Kukla's Korner Hockey
With the Stanley Cup playoffs kicking off Wednesday, our experts took some time to ponder what lies ahead. ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside, ESPN The Magazine’s E.J. Hradek and ESPN analyst Barry Melrose answer these 10 burning questions:
1. Which player do you think will be one of the out-of-nowhere role players who surprises everyone in the playoffs?
Scott Burnside: I would keep an eye on Tom Poti. The veteran in Washington has put some injuries behind him and moves the puck well. He plays in the shadow of Mike Green now, but that’s not a bad thing.
E.J. Hradek: I think Capitals forward Brooks Laich and Red Wings forward Johan Franzen could be two under-the-radar type players who can be surprisingly big contributors in the coming weeks.
from Brian Costello of the Hockey News,
It’s not nearly as dramatic as the Ray Bourque Stanley Cup mission of 2001 or the Dave Andreychuk Cup quest in 2004, but there are nine NHLers with more than 1,000 games to their credit without championship rings.
Ottawa’s Luke Richardson is the regular season games played leader without a Stanley Cup title at 1,415. He’s one season away from the all-time leader, Phil Housley at 1,495.
Here are the other leaders active in this year’s playoffs.
via David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,
“It’s still the same game, it’s just higher intensity,” Hossa said in comparing the regular season to the playoffs. “We have to battle through the traffic and make hockey more simple.
“Every experience is big and definitely I’m learning. Sometimes it’s a longer process but I’m here and hopefully I can help this team go far.”
more on Marian Hossa…
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
A year ago, the hockey world observed Sidney Crosby as though he were a brand new organism unearthed in the excavation of some long-forgotten hockey rink.
As the teenage scoring sensation and anointed savior of the game prepared for his first playoff series against Ottawa, we poked and prodded and mostly wondered. How would the league’s scoring champ adjust to life in the pressure cooker of the postseason? What could he accomplish? How would he lead his team? Where would he lead his team?
From Eric Stephens at the LA Times,
The sight of Perry taking part in a couple of drills was encouraging for the Ducks as it appears their leading goal scorer this season could be in position to return sometime during the Western Conference quarterfinals against Dallas.
Perry skated for the first time since his right quadriceps muscle was severed just above the knee when he was cut by the skate of Colorado goaltender Jose Theodore in a game March 6.
“Today, it felt great,” Perry said. “That’s why I stayed out and did a couple of drills with the team. If it continues to be like that, it could be quicker than everybody thinks.”
*Plus more from the LA Times on expectations of a rough series between the Ducks & Stars
From Ian Winwood at The Guardian,
Brendan Shanahan tells a great story about the attitude of hockey players when it comes to the play-offs. The gritty superstar (translation: a goalscorer also capable of beating someone up) was talking about the time the Detroit Red Wings, for whom Shanahan then played, reached the Stanley Cup Finals. The year was 1998, and the Wings - who just a decade previously were dubbed ‘The Dead Things’, so awful was their play - were on their way to capturing their second consecutive championship, sweeping the Washington Capitals in four straight games. Every game was crucial; every player wanted to play.
One player in particular - Martin LaPointe, if memory serves - wanted to play very badly indeed. The physical (translation: homicidal) winger, however, was injured, and rather badly at that; the muscles in his groin were shredded like so much beef jerky.
from Fire & Ice,
[Jamie Langenbrunner] had on his official “Rock Your Red” T-shirt for this morning’s media availability at The Rock following a team meeting and did several television interviews with it on. “I’m Rockin the Red,” he said, though he had to endure some ribbing from his teammates.
More than one player expressed displeasure that fans have to buy the T-Shirts and won’t be get them for free at the game tonight. Their first concern, obviously, is with gettign ready for the Rangers tonight. All of them, including the coach, were itching for the puck to drop.
“I’m anxious to get going,” Sutter said. “I wish this game would have been played last night, our first game. I’m like everybody on the team, just anxious to get it started. You go through a whole season, an 82-game season, and there’s ups and downs, peaks and valleys, to set yourself up to play playoff hockey and we’re there now and I’m excited about it, anxious to get it going and I’m excited for the players. That’s what it’s all about.”
more on the Devils…
from Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun,
Make no mistake, this is going to get ugly.
It has to, or the Calgary Flames have no chance.
Round 1 of what is shaping up to be a slugfest goes tonight at HP Pavilion, where the underdog Flames will begin their attempts to get the league’s hottest team off its game.
And what better way to do it than by waving some chum named Eric Godard around the Shark Tank and seeing who bites first.
“Oh, I think you’re going to see some fights. That’s kind of the way the team makeup is this year,” smiled Craig Conroy, whose club has nine players with at least three fighting majors this season.
from Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette,
There has been a lot of talk about the importance of experience in this series and both teams offer a mix of seasoned veterans and raw rookies. Much has been made of the fact that the Habs have 10 players with no NHL playoff experience and that group includes 20-year-old goaltender Carey Price.
But the Bruins have 11 players looking for their first playoff experience and folks might be surprised to learn the group includes No. 1 goalie Tim Thomas, 33, and Marc Savard, who is the team’s leading scorer.
Price never seems to get rattled and he said yesterday that, while he expects to be nervous when the puck is dropped tomorrow, he doesn’t expect to be overwhelmed by the surroundings.
Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun ranks the playoff goalies…
16. Dan Ellis, Predators
Playoff appearances: 0
Came into prominence just this season. He is the wild card in the playoff dance, a relative unknown who could make a name for himself by felling the Big Bad Red Wings.
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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