Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer,
You’re welcome, Pittsburgh.
Thanks to a mystifyingly listless effort against the New York Rangers last night, the Flyers will have to open the playoffs in Pittsburgh, of all places. They dropped to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, while the idle Penguins completed a surge from nowhere to the fourth seed and home-ice advantage.
In short, this is about as bad a scenario as the Flyers could have conjured for themselves.
“It’s probably my fault,” coach John Stevens said after his team blew a third-period lead to lose, 4-3, to a Rangers team with nothing to play for.
“Nothing for me ever comes easy. So I think this group has always found a way to do it the hard way, but they’ve always found a way to do it.”
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
San Jose lost only four of its first 38 games in regulation; survived a 14-game period in which they played without their No. 1 goaltender Evgeni Nabokov; and as recently as three weeks ago, were winning games on a regular basis, despite playing without seven injured regulars.
In some NHL markets, that would constitute reasons for a parade. In San Jose, where the Sharks won the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s regular-season champions, it represents a first step only.
“A lot of teams prepare just to get into the playoffs and then see what happens,” said Sharks defenceman Rob Blake. “Our focus, all year, is to do something in the playoffs - and knowing you have the group that could accomplish that is a big difference.”
from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,
Gomez was a significant disappointment this season. The Blueshirts’ putative first-line pivot played only slightly better hockey for John Tortorella than he did for Tom Renney, finishing a 58-point season (16-42) by collecting four points (0-4) in the final eight games and 10 points (1-9) in the final 16.
“It was a hard year, not that I didn’t make it hard on myself,” Gomez said. “I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the playoffs and the chance to make things right, not for myself, but for the team.”
from Ted Leonsis of Ted’s Take,
I have already started to receive angst-filled emails from certain Caps fans pining away for the good old days and concerned about our D; our goaltending; our playoff readiness; our toughness; our overabundance of skill; our lack of heart; our size; our skill level; our leadership; our grittiness; our speed; our GM; our coach; our ownership; our lack of secondary scoring; lack of tickets available; the price of tickets; the food; the traffic; the Metro schedule; the ushers; and the ice. One fan even said - and I quote - “I am 95 percent sure you will lose this series because…”
Ninety-five percent? Why not 96 percent? What was the algorithm that created that prediction?
Rather than complain, let it all hang out now. Send them all my way. Do it today and all day tomorrow….
from Greg Logan of Newsday,
The Isles gave up at least five goals in nine of their last 12 games, which underlined how much they especially missed goaltender Rick DiPietro, who was limited to five games by a left knee that did not respond well to surgery in June and a second procedure in October.
Asked where DiPietro stands now, coach Scott Gordon said, “He’s upbeat. I don’t know the specifics of his timetable, but he’s been encouraged with the way things are going and he fully expects to be on the ice sometime in mid-summer and ready to go.’‘
Islanders fans will believe it when they see it. DiPietro recently was seen on crutches at the physical therapy facility where several Islanders do their rehabilitation. No explanation was immediately available from the Islanders, who previously released a statement saying he will be ready for training camp in September.
more on the Islanders
“We need to sign some free agents- spend some money. If you look on the roster of all the teams who are going to compete for the playoffs- but not just the playoffs because I don’t want to compete for just the playoffs- I want to compete for a Cup. I think the city deserves it. Hopefully we can sign some free agents.”
-Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers. More from Ben Wright at Blueland Blog.
The 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin on Wednesday, April 15, with four games—three in the Eastern Conference and one in the West.
In the East, the New York Rangers will open their series against Washington, Carolina will be at New Jersey and Philadelphia will visit Pittsburgh on opening night, while in the West, St. Louis will play its first playoff game since 2004 when it opens its series at Vancouver.
One night later, the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins open the other East quarterfinal against Montreal. In the West, Presidents’ Trophy winner San Jose opens against Anaheim, Detroit opens defense of its Stanley Cup championship by hosting Columbus—which will be playing the first postseason game in franchise history—and Calgary will visit Chicago.
from Shawn P. Roarke of NHL.com,
Now, the Stanley Cup is on the line.
Now things are different. Because, make no mistake, playoff hockey is different by its very nature. It looks different, it feels different, it sounds different and, yes, it even tastes different.
The differences range from the obvious to the subtle, some not even coming into focus until after living through the crucible that has given definition—positive or negative—to the greatest of hockey careers.
For those new to the postseason scene—welcome to the club and enjoy the show. Here are a few tips on ways to deal with how the game will change as we head from early April’s sprint to the regular-season finish line to the long, sustained grind of the postseason.
Put away your watch—Forget about making plans for after the game. You might have to break them as often as not. Unlike the regular season, there’s no way to know when a particular game might end, as playoff hockey sees the five-minute OT period and the shootout go into hibernation.
from Allan of the Globe and Mail,
...But the optimistic captain of the Flames sees something else: His best shot yet to win a Stanley Cup.
Seriously. Iginla said that. Even after all the recent setbacks – the losses, injuries, a power play that hasn’t scored since Hakan Loob played here – Iginla has gone on record to say that facing the Chicago Blackhawks in the postseason is “a good matchup for us” and that the Flames will persevere in the end.
“Do I still believe this is my best chance to win the Cup? Absolutely,” he confirmed.
This is what captains say in the darkest hours, and make no mistake, there hasn’t been a lot of sunshine around the Flames lately. Soon after Calgary ended its regular season Saturday night with a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers, several players offered a battle cry that sounded bleak yet hopeful at the same time. “We’ve been bad against Chicago,” the players said. “We can’t be any worse.”
from Randy Hahn of the Seagate Broadcasters Blog,
Finally. A NORCAL vs SOCAL Stanley Cup Playoff series. The Sharks vs the Ducks in a best of seven affair that could go down as one of the best the boys in teal have ever been involved in. It’s a dream series. We know the hockey will be terrific and intense but more about that in the days to come.
The fact that two teams within California are going head to head is terrific. For once, most of the state will have some interest in the NHL Playoffs at the same time.
added 10:05pm, from Randy Youngman of the OC Register,
Remember the final frenzied seconds of their last regular-season meeting a week ago Sunday at Honda Center, a 3-2 Ducks loss, when all you-know-what broke loose on the ice?
There were bodies and fists flying everywhere and players jumping on piles, with both teams accusing the other of cheap shots after Ducks leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf was knocked down in the slot — without a whistle -— as he prepared to shoot the puck.
That bad blood likely will carry over into their playoff series, as will the intensity on the ice and in the stands. That’s why the records and seeding — San Jose (53-18-11, NHL-best 117 points) is the top seed and the Ducks (42-33-7, 91 points) are No. 8 — might be irrelevant when the playoffs open this week in San Jose.
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.
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