Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Shawn Roarke of NHL.com,
The coaches have never stopped pushing buttons from the opening faceoff of Game 1 until the final whistle Friday. Quenneville has changed his personnel and jumbled his lines. His decision to put Kane with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw in Game 5 looks inspired. Sutter has made adjustments, both minor and major, to counter many of the things the Blackhawks normally do well. He has rendered tame their potent power play for long stretches and has found weaknesses in a penalty kill that had dominated Chicago's first two opponents this spring.
It all culminates in what every hockey fan covets: a winner-takes-all Game 7 that will be played in United Center, which will be a madhouse of epic proportions.
Thirty-eight players, some good, some great, will take the ice and try to be the difference-maker, trying to propel their team to greater glory and a place in the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers.
For the Blackhawks, it is for a chance to try to defend the crown that has rested so comfortably on their head all year. For the Kings, it is the chance to be the first team in League history to win three Game 7s -- all on the road, no less -- to reach the championship round.
"Hey, it's been a great series," Sutter said. "Now it comes down to one game."
from Michael Traikos of the National Post,
So while most outsiders are fixated on the top-4 in this draft, Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray, who has the No. 2 overall pick, said his team’s success depends more on what he does with the three selections in the second round.
Those picks, said Murray, probably won’t get nearly as much attention as the first-round pick. But in a draft that is seven rounds deep, those later selections — where the Chicago Blackhawks found Niklas Hjalmarsson at 108th overall and the New York Rangers unearthed Henrik Lundqvist with the 205th pick — are often the lifeblood of the team’s future.
“I think in every draft you have the ability to rebuild and get good players, but not every draft has a Crosby or a Toews,” Murray said this week at the NHL Draft Combine in Toronto. “You have to acquire NHL players. And it’s not just with your first pick.”...
“The way to rebuild is to draft well so that you can trade well and then you use free agency to put you over the top,” said Murray. “If you can hit on a couple of seconds and a couple of thirds, you might be able to trade for that real good player down the road.”
from Helene Elliott of the LA Times,
This is a trip the Kings didn't want to make. And for a few moments, after Alec Martinez put them ahead, 3-2, at 7:38 of the third period, it appeared they wouldn't have to pack their bags yet again. But their inability to stop Kane — again — has put them on the edge of a playoff precipice.
"We've got a one-game playoff here in their building to punch a ticket to the finals," Martinez said, "and we've got to focus on learning from our mistakes tonight and going in there ready to play."
Defenseman Drew Doughty, every bit as dazzling for the Kings on Friday as Kane was for Chicago, tried to put a positive spin on the situation.
"I think before the series if we were asked 'would you go to Game 7 with Chicago and just be put in that spot in just a one-game thing,' I think we would take it," he said.
But there's a different feeling to it now, after they've backed into this winner-goes-to-the-finals scenario.
They haven't been able to dictate the style in the last two outings and the Blackhawks have gained control and confidence. There's a reason why the Blackhawks won the Cup last season and are a victory away from continuing their quest to become the first repeat champion since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings: The Blackhawks are 13-0 in Games 5 through 7 of their playoff series over the last two postseasons, a sign they know how to close things out.
Perhaps the line of the playoffs from Darryl Sutter when asked what he said to the players after the game.
His response, "fly at 11".
Watch a quick recap from both Joel Quenneville and Darryl Sutter post-game...
added 11:22am, A second video has been added, with the quote from Sutter at the beginning of the video.
Watch it below the first video...
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo, the Minnesota Wild will lock up coach Mike Yeo--and the vast majority of the team's front office--in short order:
Final details were being worked out Friday night, but all signs pointed toward an agreement soon, multiple sources said. Yeo, General Manager Chuck Fletcher and other members of the front office are due to leave for owner Craig Leipold’s home in the Bahamas on Saturday for meetings.
The NHL’s youngest coach is 104-82-26 (. 552) in the regular season and coached the Wild past the first round for only the second time in franchise history this spring.
Yeo, 40, is nearing the end of a three-year contract. Fletcher said May 16 that his first offseason priority was to re-sign Yeo, then address the two-dozen others whose contracts also expire June 30.
That includes members of his front office like Andrew Brunette, the scouting staff and the medical and equipment trainers. The trainers have since been re-signed.
