.
The fact, however, is that Keith now has three serious violations on his record and he's been punished for all three.
The latest, as you know, was the slash to Charlie Coyle's face in Minnesota last week. It was very bad, frighteningly dangerous and the six games seems a fair number.
What was unfair was what occurred just before the Keith slash.
Coyle slashed Keith in the face and a moment later Coyle yanked Keith's skates out from under him, the equivalent of a slew foot. It was a dangerous play in which Keith's head hit the ice.
Either play by Coyle could have ended Keith's season. And that's why Keith reacted.
Below, Corey Hirsch and P.J. Stock of Sportsnet discuss the suspension and high stick, video also includes the incident.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Was Thursday the night the Western Conference wild-card race shifted for good?
The Minnesota Wild won their fourth in a row, crushing the Calgary Flames 6-2, while the Colorado Avalanche dropped a 4-2 home decision to the Philadelphia Flyers that must have felt like a gut shot to the Avs, who now trail the Wild by three points in the race for the final playoff spot in the West.
Plenty of hockey left, of course -- Colorado has eight games remaining to Minnesota's seven, but the Avs have little room for error now. The beauty for Colorado?
The Wild visit them Saturday afternoon in a perfect opportunity to reclaim momentum in the race. It's a must-win, really, for the Avs, because after that they face the St. Louis Blues at home followed, by road games in Nashville and Dallas and a regular-season finale at home against Anaheim. All tough games.
What say you on this Good Friday, gang?
more on the race in the West from the ESPN hockey writers...
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
A month ago, it would have been impossible to envision Niklas Backstrom playing a pivotal role in determining whether the Wild makes the playoffs.
As the team’s third goaltender, Backstrom shared a net with backup Darcy Kuemper at practice and didn’t play a single second of any game.
But suddenly, Backstrom is not only a member of the Calgary Flames, he will lead that team from the visitors’ tunnel wearing a “Flaming C” on his chest to start Thursday’s game at Xcel Energy Center. In fact, the 38-year-old could wind up starting against his former team in two of its final eight games, because Calgary returns to Minnesota for each team’s regular-season finale April 9.
The Wild is one point up on Colorado for the last Western Conference playoff spot, so Backstrom’s play either will put a dent in the Wild’s playoff chances or provide one giant boost.
“It’s definitely weird,” said Backstrom, who arrived in the Twin Cities late Monday and has been at his Edina home with his wife and two children.
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
On Vanek, I wrote my notebook on him in yesterday’s paper, but he talked again today and said, “I’m not going to lie. Obviously I’m not happy about it. It is what it is. It’s a team sport, guys are going to be in and out and I’m not going to [whine] and complain about it.”
He said he’d just work hard and wait for his chance to get back in. He said he’d skate hard in the morning skates and hopefully it translates into scoring goals in games once he gets back in.
“He’s got his guys he trusts, so I think once I get back in there, just to play well and that’s about it. That’s all I can control,” Vanek said of John Torchetti.
Personally, I think this has nothing to do with guys Torchetti trusts. It’s that Torchetti trusts the fact that the Chris Porters and Jordan Schroeders will play hard, be on the right side of the puck and not throw pucks away.
This has nothing to do with goal scoring and the fact Vanek’s in a slump. Zach Parise’s in a slump, too, but his work ethic doesn’t wane.
Vanek said he figured he was in trouble after the Jersey game.
more on Vanek and the Wild...
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
Seventy-one games in, the Wild’s season is quickly ticking away and tonight in Newark, the Wild got smoked, 7-4.
The seven goals allowed were a season-high for the Wild and one from equaling the most allowed in a game in history.
In the heart of a playoff race, the Wild is 1-3-1 in its past five and somehow lacked battle and compete along the wall and any sense of urgency despite being one point back of Colorado for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Maybe it was just the natural sag or the wind being taken out of its sail, like Ryan Suter said, from being down 2-zip just 94 seconds into the game, but regardless of the reason, the Wild can’t afford that at this point and, as Nino Niederreiter said, games like that can’t happen.
There’s no doubt Devan Dubnyk needs to be better, but the second period was a train wreck defensively. The Wild was on the wrong side of the puck countless times and basically didn’t follow the system by going into an aggressive forecheck according to coach John Torchetti. Players were soft along the wall, soft on pucks, soft with their positioning. They were beaten to loose pucks, beaten to wall battles like they didn’t want to battle at all.
