Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,m
Welcome to the 2015 Stanley Cup final, otherwise known as a Tale of Two Coaches.
In the Tampa corner, you have the personable Cooper, 47, who rubs shoulders with Charles Barkley, had his group’s tab picked up by actor Vince Vaughn at a Chicago steak joint last weekend, and carries with him a swagger that makes you realize just how comfortable he is in his own skin.
Quenneville, 56, is too, but in a far different way. A far nicer man than he gets credit for, especially behind the scenes, Coach Q, as some of the players call him, is far more no nonsense, a do-it-his-way-or-the-highway type who isn’t afraid to let his guys know if they aren’t performing up to par.
In that regard, both teams are reflections of their respective coaches.
The Lightning players are young, fast and, like Cooper, feel as if they can beat anyone.
Like Quenneville, the Hawks are battle-proven, determined, business-like and have established — thanks to Cups in 2010 and 13 — that they’ve already beaten anyone and everyone.
Up until now.
Now comes the real litmus test, at least where these playoffs are concerned.
from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News,
The numbers are eerie. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks seem like twinsies in this Stanley Cup final.
Two wins apiece, nine goals apiece, a three-shot difference in pucks on goal, an eight-shot difference in attempts. The same number of blocks. A save percentage just three-hundredths of a point apart.
We’ve had no overtime games thus far but it pretty much feels that way for all 60 minutes, like one goal is going to mean everything. This is the first Cup final to open with four one-goal games since a Montreal sweep of St. Louis in 1968. And that was a sweep where the verdict was pretty much expected, not an up-for-grabs affair like this one.
As we head to Game Five on Saturday in Amalie Arena, here’s the stat I still can’t over: Through 240 minutes over four games, the score has either been tied or a one-goal differential for every second. Another one-goal result, guaranteed if we get our long-overdue first OT, will mark the first time all five games have been that tight since 1951.
At this point, little things become big things.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper tells Millard and Shannon that he’s enjoying every bit of his team’s phenomenal run to the Stanley Cup Final, talks about the status of Ben Bishop, and how he uses his skills as a lawyer to his advantage.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
It was one brief shift in the second period of Game 4, but noteworthy nonetheless, when Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos skated with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.
We have become so accustomed to seeing Tampa Bay’s vaunted "Triplets" line -- Palat, Johnson and Nikita Kucherov -- that it’s odd when someone else makes an appearance on that line, even if only for a brief cameo.
That’s because the three players, similar in both size and stature, have combined to form one of the most explosive, dynamic lines in hockey. Johnson, the catalyst of the trio, leads the league with 13 playoff goals (and 23 points even though he has been held to two points in the Cup finals). Kucherov is not far behind, second in both categories with 10 goals and 22 points. Palat has eight goals and 16 points.
The chemistry among them is so fine-tuned that they know each other’s tendencies and can anticipate each movement. They all speak different native languages -- Johnson hails from Spokane, Washington, Palat from Feydek-Mistek, Czech Republic, and Kucherov from Moscow, Russia -- but are bound by the puck that toggles between their sticks.
That is, indeed, the genesis of the nickname.
from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times,
What is Bishop's mystery injury? NHL Network analyst Martin Biron, a former NHL goalie, calls it "The Curious Case of Benjamin Bishop." Former Lightning goalie and current NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes believes it's a groin injury, judging by how Bishop is distributing his weight and moving side to side when he's on the ice. Longtime Lightning color analyst Bobby Taylor, another former NHL goalie, thinks it's a knee or a hamstring injury because Bishop struggles mostly to get up and down. Others suggest its a hip.
Whatever the injury, it's the hottest topic in the Stanley Cup final, and the Lightning's most pressing issue. Bishop is hardly the first to play hurt. Even teammate Tyler Johnson is unable to take faceoffs due to an undisclosed injury.
But that Bishop so visibly labored in a gutsy 36-save performance in a Game 3 win Monday, and that coach Jon Cooper said after Game 4 that he expected Bishop to play again in this series, the injury has made a particular impression on many.
