Kukla's Korner Hockey
Scott Burnside of ESPN breaks down the WCF,
Many preseason prognosticators believed this was the Ducks’ season. For those who like their foul West Coast style, Anaheim has done nothing to disappoint. The team is 8-2 through the first two rounds and hit the Western Conference finals for the second straight season, well-rested and hungry to take that next step to the Stanley Cup finals.
Now onto the ECF,
At the start of the playoffs, this looked like an absolutely perfect matchup for the right to go to the Stanley Cup finals. And now that it’s here, there’s nothing to suggest this won’t be anything but a terrific showdown between the two best teams in the conference.
Earlier today, Buffalo Sabres’ coach Lindy Ruff and players Thomas Vanek and Teppo Numminen participated in a media teleconference:
Q. Just wondering after the stuff in February, the head-to-head games between you two guys, do you think that’s forgotten or is it a non-factor in this series in terms of all of the speed and matchups and the stuff that happened during the season, is that in the background? Is it a factor?
COACH RUFF: I don’t think it’s a factor. That may be in the background, but there’s a lot of other stuff there’s going to take the forefront over that.
Q. If I can follow that up, just in terms of both teams and the amount of offense, potential offense there, is this—do you see it as exciting as the fans might see it; that there’s a potential for both teams to score a lot?
Bryan Murray and Jason Spezza took part in an NHL teleconference today…
Q. My question is about the departure of Zdeno Chara. I know he’s a guy that’s talented enough you don’t want to lose his skills. But in losing him, how has this defense evolved and, specifically, Chris Phillips?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I think two things happened. Phillips became more important and certainly played at a real high level this year and Anton Volchenkov got a chance moving from No. 5 really in our depth chart to No. 2 as a shutdown guy.
I think the two of them developed as a real solid pair, obviously a big part of what’s happened here. And defensively and shot blocking?wise we haven’t taken a step backwards.
I think Chara was certainly a top player in our team and played the point in the power play on occasions and did lots of good things. But like in every other team in this business, when you lose a player, you have to move on; and we’ve been able to do that.
fromm Jim Kelley at Sportsnet,
A team that was poised, relentless, blessed with timely (and reasonably proficient) scoring, defensively sound play and soundly physical play in eliminating Nashville in five games seemingly has chucked all of the things it did well in that series. The Sharks haven’t just lost their bite; they’ve gone belly-up in the face of a Detroit attack that has been neither withering nor relentless.
In fact, the Red Wings have pretty much been fortunate given the number of injuries they’ve had before and during this series.
more... plus some Sabres/Sens talk…
from Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun via the Toronto Sun,
The Sabres-Senators final will be the fourth time these teams will meet in the playoffs with the Sabres having been victorious the previous three times.
The Senators were 5-2-1 against the Sabres in the regular season, which was punctuated by a tough hit by Senators forward Chris Neil on Sabres centre Chris Drury Feb. 22.
“I’m not going to say much about it,” Sabres forward Daniel Briere said.
“Everyone knows what happened this year. We expect a battle.”
added 8:47am, from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
From this neck of the woods in southern Ontario, at least, there is no Stanley Cup tournament matchup still on the horizon that seems likely to match the drama, sheer quality and excitement we should expect from the Sabres and Senators when they begin what seems likely to be a seven-game slugfest later this week.
The two teams that once played in the Bankruptcy Bowl only a few years ago are now in a showdown for the right to play for the Cup. Amazing.
from E.J. Hradek of ESPN,
“I feel good about our chances,” Senators head coach Bryan Murray said when asked about the vibe he’s getting from his team. “I know we’re only halfway there and I know that whoever we get next will be very tough, but I’m getting to feel very good about our team.”
He should feel good. Through the first two rounds, the Senators have played as well as anyone in the mix for the Cup. Quite simply, they’ve been too fast, too physical and too hungry for either the Penguins or Devils.
And, while they still have a lot of skill on their roster, the Senators are, by design, a little different animal this spring.
from the AP via TSN,
The Senators will face either the Buffalo Sabres or New York Rangers in the conference final with the winner earning a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. While Ottawa has been to the playoffs the last 10 years, it has never made it to the finals. The only time they made the conference finals, the Devils beat them in seven games en route to winning the Cup.
Whoever faces the Senators will go up against a team that’s getting great goaltending, outstanding play from its top line of Spezza, Alfredsson and Dany Heatley (two assists in Game 5) and all the little things from the role players.
more on the game tonight…
from Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun,
Now the Senators get a chance to shut down the Devils and their building tonight.
“That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?” said Senators defenceman Chris Phillips, who scored the overtime winner in Game 6 of the 2003 Eastern Conference final here to force Game 7 back in Ottawa. “That’s definitely our goal.”
The Devils will have home-ice advantage tonight and it will be interesting now to see if New Jersey coach and GM Lou Lamoriello, who fired Claude Julien as coach with just a couple of games to go in the regular season, will change his philosophy regarding the matching of lines. Lamoriello obviously thought he could do a better job behind the bench.
form the Ottawa Sun,
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has a message for Toronto Maple Leafs fans.
Get on board with Ottawa’s drive for the Stanley Cup.
When the Anaheim Ducks eliminated the Vancouver Canucks with a 2-1 double overtime victory last night, the Senators became Canada’s lone hope for a Stanley Cup triumph this season….
“All you Leaf fans, all I can say is get on the bandwagon because we’re going all the way this year,” he said.
continued... and I wonder if Melnyk realizes he just provided bulletin board material for the Devils and Rangers or Sabres?
from the Hockey News,
• Sharks winger Mike Grier during a second intermission interview with TSN: “We’ve got to get back to playing hockey.”
Glad he cleared up his contractual obligations.
• At this point in the playoffs, whenever I hear a broadcaster use the words “regulation time” during a one-goal game in the late stages of the third period, I wish a small pox (thought not smallpox) on him.
• And, right on schedule, Robert Lang scores with 34 seconds left. Damn you, Chris Cuthbert!
more observations from both games last night…
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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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