Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
The Minnesota Wild played fast and the Blues couldn’t quite catch up, falling 4-2 in Game 1 of this best-of-seven series.
This was not how Blues coach Ken Hitchcock envisioned his team starting the postseason. They controlled stretches of the first period but fell behind 1-0 — and then they fell apart in the second period, taking penalty after penalty, falling behind 2-0 while getting outshot 14-4.
Fans who were roaring during the stirring pregame presentation were booing as that frightful period wound down.
The Blues staged a spirited third-period rally, twice getting within a goal. But they couldn’t quite undo the second-period damage.
How could this happen? The Blues knew what was coming in this series. The battle lines between these teams couldn’t be clearer.
The Wild want to play with speed, breaking out of their zone with crisp passes and sending their forwards into the offensive zone with control. They are at their best creating scoring chances off the rush.
The Blues want to stay on top of the Wild defense, force turnovers with their forecheck and tilt the ice with sustained pressure in the offensive zone. They value puck possession, cycling the puck down low to create havoc and scoring opportunities at the net.
from Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press,
He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever come across -- smiling, polite and with choir-boy good looks. He's also a very talented and hard-working hockey player out of Spring Lake Park High School and Minnesota State Mankato.
Yup, he's a local boy and a proud former Olympian. Oh, and one other thing about him: Minnesota hockey fans hate his guts. Just the sight of him gets their blood-pressure rising and their pulses racing to dangerously high levels.
He's David Backes, captain of the St. Louis Blues. And he is Public Enemy No. 1 during this first-round series.
"I take that as a vote of confidence that I'm doing my job," Backes said. "That's part of the business, and I'm hopefully going to be Public Enemy No. 1 this summer. That's my goal."
from Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
“This year’s no more talking,” forward Ryan Reaves said. “It’s time to do.”
It’s not offbase to believe that of the 16 teams in the NHL playoffs, the Blues are among the few that have the most to prove. Montreal, Anaheim, Detroit and perhaps even Tampa Bay may be facing similar scrutiny, but the remaining clubs have either tasted success recently (Chicago and the New York Rangers), are breaking in new staffs and systems (Nashville and Washington), or they’re new to the scene (Winnipeg and Ottawa).
“We’ve got plenty to prove, there’s no question about it,” Blues captain David Backes said. “We’ve had shortcomings in the past few years. We feel we have a deeper team, a more prepared team, a team that’s playing better hockey, and healthier than we have been in the last few years in the playoffs. So it’s time to put all those things to fruition and show what we can do. All those things combined ... we should hit the ground running on Thursday.”
from Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
“This is the team we want to take on the journey,” Hitchcock said. “We’re healthy, we’ll be 100 percent going into the playoffs, which is completely different from last year. We had no idea up until actual game time who was going to play. Now we know. We have choices.”
Now we will see if the Blues can find strength in numbers. The Minnesota Wild present a stern test after finishing the season on a tear.
If the Blues survive, either the Chicago Blackhawks or Nashville Predators would loom next. You know what the Blackhawks have done to this team in recent years.
The challenge will be formidable, as always. To advance through an extremely challenging playoff bracket, the Blues must establish brisk tempo and crisp execution immediately.
They must sustain that high level of play shift after shift and then build on it, becoming better and better as the challenges become greater.
Scorers have to check and checkers have to score. Blunders and breaks decide these games, so the Blues must force their opponent into mistakes while limiting their own.
And when they get a break — a funny hop, a good bounce, whatever — they must capitalize. They must find the back of the net, not the protective screen behind the net.
from Kerry Fraser of TSN,
I ask that you please attempt to remove any team loyalty or partisanship from the equation as I examine this somewhat controversial slashing penalty called by referee Steve Kozari against Paul Stastny that negated the scoring of his potential game-tying goal.
Let me first state that I agree with the penalty call by referee Kozari. The referee had little choice other than to impose the penalty once Stastny eliminated Myers' stick with a chop that prevented the Jets player from defending the passing lane or competing further on the play. The elimination of Myers' stick contributed in a major way to Stastny's ability to get the puck and score.
Granted, this is another "result-oriented" judgement which might not sit particularly well unless you put on your referee helmet thinking cap! If Myers' stick wasn't knocked out of his hand(s), we wouldn't be having this conversation. But then again, aren't most penalty infractions determined as a result of some form of cause and effect?
Watch the call here if you missed it last night...
via Jeremy Rutherford tweets,
I acted as the pool reporter tonight, inquiring with officials about the call on Stastny. "No comment," from supervisor Don Koharski.
