Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,
Could this be Joe Sakic’s last postseason before retirement?
Could this playoff run — however long it lasts — be the last Avalanche fans see of him in a Colorado uniform before he stands at a podium, likely wipes away a tear or two, and says it was fun while it lasted?
Sakic has always had that knack of avoiding crushing contact — not running from it, but minimizing it with deft and instinctive maneuvering. That’s one of the secrets of his longevity, resilience and long-term effectiveness.
He has the same sense of anticipation for oncoming questions.
from The Good, The Bad And The Duthie,
But I have this feeling at least one of the five cup favourites is going out. One (or more) of Pittsburgh, Montreal, Detroit, San Jose or Anaheim will be golfing in round two.
I wish I were smart enough to predict which one. But it wouldn’t really be an upset if you saw it coming, would it?
from Michael Farber at TSN,
And now, Montreal has fallen madly in love with other Russian dolls. A year ago, many of the Canadiens’ problems could be traced to Russian players that included Alex Kovalev’s critical comments of the organization and Sergei Samsonov’s stunning ineptitude.
Now, the Russians and Belarussians have become the city’s - and perhaps destiny’s - darlings.
After head coach Guy Carbonneau praised Kovalev in March, the 21,273 fans at the sold out Bell Centre took up a chant of “MVP!” for the team’s most valuable player.
from Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail (Wed. edition),
Welcome to the fourth season.
There are actually five in hockey, by a measure once offered up by no less than Wayne Gretzky. There is the exhibition season, which means nothing. There is the regular season, which runs quietly until the trade deadline. Then comes the stretch season, which ended rather dramatically last weekend. Now begins the playoff season, leading up to the Stanley Cup final, which Gretzky always considered a separate season.
As season No. 4 gets under way tonight, perhaps a playoffs primer is in order:
Goaltending: Some say the position has become too dominant and requires a hockey equivalent of the lowering of the mound in baseball.
From John Branch at the New York Times (Wednesday edition),
“I wish I had played 40 games instead of 9, but that’s just the way it is,” Forsberg said in the locker room Sunday. “On the other hand, I should be pretty rested coming into the playoffs.”
Ploy or not, fans have found themselves attracted, again, to Forsberg’s rare blend of grit and artistry. He played his first nine N.H.L. seasons with the franchise, helping lead it to Stanley Cup championships in 1996 and 2001. His vaunted place in local lore was cemented when, during the 2001 playoffs, he had his ruptured spleen removed after helping the Avalanche clinch a spot in the conference finals.
from the Tennessean,
“You find in the playoffs the third- and fourth-line guys become real valuable,” Trotz said. “They become our heroes.”
Where the Predators once allowed bigger stars such as Paul Kariya to step in and take control of critical situations, the grinders made names for themselves this season as the team developed a new attitude in the wake of a payroll reduction.
“In that situation you don’t become accountable to yourself because you depend on the big guns to do it all for you,” said Tootoo, who notched 11 goals and seven assists, doubling his point total from 2006-07. “Now we are creating more opportunities, and when that happens you bring confidence to each and every person on the ice.”
From the CP via TSN,
Flyers captain Daniel Briere practised on Tuesday for the first time since he injured his knee in a collision last week at Pittsburgh, and the star centre said he’s confident he’ll be ready to play against Washington.
‘‘Right now, I believe I’ll be in right from the get go,’’ Briere said. ‘‘That’s what I believe, but we’ll see how it improves. But I think I’ll be ready to go.’‘
from Stan Fischler at Game On,
Earlier I gave you my Eastern Conference predictions. Now it’s time to go West ...
DETROIT VS. NASHVILLE:
Normally, I’d side with a team like Detroit, which has enjoyed such a successful season, but the Red Wings have flaws. Goaltending (Dom Hasek-Chris Osgood) is old. The Red Wings’ best offensive players are soft, and Chris Chelios is simply too old to be that effective on defense.
Granted, Nik Lidstrom is a Norris Trophy candidate and Brian Rafalski is having a career year, but that may not be enough to beat a well-balanced, well-coached Predators team led by Jason Arnott.
THIS is my pick for the upset series. Nashville in six!
Remember the story about two months ago regarding Marc-Andre Fleury changing the color of his goalie pads?
Well, it turns out the Doctor who made the suggestion is a Sens fan….
from AFP via Yahoo,
A Canadian optometrist has unwittingly given the Pittsburgh Penguins an advantage going into their opening National Hockey League playoff game Wednesday against her darling Ottawa Senators.
Optometrist Janet Leduc wrote in a letter to the Penguins’ coaching staff some months ago that their goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, could improve his game if he ditched his trademark yellow pads.
Today, the NHL hosted a teleconference call for the media to ask questions of Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff and Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock.
Here is the transcript of that Q&A.
Q. The emphasis has been in the west all year now. Now the popular belief is whoever comes out of the west is going to be the Stanley Cup champion. Do you have that sense, as well?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No, I don’t. I think one of the problems is when you have so many good teams that what’s left of your team at the end of the three series that you have to play in sometimes isn’t much. I think a lot of it depends on the damage that gets done in some of these series.
I think when you look at the competitiveness of the teams and the closeness of really almost all eight teams in the playoffs, you know, I think health is going to be a major issue on whoever comes out from this series because it has the makings, especially in these early rounds, of some really long series here.
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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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