Kukla's Korner Hockey
The Rangers start their series with the Penguins tonight.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
And so it starts against the team the Blueshirts beat in seven of their last eight playoff games the last two springs, it starts against the team the Rangers eliminated the last two years. But at the same time it starts against the team that beat the Blueshirts three times in March to leapfrog them in the standings while going 14-1 to clinch first-round home ice.
“Everything we’ve done against them in the playoffs doesn’t count anymore,” Derick Brassard said following Tuesday’s practice. “But what they did against us the last few games doesn’t count either.
“They’re the team that’s getting the love and they deserve it. But we’re a pretty good team, too.”
It is a pretty good team whose core is mounting up for its Last Ride. Six of these guys — Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider — have been together for all of the last four go-’rounds in which the Rangers won eight rounds while playing 76 games. Three more essentials — Brassard, Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello — joined the party in 2013. Four more — Kevin Klein, J.T. Miller, Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast — made the trek to L.A. for the 2014 Cup final.
Cap issues aside, there necessarily will be changes this offseason, for there are only so many times a team can try it with the same cast that is aging. The Rangers are only the second team in NHL history to win as many as eight rounds in a four-year period without a Cup to show for it — the 1988-91 Bruins won nine and the overlapping 1989-92 B’s took eight, and look what it got them when Boston won two rounds over the next 15 tournaments — and even if the window isn’t necessarily closing on the franchise or on its coach, it is surely closing on this core group.
from Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
Four rounds. Sixteen wins.
That's what it takes to claim the one and only Stanley Cup. And it's going to take something no Penguins coach has been able to coax from Sidney Crosby.
It's going to require Sullivan to steer Crosby to his Mario Moment.
The Cup. The Smythe. A double-layer of dominance that has eluded the Face of the NHL.
That's the recipe. It's also cake and the icing, and it's there for the devouring given the wide-open feel to the Stanley Cup playoffs that open this week. Among the contenders, the Penguins look like the best team at the right time.
So it's up to Sullivan not to screw it up.
This is Pittsburgh. Sullivan should know if the Penguins lose, Pittsburghers will blame the goalie first and the coach second — or the goalie and coach first, together.
It's not just the hockey team that protects the star scorers around here.
from Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
The Penguins’ game against Philadelphia at 3:33 p.m. today at Wells Fargo Center is their 82nd — and last — of the regular season.
It also is the least significant.
The Penguins, after all, are locked into second place in the Metropolitan Division and have clinched home ice for Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But that doesn’t mean the game is without importance.
That’s because the Penguins not only can sweep a season series from the Flyers for just the second time in franchise history — they went 8-0 in 2006-07 — but can deal a major, if not mortal, blow to Philadelphia’s chances of qualifying for the playoffs. And doing that to an archrival, it seems, is serious incentive.
“When you have a chance to kick somebody out of the playoffs, or put a little sting in their tire, you want to do it,” right winger Patrick Hornqvist said. “The Flyers and Pittsburgh have a rivalry that’s grown from the first year, so it should be a fun game to play in.”
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
What a weekend. Steven Stamkos is gone for weeks with a blood clot. Patrick Kane hit the 100-point and 40-goal marks. The St. Louis Blues lost another key piece in netminder Jake Allen. Boston continued to flirt with playoff disaster, and the Florida Panthers are back, baby, back in the postseason and looking like the Atlantic Division champs.
For me, though, the news of the weekend was the continued red-hot play of the Penguins. Despite the loss of netminder Marc-Andre Fleury to a concussion (the timetable for return remains unknown), the Pens blasted the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers on back-to-back days by a cumulative 11-2 score. They are 12-1 in their past 13 games and now look like a lock to open the playoffs next week at home, with a five-point bulge on the New York Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Matt Murray, one of the American Hockey League's top netminders, stepped in for Fleury without missing a beat and won both ends of the back-to-backs on the weekend. So, what say you after a weekend of great import around the NHL?
Are Penguins ready for a long run even without their star netminder and star center Evgeni Malkin?
more on the Penguins from the ESPN hockey guys...
Will the NHL call him on it?
from Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
The NHL commissioner usually doesn't take unannounced visits to NHL cities this late in the hockey season, either.
Well, not unless there's something significant to discuss.
Gary Bettman was in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, multiple sources confirmed.
Nobody would say Bettman wasn't here to discuss the possible sale to a person/group that would assume controlling interest.
So, I'm thinking that something is up.
If nothing else, that something is likely time on the Penguins' Mario Years (1984 to ???).
So, what's the way to play this out, Sid?
“I mean, if that's the case, you want to make sure you make it as good as you possibly can,” Crosby said Wednesday, taking five full seconds — and a deep breath — before answering.
“I mean, thinking about it just now, as you asked the question, if that is the way it works out, there's no better way for it to end than to win it all. That would be great.
“I mean, I haven't thought about it a ton. But the fact that you're bringing it up makes me think about it.”
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
After years of being such a workhorse for the Dallas Stars, being relegated to a bit player with the Chicago Blackhawks no question took its mental toll on Trevor Daley this season.
"You went from a situation in Dallas where you were getting a lot of minutes and playing in those situations to suddenly not getting them [in Chicago], and for me to say I didn't lose confidence? I lost a lot of confidence," the 32-year-old defenseman said this week over the phone from Pittsburgh, where he has rediscovered that confidence.
The Dec. 14 trade from the Blackhawks to the Penguins in exchange for Rob Scuderi was an absolute godsend for Daley, his old self rediscovered in a Penguins uniform. He's playing a ton, fourth on the team in minutes per game, he's playing in all situations, and his natural skating ability and puck-moving skills have come to the forefront on a surging Penguins team overall looking a lot faster under head coach Mike Sullivan.
"I have always liked Daley," said one rival Eastern Conference GM via text message. "Good skater, more a secondary power-play player. Might lack a little vision but uses his skating to generate offense. Looks like a good fit in Pittsburgh -- exactly what they needed."
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Did any of you see this Pittsburgh Penguins run coming? I certainly did not.
A 6-2 win Sunday over the Washington Capitals continued a six-game win streak that has them sitting in second place in the Metropolitan Division this morning, tied with the New York Rangers. The Penguins swept rivals Philadelphia and Washington during a perfect weekend and continue to ascend in the Eastern Conference standings.
The injury to Evgeni Malkin has served to further galvanize the Penguins' resolve, it would appear. We talked last Friday about Sidney Crosby's Hart Trophy-worthy season. The supporting cast is getting it done, too. Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl both scored goals Sunday, and Kuhnhackl's goal was a huge one, coming just moments after the Caps had tied the game 2-2 and seemingly taken momentum back. That goal put the Pens on their way for good. The AHL call-ups this season have served Pittsburgh well, too, just another key story in the Penguins' season.
more on the Penguins from the ESPN hockey crew...
Weber also received a ten minute misonduct.
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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