I might be the only person to think as much, but between WOW Cable going in and out throughout Bob Cole's second-to-last game and perhaps some personal preference...The Chicago Blackhawks most certainly earned their 4-3 win (Game 7 of the Western Conference Final is on Sunday), and Patrick Kane scored two pretty goals...
But I thought the game was an ugly one, with really sloppy defensive mistakes and poor goaltending yielding the vast majority of the game's goals. Did Drew Doughty and Kane have fantastic games? Sure. Did Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick make some highlight-reel saves? Sure. But I saw two prize-fighters stumbling and bumbling their way through a series of missed punches, metaphorically speaking, or more sport-specifically-speaking, some really lazy plays and inattentiveness to detail by both sides.
Whoever is the first team to two goals seems to prevail in this series, and the Hawks were the first to two--and when the Kings were rallying to tie it up 3-3, they looked more like a team too preoccupied with trying to minimize mistakes, like it was overtime, and as such, their lack of urgency bit 'em in the ass.
Lots of players chasing after players and getting way out of position on both sides, some very soft goals against and what is, at this point, a cavalcade of mental mistakes yielding a bunch of goals from sixty to eighty feet out, sent into traffic jams.
This is the best part of the game for me--an openly biased Wings fan:
Otherwise, I saw a lot of sloppy hockey from two mentally and physically exhausted teams, teams that got burned due to puck-chasing and very mediocre goaltending. But that's just me.
Just like last night, game 6 will be played like a game 7 for Los Angeles Kings.
They certainly do not want to fly to Chicago again for a game 7 on Sunday while the Chicago Blackhawks know tonight is a must win game.
My thoughts, the Kings win and stay home, waiting for the arrival of the New York Rangers.
Tonight's game starts just after 9:00pm ET and is on NBCSN, CBC and RDS.
Enjoy and feel free to leave a comment on anything hockey related.
from Sean Gordon of the Globe and Mail,
Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban may be a divisive figure in hockey circles, but no one can plausibly argue he didn’t carry the mail in the playoffs.
That’s not to say he was perfect – he wasn’t – but Subban was clearly the best defenceman in the Habs’ lineup over the course of the postseason, and one of the top two or three in the league.
Now his general manager is going to have to get off his wallet.
Marc Bergevin will have all manner of subjects to consider this off-season, but it starts with sorting out a new contract for the 25-year-old defenceman.
It’s going to be expensive, perhaps even crazily so – why wouldn’t agent Don Meehan start the discussions at Evgeni Malkin-type money: eight years and $76-million?
Much ink will be spilled over the next few weeks about whether the sides will reach a long-term deal, settle on a one- or two-year pact, or even go the arbitration route, but if Bergevin still has doubts about what Subban can bring, he’s a surpassingly severe judge.
That said, the Subban decision, which is the most important, is also in some sense the easiest: If you’re the Habs, try contemplating life without him.
more Montreal talk...
from Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post,
There was an old joke that said if you wanted to count the number of hockey fans in any given city, count the number of seats in that city’s arena and they would match up perfectly. That was always an exaggeration, but it was a point of pride for many hockey fans: Theirs was a modest devotion but a fierce one. Win or lose, thick or thin, first place or last.
Well, Rangers fans awakened this morning to an odd, wonderful reality: Hockey owns New York City for now, and for the next few weeks, and the Rangers are our benign despots. Actually, they probably expected this; it probably didn’t take until 10:41 Thursday night before the most strident loyalists shook their head at what by that point was already a rapidly filling bandwagon.
But here’s the thing:
There’s nothing wrong with a bandwagon. There’s never anything wrong with a bandwagon. Bandwagons don’t form in vacuums, and they aren’t constructed in honor of losing — or even modestly successful — teams. They are built in times of triumph, with the vapor of victory strong and addictive.
from Josh Cooper of The Tennessean,
The new Predators coach is scheduled to be on the main stage at the Music City Sports Festival to talk about his plan for returning the team to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season....
After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons — and having the same coach since the beginning of the franchise — the Predators had turned stale.
Attendance remained steady for the most part, but the franchise would be on the brink of irrelevancy with another non-playoff year.
Laviolette needs to sell his vision hard this weekend, and do it with both gusto and bravado. He is known as a stirring speaker, and he'll need to deliver a haymaker Sunday.
Fans need to come away from his appearance and simply say "Wow."
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.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org