Kukla's Korner Hockey
via Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star,
The Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup three times since 2010, the Kings twice since 2012. Neither were able to repeat as champions. But the Blackhawks claim to the word "dynasty" remains strong, while the Kings seem suddenly adrift.
In Chicago, there's a great deal of faith in GM Stan Bowman, who is able to remake his team each year around his core. The master of the salary cap world. He may have a couple of issues to deal with: the ages of Brent Seabrook, who has a lot of miles for a 31-year-old, and Marian Hossa, who at 37 may not be around much longer.
In Los Angeles, there is less faith in GM Dean Lombardi, who squandered his chance to make Mike Richards a compliance buyout a few years ago -- i.e., get him off the salary cap altogether. Instead, by waiting, Richards will cost the Kings $1.32 million in cap space until 2020. The Kings are a cap team with an aging core. Their time may have past.
from Michael Kuzmin, Arik Motskin and Zack Gallinger of The10and3,
Last year, we declared Thunder Bay to be the hockey capital of Canada. Season after season, this unassuming, northern Ontario town sends boatloads of its young men into the ranks of the NHL. And the data doesn’t lie — over the past century, no other Canadian city has so consistently churned out hockey players at such a high rate.
But many readers were aghast: how could we ignore the Prairies? In those parts, while some players do come from mid-sized cities like Regina or Red Deer, so many more hail from a vast constellation of tiny towns – with names like Oxbow, Aneroid and Elk Point – that dot the endless prairie landscape. A small town certainly cannot consistently produce NHL-ready players year after year, so it simply has no chance in our analysis when facing larger cities like Thunder Bay. But when you start to analyze all of these small towns aggregated across a larger region, like a province, then you may just realize how dominant the hockey tradition in Canada’s west really is.
Others wondered about the huge influx of players in the NHL born outside of Canada, who now comprise over half of the league. The American invasion was well underway by the early 1980s, with stars like Chris Chelios and Pat LaFontaine contributing a familiar brand of hard-nosed, yet skilled North American hockey. By the late 1980s, the ranks of European and Soviet players in the NHL exploded, bringing with them an elegant game based on skating and puck possession.
We’re here to tell you: while Thunder Bay remains Canada’s best hockey town, Saskatchewan is the world’s undisputed hockey hotbed – a province that has consistently produced more NHL-ready players per capita than any other region in Canada, or on the planet.
from Joe Rexrode of The Tennessean,
It was better this way, even if it didn't seem like it at the time.
The Nashville Predators will play in a Game 7 for the first time in franchise history, because they won a playoff game while trailing 3-2 in a series for the first time in franchise history, because they were flat-out better than the Anaheim Ducks on Monday at Bridgestone Arena.
And because their goaltender, Pekka Rinne, was flat-out clinical in the 3-1 win, rising for the first time in this series to the level of counterpart Frederik Andersen.
But the best part of this whole thing for the Predators was the worst part. A few lost seconds at the end of the second period, the kind of sequence that had shaken them in recent days and turned their eye-opening 2-0 series advantage into an eye-rolling 3-2 deficit.
Highlights from game 6 are below...
from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
This has been the city of slumped shoulders if you love your hockey Blues, a city that never seems to do anything but weep at playoff time. But the tears, for one night, became cheers.
Dead Men Skating? Not the Blues. The dreaded Blackhawks.
Chicago’s out of the post-season, their hold on the Stanley Cup gone.
And the Blues, for once, can look in the mirror and say “OK, we just beat the champs, bring everybody else on.”
That one playoff series win (San Jose in 2012) in the last 13 seasons has now become two with a fantastic seventh-game 3-2 win over the Blackhawks Monday.
No more talk of past failures. Just present successes.
People like David Backes and Alex Steen, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk had heard far too much about losing, but kids like Robby Fabbri, who set up Troy Brouwer’s winner and Colton Parayko, who blew a shot past Corey Crawford, were all about today, not yesterday.
from Jeff Gordon of the St, Louis Post-Dispatch,
They defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 Monday night in their Game 7 showdown. Thanks to Brian Elliott’s clutch goaltending, Troy Brouwer’s game-winning goal and some overdue puck luck, they toppled the defending Stanley Cup champions.
They shed the oppressive burden of previous playoff failures and won just their second playoff series since 2002. Now they move on to face the Dallas Stars as a more confident contender.
“We turned that page on the first round, now we’ve got to concentrate and let you write another optimistic, positive story on the second round and we’ll just keep those churning out and everybody will be happy in there,” Backes said.
“None of it has been easy. We’ve had to sacrifice and those lessons have been learned the hard way in the past couple of years. Now we’re putting them to good use and we have lot of guys in this group buying in and doing the right things.”
With the Blackhawks gone and the two-time champion Los Angeles Kings also eliminated in the first round, the Western Conference is there for a different team to take.
Why can’t that be the Blues?
“We have a unique team,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We have a team that is a team in every sense of the word. This is the most together group of players I’ve coached in a long, long time.”
Catch the game highlights below...
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
For the Nashville Predators, it's new territory they can't wait to experience. For the Anaheim Ducks, it's an all-too-familiar setting they wanted so badly to avoid.
Without question, the pressure in this series has shifted with Game 7 on tap, a first in the history of the Predators.
"Excited. You dream about it growing up. You're playing road hockey or you're playing on the pond, it's always Game 7 and an overtime winner," Predators captain Shea Weber said. "Hopefully, it's for us. It's an exciting time."
Weber's empty-net goal sealed a 3-1 win Monday in Game 6 to force the maximum. There is one final game to go in the opening round of the playoffs, with everyone watching.
It's a scenario Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne was giddy just thinking about during the day, but he tried not to look past the task at hand.
"Even though you try to just think about this game, Game 6, this afternoon I was thinking about Game 7, and now it's here," he said. "It's a great feeling."
Helene Elliott of the LA Tems reminds us...
The Ducks haven't won a Game 7 since they defeated the Calgary Flames in the first round in 2006. Since then they've lost four series that went the limit...
more on the Ducks/Predators....
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Sometimes hockey is indecipherable. Monday was one of those times. How do you explain the Hawks looking so sluggish and the Blues looking so invincible in the first period? How do you explain the complete role reversal in the second period?
You don’t. You just say, “That’s hockey,’’ and it will suffice. Two great teams playing hard and momentum wildly swinging back and forth.
There were a lot of compliments flowing afterward.
“You find yourself on bench just in awe of some of the things they can do,’’ Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Hawks.
For the Hawks, it was win and advance, or lose and listen to the sort of analysis normally reserved for geopolitics. The three Stanley Cup titles in six years will be forgotten temporarily as people scream about the team getting older, about Quenneville losing his touch, about the roster lacking depth, about Toews going scoreless against the Blues.
Sometimes the easiest answer is the right one. This wasn’t about what was wrong with the Hawks. This was about everything that was right with the Blues.
from David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune,
Just under four minutes long...
BROUWER NETS GAME-WINNER AS BLUES DETHRONE DEFENDING CHAMPS
Troy Brouwer scored the game-winning goal at 8:31 of the third period to help the Blues defeat the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in the first Game 7 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and win their first playoff series since the 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals vs. SJS (4-1 W).
* Monday night’s thriller was indicative of the closely-contested series. Six of the seven games in the First Round between the Blues-Blackhawks were decided by one goal and 91.3% of total playing time in the series saw the score tied or within one goal (412:48 of 452:11).
The handshake line beween the Blues and Blackhawks and below, it is a game of inches and bounces.
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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