Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Here are five storylines that will determine in large part whether the Sharks or Pittsburgh Penguins hold that trophy high in the coming days. Game 1 will be at 8 p.m. ET Monday.
Sharks seeking redemption
The seven-year lapse between Stanley Cup finals for the Penguins' core of stars is well-documented. But in some ways that pales in comparison with to the road to redemption for a Sharks team that has never been to the finals and that two years ago epically blew a 3-0 series lead in the first round against the eventual Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings.
No two players have worn the heavy cloak of criticism over the years more often than Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The two former captains have played a combined 3,093 regular-season and postseason games and never once stood on this stage. When Marleau noticed the Cup sitting a few feet away on Sunday, he laughed. Yes. Close, but far.
"Four wins away and there's a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of hard work that's going to have to go in, in order to raise that Cup," he said. "Ever since you're a kid, when you know what it's all about, you want to win it right then when you're 8, 9 years old. So, it's a long time coming and [we're] just kind of trying to relish it and stay in the moment and just to have fun with it."
Which captain will prevail?
Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player on the planet. It's a refrain heard so often, it seems like an undeniable truth. For much of his career, it has been a statement easy to defend.
And this spring Crosby might be playing the best all-around hockey of his career. He scored three game winners in the Eastern Conference finals. He has 15 points in 18 games and has been dynamic at both ends of the ice, playing often against opposing team's top players....
San Jose Sharks (Series Price)
Pittsburgh Penguins (Series Prices) 4/5 (-125)
Odds to win 2016 Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL Playoff MVP
from Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post,
There is a palpable letdown around here when the New York-area hockey teams are done for the summer. With no dog in the fight, it’s hard to garner interest in the national stage as the warmth of summer approaches.
But after all the Memorial Day barbecues and fireworks are done, Monday night brings with it Game 1 of what is an intriguing Stanley Cup final between the Penguins and the Sharks. There are stars and storylines that reach into the fandom of the Rangers, Islanders and Devils, and ones that should grab any sports fans attention.
Here are The Post’s top five reasons to watch:
1) Sidney Crosby
The Penguins captain has reasserted himself as the best player in the world — just in case he ever lost that title. In Game 6 of the East finals against the Lightning, facing elimination, Crosby scored arguably the best goal of the playoffs, just the kind of play that makes you love hockey. Weaving through traffic and finishing a swift snap shot, Crosby gave his team a 3-0 lead in a game they would win, 3-2, to force Game 7.
from Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle,
So you want to hop on the hockey bandwagon?
The Sharks have been around for a quarter century, but unless you’re a San Jose resident or a transplant from the frozen north, you may have been holding out for a big moment.
Here it is. The big moment. The Stanley Cup Finals open Monday with the Sharks in Pittsburgh against the Penguins.
And here’s why hockey is the coolest (pun intended) sport around:
Speed: We live in a video-game culture, and hockey is played at video-game speed. Bay Area remote controls have been worn out in recent weeks, clicking between baseball and basketball and hockey.
The first thing you notice is that hockey seems to be operating at a different speed: crazy fast. Flipping between baseball and hockey is like going from a dead stop to 130 mph.
The athletes: They are almost all nice guys. They’re normal size; though they look huge coming off the ice, when they take off their skates and massive amounts of equipment they shrink to size of average folk (except for Jumbo Joe Thornton).
Joe Thornton is a guy that just likes to keep things loose and have fun. But he’s all about business when it comes to giving his team their best chance to raise hockey’s greatest prize.
from Dave Hodge of TSN,
Teams that strive to win the Stanley Cup should realize one thing, perhaps above all others; one tireless, dominant defenceman is virtually essential.
He should be capable of winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, as Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks did last season. More to the point currently, he should be somebody like Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks or Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang. If it had been a St. Louis-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup final, those names would have been Alex Pietrangelo and Victor Hedman. If Burns and Letang aren’t clear Conn Smythe favourites for their respective teams already, they’re certainly on a list and they might well emerge as the most logical choices.
