Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mike Celizic at NBC Sports,
It’s not like hockey is poised to blow baseball or the NBA out of the water. But Sid the Kid and the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to play for Lord Stanley’s big silver punch bowl, and that’s already the best thing to happen to the game since Mark Messier took the New York Rangers to their first Cup in 54 years back in 1994.
It’s always been the greatest game nobody watches, better even to these eyes than that other great game nobody watches — soccer. But now, thanks to Sidney Crosby and the young and exciting team from Pittsburgh, there’s interest and buzz and — if you can believe it — a growing TV audience.
When Detroit eliminated Dallas on Monday night, the NHL has everything it had been hoping for ever since it canceled an entire season and almost committed labor-relations suicide three years ago.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
In one corner, there are the Pittsburgh Penguins, champions of the Eastern Conference, the young upstarts, closing in on a Stanley Cup championship in only Sidney Crosby’s third season.
In the other corner, here come the Detroit Red Wings, the model of NHL stability, experienced, steady, making their fourth appearance in the Stanley Cup final in the past 11 years.
It is a battle for the ages — the young star power of the Penguins against the defensive efficiency of the Red Wings.
added 11:50pm, from Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press,
The Red Wings are going to face the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals, which is all sorts of perfect. The television ratings will be comically low; that’s just reality for hockey right now. But forget TV ratings for a minute. Anybody who likes this game has to love this matchup.
NEW YORK (May 19, 2008)—The National Hockey League announced today that the 2008 Stanley Cup Final will open on Saturday, May 24, when the Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings host the Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena.
VERSUS will telecast Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-seven series in the U.S., while NBC will broadcast Games 3 through 7. In Canada, CBC and RDS will provide coverage for the entire series. All start times are 8 p.m., Eastern.
The NHL Network, the League’s 24-hour, all-access pass to the most comprehensive hockey coverage, will feature special programming surrounding the Stanley Cup Final. NHL Network will air a live pre-game edition of NHL On The Fly from the host arena at 6 p.m., ET, as well as live, on-site, post-game coverage featuring press conferences, highlights and analysis.
from Mark Spector of the National Post,
There is a running joke inside the Pittsburgh Penguins dressing room that goes something like this: As long as Sidney Crosby captains the team, there can be no such thing as an optional practice.
Sure, the coach will write “Optional” on the white board now and again. But when your captain, leader and best player laces up his skates for an optional practice - something Crosby does every single time - there is no way that a lesser player cannot follow and still look his teammates in the eye.
Now, look at how these Penguins have gone in one year from first-round fodder to a berth in the Stanley Cup final.
from Al Strachan at Fox Sports,
If you look at the Stanley Cup playoffs over the years, especially in the modern era, a clear trend emerges. Teams that can get themselves at least one short series along the way are much more likely to hoist the Cup than a team that had to battle hard all along the way.
Similarly, that’s why the fourth and fifth holes are so dreaded. For those teams, every round is a tough one and less likely to produce a short series. Under the current format, no fourth-seeded team has managed to win the Cup.
So the Red Wings did themselves no favors by failing to put away the Stars after going up 3-0 in the conference final. In fact, most hockey observers felt that one of the reasons the Wings were able to open that lead was the fact that the Stars exhibited a similar failing in the previous round.
Shelly Anderson, Pens beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had an online chat today…
CupHolder92: I keep hearing that the Western Division plays a different style of hockey, but after watching a few playoff games it seems pretty similar to the East. Maybe a little more wide open, but not by much. Is there something I am missing? How do you think the Pens style meshes with the West style?
Shelly Anderson: First, you would have to define the Penguins’ style, and that’s not a simple thing. Their game is both defensively sound and, because of their speed, high-voltage on offense. Detroit has similar attributes. Both teams can win playing different styles. So there’s probably not a big difference based on which conference they play in. Not too many years ago, the East was considered more defense- and trap-oriented (New Jersey had a lot to do with that) while the West was more wide open, but since the lockout with the new rules and rules interpretations, things have evened out across the NHL.
from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,
This leaves an interesting battle ahead for the Penguins, who have lost just two games so far in the playoffs. Assuming the Detroit Red Wings will finally put the Dallas Stars away in the Western Conference final, the Penguins will face a complete team with more experience.
However, the Red Wings are weaker in one crucial spot: goal. Chris Osgood is not Fleury’s equal, which could be fatal given the quality of the Penguins’ shooters.
Fleury came into the season with a lot of questions surrounding him. But after he returned from an ankle injury late in the season, he began living up to the promise the Penguins saw when they took him first overall in the 2003 draft.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
But just 17 months after Canadian technology mogul Jim Balsillie walked away from his offer to buy the team—and presumably begin the process of moving the team to Canada—these same Penguins are headed to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were leading the Pens to the second of back-to-back Cups in 1992.
From chaos to the Cup finals in the blink of an eye.
“It seems like a long time ago. It really wasn’t, but it just seems we’ve come a long way, on and off the ice,” GM Ray Shero said after the Penguins ended this Eastern Conference finals series with an emphatic 6-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 on Sunday. “It’s a great thing for the city of Pittsburgh and this franchise.”
from Mike Brophy of the Hockey News,
American TV executives must be tickled pink. It doesn’t matter who the Western Conference champion is, they got The Kid.
Sid the Kid.
Say what you want about the best two teams making the final each year; it means squat to American television and no matter what your sensibilities are concerning this issue, the NHL is still very much trying to sell itself as a major attraction in the USA.
Having Sidney Crosby in the final does that.
Penguins defeat the Flyers 6-0 to advance to the SCF.
This game was over midway through the second period. Flyers gave it their all, but the talented Penguins were just too much for them.
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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