Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Collectively, the hockey staff decided to exile veteran goaltender Manny Legace to Peoria. That was a difficult decision. Legace is a pretty good guy. But Manny wasn’t happy and he wasn’t playing well.
Since his exit, the Blues have seldom lost.
Collectively, the hockey staff elected to keep Tkachuk at the trading deadline and not collect some additional future assets.
Since then, the Blues have seldom lost.
This run from 15th to eighth place in the Western Conference has taken on a life of its own. The Blues transformed into an entirely different team.
Sometimes it seemed supernatural forces were at play -– like when the team rallied improbably at Boston for one of the most freakish victories in franchise history.
And here is the best news: The fun has just begun.
But with puck-moving defencemen Mathieu Schneider and Andrei Markov on the shelf, the Habs have scored just three goals in their last two contests. Also, Montreal has been held to two or fewer goals in each of their last four games against the Bruins.
Some good news, however could be on the horizon. RDS reports that Schneider, who suffered an upper-body injury in Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, practiced with the club this morning and could be back in the lineup.
more on the Canadiens…
added 12:35pm, from Pat Hickey at Habs Inside/Out,
Coach Bob Gainey says there is a “good possibility” that defenceman Mathieu Schneider will be in the lineup tonight when the Canadiens face the Bruins in a “must-tie” game.
from Edward Fraser of The Hockey News,
From a strictly analytical outlook, however, the Flyers’ chances of getting out of the first round are slim to none.
Philadelphia is very likely subject to a Round 1 matchup against the Hurricanes, winners of nine in a row and the league’s hottest team since the all-star break; or the Penguins, who are firing on all cylinders (16-3-4) since hiring Dan Bylsma as coach.
Despite a 3-1-0 record against the Canes this season, all four of those contests came before Christmas when Carolina was struggling to find their footing. The Flyers split the season series with their cross-state rivals at 2-2-2, but there’s no doubt about who the best team in the Atlantic has been since mid-February.
Lining up against either club, both of which will be brimming with confidence entering the tournament, is not what a team that’s developed a penchant for slow starts in games wants to face.
Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun of ESPN discuss the playoff race…
Burnside: You have to figure Nashville has to come up with at least a point in Detroit. They’re two back of St. Louis with two to go. The Blues are at home and will play Columbus on Friday night, so the Preds will have to once again come up big against their division rivals. In the East, Florida has to win tonight in Atlanta, where the Thrashers have turned in solid performances down the stretch, so this isn’t a gimmie. Meanwhile, the most interesting game of the night, Philadelphia in New York to take on the Rangers. The Rangers can grab a playoff spot with a win, but the Flyers are (or should be) desperate to hold down fourth place in the conference and force either Carolina or Pittsburgh to visit Wachovia Center to start the playoffs next week.
#2 Washington Capitals can clinch the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference:
* If they get at least one point against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
* If the New Jersey Devils get one or no points against the Ottawa Senators.
#3 New Jersey Devils can clinch the Atlantic Division title:
* If they get at least one point against the Ottawa Senators.
* If the Philadelphia Flyers get one or no points against the New York Rangers.
#7 Montreal Canadiens can clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth:
* If they get at least one point against the Boston Bruins.
* If the Florida Panthers get one or no points against the Atlanta Thrashers.
#8 New York Rangers can clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth:
* If they beat the Philadelphia Flyers.
* If they get one point against Philadelphia and the Florida Panthers get one point against the Atlanta Thrashers.
* If the Florida Panthers get no points against the Atlanta Thrashers.
from Jeff Paterson of Straight.com,
For a league that has already hired a commissioner away from the National Basketball Association and placed franchises in cities far better suited for hoops than pucks, it’s time to borrow from basketball yet again. The NBA’s developmental league has come up with a novel twist on the playoffs that would be perfect for the National Hockey League: allowing teams to pick their postseason opponents.
Now, it’s not as radical as it sounds. The top finishers in each conference get to select from the lower-ranking qualifiers in the first round only. In the NHL’s case, let the three division winners in each conference pick from the teams that round out the playoff field.
from Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune,
We’re on the brink of a huge offseason. Co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie and, more to the point, first-time general manager Brian Lawton have to clean up this mess, some of which they didn’t make, some of which they did.
You might be wondering if this is the worst it’s ever been on Channelside Drive, you know, what with worst in the league last season, second worst in the league this season. I’m here to tell you it’s been worse.
Then why is there such a funk over there?
This team plays hard most night and it has some very good pieces, like Vinny Lecavalier (for now) and braveheart Marty St. Louis, and Ryan Malone, and super rookie Steven Stamkos, and a seemingly No. 1 goaltender in Mike Smith, and a seemingly good head coach in Rick Tocchet.
But the franchise doesn’t seem any more stable than it did last offseason.
from Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News,
Other than a ceremony honoring winger Brad May for playing his 1,000th game, the evening had less electricity than an Amish barn. Toronto fans long ago became accustomed to watching their team lose, so it wasn’t as if the Sabres’ two quick goals in the third period in a 3-1 victory was a jolt to anyone in the Air Canada Centre.
Buffalo won the game and is still alive. That’s all that matters. So why does this feel like another tease?
There was a stronger sense that the Sabres were merely prolonging the agony, that fans would spend today generating whatever optimism they could muster only to have Flyers center Daniel Briere cough up the puck to Chris Drury tonight for the Rangers’ game-winner.
Yeah, I know, don’t go there. But it would be another reminder of how far the NHL’s one-time darlings have fallen in less than two years. May made you remember when the Sabres missed the playoffs with dignity, when they went down swinging. This group reminded you of the Sabres at their worst, underachievers who often looked uninterested in a big game against a 12th-place team.
from Dan Barnes of the Edmonton Journal,
“Some guys came in here this year thinking this is an easy game,” said defenceman Sheldon Souray, who shot straighter after practice on Wednesday than he has in the last 10 games.
” ‘The crowd loves me. I got points in junior, I got points in the minors, I got points here last year, I’m going to be great this year.’ Well, any professional will tell you, when people know about you, now there is expectation. Opponents know you and pay attention to you. The organization puts more expectation on you.
“Look, last year was a totally different situation. You hope that some of this experience lends itself to making you better next year.” If the sharpest of those accusations sound like a shot across the bow of the sophomore set, Souray said his focus was not that narrow. Young and old have to take responsibility for this debacle, he stressed, and he made it clear by missing only goalie Dwayne Roloson with the broad brush of blame.
from Aaron Portzline of Puck-rakers at the Columbus Dispatch,
Blue Jackets fans, you’ve waited a long, long time for this. You’ve invested lots of time and lots of emotion to get to this point. You’ve thrown lots of pillows at the TV and stalked out of Nationwide Arena lots of times, either because of blowout losses or late-game collapses.
This night was for you. Now eight seasons in the league, the Blue Jackets have earned the right to compete for the NHL’s ultimate trophy. This night was for you, and it was for the biggest fan of them all—the man who plunked down the $80 million check to finance an expansion franchise, late owner John H. McConnell.
added 10:11am, from E.J. Hradek of ESPN,
Enjoy the playoffs, Blue Jackets fans. Your team is going to be a pain in the butt for someone.
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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