Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province,
Spring and summer can seem like forever for the players and management of teams that don’t make the playoffs in the NHL, but the clock is ticking on the Vancouver Canucks.
It’s getting down to cases for them, as the next five short weeks will define the team they’ll ice next season.
There are a ton of decisions to be made, and if you really want to be effective, there’s no time to put them off. For instance, if you want to keep Ryan Kesler — as some signals from Jim Benning and Trevor Linden have indicated — then when they meet this week, they must give him some indication of whom the head coach will be.
There’s no way he’s committing to withdrawing the trade request he’s still denying making if he doesn’t know who the coach is going to be after his head-butting with the last two. And if after said meeting you want to trade him, the best time is just before the draft. Any suggestion you’ll make a better deal later in the summer is an exercise in self-delusion. By the time September rolls around, everyone likes the look of their own young players, no matter how lame they may be. It’s a time when optimism reigns, leading every team to overvalue its assets.
If landing a high-profile free agent to play with Kesler is part of the discussion and is to be acted upon, it’s likely to come in the first few days, maybe even the first few hours after July 1. That means preparation.
The Rangers know the Kings enter this matchup as the favourite, going for their second Stanley Cup in three years, but are not focusing on labels as they approach Game 1.
"The underdog thing and the favourite thing really doesn't mean anything in the locker room. You have to go out and play," said Rangers forward Brad Richards.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said he understands why the label is on his team, but will not use it as a crutch in the series. "To put it quite simply, we're up against the team that won the Stanley Cup two years ago that just beat the defending Stanley Cup champions, that without a doubt is battle-tested," he said. "We know exactly what we have to do. If we want to have a chance, we're going to have to bring our best hockey of the year. It's as simple as that."
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter has no intention of allowing his club to buy into that same hype. Sutter pointed out the strengths of Rangers he had observed on Monday.
"Great goaltending. Great defence. Great forwards. Great special teams," he said. "We're up against it again."
KINGS, RANGERS DROP PUCK ON 2014 STANLEY CUP FINAL
The Kings and Rangers open the 2014 Stanley Cup Final with Game 1 at STAPLES Center. This marks the third all-time playoff meeting between the Kings and Rangers and first since 1981. New York has won both of their previous matchups: in the 1979 Preliminary Round (2-0) and 1981 Preliminary Round (3-1). In their six total postseason games, the Rangers have outscored the Kings 32-14.
* The 2014 Stanley Cup Final pits the cities of Los Angeles and New York against each other for the first time in NHL history. It also marks the first championship meeting between these cities (among the fourth North American professional sports leagues) since 1981, when MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees in six games to win the World Series.
Ron Duguay played for the Rangers and Kings, but he has no doubt who will win the Stanley Cup...
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
On the largest stage, with the world watching, the best hockey player in the Olympic tournament was Drew Doughty.
And through three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs — if the Conn Smythe Trophy was given out today — the most deserving player in the post-season has been Doughty.
Which raises a question never really contemplated before, a matter being discussed informally as the Stanley Cup final is about to begin: Is Drew Doughty now the best player in hockey?
He has never really been in this kind of conversation before, the type normally reserved for Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, maybe a Jonathan Toews. Doughty’s not the best scorer, he hasn’t won a Norris Trophy, isn’t sure he’ll ever win one. (Which, by the way, makes him angry.) He won’t win the Hart Trophy: Crosby, who had a crummy playoffs in Pittsburgh, will claim the most valuable player award.
But the game is first and foremost about victories. It’s about making plays. It’s about being physical. It’s about seeing people others can’t see. It’s about decision making. It’s about protecting the puck. It’s about not being scored on. It’s about leadership. It’s about adapting to circumstances. It’s about reading the play and the clock.
from Harry Bruinius of the Christian Science Monitor,
Within the cacophonous rhythms of American sports, the National Hockey League has always played the wild and somewhat dangerous cousin to its richer and more polished relatives in the nation’s “big three” sports, its players known for multiple broken noses and toothless grins – a shaggy-haired lot with “oat and a boat” accents from the frozen north.
But the sport of slashing sticks and blades will have a bigger stage on Wednesday when the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings clash in the nation’s two most brightly-lit media markets, a West Coast/East Coast faceoff featuring Hollywood glitz and Broadway glamor.
But that just glides over the surface of this year’s battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The symmetry of these major-market teams is matched by a host of improbable storylines filled with unprecedented comebacks, team-galvanizing losses, and some of the fastest and toughest skaters in the world.
At first glance, the matchup appears to be one of those big-favorite-versus-heavy-underdog stories.
from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star,
Start with his hair. Look at it. It’s not a hairstyle; it’s a goddamn symphony, every strand in concert with the others, rising and falling. Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t have to do that with his hair, right? There’s got to be an easier way, a less perfect way, but he refuses to take it.
As the 2014 Stanley Cup final opens, Lundqvist is trying to crack the last hard task. His New York Rangers are decided underdogs to the Los Angeles Kings, who have superior forwards, a superior defensive corps, a team that applies pressure until you crack, and Stanley Cup rings. The biggest reason to believe in the Rangers is Henrik Lundqvist is in goal. He will have to be great, but that’s always been what he’s aiming for, anyway.
“There’s a reason why he’s the king,” says Martin Biron, now with TSN and the NHL Network, who backed up Lundqvist for parts of four seasons in New York. “He’s good-looking, he’s got it all, he’s the best goalie, he plays the guitar, gets on Jimmy Fallon show, all that, and there’s a reason: Because he prepares and works so hard for it. If he didn’t put all the time and effort into being his absolute best at every moment, he would just be very good. He wouldn’t be great.”
from Bill Plaschke of the LA Times,
The face of Hollywood's hockey revolution looks like a closed fist.
The most powerful voice of Tinseltown's growing hockey chorus is an undiscernible mumble.
The biggest name on the Southland's coolest sports powerhouse is one that many people around town still can't correctly pronounce.
It's Darryl Sutter, as in "butter," but doesn't spread quite so sweetly or easily.
The coach of the Kings is the antithesis of the glamour vibe that Los Angeles expects from its sports coaches. He doesn't flow like Doc Rivers. Nobody is calling him anything cutesy like Darryl Hockey. He would consider Pete Carroll's "Always compete" mantra as too wordy. One gets the feeling that if he were ever introduced to Zen, he would make him a healthy scratch for being too soft.
During games Sutter is that squinting, scowling guy behind the bench. After games he is that terse and sometimes surly conductor of painful televised news conferences filled with sarcastic answers, dismissive stares, and awkward silences.
from Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News,
Ahhhh, Stanley Cup media day.
It hardly lives up to its NFL counterpart of the Super Bowl. It’s far from the glitz, glamour and obnoxious behavior, but it’s a mini version of the event that’s high on endless questions, clichés, laughs and such.
It’s the game before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Kings and Rangers, with the Stanley Cup on hand as well as its keeper.
There are 1,327 credentialed media for the final, according to an NHL spokesperson, but just several hundred at Staples Center for the final tuneup before the final begins today.
Each team’s players and coaches were required to wear team polo shirts, so we couldn’t dissect Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter’s unfashionable fashion choices.
The news conference with Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi was uneventful. Sutter didn’t utter one “PARDON!” or use those contorted facial expressions that have made him so popular. How very boring.
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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