Kukla's Korner Hockey
About 7 1/2 hours of hockey action today and by my trained hockey eye, it looks like the home team would be the favorite except for the Devils/Flyers game.
from Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News,
The Los Angeles Kings will make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and that’s a wonderful story.
So is the fact the upstart Phoenix Coyotes, surprising Colorado Avalanche and diligent Nashville Predators will join the postseason party.
But while the Detroit Red Wings put to rest any chase for the final spot and the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks each take turns trying to give away first place, it does create an interesting question in the West: Who is the favorite out here?
from Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun,
Over the remaining seven games of the season — starting Sunday night here (Pittsburgh) against the Maple Leafs — Crosby and company will prepare to launch a deep playoff journey for the third consecutive spring.
But are they good enough?
These Penguins wouldn’t be the first Cup winners to have dull moments during the long haul of a season hard on the heels of a short summer. Throw in the Olympic break and the schedule hell it created plus the fact that they can’t seem to beat New Jersey or Washington and the Penguins are vulnerable favourites at best.
“At times we haven’t had that focus,” Pens general manager Ray Shero said Saturday following an impressive 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. “I wouldn’t say it’s a hangover, but it’s a long grind, a long year. Most of these guys have been in the final two years in a row.
“Now they see the light at the end of the tunnel and are paying the attention to detail that is needed.”
from Adrian Dater of All Things Avs,
I wasn’t one of those “They’re playing Craig Anderson too much, they need to play Peter Budaj more” people. But after tonight’s 6-2 drubbing at the hands of Wojtek Wolski and the Phoenix Coyotes, I might be inching a little closer to the “Andy is overworked” camp.
Hockey people often say that, when a goalie is struggling, pucks start “going through” them. Andy allowed a couple tonight where, indeed, it seemed as if the puck kind of went right through his body and into the net, as if he was just an apparition.
That said, it’s not all Andy’s fault why things are starting to slide for the Burgundy and Blue. The defense looks old and slow, one of the top two lines – if not both – always seem to have the “off” switch in effect, and the same with the two special teams.
from Chuck Gormley of te CourierPost,
Ask the veterans on this team and they’ll tell you the young core of players lack the focus and preparation to win consistently. Ask the young players for an explanation and they respond with smirks of indifference.
The locker room divide between the Flyers’ veterans and young core appears to be very real.
On Thursday night, after they blew a 3-1 lead against the Minnesota Wild, Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen called a players-only meeting. And although the doors remained closed to the media, it’s safe to assume Mike Richards did more listening than talking.
And when the media flooded the Flyers locker room after that meeting, Pronger invited reporters to his stall with a hearty “Right here,” while Richards hastily left the room.
from Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun,
Make no mistake, Darryl Sutter saved this franchise.
But now, seven years later, it clearly needs to be rescued once again.
With the Flames proving conclusively they’re neither playoff bound nor playoff worthy, the big question is whether Sutter is the man to clean up the mess he’s made.
Or is it time for ownership to hand the team over to someone with a fresh set of eyes and a radically new approach to building what has devolved into an aging, directionless, unmotivated and leaderless team?
Frustrated last spring by four straight first-round exits, the list of Sutter dissenters has since grown to the point the majority of fans want this year’s colossal collapse to be the final chapter in the general manager’s tenure.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
The mountain, it appears, just won’t be that high to climb.
The very manageable peak in question, at least from the point of view of the Maple Leafs, is that which needs to be scaled in order to get back to NHL post-season play.
To make the hike, Brian Burke and Ron Wilson apparently need not make their club very good, or even good.
Based on the quality of teams that will make the Stanley Cup playoffs out of the Eastern Conference, the Leafs will have only to improve from lousy to mediocre next season to find themselves in the thick of the hunt.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
With each passing day, it becomes crystal clear Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard isn’t just the obvious candidate for rookie of the year, but he has also played himself into consideration for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender.
And while we’re at it, if we’re going to discuss Buffalo’s Ryan Miller as a potential Hart Trophy nominee, then you have to throw Howard in the mix, as well. Quite simply, that’s how good the 26-year-old Syracuse, N.Y., native has played and how crucial he has been in helping turn the Red Wings from meandering to menacing.
Pretty heady stuff for a guy who was so worried about his future as an NHL starter, he postponed his honeymoon last summer so he could concentrate on getting his game in shape.
Thornton did not return and nothing yet on the injury.
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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