Kukla's Korner Hockey
Scott Burnside of ESPN breaks down both the East and the West Conference Finals…
The Flyers, who won five of eight matchups against Pittsburgh during the regular season, will try to establish a physical tone with the skilled Penguins, who have shown a surprising level of grit of their own. Both teams have displayed timely, balanced scoring, superb defensive play and stellar goaltending. Oh, and did we mention they can’t stand each other? Stay tuned.
The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, struggled midway through their opening-round series against Nashville but took advantage of woeful netminding by Jose Theodore and cruised to a four-game sweep of the Colorado Avalanche in the West semis. The Stars, who have terrific depth down the middle, now have an identity they lacked the past three or four postseasons. Marty Turco, fresh off a 61-save effort, will represent a much sterner test than the Avs, or he should.
Still, the Red Wings seem to be firing on all cylinders and will be very difficult to knock out.
Geez, ESPN, why don’t you just come out and say you don’t like long overtimes.
But can there be such a thing as too much overtime, SportsNation? Sure, it’s amazing that the Stars and Sharks went to four overtimes before a winner emerged, but did you stick around to watch the end? And is it fair to have such critical games determined by sudden-death?
Looks like true hockey fans are responding too…
Here are the final confirmed times and dates of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
Below, a couple updated brackets people might find useful.
From Jamie Samuelsen at the Detroit Free Press,
The Red Wings are halfway to a Stanley Cup. While there are many candidates, who’s your Red Wings playoff MVP?
Ken Holland. Seriously, before we get to the question, let’s give the Wings GM a little round of applause here. Talk about Mission: Impossible.
Ken, here’s your job. Take a team full of veterans and full of huge salaries and pare it down to fit in the new financial limitations of the NHL. And while you’re doing this, we’d really appreciate it if you could still contend for Stanley Cups and develop world class stars that the fans can root for. No pressure or anything. Thanks Kenny. Good luck. I’m sure all championships are satisfying and if the Wings win, Holland would say that this ranks right up there with the other rings. But down deep, I’ll bet you that this one will be a little more special. 1997 was great and 1998 was emotional because of the limousine accident. But Holland would have to, in an honest moment, tell himself that this was his best work.
from Al Strachan at Fox Sports,
Now that the San Jose Sharks are gone, you can be sure of one thing. Coach Ron Wilson won’t be far behind.
Wilson had been hanging by a hair all season long, even though to the casual viewer, the Sharks appeared to be forging a first-rate season.
In fact, Wilson barely made it back after last year’s postseason collapse (hey, in San Jose, anything short of a Stanley Cup is seen as a collapse.)
On its heels, the Sharks held one of the longest exit interviews in the history of hockey, and every player was required to give full and frank views of the team, its future, and its coach. The coach didn’t fare very well.
The Conference Finals Previews from The Hockey News:
What’s old is new again in the West with two perennial superpowers butting heads, while in the East two young teams that both spent time in the NHL’s basement are rising to the challenge of establishing themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
It’s amazing that since the 1996-97 season the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings won four Stanley Cups between them, but only faced off against each other once, when 10 years ago the Wings downed the Stars 4-2 in the Western final.
Meanwhile, the Eastern final has become the battle of Pennsylvania, where the gradually maturing and shifty young Penguin stars will battle the sudden revival of the big, bad, banging Flyers.
However the series play out, the Stanley Cup final will be the showdown of old and new, experience and youth, persistence and patience.
from Damien Cox at his Spin Blog at the Toronto Star,
The teams remaining are all among the top U.S. television markets, and they are all pretty strong cities for hockey as well, or at least cities with long traditions in the game.
Philadelphia represents the fourth largest TV viewing area in the U.S., followed by Dallas (No. 5), Detroit (No. 11) and Pittsburgh (No. 22).
Of those four, obviously the Penguins would be the ideal finalist, for that team features the league’s No. 1 individual marketing tool in Sidney Crosby. The league’s determination to keep that franchise in Pittsburgh, with a new arena coming on stream, has certainly paid off.
A Penguin-Red Wings final would be glamourous, a chance for a boffo conclusion to the season. The least glamorous matchup would be Dallas-Philly, but even that would deliver two major TV markets for the NHL.
From Mike Brophy at The Hockey News,
Anyway, Turco wins and he immediately becomes the answer to our next trivia question: Can he lead the Stars past the Wings? Given his play through two rounds, the answer is a resounding yes! Until the games start, naturally.
Looking ahead, the Red Wings will be huge favorites in the Western Conference final. The Stars looked dead in the water through most of overtime Sunday, so how can anybody expect them to beat the best team in the league?
The answer is Turco. Muddle through poor play, long stretches of non-scoring chances and questionable defensive protection. Turco will save the day.
TSN picks a hero of the second round, from each team that made it through to the Conference Finals:
[Philadelphia:] R.J. Umberger, who was considered a third or fourth-line player at the start of the season, has become Philadelphia’s top gun in the playoffs. Case in point: He scored an eyebrow-raising eight goals and nine points in five games against the Habs, and scored the first goal for the Flyers in each victory. While many credit Martin Biron for stellar goaltending that held off the Montreal offence ( and deservedly so), Umberger, a former first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, broke down the Canadiens early and often.
more heroes from Detroit, Pittsburgh and Dallas
from Stan Fischler at Game On,
The coach readily admits that changes must be made. “We need physical engagement,” he avers, perhaps realizing that the likes of Gary Roberts and the other Pitt toughies neutralized the Rangers less physical players.
When all is said and done, the Rangers were eliminated because they played like a fifth place team and Pittsburgh—which surely could win the Stanley Cup—performed like a club that finished on top.
Now that the off-season has hit New York hockey, Sather and his high command will be blueprinting how his Blueshirts can get to the peak in the Spring of 2009. THAT is where the Rangers go from here!
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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