Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Tim Wharnsby of Reuters at the New York Times,
Even though many key Lightning players including captain Steven Stamkos, high-scoring Tyler Johnson and goalie Ben Bishop are making their first deep run into the Stanley Cup playoffs, they are playing like they have been there before.
When the Lightning beat the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden on Friday to reach the final, Tampa Bay became the first team to beat three of the NHL's original six clubs in the same postseason.
The Lightning got by the Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the opening round, then the Montreal Canadiens in six games and Rangers in seven games in the East final.
"You know what? We've played in some pretty special buildings along this playoff run so far," said Stamkos, whose team has gone 7-3 on the road in this playoff run.
"You start in Detroit, you go to Montreal, you come here (to Madison Square Garden).
“That says how tough the road has been. Those are tough places to win.”
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau wondered aloud as he came to the podium Saturday morning for his press briefing: "How do you have any questions left after six games?" And the answer is simple, the only question left for the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks is who will win Game 7 and earn a berth in the Stanley Cup finals?
Here are some things to watch for in the finale of what has been a compelling series between two heavyweight Western Conference teams.
How close is this series?: Both teams have scored 19 goals. Each team has an identical power play success rate of 14 percent, although the Blackhawks have scored one more goal (3-2). Each team has won a game in the other’s team’s building. Both goaltenders, Corey Crawford and Frederik Andersen, have been almost identical in terms of save percentage (2.47 for Crawford and 2.45 for Andersen). Although there have been multiple lead changes, the team that has scored first has won each of the first six games.
The one area that separates the two -- and it’s been an ongoing storyline -- is the average ice time logged by Chicago’s top four defenders Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya is far greater than the more balanced ice time allotment Boudreau employs for Anaheim's six defenders.
from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,
- The Rangers had no choice but to re-sign Henrik Lundqvist on Dec. 4, 2013, seven months before he became an unrestricted free agent. Lundqvist, then as he is now, is one of the league’s elite goalies. The Rangers would have twirled down the Eastern Conference standings had they given the crease to backup Cam Talbot or acquired a cheaper goalie. Lundqvist’s window is not subject to immediate closure. But a seven-year extension through 2020 carries a lot of risk for any aging goalie, even if his future is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Lundqvist will be 38 and carrying an $8.5 million annual cap hit in the final year of his deal. Lundqvist plays deeper and turns to his reflexes more than younger goalies. As the pace of the game quickens and Lundqvist ages, it will become harder for the goalie to continue his sterling performance.
- Good teams utilize the ice below the goal line to make plays down low, open up the points, and stretch out defensive formations. They should also take more cracks at shooting from behind the line. Goalies aren’t expecting shots to arrive. They’re anticipating passes out front or jams in front of the net. Goalies are positioned awkwardly because they’re twisting their necks to track the puck. Once it arrives, the puck is hard to control for a goalie when it bounces off his back or shoulder. The shot might not necessarily go in, but it could create a dangerous rebound. Being unpredictable is critical.
Chatter around the league favors the Bruins retaining Claude Julien. However, management will keep Julien under watch. If things go sideways early next season, Julien will be out. Bruce Cassidy and Mike Milbury will be considered as replacements.
from James Bradshaw and Christine Dobby of the Globe and Mail,
Ever since Rogers Communications Inc. sealed a deal to grab a near-monopoly on hockey broadcasting in Canada for 12 years, questions have lingered about whether it could squeeze enough value from the precious NHL rights to make its $5.2-billion gamble pay off.
Now, as the deal’s first season enters its final games, the company’s chief executive officer says it made money on the inaugural campaign, and expects a reasonable return over the life of the contract despite the hefty price tag.
“Categorically, we will make a 10-per-cent margin this year and the deal has been profitable for us,” CEO Guy Laurence said in a lengthy interview this week. “And given it’s our first year and we’ve learned a lot and all the rest of it, I don’t see why it won’t be profitable ongoing.”
Rogers’ expansion of the number of games on national television, as well as experimentation with new mobile platforms and camera angles, have driven its Sportsnet network to the best ratings in its 17-year history. And the number of Canadians who tuned in to a game on TV or online is up 2 per cent to 28.8 million.
But there is still much work to do to boost audiences and attract new hockey fans to the fold.
NEW YORK (May 30, 2015) – The National Hockey League (NHL) and the Nashville Predators® today unveiled the official logo for the 2016 NHL® All-Star festivities, which will be held Saturday, January 30 and Sunday, January 31 at Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville. This marks the first time the Predators, the city of Nashville and Bridgestone Arena will host the League's mid-season showcase, which includes the NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ and the NHL® All-Star Game.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
The man with the perpetual scowl and the personality drawn from cactus and shards of glass seems to have been built for this game.
