Kukla's Korner Hockey
from the CP,
Two powerhouses meet in the West. Two teams on the rise in the East. Two toss-ups.
The NHL’s conference finals could be long ones. A look at both series with predictions: Eastern Conference final - Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins.
Many believed the Flyers would lose to Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the first round. Almost everybody was sure Philadelphia would be taken down by Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the second round.
Now comes Sidney Crosby and his high-flying Penguins.
from Damien Cox at ESPN,
Not only are the Philadelphia Flyers poised to become the first team in the NHL’s post-expansion era to go from dead last to the Stanley Cup finals in a year, but they’re doing it in a way that truly harkens back to their glory days of the mid-1970s.
Great goaltending. More skill and finesse than people give them credit for. A nasty, take-no-prisoners approach that appeals to the hockey fans of Philadelphia and channels the snarling, uberaggressive attitude of Freddie “The Fog” Shero’s Broad Street Bullies.
With no apologies. Never, ever apologize.
from Stan Fischler at Game On,
...That’s why I’m going with them in the East, despite Sidney (Whiner-Diver) Crosby, Evgeni (Let’s See How He Handles The Flyers Toughies) Malkin and Marian (I Finally Woke Up) Hossa.
As for Dallas-Detroit, I’m going with the Bigger D, as in DALLAS on the basis of Marty Turco over Chris Osgood—or Dom Hasek—and their phenomenal motivation.
From Michael Farber at Sports Illustrated,
Familiarity itself doesn’t breed contempt, but seven straight playoff games almost always do. In any case, slights that have been accumulating during a lengthy history sometimes also do the trick. Given the current level of vitriol, the Penguins and the Flyers seem to have a history that started about 20 minutes after the founding of colonial Penn’s Woods.
Although Detroit and Colorado had the most disputatious rivalry of the past 15 years—a badge of honor that should be retired after that four-game pillow fight between the Red Wings and Avalanche in the second round—the matches between the Penguins and Flyers are now hockey’s most combustible and most entertaining.
from Mike Sielski of phillyBurbs,
The Pittsburgh Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — two of the three most dynamic offensive forces in the NHL — playing on separate lines. So, the core question of this series was put to Trotz on Tuesday afternoon: If you were John Stevens, would you match Timonen against Crosby or Malkin?
“Wow,” Trotz, the head coach of Timonen’s former team, the Nashville Predators, said over his cell phone. “Which devil do you want to dance with? The Penguins will probably play Crosby with [Marian] Hossa, so I’d play him against them. ... The best way to answer is, whatever player whose game you think you need to take away most, that’s the guy to put Kimmo on. He can really take people’s games away from them.”
from Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News,
The young players - Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger - were young and struggling (and not entirely healthy). But Holmgren - remember, his old job was running the development side of the organization - was determined to stick with them. Still, it was hard. He admits to having to remind club chairman Ed Snider about how young the young players were.
“There was the uncertainty of my job - I didn’t know,” Holmgren said. “I can remember talking to Mr. Snider one time and we were getting beat on a regular basis and I remember saying to him, ‘We’re going to get lumped up even more.’ He kind of looked at me but he understood. I think I followed up by saying, ‘We’ve got some young kids who are going to turn the corner.’ I think he had a belief, like I did, that they would.”
Then, Holmgren said, “We felt we needed to stabilize certain areas of our team. Goaltending certainly was an issue.”
from Jim Kelley of Sportsnet,
Both teams are well coached. Flyers boss John Stevens has rebounded from a (at times) difficult regular season to get his team focused and playing well while hiding perceived flaws on defence (lack of mobility) and in goal (stamina issues).
Michel Therrin has also brought his team along in a timely fashion. He’s dealt with a goaltending question (Marc-Andre Fleury or Ty Conklin) and chose wisely in Fleury. He has maximized his team’s solid firepower, but not at the expense of overall team defence. He has but one puck, but found a way to make a lot of players happy by moving it around a lot.
If you subscribed to the oft-stated theory that the playoffs are a marathon and not a sprint (and we do) then the Pens have piled up a significant advantage. You need to dispatch at least one team with relative easy to stay fresh enough (and healthy enough) to go deep in the playoffs.
From Paul Kukla at his NHL.com blog:
Goaltending is always under the microscope during the playoffs and holds especially true in the Wings-Stars series. Chris Osgood must be steady and avoid the “how did that one get by him” question, while Marty Turco must continue to be outstanding. You can be sure both teams will be trying to get to the opposing goalie and rattle their cages a bit. Whichever keeper maintains his focus the most should win this series.
more… on each series
Plus more from Paul at Hockey.com:
Never have I done something like this — as a matter of fact, I despise the prediction side of this business. But this time, I feel it in my bones, in my head and in my heart.
Pens/Wings will meet in the Stanley Cup Final.
from Rob Parent of the Delco Times,
Essentially, a fractured bone near the ankle had left him with one halfway good leg, with pain radiating up and down the other. Yet Hatcher has found the strength to return for a springtime renewal of a Flyers team that spent the prior spring bogged down in humiliation.
So, how is a guy a month shy of 36 supposed to renew his broken body to go along for the ride? Maybe it’s something you learn the longer you’re around.
“Just everyday wear and tear,” Hatcher said. “It hasn’t really had the chance to heal the way it should. And I don’t mean my ankle … more the rest of my body. I mean, from my hip flexors to my everything else. Coming back for me, it was like going zero-to-60 on a track.”
Ed Snider talks about his Flyers…
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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