It was a disappointing game toward the tail end a disappointing season because regardless of the outcome this season – playoffs or not, it was not supposed to be this way for the Wild.
Game highlights are below...
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
The gameplan was so obvious tonight on how to beat the Oilers, yet the Wild basically defied the gameplan.
Chip the puck, chase it down, win the battle.
So what happened in the first period? The Wild finished with one credited hit. One.
I normally take hits, takeaways and giveaways with a grain of salt on the NHL’s subjective stat sheet, but that one David Jones hit was indicative of everything we saw in the first period: a team not following the gameplan.
Playing a blue line without four of six regulars, the Wild refused to get the puck deep. There’s not a coach in the league that wouldn’t have impressed upon his team to take advantage of such an inexperienced blue line by hitting them, cycling on them and tiring them out.
And yet, the Wild, from normally reliable defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin, to forwards like Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek, kept turning pucks over all over the ice.
The overpassing against a goalie that has given up 11 goals in his last eight starts (Cam Talbot) was unbelievable. In the second period, Justin Fontaine got two guys driving the net and instead of letting her rip, he pulled up and tried to saucer a pass that was broken up. A shift later, Vanek did the same thing.
Watch the game highlights below...
Devan Dubnyk post-game after the Wild lost 4-2 to the Blues, via Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
“This is the play that they brought the coaches challenge in for, this exact play. It’s so offside that both our defensemen stopped playing and all of a sudden they have twice as much room as they would because both our guys stopped playing. You have guys on the other bench that are laughing after the goal is called, and I mean, it’s just added to the list of interesting calls on challenges for everywhere around the league this year. You want to say he has possession? If you put that video up and you didn’t know what that call was – if it was offside or onside, and you argued if he has possession or not I think it’s pretty obvious, but you got the guy that made the call on the ice that’s looking at the iPad and making the call again it doesn’t really make much sense.”
from Rob Vollman at NHL.com,
They are locked in a two-team race for the final Western Conference position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They are both seven points back of the Nashville Predators, who have 75 points in 64 games, for the next highest playoff position and eight points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks, who are tied for No. 10 in the Western Conference with 60 points apiece.
Colorado made the greater push at the NHL Trade Deadline, acquiring defenseman Eric Gelinas and forwards Shawn Matthias and Mikkel Boedker, while giving up Alex Tanguay, two prospects, and two draft picks. Minnesota's only significant move was to acquire David Jones from the Calgary Flames for goalie Niklas Backstrom and a sixth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Statistically, the Wild are a stronger team in terms of defensive play and puck possession; the Avalanche have the edge on special teams, the shootout, and many of the intangibles.
Minnesota's Advantage: Defense and Puck Possession
Minnesota's two greatest advantages over Colorado are achieved practically by default. Statistically, the Avalanche rank near the bottom of the League defensively and in terms of puck possession.
Scandella received two for goalie interference and Montoya will not return, out with upper-body injury.
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
This morning in Woodbury, former Wild coach Mike Yeo sat down with the two beat writers for more than an hour. He discussed how he found out he had been fired, where he thinks things went wrong (Ryan Johansen trade rumors, a divide in the locker room, frustration throughout the team), his system, the power play, Adam Oates (a paid skills coach of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and others around the NHL) showing up at a Wild morning skate in January and what's next?...
“Those trade rumors hurt us. That’s the way I feel. I feel like there were some players that were probably hoping it was going to happen and there were some players upset it was even talked about. That’s my opinion. I could be wrong.”
You’re talking Johansen and Drouin? “Yeah I think so. I could be wrong. I had some conversations. If there was a trade happening, I know I had some conversations with some of the players that were mentioned in those trades. And for me, I was not lying, I didn’t want to see them go. I liked our team. Obviously if a trade comes along that’s going to make your team better, you’re going to do it. But it was a tough thing to get around.”
Does that go back to a division between young and old players? “I don’t know. Trade rumors, every team has to deal with that. These are things that shouldn’t have broke us, shouldn’t have been that much a factor. It didn’t take much for our game to slip a little bit. And when our game slipped a little bit, players started to struggle individually. That was the beginning of the end for me when players started to struggle individually.”
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