Letang almost has to be great for Pittsburgh to win. He’ll be on the ice for close to 30 minutes a game. You might say rookie goalie Matt Murray and captain Sidney Crosby are the most important Penguins, and I might agree that Letang isn’t about to carry the Pittsburgh team if the other two falter, but try it this way; if the Penguins absolutely need one of the three to be healthy and at his best throughout the Stanley Cup final, that player is Letang.
continued plus is the season too long?
from Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe,
The “Twilight” saga featured a blood feud between vampires and werewolves, two staples of horror canon. Watching Thornton or Kessel lift Lord Stanley’s hardware qualifies as a horror film of sorts for Hub hockey fans. It’s a reminder of what has contributed to the Bruins’ current rudderless state — squandering valuable assets.
While the Bruins are selling their fan base on the merits of re-signing ordinary people such as Kevan Miller, two of their former phenoms are fighting for the Stanley Cup.
This is already a spring of discontent as the Bruins are playoff bystanders for the second consecutive year. Adding insult to playoff inactivity is the fact that one of these erstwhile Bruins, both traded away in their primes, is going to have their career validated with a Cup. One of them is going to have as many Stanley Cups to his name as Patrice Bergeron. Fighting in hockey is flagging, but this is a punch in the teeth for the Spoked-Believers and the Jacobs clan.
This is the first Stanley Cup Final appearance for Thornton or Kessel, top-five picks who have piled up points and criticism during their careers.
The parallel between the Team Edward (vampire) and Team Jacob (werewolf) showdown in the “Twilight” movies applies shockingly well here.
from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun,
It is a rare fantasy players’ bracket that remains intact in this upset-fraught chase to the Stanley Cup, though no doubt some statistical smarty pants picked the Sharks and the Penguins to be the two left standing and will never let you forget it.
But there are still predictions to be made.
Here is one man’s prognostication of the storylines that will be ground into paste during all those travel-day plane flights:
* On San Jose coach Pete DeBoer, a slight underdog to be hoisting the Cup 19 days from now or fewer, while the two men who fired him as head coach, Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey and Dale Tallon in Florida are, respectively, looking up from 30th place with the Toronto Maple Leafs and adapting to having been replaced as GM by the Panthers.
* On Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan, ever-so-slightly favoured to be drinking from Lord Stanley’s old cuspidor while silently celebrating that the man who fired him from his only previous NHL head coaching job, Peter Chiarelli, has since been fired himself and is currently trying to solve the Rubik’s cube with 29th-place Edmonton.
* On Penguins’ Phil Kessel, who appears to have given up hotdogs for scoring clutch goals, and Justin Schultz, dismissed as part of the problem in Edmonton, playing on the Pens’ power play.
TORONTO (May 26, 2016) Eighty-two regular season games played. Twelve postseason battles won. Now, only four wins separate the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins from capturing the Holy Grail of hockey, and Sportsnet is game-ready to deliver every moment of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
The battle for the Stanley Cup begins on Monday, May 30 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT as the Penguins host the Sharks in Game 1. Fans can catch every game of the Stanley Cup Final on CBC and OMNI Television, Sportsnet 960 The FAN and stream online via Rogers NHL GameCentre LIVE. (See below for full broadcast details)
Sportsnet’s 2016 Stanley Cup Final full coverage details are as follows:
from Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun,
The Sharks did it with a core group of players that have long been questioned for their inability to go deep into the playoffs.
One thing that’s occasionally overlooked is that many of those Sharks teams didn’t get strong enough goaltending.
After the Sharks missed the playoffs last season, general manager Doug Wilson addressed that need by acquiring Martin Jones in a trade with the Boston Bruins at the 2015 draft.
Wilson also replaced longtime head coach Todd McLellan with Peter DeBoer and brought in defenceman Paul Martin and playoff performer Joel Ward as unrestricted free agents.
Martin has proven to be the perfect defence partner for Brent Burns, who has been fantastic during the post-season after being named a Norris Trophy finalist.
As for Ward, after a quiet start to this series (no points in four games), he scored twice in Game 6 to give him four goals over the past two games and six in the playoffs.
Below, watch on-ice post-game interview with Joe Thornton...
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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