Kukla's Korner Hockey
From Chuck Gormley at the Sporting News,
Break out the sun screen and beach chairs. The Florida Panthers are in hot pursuit of a playoff spot.
With a franchise-record seven-game win streak, the Panthers are biting at the heels of the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers. And with two games coming up against the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, they’re even flirting with what was unthinkable two weeks ago: a South-least Division title.
“There’s a good energy going around,” Panthers defenseman Steve Montador said. “There’s a little bit of a buzz.”
Update 4:28pm ET: Eric Duhatschek at the Globe & Mail wonders if this is the Year of the Panther.
Update 5:33pm ET: Apparently Florida is the story of the day. Pierre LeBrun at Sportsnet.ca also checks in with some thoughts.
Spector scans the NHL, looking at speculations out of Columbus, Atlanta and Edmonton.
From Dan Rosen at NHL.com,
This June will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Detroit Red Wings winning their second straight Stanley Cup championship. During the ensuing decade, the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Yankees, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots repeated as champions in their respective sports.
Detroit remains the last NHL team to do so.
The Devils came close in 2001, the closest of any team since those Red Wings, but like many former Cup winners, their reign at the top of the hockey world came crashing down in defeat. That’s exactly what the Anaheim Ducks now are hoping to avoid.
From the Denver Post,
Even if the Avs win the division and are the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed, they will open their first playoff series on the road.
The NCAA’s Frozen Four is at the Pepsi Center on April 10 and 12, and the logistical reality is that the NCAA would have claim on the building from April 9 — the opening day of the NHL playoffs — through April 12.
The NHL has assured Avalanche officials that the team will retain the home-ice advantage in the first round as the No. 3 seed, with four of the seven games played in Denver, if all are necessary. The league hasn’t said how that would work, but it likely would be under a 2-3-1-1 schedule, with the third through fifth and seventh games ticketed for the Pepsi Center.
*maybe it would be easier for everybody if they just skipped the playoffs? (kidding, kidding…)
From The Hockey News,
Below is the list of the 29 candidates for this season’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, given to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of the regular season.
ANAHEIM DUCKS: Todd Marchant, ATLANTA THRASHERS: Johan Hedberg, BOSTON BRUINS: Glen Metropolit, BUFFALO SABRES: Paul Gaustad, CALGARY FLAMES: Owen Nolan
From John Vogl at The Buffalo News,
The Buffalo Sabres’ coach could face his toughest decision of the season Wednesday when his suddenly impressive team returns to the ice to face Tampa Bay. The Sabres have won two in a row and, at times, looked dominating doing it. All four forward lines were solid, with a player from each scoring Saturday during a 6-2 victory over Toronto.
But once again, Connolly could become a factor. The oft-injured center might be healthy enough to play against the Lightning. He sat out the three games last week, and the team has three days between games this week. That might be enough time for Connolly’s sore hip to get enough rest.
So, what’s a coach to do? Does he stick with the same lineup, reward the 12 forwards who spent the weekend playing well? Or does he risk disruption by inserting Connolly, one of his finest all-around players and a guy who can make a difference when healthy?
more... with Sabres one point out of 8th in the East
From Rich Chere at the Star-Ledger,
When the Devils started this season with their nine-game road trip and a roster that had some around the league holding back smirks, it seemed unthinkable that they would have the best record in the Eastern Conference with 10 games to play.
Few doubted that a Lou Lamoriello team would be competitive, even one that lost its No. 1 center via free agency, was missing a top defenseman with a serious eye injury and had a plan in place to use goalie Martin Brodeur less often. But first place in the conference?
“If you looked on paper at our roster and compared it to some other teams in the conference, possibly not,” captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “But I think some guys on this team are underrated as far as putting up numbers.”
NEW YORK—Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla, Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Petr Sykora and Florida Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun have been named the NHL’s ‘Three Stars’ for the week ending March 16.
From Scott Burnside at ESPN,
One of the basic principles of the North American court system is that an open court is a just court. A closed court, by extension, is a court in which the seeds of doubt about whether justice is served are always present. It is why many of the NHL’s [disciplinary] decisions are regularly (and quietly) questioned by team officials and ridiculed by the media.
Why not make the process like a regular court?
Surely there is room in the NHL’s process for a stronger voice from the victim of these acts? And most important, why not establish a process by which the media can cover these events as they would any court proceeding. Whether it’s in person or via conference call or another manner, the give and take between the accused, the victim and the league should be open and accessible to ensure that justice is done.
From Mike Brophy at The Hockey News,
It’s almost time to vote for the Hart Trophy and I’ve got to be honest, I am not even close to picking my winner.
I will say, though, I have narrowed it down to four candidates – goalies Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils and Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks, left winger Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and right winger Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames.
I firmly believe, had Sidney Crosby not missed so much action with that high ankle sprain, he would have repeated as the Hart winner. Oh well.
Update 5:50pm ET: John Glennon at The Tennessean wonders this about Ovechkin,
“His energy and his passion — if you could bottle that and stick it inside your players — you would have an unbelievable team.’’
It sounds like the description of an MVP, but there’s a catch. The Capitals are in a position similar to that of the Predators, two points out of the playoff picture with nine games remaining in the season.
Hence the question: Should Washington fall short of the postseason, should Ovechkin win the MVP? The last player to accomplish such a feat was a guy named Mario Lemieux, who did it while playing for Pittsburgh in 1986-87.
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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