Kukla's Korner Hockey
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...
You know the story. Tampa leads the series 2-1 and win tonight in Chicago would give the Lightning a chance to claim the Stanley Cup on Saturday night on their home ice.
Chicago on the other hand wants to guarantee a game 6 back in Chicago next Monday with a win tonight.
As the teams hit the ice for warmups, no Ben Bishop for the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy appears to be the starter.
Feel free to discuss tonight's game and the puck drops just after 8:00pm ET on NBCSN, CBC and TVA.
ESPN Sport Science breaks down the two key plays made by Victor Hedman in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Watch it below...
from Scott Stinson of the National Post,
Two months into these playoffs, the narrative well has just about run dry.
The Triplets are great, Duncan Keith is an alien put on this Earth to play 30 minutes a night without showing fatigue, and (INSERT PLAYER HERE) is frustrated by his lack of scoring but knows he just needs to keep working hard and things will turn and it’s all about whether the team wins anyway. Even the Ben Bishop drama is stuck on repeat. Asked on Wednesday morning whether the goalie would play, Lightning coach Jon Cooper replied: “I think we’re in the same holding pattern as we were 48 hours ago.”
And so, a lot is made about stuff that is happening on the fringes. Wednesday’s big news, such as it is, was that defenceman Kimmo Timonen was drawing into the Chicago lineup for Game 4. There’s some human interest there in that Timonen is a 40-year-old warhorse who overcame a blood clot scare this season, but he’s also replacing Kyle Cumiskey, who played all of seven minutes and 38 seconds in Game 3. (See previous note about Duncan Keith being an alien.) When Timonen last played, on May 25 against Anaheim, he logged eight minutes and six seconds. He’s had games where he has played five minutes. He’s not in the lineup to provide a spark as much as he’s there to try to not get burned as spectacularly as Cumiskey was on Cedric Paquette’s game-winning goal on Monday night.
from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times,
There's no question touted Lightning rookie Jonathan Drouin would love to have played more in this postseason.
He's watched most of it from the press box, having played in just four games, the rest as a healthy scratch.
But Drouin, 20, denied Wednesday that there's a rift between him and coach Jon Cooper, claiming their relationship is good. A Toronto Sun story last week described how Cooper normally "avoids talking to or making eye contact with Drouin," and that the coach "seemingly has no faith or belief in" the No. 3 overall pick from 2013.
"We have a good relationship, we talk a lot," Drouin said. "There's not bad blood towards each other. Everything's perfect."
Drouin said he understands the reasons behind Cooper not playing him. Drouin also said Cooper is "easy to talk to," when you want advice, with a good line of communication.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
There was Dallas Stars defensemen Darryl Sydor dragging himself across the ice after sustaining a significant knee and ankle injury in the 2000 Stanley Cup finals. There was Boston Bruins forwards Gregory Campbell and Patrice Bergeron, playing through a broken leg and a punctured lung, respectively, in Game 6 of the finals in 2013.
And in this year’s annual installment of hockey players showing either supreme toughness or slight insanity, we had Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop fighting through clear discomfort in Game 3.
At times, the lanky 6-foot-7 netminder seemed to be in distress, laboring in the crease particularly when moving side to side, or hoisting himself back onto his haunches after going down to make a save.
The Stanley Cup, man. It drives people to do some crazy things.
"The burning desire to win, the burning desire to hoist the Stanley Cup," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It can move mountains."
from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star,
There was a spotlight on defenceman Victor Hedman, who delivered spectacular assists on two of Tampa’s three Game 3 goals and was justly lauded — he’s been a primal force in these playoffs, full of confidence, a player with Chris Pronger’s size and a smaller man’s skills. Hedman’s great.
“I don’t know if he’s as smooth as Scott Niedermayer was, but he can move like him,” said Lightning veteran Brenden Morrow. “He’s about four or five inches taller. He’s a monster.”
There was more on Ben Bishop’s ability to play through his mystery injury, which has rendered him into more of a listing stone giant than usual, and Tampa’s ability as a young team to go 8-3 in the formidable rinks of Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the Bell Centre in Montreal, and the United Center in Chicago.
“It could be a combination of a lot of things,” said Morrow. “But maybe when we get on the road there maybe isn’t as much focus — because we can’t have it — on matchups, we just go out and play. We’re a team that when we have no hesitation to our game, we’re very successful. So that could be part of it. You turn off the thinker a little bit.”
And there were, of course, the struggles of the Blackhawks, who can’t be sure that they’ll have defenceman Johnny Oduya for Game 4, and the article of faith that this is a team that can elevate its game when the games matter more. They are, after all, 30-30 in Games 1-3 under head coach Joel Quenneville, and 40-14 in Games 4-7.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
Jonathan Toews is nobody’s fool. He knows what everyone is saying right now. He knows he’s being pointed at.
And intimately, he understands. It’s time. His time. Maybe overtime.
He has no goals in the Stanley Cup Final. His Chicago Blackhawks are wobbling slightly, having lost a game in which they were the better team.
“If anything, there’s definitely more pressure,” said captain Toews, staring straight ahead, always staring straight ahead. It seems to be the only direction he knows. He has lived his hockey life with definitely more pressure.
“I think as you grow older, you learn to deal with it a little bit more and you welcome it at the same time. It’s the challenge we embrace (as players).
“The thing about playing this time of year is, there’s a lot to lose. There’s a lot on the line. That’s why we play the game. That’s what it’s all about.”
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
In many ways, the NHL’s attack of the Swedish defencemen mirrors a phenomenon that unfolded in Quebec in the 1990s, when a generation of young goaltenders all wanted to emulate Patrick Roy and follow in his footsteps.
Much the same thing happened in Sweden, thanks to the exceptional Nicklas Lidstrom, who became the defining defensive player of his era playing for the Detroit Red Wings and internationally for the Tre Kronor.
The net effect of having a role model such as Lidstrom can be seen in today’s National Hockey League, where so many of the league’s top young defencemen hail from Sweden.
There is Erik Karlsson in Ottawa, Oliver Ekman-Larsson in Arizona, Hampus Lindholm in Anaheim and here, in the Stanley Cup final, the massive, unmovable force that is Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hedman has played himself into the Conn Smythe Trophy MVP conversation with a superb playoff.
He has been as pivotal to Tampa’s playoff run as Duncan Keith has been to Chicago’s – a force offensively and defensively – and nowhere were his contributions more evident than in Monday’s 3-2 win over the Hawks, when two smart plays by Hedman set up the first and third Lightning goals.
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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