Kukla's Korner Hockey
from dan Robson of Sportsnet,
The first time Anze Kopitar brought the Stanley Cup to Slovenia, thousands of fans packed into a soccer field in his hometown, where a stage was erected in his honour. He was driven through the crowd in a horse-drawn carriage as fans stretched their arms over the top of the people in front of them to try and snap a picture of the local legend with his silver mug.
They chanted “Anze, Anze, Anze,” and a row of young hockey players on the stage tapped their sticks in salute. Kopitar hoisted the Cup high above his head and all those in attendance pretended to lift it with him. It was the first time a player from Slovenia had won the Stanley Cup, and the first time hockey’s grail had visited the picturesque nation of two million that borders Austria, Croatia, Italy and Hungary. Many of those people had stayed up through the nights to watch Kopitar and the Los Angeles Kings battle the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 NHL final.
He was a national hero, an icon—the “wonder boy,”as local media called him. “It’s kind of like Brad Pitt walking around here,” says Justin Williams, Kopitar’s longtime Kings teammate, who visited his friend’s hometown the summer they first won the Cup. “Everyone knows who he is.”
For nearly a decade, Kopitar has been one of the best all-around players in the game. And yet, it seems, not everyone knows who Kopitar is. Playing on the West Coast in a city of stars, his local celebrity is naturally muted. And though he’s been one of the most consistent and effective two-way centres in the game, he is routinely left out of discussions about hockey’s greatest players.
2014-15 SEASON HITS MIDWAY POINT
The 2014-15 season passed the midway mark on Saturday, with 624 of 1,230 games (50.7%) in the books. A look at some of the highlights thus far (compiled with the assistance of the Elias Sports Bureau):
* Through Saturday’s games, 23 teams are within eight points of a playoff berth. In 2013-14, 25 clubs returned from the Olympic break within four points of a playoff berth; there was a four-way tie for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots with two weeks left in the season; and seven of the eight playoff matchups were finalized over the final weekend of the regular season.
* The top 12 teams in the NHL are separated by just 10 points. In 2013-14, the League’s top seven finishers entered the playoffs separated by 10 points.
* Five teams that did not qualify for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs currently hold postseason berths (NSH, NYI, VAN, WSH, WPG).There has been a playoff turnover of at least five clubs in seven of the past nine seasons.
No explanation needed...
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Jackets’ terrible first two months, precipitated in part by a litany of ghastly injuries, might just bleed them out on the floor of this jungle. As well as they have played of late — before last night, they had not lost two in a row since November — they are 10 points out of a wild-card spot. They are as close to last place in the Eastern Conference as they are to a playoff spot.
The Blue Jackets might need three more 10-victory months, and they need a couple of teams ahead of them to feel the same ax of injury that they have felt.
It is possible, given the heart and esprit de corps they have shown the past six weeks. It is possible with improved health, and with 42 games remaining, and with Bob, knock on wood. But it is not likely.
All is not dark.
Sleepwalks such as the one the Jackets took last night are not unusual for a team returning from a long trip that included one last stop in customs. It hurts because points are so precious, but this team has proven resilient. There is a good vibe among the players, who wanted no part of the Connor McDavid derby once they realized they were the lead horse for the No. 1 pick in the draft. They yanked those reins. Good for them.
from Helene Elliott of the LA Times,
Sunday's ceremony also will honor the deep relationship he built with fans, especially here. Often when he was late for the bus or dinner, it was because he felt compelled to sign every piece of paper a fan thrust at him and pose with everyone who wanted a photo. He couldn't disappoint anyone. Fans knew how much he loved the game and loved him for it, some to the extremes of requesting his chewed-up chicken bones in a Winnipeg restaurant or tattooing his likeness on their bodies.
"He's a pretty special player and person. I've played with a lot of guys, not a lot who have the connection to the fans that he has," said Scott Niedermayer, his teammate on the Ducks' 2007 Cup championship team and now a Ducks assistant coach. "That's one of the great things about him, beyond the stats."
Selanne still lives in Orange County and envisions staying here indefinitely. "I call it my Happy Place," he said. "The Ducks organization has been so important for me. That relationship we have had is something really special. I'm very thankful I was able to play for a long time, and I had my best years here. The people, the fans, they have treated me so well here."
from Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province,
The Vancouver Canucks dropped a 1-0 decision to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night, their first loss to an Alberta-based team this season after six straight wins, and that, coupled with a general downturn in performance, has created a sense of unease in this province.