Ryan Kesler was not just built for a Game 7 with a trip to the Stanley Cup finals hanging in the balance, but the Anaheim Ducks believe he was built specifically to help carry them through a game like Saturday's Western Conference finals finale.
No team -- especially teams like the Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, who have delivered six classic punch-counterpunch games -- will advance to the Stanley Cup finals because of one player.
The game is too fast, too complex; the lines separating success and failure too fine for it to be that simple.
But these games are the domain of the stars, the leaders, the players who do not shrink from challenge but grow large in the face of it.
A player like Ryan Kesler, perhaps?
"He is a force to be reckoned with when he's on his game," one team executive familiar with Kesler's evolution said.
SNEAK PEEK AT SATURDAY’S ACTION
All Times Eastern
Chicago @ Anaheim, series tied 3-3, 8:00 p.m., NBC, CBC, TVA
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DUCKS, BLACKHAWKS CLOSE CONFERENCE FINALS WITH GAME 7
The second berth in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs when the Ducks play host to the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final at Honda Center. Both clubs are contesting their first Game 7 since being eliminated (at home) by the Stanley Cup champion Kings last year – the Ducks in Game 7 of the Second Round (6-2 L) and the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final (5-4 OT L).
The Ducks are playing their third Game 7 in as many seasons; they also lost (at home) to the Red Wings in the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals (3-2 L). The Blackhawks are playing their fourth Game 7 in the past five seasons; each of the past three has required overtime – also in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals vs. DET (2-1 OT W) and the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals at VAN (2-1 OT L).
In these playoffs, Cooper has accepted congratulatory handshakes from Mike Babcock, Michel Therrien and now Alain Vigneault and he prepares to coach against Joel Quenneville or Bruce Boudreau in the Stanley Cup Final.
Thumbs up to Jon Cooper, better known now but still not a household name, like Dan Bylsma, for example. Bylsma happens to be the last coach who won the Stanley Cup with his first NHL team.
-Dave Hodge of TSN where you can read more on Cooper and last night's game.
from the CP at TSN,
After two weeks of brilliant, bruising hockey, Toews and Getzlaf don't plan to say much in the dressing rooms before the Blackhawks and Ducks meet for the conference title and a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.
Both captains believe their clubs need no extra motivation to conclude this remarkable series with a big finish.
"We've been through the experiences now," Getzlaf said Friday after a spirited Ducks practice. "We have to use them the way we need to. That's the biggest thing. I've always believed that you learn a lot from losing."
Both teams have lost three times apiece in these conference finals, alternating victories in a tense, well-played series. The Ducks have just one regulation loss in the entire post-season, but it was in Game 6, a 5-2 defeat that might have turned the series' momentum in the Blackhawks' favour heading back to Orange County.
"You try to will your way to the win," Toews said. "And given that passion we have in our team, we're feeling pretty good about our chances."
Both teams' recent history contains motivation and warnings when they face off to conclude a series already featuring six overtime periods and four one-goal games.
The Ducks' last two postseasons ended with a Game 7 loss at home, and they blew a 3-2 series lead both times. Anaheim is a three-time Pacific Division champion and one of the NHL's top teams ever since coach Bruce Boudreau took over in late 2011, but hasn't broken through into trophy territory.
"It's happened too often the last couple years," Ducks forward Corey Perry said. "But you win (Saturday) night, and people start talking about something different. We're not focused on the past. We're focused on (Saturday) night, starting something different. It's one game to go play for the Stanley Cup. It doesn't get any more exciting than that."
from Mark Whicker of the LA Daily News,
How do you beat Chicago?
Probably not by fixating on wearing out Chicago’s defense. Not at this point, with two days between Games 6 and 7. There was an unverified report that Duncan Keith used the extra time to run from Chicago to Anaheim, instead of flying. Maybe he didn’t, but he looked October-fresh when he bedeviled the Ducks in Game 6.
The Ducks’ chances rest on how many people they get in front of Corey Crawford, how few times they visit the penalty box, and how many faceoffs they win. As Boudreau said, a faceoff win will keep Quenneville from sending Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane over the boards on the fly, since he won’t be able to match Toews/Kane against the Getzlaf line on the road.
Crawford isn’t a statistical marvel. He was benched for Scott Darling in the first round. Blaming him for losses is the default queue in Chicago. And he doesn’t face many power plays.
But Crawford habitually makes memorable third-period saves, and he has little shot-blocking help. The distance between the Ducks and this win might be measured in the inches that separate Perry, Patrick Maroon and Matt Beleskey from Crawford.
Game 7s are funny. Wayne Gretzky had a great one in 1993. More recently, Patrice Bergeron and Henrik Lundqvist did. But often it’s Max Talbot or Sean Bergenheim or Joel Ward or Todd Marchant who takes over.
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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