Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Terry Frei at ESPN,
How far have they fallen?
The Colorado Avalanche are last in the Western Conference.
They had lost seven in a row going into Wednesday’s game in Denver against Phoenix. They’re in a chase of the Islanders for the league’s overall basement that has the most wacko of conspiracy theorists musing that it’s such a “tank” job, the Pepsi Center Zambonis might as well be painted to resemble World War II-era Shermans.
But the truth is, the combination of injuries and the effects of management failures in the past few seasons have led to the Avalanche having a lineup on most nights during the stretch run that simply is in over its head.
from Brian Duff at The Hockey News,
To date, 19 players from this year’s Traverse Tournament have played at least a game in the NHL this year. As of Monday, five of those 19 were among the top 20 rookie scorers and four were in the top 11.
Bogosian will be an absolute force; Voracek is already responsible and productive; Neal trails only Bobby Ryan in rookie goals; Clutterbuck has set an NHL record for hits in a season; Berglund is the most prolific power play threat in this year’s Calder class.
And then there’s Oshie.
During one of our tournament broadcasts St. Louis’ president of hockey operations, John Davidson, joined us for an entire period to give us an overview of the organization’s prospects.
I’ll never forget how passionate he was when describing Oshie, who was expected to make the Blues after three consistent, productive years at the University of North Dakota.
“He’s tireless,” said Davidson glowingly. “He just never stops working.”
from Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News,
The difference was obvious in practice Tuesday as the Buffalo Sabres prepared for tonight’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers. The Sabres were smiling and loose, calm and confident, during a short workout. They were together. They found what had been missing for most of the season: life.
It’s amazing how three straight victories, including wins on back-to-back nights for the first time all year, can quickly improve the collective psyche of a team. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought the Sabres rattled off 10 straight and were surging toward the Eastern Conference title.
“It can only help,” goaltender Ryan Miller said. “We’ve been uptight, and look where it’s gotten us. We’ve come to the rink feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ve come to the rink holding our heads low a few times. It hasn’t gotten us anywhere. We’ve put together a good run, and we’ve had some good victories. We should feel good about it.”
from Stan Fischler at the Hockey Journal,
Of all the major pro sports in this country, the NHL is a most interesting phenomenon; a team can lose a game yet still move up in the standings.
Giving a point to a team that lost in overtime once made sense. Coaches knew that when overtime rolled around, if they played defense and didn’t take many chances, they would still be a point waiting for them at the end of the game by finishing in a tie.
This type of play became the modus operandi of just about every team in the league. Overtime became a battle of who could get back on defense and not give up a goal.
continued with other hockey notes…
from Len Ziehm of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Cristobal Huet once thought he was the Montreal Canadiens’ goalie for the long term. After winning 37 games spanning two seasons as a part-time player, he had a 21-12-6 record for them last season when he was traded.
Huet made his return to the Bell Center on Tuesday and didn’t get the result he wanted. His Blackhawks teammates gave him little support in a 4-1 loss, another indication a good season might be fading away. The result dropped the Hawks into fifth place in the Western Conference standings—and out of home-ice advantage in a first-round playoff series—with seven games left.
from Chris Pinkert of St.LouisBlues.com,
It’s been a busy few months for Larry Pleau, the team’s Sr. Vice President and General Manager. With the trade deadline passing in early March and the team’s recent surge toward the postseason, we thought now was a good time to catch up with Pleau to discuss a variety of Blues topics.
Q: Considering how the team has battled since early January, do you think they are “playoff tested” already?
A: We’ve been playing ‘desperate’ hockey, I would say, since the end of December. I think the coaches have done a great job of keeping the players focused on the game-to-game situation, preparation, the opponents they’re playing against and understanding how important the games are: even if it was a game in January, it (was) going to affect where we end up in April.
from John McGourty of NHL.com,
Whenever you see a defensive back inexplicably drop the football on what appeared to be an easy interception, the announcers invariably will say, “That’s why they’re not wide receivers—bad hands.”
But it’s different in hockey. Don’t assume that because someone’s playing defense, they have no shot with a shot.
Eleven NHL defensemen have scored goals in shootouts this season. Five have two or more goals and three are tied for the League lead among blueliners with three goals—Jack Johnson of the Los Angeles Kings, Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens and Marek Zidlicky of the Minnesota Wild.
from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,
Five weeks and 16 games of 9-5-2 hockey into his tenure, what stands out about John Tortorella’s crash course from behind the Rangers bench?
1: Well, the head coach’s oft-repeated pronouncements that he “isn’t an X’s and O’s guy,” and that the game “isn’t about X’s and O’s,” seem to be hogwash. Indeed, Tortorella appears to be every bit as much about using video to teach as was his predecessor, Tom Renney, not that that’s a bad thing.
Tortorella may encourage more instinctive play from his athletes than many of the league’s more defense-oriented coaches, and he might be a greater believer in the upside of risk/reward hockey than the individual he replaced, but Tortorella, too, has a system he teaches. It’s not freestyle hockey by any means.
from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,
This was to be Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj’s chance to take the next step — asserting himself as an unquestioned standout No. 1 for an entire season . . . and beyond.
By any standard of judgment, whether statistical or eyeball, Budaj has failed to do that this season.
“I definitely haven’t taken advantage of that chance,” Budaj said Tuesday after the Avalanche’s practice at the Family Sports Center. “The organization has been great. They stood behind me for the entire year. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get it done the way I wanted, and I’m pretty sure not the way they wanted….”
from Ted Leonsis of Ted’s Take,
So while we have lots of work left to do this season and in the playoffs, let us lay off some of the bad mouthing about this team’s play of late. We have actually been one of the better performing teams and most consistent teams in the NHL this year.
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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