Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
from Arpon Basu of NHL.com,
The Lightning are 9-4 in the playoffs when they use seven defensemen, a significantly better mark than 5-5 when Cooper goes with a traditional lineup of 12 forwards and six defensemen.
"It’s interesting because we didn’t do it much during the year in the regular season, even if he’s done it in the past," Lightning center Brian Boyle said. "But it’s worked for us.
"It was kind of weird at first; I didn’t understand why we were doing this. But I’m not smart enough to be a coach."
The first time Cooper did it in the playoffs was in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Detroit Red Wings, and it was out of necessity. Defenseman Jason Garrison was coming back from an upper-body injury that sidelined him for four weeks, and Cooper decided to keep Nikita Nesterov in the lineup as a seventh defenseman as insurance.
It was something just about any coach would do.
The Lightning won 3-2 in double overtime coming off a 3-0 loss in Game 3, beginning a trend Cooper used through the first two rounds.
Four of the next five times Cooper used a lineup with seven defensemen it was following a loss. The Lightning won three of those games, including Game 6 at Detroit to force Game 7; Game 6 against the Montreal Canadiens in the second round to clinch that series; and Game 2 against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final to tie the series 1-1.
from Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times,
The Blackhawks are so used to finishing fast after starting slowly in a playoff series under Joel Quenneville, it’s almost seems like the Tampa Bay Lightning have the bigger chore ahead of them, even with a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
Not quite, of course. The Lightning have been the better team in a closely played series, with the best player in defenseman Victor Hedman. They lead the series and have home-ice advantage. And most importantly, they’re playing like a championship team. The Lightning arguably have played the Hawks’ game as well as any team the Hawks have faced since winning their first Cup in 2010. These aren’t the Ducks — a formidable, worthy opponent that didn’t have that something extra that is needed to beat the Hawks.
Nonetheless, with captain Jonathan Toews setting the all-important tone in a critical moment of the series, the Hawks are resolute in their belief that they control their destiny — that it’s just a matter of staying at it, playing their game and eventually they will impose their will on the youthful, quickly-maturing Lightning.
Toews elucidated that approach clearly Tuesday when asked if there was anything in particular about what the Lightning are doing that the Hawks have to address.
“I don’t think so,” he said.
from Dan Rosen of NHL.com,
"I heard lots of great things about him before I met him through some of the scouts and people in Sweden that he had great potential and was really a gifted player that could be a top player, and I knew he was going to be a high draft pick. But my first impression was the size he had," Lidstrom told NHL.com by phone from Sweden on Tuesday. "Being 18 years old and having that size, that's a big advantage. But you've got to be able to handle it too.
"He seems able to do the best with it."...
"It's great to see," said Lidstrom, who only watches highlights of the games because of the early morning start time in Sweden. "It's great to see him develop into the type of player that he had great potential of being. He's only 24 years old too, so he hasn't even hit his prime yet and he's playing like a veteran out there. That's been really enjoyable to watch."
Hedman also remembers his first meeting with Lidstrom.
"I was really nervous," he said. "I don't remember what questions I asked."
He didn't really have to ask anything. Hedman watched Lidstrom for years as a kid growing up in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. Hedman studied Lidstrom and tried to emulate some of what he did for the Detroit Red Wings.
"He's such a legend," Hedman said of Lidstrom. "It's impossible to try to compare yourself to someone like that. But I tried to look at his game and take some things from his game and put it in my own game. That's something I did growing up and I still do it now."
from Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times,
A loss such as this one ticks a person off.
That is, if you’re a Blackhawks fan and, let’s say, a journalist born crabby.
How could the Hawks let Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at the United Center get away from them and lose 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning?
There were 22,000 people rooting for the Hawks, with no concerns about carpetbaggers from Sarasota or St. Petersburg, Florida, turning the crowd colors dark blue and silver.
How could the Hawks miss so many good shots?
‘‘Sometimes it can be focus,’’ winger Marian Hossa said. ‘‘Or a little bit of [bad] luck.’’
Going down two games to one, with no offense from stars Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, is just a mess. This Lightning team plays great on the road, true. But aren’t the Hawks the bomb, always ready to explode and destroy foes?
from Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun,
It was always going to take time for Victor Hedman to reach this point and the fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning was willing to wait is a big reason the franchise is now just two wins away from a Stanley Cup title.
He’s a big defenceman and, as a No. 2 overall draft pick, the superstar potential was always there for the towering Swede.
He has arrived now, however, as the Lightning’s big playoff run has become, in the words of his coach, Jon Cooper, Hedman’s “coming-out party.”
Priority No. 1 for Hedman in the best-of-seven series against the Chicago Blackhawks has been to stop captain Jonathan Toews and whoever else is on Chicago’s top line.
But the fun part for the offensively gifted Hedman was on display Monday night at the United Center as he chipped in with two assists to lead the Lightning to a big 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead over the Hawks.
“Words can’t describe the force he’s been out there for our team, not just offensively but defensively,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said following the victory. “He plays in every situation. He’s a leader in this room.
from Mike Imrem of the Chicago Daily-Herald,
The world isn't ending for the Blackhawks.
At some point it'll be time for Hawks fans to start worrying but not yet.
So far the faithful are advised to be like the Hawks themselves: pretty much unflappable.
Nonchalance didn't settle over the United Center in the first period Monday night when the Lightning took a 1-0 lead in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
But it wasn't panic either.
Only gasps, not screams, could be heard when the Lightning scored 13 seconds after the Hawks took a 2-1 lead in the third period.
Finally there were mumbles and grumbles when the Lightning scored with 3:11 in regulation for a 3-2 victory.
"A tough loss," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville mumbled and grumbled.
Still, does anyone around here believe the Hawks are dead because of this defeat?
Maybe it really is over before it's over this time, but the Hawks have withstood so many dire predicaments that it's easy to expect them to overcome the 2-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
It sounded like a title in the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series – The Mystery of The Starting Goalie – and Jon Cooper kept the suspense going all day long. Cooper, the Tampa Bay Lightning coach, kept everyone guessing until just before game time to reveal that Ben Bishop, undisclosed injury and all, would start Monday’s pivotal third game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Moving gingerly, almost arthritically in the net, Bishop put on a gutsy bend-but-don’t break performance on behalf of the Lightning. Many times, he had trouble just getting to his feet after dropping down to his knees to stop shots. Moving post-to-post was a chore.
Bishop was saved by his goal posts at least once, and at times, the Blackhawks – especially in a dominating first period - looked like the gang who couldn’t shoot straight.
But in the end, the Lightning somehow pulled out the victory, Cedric Paquette scoring the winning goal in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory to take a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup final and regain home-ice advantage.
In the arena known as the Madhouse on Madison, where the decibel count can be loud enough to pop your eardrums, Paquette’s goal with 3:11 to go in regulation silenced the crowd and put the Lightning two wins away from clinching their first Stanley Cup championship since 2004.
Watch the game higlights below...
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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