Kukla's Korner Hockey
From Michael Farber at Sports Illustrated,
Familiarity itself doesn’t breed contempt, but seven straight playoff games almost always do. In any case, slights that have been accumulating during a lengthy history sometimes also do the trick. Given the current level of vitriol, the Penguins and the Flyers seem to have a history that started about 20 minutes after the founding of colonial Penn’s Woods.
Although Detroit and Colorado had the most disputatious rivalry of the past 15 years—a badge of honor that should be retired after that four-game pillow fight between the Red Wings and Avalanche in the second round—the matches between the Penguins and Flyers are now hockey’s most combustible and most entertaining.
From the Triangle Business Journal,
A $290 million arena that will serve as the new home to the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins got the go-ahead Tuesday from Pittsburgh’s Planning Commission. The 6-0 vote came about a month after the panel rejected a design by HOK Sport of Kansas City as being too “generic.”
HOK Sport unveiled updated designs at the meeting, including night-time renderings that show light the 18,500 seat-venue shining light from nearly every angle.
from Mike Sielski of phillyBurbs,
The Pittsburgh Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — two of the three most dynamic offensive forces in the NHL — playing on separate lines. So, the core question of this series was put to Trotz on Tuesday afternoon: If you were John Stevens, would you match Timonen against Crosby or Malkin?
“Wow,” Trotz, the head coach of Timonen’s former team, the Nashville Predators, said over his cell phone. “Which devil do you want to dance with? The Penguins will probably play Crosby with [Marian] Hossa, so I’d play him against them. ... The best way to answer is, whatever player whose game you think you need to take away most, that’s the guy to put Kimmo on. He can really take people’s games away from them.”
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.
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 email@example.com