Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Kevin Allen of Mucking and Grinding at USA TODAY,
In the sports world, what happened last week is ancient history. But I believe we have all been too quick to forget that Anaheim owned the Stanley Cup only 22 months ago.
If there is one lower seed that I wouldn’t want to face in the opening round, it’s probably the Ducks. Here’s why:
1. They are playing confidently again, going 8-2 in their last 10.
2. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin is due back soon from his knee injury, and he will add toughness and a big shot to the mix.
3. Defenseman Chris Pronger can still impact a playoff series as much as any player can except a goalkeeper.
4. When Beauchemin back, the Anaheim defense top four D men will be Pronger, Neidermayer, Beauchemin and Ryan Whitney. That’s noteworthy. James Wisniewski is also underrated and Brett Hedican and Kent Huskins give the team options on the blue line.
from Mike Brophy of Sportsnet,
The trick now, as I see it, is managing expectations. Are the Blackhawks bona fide Stanley Cup contenders?
That is not to say they won’t win it; at this stage of the game I don’t feel confident pointing to any team as a sure bet. Who would have guessed the Carolina Hurricanes would win the Cup in 2006?
Win or lose, the Blackhawks are no flash in the pan. They have been built to be good not only now, but for a long time to come. Chicago’s young one-two punch of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane is as exciting a young duo as you will find in the league—and that includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks.
Kane, 20, was the NHL’s rookie of the year last season and has already bettered his goal total of 21 by four. He needs five more points to surpass his rookie total of 72. Although he looks like he might snap in half in a strong windstorm, Kane has proven to be decidedly durable through his first two seasons and he drives to the net with the reckless abandon of a power forward.
from Al Balderas of the OC Register,
The Ducks have Jiggy, Prongs, The Finnish Flash, Getzy, and even Phil.
And then there is Hiller.
If you don’t notice the similar ring to goalie Jonas Hiller’s name, it could be because there isn’t one.
The aforementioned players have been instrumental in the success of the Ducks and are, in some circles, better known by their monikers than their real names. It’s time Hiller fell into that category…especially because of the fact that he’s a goalie.
Goalies throughout hockey history have been tagged with some cool, catchy nickname. Most fans of the sport have little trouble recognizing a player by the nickname he uses. There is Felix the Cat (Felix Potvin), The Wizard of Oz (Chris Osgood), CuJo (Curtis Joseph), Finnisher (Mikka Kiprusoff) and even The Lach Ness Monster (Blaine Lacher), who played for the Bruins in the 1990’s.
from Mike Knobler of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
Zach Bogosian and Ron Hainsey have been invited to play for Team USA in the World Championships in Switzerland from April 24-May 10. Ilya Kovalchuk will play for Russia, Tobias Enstrom for Sweden and Boris Valabik for Slovakia, Thrashers coach John Anderson said Wednesday. There may be others.
“I’d like to see Bryan Little get a chance with Team Canada,” Anderson said. “He certainly deserves it.”
... On Frozen Blog breaks down Puck Daddy.
from Steve Rosenbloom of RosenBlog at the Chicago Tribune,
...amid all the good signs I’ve seen from the Hawks this year—at this time of year—the one thing that struck me Tuesday night was Martin Havlat’s empty-net goal.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have seemed so jarring, but it was. In a vaccuum, I’m thinking, whoa, what’s Havlat doing on the ice at the end of a game when the Hawks are trying to protect a one-goal lead?
Yeah, I know, that was the question about the old Havlat, the one-way Havlat, the usually injured Havlat. I guess it still takes some getting used to. It also bears reiterating: This is not your father’s Havlat.
Contract year motivation or not, the guy has been a stud. He has been to the forwards what Duncan Keith is to the defense and what Khabibulin has been in goal.
Havlat leads the team in points with 73. He leads the team in assists with 45. He’s a plus-28, if you can believe that, second only to Keith. And he has missed only one game all season. One game. One game from the Czech version of Mark Prior.
Of all the things coach Joel Quenneville has done right this season, ranking near the top of the list is convincing Havlat he could be a game-breaker on the checking line.
more on Chicago…
“He’s going to see the doctor and go through a couple of days of testing. If he’s good, and we expect good things, we’ll see ... if he needs another two weeks, he needs another two weeks.”
“I don’t think there’s any risk. He won’t play if there’s any risk. Paul is a smart guy. As long as the doctors say he can play ... if the doctors said that Erik Johnson could play, we’d look at that too, but he can’t. If the doctors say he’s ready and he says he’s ready, he’ll be ready.”
-Blues President John Davidson on Paul Kariya. More on the Blues from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
from Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News,
While special-teams sturdiness has always been a fair barometer of post-season success (if you’re top five on the power play and penalty kill, you’re in good shape), what other stats can we break down for the purposes of crystal ball material?
I present to you the giveaways/takeaways corollary. Seems pretty simple, really. If your best players give away the puck more times than they take it off the other team, it’s not a good sign. Sure, some giveaways may be meaningless neutral-zone turnovers that don’t harm the team, but with goals at a premium in the playoffs, do you really want to take that chance?
from Luke DeCock of the News & Observer,
So now the playoffs await, only the opponent and the seeding uncertain. Two years of pent-up excitement and enthusiasm is ready to explode at the RBC Center and not just in the stands.
For the 10 holdovers from the 2006 championship team, the return to the playoffs has been a long time coming—far longer than any of them could have expected on June 19, 2006.
“With our talent level and our team in general, we should be in the playoffs,” said Hurricanes forward Eric Staal, who recorded his eighth career hat trick Tuesday. “We attained that goal. The last two years we didn’t, and that’s what made it so disappointing and difficult.”
No matter what happens now, whether the Hurricanes go out in the first round or make it to the finals for the third time in the past seven seasons, at least they’ll go down fighting, if they go down at all. It took them three years, but they’re finally going to defend their title.
The top five hits from the 2008-09 regular season.
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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