Kukla's Korner Hockey
Shawn McKenzie and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet looking ahead to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
By Joe Sudberg,
At this point, Hooper may be best fit to drive the boat for the San Jose Sharks.
Monday night’s Game 4 was a harsh reality check for the Bay Area team, who saw their Stanley Cup hopes thin with a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins now own a commanding 3-1 series lead as the series shifts back to Consol Energy Center for Game 5 Thursday.
from Frank Seravalli of TSN,
“This is the hardest hockey that I’ve witnessed in all the years I’ve been associated with this league, just as far as how hard both teams have to work for their ice out there,” Sullivan said after Game 4. “You’ve got to work for every inch of ice.”
The Dead Puck Era is long gone; the game is faster and cleaner now. If anything, you could argue that the one thing this Stanley Cup final is lacking - aside from competitive balance - is a nasty edge.
Yet, league-wide scoring dipped this season to its lowest rate (5.42 goals per game) since Sullivan’s 2003-04 campaign with the Bruins (5.14). Goal totals are even lower when accounting for the severe uptick in empty-net goals compared to 12 years ago.
Perhaps, with all due respect to Patrick Kane and maybe Connor McDavid, it is fair to wonder whether the NHL is entering the Post-Superstar Forward Era. At the very least it's time to temper the expectations we place on stars’ offensive production.
How else to explain that the Pittsburgh Penguins are closing in on their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history without otherworldly performances from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?
from Damien Cox of Sportsnet,
It was only 26 days ago when it appeared that four general managers had perfectly positioned their NHL clubs to win the Stanley Cup.
Then, a week ago, it looked like two general managers had done so.
Now, Jim Rutherford stands alone, poised to do something that just isn’t done in the NHL, something Glen Sather, Brian Burke, Jay Feaster, Bob Gainey, Cliff Fletcher and Punch Imlach, among others, tried to accomplish but couldn’t. Something Lou Lamoriello and Peter Chiarelli are just starting to attempt.
The achievement? Win a Stanley Cup as general manager of one NHL franchise, then do it again with another.
Six months ago, of course, it looked like Rutherford, GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, might not get the chance. The team was in deep trouble, Sidney Crosby was playing terribly and the 67-year-old Rutherford was being blamed for everything.
Now, one win away from his second Cup after capturing his first back in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, Rutherford looks like the smartest guy in the room, the executive who understood what had to be done and did it.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
"Most of the postseason we've been able to jump out (to leads)," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said after Monday night's 3-1 Game 4 loss, which gave the Penguins a 3-1 series lead. "We haven't quite got that yet. Moving forward, I think that's going to play a big role in giving ourselves a chance.
"If we can get going that way, it's going to help.''
The Sharks aren't used to this. They've been front-runners all spring, jumping down the throat of the opposing team early and dictating the game from there. It was the theme of San Jose's first-round series win against the rival Los Angeles Kings.
The tables have turned, and the Sharks are playing each and every Cup finals game like they're skating up a hill, chasing all night, getting out of their system at times to force the issue and falling out of rhythm, as San Jose coach Peter DeBoer is forced to shorten the bench to find offense.
It's a tough way to win games. And it grinds away at you mentally.
from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun,
If there was a Toronto newspaper that headlined ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ on the day the Maple Leafs traded Phil Kessel — and who could resist such an opportunity? — it was only half right.
He was undeniably gone from Toronto, but the greatest time of his life was just about to start.
Now, with Kessel leading the Pittsburgh Penguins in playoff scoring and the Pens one win away from the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 win in Game 4 on Monday night, giving them a 3-1 series edge, The Thrill is the polar opposite of gone.
“He’s been so good,” raved Pens’ 39-year-old forward Matt Cullen. “He’s playing such a complete game right now. He’s just such a dynamic player. Whenever he touches the puck, something good happens, and it’s not just shooting the puck. He’s creating, things happen with his speed, he’s finding open guys. He’s such a challenge for defencemen to handle. He’s been awesome.”
Kessel assisted on both the first goal and the eventual game-winner Monday night, pushing his post-season totals to 10 goals and 11 assists in 22 games, and continued to warm his hands over the ashes of all the newsprint that ushered him out of Leaf Nation, convinced it was a case of addition by subtraction.
This is not to unduly criticize the critics. Kessel, sullen and often appearing indifferent in Maple Leaf silks, provided plenty of ammo.
Only now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems an inescapable conclusion that Kessel’s shortcomings in Toronto had much to do with the general hopelessness of the Leafs (not the first good player to be thus stricken) and was exacerbated by a dearth of first-rate linemates.
from Mark Purdy of the Mercury News,
"Right now, we're in the hole we're at," Pavelski said after Monday's game. "A goal or two probably changes the outcome. The way it's been going for most of the postseason, I feel like I should probably have a little bit more."
So should the Sharks.
Pavelski's lack of scoring is not the only reason the Sharks find themselves trailing in the series. It's not the only reason why, with another raucous crowd at SAP Center ready to lift them, they wasted an opportunity to even the series.
However, the Pavelski problem is a symbol of the Sharks' bigger problem. They can't score goals. After averaging more than 3.5 goals per game in their three previous playoff series, they have scored just seven goals in the four games against the Penguins.
Even worse, the Sharks can't take a lead to make the Penguins sweat.
The only time that the Sharks have had a lead in the four games was on the winning goal by Joonas Donskoi in overtime last Saturday night, which officially ended Game 3. But does anyone remember the last time that the Sharks had a lead during the run of play?
from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of NHL.com,
Less than four months ago, goaltender Matt Murray was playing in front of small crowds for Wilkes Barre/Scranton in the American Hockey League: 4,916 at Hartford on Feb. 12, 5,193 at home on Feb. 14, 6,855 at Toronto on Feb. 19, 3,471 at Portland on Feb. 26. He had played four NHL games at that point. He was a prospect.
Monday, in front of 17,562 at SAP Center and a national television audience in two countries, Murray was First Star as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, making 11 of his 23 saves in the third period. Though he has won nine regular-season NHL games, he has won 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games, one short of the rookie record.
"I think it goes to show you," Murray, 22, sitting on a podium in an interview room next to superstar Evgeni Malkin, said, "you can never predict what's going to happen."
No one predicted this. The Penguins are one victory from the fourth championship in franchise history, and they have a chance to win the Stanley Cup at home for the first time in Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). They have not trailed in this series. Their only loss came in overtime.
Watch the game highlights below...
The Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 tonight and now lead the Stanley Cup Final series 3-1.
The Sharks had trouble generating much offense except for 3rd period bursts and once again the Penguins were the better team.
Goals are below and Game 5 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
Puck drops just after 8:00pm ET on NBC, CBC and TVAS. On a side note, NBC will televise the rest of the series too.
The Penguins with a win will have a chance to win the Cup on Thursday night while the Sharks want to avoid that with a win and at least force a game 6 back in San Jose on Sunday night.
Which will it be? Feel free to comment on the game tonight.
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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