Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Jim Kelley of Sportsnet,
Both teams are well coached. Flyers boss John Stevens has rebounded from a (at times) difficult regular season to get his team focused and playing well while hiding perceived flaws on defence (lack of mobility) and in goal (stamina issues).
Michel Therrin has also brought his team along in a timely fashion. He’s dealt with a goaltending question (Marc-Andre Fleury or Ty Conklin) and chose wisely in Fleury. He has maximized his team’s solid firepower, but not at the expense of overall team defence. He has but one puck, but found a way to make a lot of players happy by moving it around a lot.
If you subscribed to the oft-stated theory that the playoffs are a marathon and not a sprint (and we do) then the Pens have piled up a significant advantage. You need to dispatch at least one team with relative easy to stay fresh enough (and healthy enough) to go deep in the playoffs.
from Ken Campbell of the Hockey News,
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings have positioned themselves best for the heavy lifting that will come, largely because they’ve managed to avoid a lot of heavy lifting through the first half of the playoffs.
And because of that, if history is any indicator, the Penguins and Red Wings will meet in the Stanley Cup final with the Penguins emerging as slight favorites at this point.
The fact Pittsburgh played three fewer games than the Philadelphia Flyers through the first two rounds and the Red Wings two fewer than the Dallas Stars might not seem like much, but history tells a different story.
From Paul Kukla at his NHL.com blog:
Goaltending is always under the microscope during the playoffs and holds especially true in the Wings-Stars series. Chris Osgood must be steady and avoid the “how did that one get by him” question, while Marty Turco must continue to be outstanding. You can be sure both teams will be trying to get to the opposing goalie and rattle their cages a bit. Whichever keeper maintains his focus the most should win this series.
more… on each series
Plus more from Paul at Hockey.com:
Never have I done something like this — as a matter of fact, I despise the prediction side of this business. But this time, I feel it in my bones, in my head and in my heart.
Pens/Wings will meet in the Stanley Cup Final.
from Lynn Zinser of the New York Times,
Hossa will be a question mark whenever Pittsburgh’s season ends. The Penguins have other unrestricted free agents to consider re-signing, including defenseman Brooks Orpik and forward Ryan Malone. They also have to ensure they have future cap room to keep their young players. Malkin will be due for a new contract — presumably a long and large one — after next season.
If the Penguins do not have enough money to offer Hossa, who is making $7 million this season, the Rangers may be in the bidding for him. He is a strong two-way player and seems to be the kind of finisher the Rangers could use on a line with center Scott Gomez.
If the Rangers keep him from returning to Pittsburgh, they would take a chunk out of the lineup of a division rival, one that looks as if it will be formidable for years to come.
Scott Burnside of ESPN breaks down both the East and the West Conference Finals…
The Flyers, who won five of eight matchups against Pittsburgh during the regular season, will try to establish a physical tone with the skilled Penguins, who have shown a surprising level of grit of their own. Both teams have displayed timely, balanced scoring, superb defensive play and stellar goaltending. Oh, and did we mention they can’t stand each other? Stay tuned.
The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, struggled midway through their opening-round series against Nashville but took advantage of woeful netminding by Jose Theodore and cruised to a four-game sweep of the Colorado Avalanche in the West semis. The Stars, who have terrific depth down the middle, now have an identity they lacked the past three or four postseasons. Marty Turco, fresh off a 61-save effort, will represent a much sterner test than the Avs, or he should.
Still, the Red Wings seem to be firing on all cylinders and will be very difficult to knock out.
Here are the final confirmed times and dates of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
Below, a couple updated brackets people might find useful.
The Conference Finals Previews from The Hockey News:
What’s old is new again in the West with two perennial superpowers butting heads, while in the East two young teams that both spent time in the NHL’s basement are rising to the challenge of establishing themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
It’s amazing that since the 1996-97 season the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings won four Stanley Cups between them, but only faced off against each other once, when 10 years ago the Wings downed the Stars 4-2 in the Western final.
Meanwhile, the Eastern final has become the battle of Pennsylvania, where the gradually maturing and shifty young Penguin stars will battle the sudden revival of the big, bad, banging Flyers.
However the series play out, the Stanley Cup final will be the showdown of old and new, experience and youth, persistence and patience.
TSN picks a hero of the second round, from each team that made it through to the Conference Finals:
[Philadelphia:] R.J. Umberger, who was considered a third or fourth-line player at the start of the season, has become Philadelphia’s top gun in the playoffs. Case in point: He scored an eyebrow-raising eight goals and nine points in five games against the Habs, and scored the first goal for the Flyers in each victory. While many credit Martin Biron for stellar goaltending that held off the Montreal offence ( and deservedly so), Umberger, a former first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, broke down the Canadiens early and often.
more heroes from Detroit, Pittsburgh and Dallas
via Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
“The playoffs are always intense but it throws a little spice into it when it’s Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” said Crosby, who finished the afternoon with a pair of assists.
“If you want a rivalry, there’s one right there. I’m sure everyone’s well aware of it.”
more on the Eastern Conference Finals…
from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
We’re talking off the charts.
“Guys are paying the price because they want to win so bad,” Dupuis said. “They’re blocking shots. They’re getting in the shooting lanes. And when the puck does get through to the net, we’ve got a wall in front of it. Marc-Andre is playing unbelievably right now.”
Penguins general manager Ray Shero’s deal for Hossa at the February trade deadline was celebrated long into the night all over the city, but how about picking up Dupuis in the package? And what about the trade for Gill? “His stick is everywhere,” Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said of Gill. “He just breaks up play after play.”
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