Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.”
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
So Pittsburgh is, to some degree, a different team than that which Philly played all season.
What is consistent, however, is that opponents continue to underrate the Philadelphia attack, and it’s costing them.
The Flyers have been the most prolific offensive club in these playoffs with 43 goals in 12 outings, despite the fact they played Washington and Montreal, two teams that most analysts would have regarded as more talented offensive teams.
In the regular season, the Flyers scored more goals than Pittsburgh and ended up with seven 20-goal scorers, a list which didn’t include playoff menace R.J. Umberger, who grew up near Pittsburgh.
Interestingly, however, seven of Umberger’s 13 regular-season goals came against the Penguins.
Game times aren’t available yet, but here is the schedule as we know it for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals starting this week. (Update May 5th: times and dates finalized and available here)
fro Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice,
Before the series, I picked the Rangers to win in seven games because I thought they had a huge advantage in net with Henrik Lundqvist, but that advantage didn’t come into play until that last two games. Marc-Andre Fleury looked shaky today for the first time in the series. The Rangers didn’t take enough shots, however, to exploit that. They went more 16 minutes without a shot, including the last 14:50 of a second period that the Penguins’ thoroughly dominated.
I have a feeling that Fleury and Martin Biron might not have much goaltending magic left for the conference finals. Don’t be surprised if you see some 6-5 games in that series.
more on the Rangers and Pens…
from Lynn Zinser of the New York Times,
After the final shot eluded him, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stood alone in his crease Sunday afternoon, pain radiating from his blue eyes. His teammates had skated back to their bench, and the Penguins celebrated in a giant mob to his right. For what seemed like minutes, Lundqvist bore his agony alone.
Eventually, the Rangers skated over to console him. Marian Hossa’s series-winning goal 7 minutes 10 seconds into overtime gave the Penguins a 3-2 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, sending the Mellon Arena fans into a frenzy, and leaving the Rangers to grapple with their emotions.
“It’s just empty,” Lundqvist said. “Your head is just empty. You’ve been working so hard all year, starting in May last year to prepare for this season. And then everything is over.”
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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