This after all, is about the point the Canucks lost their way last season on their way to a dumpster-fire of a campaign which engendered a full house-cleaning of the hockey department. As for this season, the loss finished off a five-game homestead in which the locals went 2-3 with losses to Florida and old friend Roberto Luongo and Los Angeles. They're still holding down a playoff spot in the West and their record is still respectable but they're also trending in the wrong direction and with the nightmare images from last season's disaster still fresh in the faithful's minds, that's not a healthy place to be.
But the Flames also represent a problem for the Canucks which goes a lot deeper than the results of one game and to really understand the dilemma facing this team, take a look at the makeup of the Calgary team, then look at the rest of the Western Conference.
from Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune,
While Fletcher’s primary problem is simple, its solution is not. There is no goalie available via trade who would be sure to improve Minnesota enough to guarantee a playoff spot this season, much less a playoff victory. And while the Wild’s young players have disappointed, Fletcher would be mistaken to trade them while they remain promising and while their trade value is at low ebb.
Here’s what Fletcher should do:
1. Apologize for placing so much faith in Kuemper and Thomas Vanek, who, on a 2-on-1 with Zach Parise on Saturday, tried a mindless behind-the-back pass, as he continues to look for easy ways to play a hard game.
2. Nothing. At least, nothing to mask the flaws of the current team, which played in the second and third periods as if its water bottles were filled with NyQuil.
If Fletcher wanted to take a long shot at the playoffs, he could fire Yeo and trade for a goalie, but that would be like dabbing Neosporin on gangrene.
from Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press,
from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,
Since the Bruins traded Kessel to Toronto for what became Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and Jared Knight, only Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, and Corey Perry have scored more goals. Kessel is a game-changing talent, one who requires opposing coaches to alter their defensive formations to account for his presence. There is nobody in the league who skates with as much pace or snaps off a whippy wrister like Kessel.
The trouble with the Leafs is that the talent level plummets after Kessel. Tyler Bozak, his good friend and center, is a better fit as a second-line pivot. Only five defensemen in the NHL (P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kris Letang, and Brian Campbell) have higher cap hits than Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf. But Phaneuf has too many blemishes in his game for a defenseman earning his dough, with questionable hockey sense being his biggest liability.
The Leafs have one star. Postseason regulars such as Los Angeles (Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick), Chicago (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith) and Pittsburgh (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Letang) have three. The Leafs don’t have enough second-tier players to complement Kessel’s star power. It’s hard to win when most of the roster is either bottom-six or third-pair quality.
Jonathan Bernier is a good goalie. Nazem Kadri is developing into a clever, shifty, top-two center. In Toronto’s first game after Carlyle’s firing, interim coach Peter Horachek moved Kadri into Bozak’s spot as Kessel’s center. Morgan Rielly will be a dependable two-way defenseman.
more plus numerous other hockey topics...
from Rich Hammond of the OC Register,
The Kings lost a lot on Saturday, including their top two young wingers and a chance at a remarkable comeback victory.
After a wild start, in which Winnipeg scored goals on its first three shots, the Kings rallied and took a third-period lead but then lost 5-4 in a shootout in front of 18,230 at Staples Center.
The result seemed secondary to the fact that the Kings must now go forward without both Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, two of their top four goal scorers this season.
Shortly before the game, the Kings announced that Toffoli had been diagnosed with nononucleosis, an energy-sapping virus that will sideline him for multiple weeks.
Then, during the second period, Pearson battled with Winnipeg's Jay Harrison and went feet-first into the boards. Pearson has initially been diagnosed with a broken left ankle, as first reported on the Kings' official blog late Saturday night, but Pearson is scheduled to undergo more tests Sunday.
via Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider,
Tanner Pearson, who crashed heavily into the boards during a second period scoring opportunity in Saturday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Winnipeg, suffered a broken bone in his left leg, LA Kings Insider has learned. At this point, there is no timetable for his return.
“They told us he would not return, so I’ll give you more information as we go along,” Darryl Sutter said after the game when asked if he was able to provide any information on the nature of the injury.
A reliable source told LA Kings Insider during the second intermission that the injury was a broken ankle, information that hockey operations confirmed. A follow-up conversation with a third source said that the injury may be located more in the lower leg, and not the ankle.
Below, watch the Pearson injury...
All packed into five minutes of highlights.
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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