Stastny: "If (Myers) is holding his stick normally, he doesn't lose it. But what are you going to do."
Myers: "It was pretty clear he just slashed my stick out of my hand. I don't think there's much to argue if you look at the full replay."
from Kerry Fraser of TSN,
The margin for error with regard to the location of contact was very miniscule when Andrew Shaw launched into the air and delivered a high hit on Barret Jackman just as the Blues defender released a pass from behind the net. We can only assume that Jackman's chest and right shoulder was the intended target of Shaw's hit based on the result. So many things can go wrong when a player leaves his feet to become airborne. It was most fortunate for both players that Jackman's head did not become the main point of contact of Shaw's upward launch. If that had been the case, I would hope that the penalty assessment would be different and that a suspension would be imposed.
The absence of significant contact or Jackman's head being the main point of contact eliminates a violation of Rule 48 (illegal check to the head) and which could most likely result in a suspension for an illegal check of this magnitude. Instead, since Shaw left his feet to deliver a check where the main point of contact was to the upper body and off the head of Jackman, a violation of Rule 42 (charging) occurred.
Andrew Shaw got all of his two minutes worth for this charging penalty.
read on and watch the hit below...
from Kevin Shattenkirk at The Player' Tribune,
I'll never forget playing against Nick Lidstrom for the first time and seeing all the little things he did on the ice that go unnoticed. He was so good at knocking the puck down out of midair whenever teams tried to dump-and-change. It was almost impossible to chip one by him. I remember thinking, “Man, I need to steal that move. That’s a super important thing to master.”
Even though Nick is retired now, I’m still watching guys in the league and trying to steal their tricks and implement them into my game. I really enjoyed Logan Couture’s article on Elite Centers, and I thought I’d try my hand at breaking down the defensive plugs.
Please don’t hate-tweet me that I left someone out. This list is mostly guys I see all the time.
The first name that comes to mind when I think of elite defensemen is Drew Doughty. Drew plays with a confidence and almost an arrogance (I mean that in a good way) that allows him to try things on the ice that other defensemen wouldn’t. He’s obviously a great skater — the way he can weave through defenders in the neutral zone while keeping his head up at the same time is something that’s hard to coach. But his real superpower is his intuition.
from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
“There are going to be some dynamite teams in our conference that don’t get in (the playoffs). A lot of it is based on the players’ ability to buy what the coaching staff is selling. We’ve accomplished that while transforming the team,” he said. “But what’s invigorated me is coaching a different group of guys. There have been four or five changes and we’ve still had a high level of success. I think the staff and players buying in is what drives me to coach a lot longer. I really want to do that.”
Still, by leaving his future open for question this season, it’s fair to wonder if the organization holds to its September position that the job is his as long as Hitchcock desires it.
Four years is an eternity in the NHL. The Blues have advanced past the first round only once under Hitchcock and have yet to win a second-round game. Forward T.J. Oshie cited information overload after Monday’s unsightly loss to Vancouver. Hitchcock assumes assurances offered in September remain in force today. Others in the organization suggest less tolerance for another first-round playoff exit given the previous three years’ 8-13 postseason record.
“There’s always going to be a question for players and coaches until we win a first round. But it’s a question I’m not afraid to answer,” Hitchcock said. “I don’t know the answer right now but this team is built to go long in series, long in games. We’ve won a lot of games late. We’ve been at our best in the second and third periods. We know we can go the distance. Like everyone else I won’t know until it plays out but I’m looking forward to answering the questions.”
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Looks like that Chicago Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues playoff rematch is on.
When the Blues took over top spot in the Central Division while the Nashville Predators were going sideways for much of March it, looked like the Blues were going to be the team to beat in the ultra-competitive Central Divison, masters of their own destiny. Not so much now.
The Blues were dumped by Vancouver at home on Monday night by a 4-1 count, and St. Louis has now managed just one win in its last six games. Coupled with the Blackhawks' impressive win over the Los Angeles Kings, the loss puts the Blues just one point ahead of Chicago. So, not only could the two teams face each other in the first round for the second straight year, but the Blues are in danger of giving up home ice advantage as they bumble down the stretch.
Both teams have six games remaining, but the Blues' closing schedule is murderous with five of the six against teams currently in playoff positions. Best of all? The Blues and the Blackhawks play twice before the end of the regular season. Not sure that's good news for the slumping boys from St. Louis.
read on for more hockey tak including LeBrun on the Canadiens, Custance on the Blues and Strang on the Kings...
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 firstname.lastname@example.org