"I know a lot of us have been hurt and played hurt, and in some cases played injured," said Weekes, who spent 11 seasons in the league. "But I don't recall ever seeing it that physically apparent. It's incredible. It's almost like Willis Reed with the Knicks, playing on one leg. It's beyond amazing."
frm Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
All four games have been tied or within one goal entering the final five minutes of regulation. By next Wednesday, one team will be lifting the Stanley Cup – and it is safe to say the difference in such a tight series, with so little to distinguish one team from the other, could be pure simple luck – good or bad.
“It’s really tough for either team to separate themselves from the other in any of these games, which makes for entertaining hockey,” Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews said Thursday. “It’s just going to come down to who wants it more and who’s going to fight and work for those bounces. I think both teams feel pretty confident it’s going to go their way.”
It was a peaceful morning at the United Center, no one practising because of the two days off between games. The ice was covered up, the rock band Rush was scheduled to play a concert later in the evening, and the Blackhawks were enjoying the chance to rest and regroup.
No one wanted to acknowledge, speak of or otherwise concede that fatigue could be a factor now that both teams are in their ninth month of work, though the Blackhawks didn’t look nearly as crisp Wednesday as they had earlier in the playoffs.
The Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith logged another 29-plus minutes Wednesday and his total ice time in these playoffs, 655 minutes 55 seconds, is nearly 82 minutes ahead of the next closest player, Tampa’s Victor Hedman, at 574:02. Keith generates so much offence from defence, but he looks as though he’s trying to play within himself more than he did in the previous round.
Logically, if anybody can make the difference offensively, it’ll be either Chicago’s Patrick Kane or Tampa’s Steven Stamkos, two freakishly talented scorers who’ve been quiet in the final, and not getting any of those aforementioned bounces.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Brad Richards suggested after the Chicago Blackhawks' Game 4 victory Wednesday night that it was their worst performance in a while.
He didn’t know why, he was happy they woke up in time to win, but the veteran center stressed the need for the Blackhawks to find their 'A' game if they’re going to win the best-of-three showdown that remains of the 2014-15 NHL season.
The Stanley Cup finals are tied 2-2, yet one team is a little more satisfied with its overall play than the other.
The fact of the matter is, the Tampa Bay Lightning could very easily be up 3-1 in this series based on the merit of play. But they know perhaps more than anyone that it simply doesn’t work that way in the playoffs. They know deep down they didn’t deserve to be up 3-0 on the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, yet that’s how the breaks played out. They were probably a little fortunate to survive Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings, too.
So what you’re not going to get from the young Lightning is any kind of frustration that they’re not up in a series against a veteran Blackhawks team still trying to find another gear.
from Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times,
If you can, just for a moment, set aside your rooting interest in this Stanley Cup final between the Lightning and Blackhawks, and appreciate what it is you are watching.
That's not easy to do, of course, if you're a fan of the Lightning. You're way too wrapped up every shift, every shot and every save to find something this nerve-racking to be that enjoyable. Only after the fact can you sit back and realize what you just witnessed was actually incredibly fulfilling.
What we have here are two marvelous hockey teams playing with the type of passion and hunger only seen when there is a big silver trophy at stake. Take all that talent, all that artistry, sprinkle in some grit and rough stuff and add a big pinch of intrigue with a mysterious injury to a star player and what you have is a Stanley Cup final for the ages.
"It was a lot of fun out there," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said.
Try to remember that today in the wake of the Lightning's 2-1 loss Wednesday in Game 4, a loss you likely will remember as frustrating and it was disappointing.
For the Lightning, no doubt, it was both of those things to go along with the sickening realization that a victory that could have put a stranglehold on this series slipped right through its hockey gloves.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
For the past two days, with his team facing a 2-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup finals, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews patiently answered questions about why his Blackhawks are a special breed, how they have developed an innate ability to find a way at the most crucial points of the season.
But as eloquent as the man known as Captain Serious might have been, it would have rung a little hollow had the Blackhawks not responded with a win in Game 4.
And it would have rung a little hollow if Toews himself hadn’t stepped on the ice, delivered a virtuoso performance and dragged the team to such a victory.
But -- and you know how this storyline plays out already, don’t you, having seen it time and again in recent years -- that’s exactly what happened as the Blackhawks hung on for a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night to even this finals series at two wins apiece. Game 5 is Saturday in Tampa, Florida.
Below, watch Burnside and Pierrel LeBrun recap Game 4...
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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