Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun,
“You don’t want to go down 0-3,” Flyers forward Brayden Schenn said. “That’s no secret. If we win one, we are right back in it.
“It’s not going to help us at all to get frustrated and worry about having only one goal against them in two games.”
Braden Holtby has been nearly perfect in the Capitals net, stopping 60 of 61 shots on goal. Steve Mason has not been close to that for the Flyers and has allowed six goals on 54 shots through two games, including a 101-footer to Jason Chimera in Game 2.
There was no hesitation for Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and his staff in sticking with Mason.
“Easy decision,” Hakstol said. “Absolutely. He is a huge part of why we are playing in the playoffs.”
“I usually call always and they say we’re completely busy, I say, 'Okay, what about if I bring Alex Ovechkin?’ They say, ‘Alex Ovechkin? Okay, anytime.’ Then we get very nice table. It works everywhere. But he never uses his name. He never books the table, never calls to say it’s Alex Ovechkin. He try to stay away from his celebrity stuff or whatever, stay same like we are, like normal people, not feeling like superstar.”
-Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals. Much more on Ovechkin from Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated.
from Ryan Dixon of Sportsnet,
Wander into the Washington Capitals dressing room and ask about the watch Nicklas Backstrom received from Alex Ovechkin after the latter reached 500 goals and you won’t get a word about make or model. The Swede, whose years of deft passes are a major part of Ovechkin’s milestone, considers that personal info—and for him to dish words like he does pucks, the circumstances have to be right. But should one of his Caps teammates approach him and inquire about anything from on-ice systems to where the team should go to let loose, expect the unvarnished truth. “He’s not shy,” says Leif Boork, who coached Backstrom in Sweden. “He’s not shy at all. So don’t let yourself be fooled by the way he looks or acts.”
It’s easy to be duped into perceiving Backstrom as a guy who would never ruffle a feather. He’s the anti-Ovie in terms of attention-seeking and seems to be the only person in his orbit completely unbothered by the fact that he doesn’t receive full credit for the breadth of his abilities. His suggestions about where the Caps should go for a good time are always followed by: “But I’ll do whatever the boys want.”
And so many people genuinely like this guy that it’s hard to imagine he’s ever said a bad word about anybody.
from Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated,
True to his promise, the Capitals winger spent that night in mid-March hopscotching through topics, gleaning whatever he could from an idol, yes, but also peering into his own future. How did Gretzky manage his body after turning 30, which Ovechkin did last September? How did Gretzky feel hoisting four Stanley Cups, something Ovechkin hasn’t done once? “How he trained, how he played, all different stuff,” Ovechkin says. At some point he started sheepishly prefacing requests with, “Is it all right if I ask one more?” As dinner ended after several hours, Ovechkin requested that Gretzky stick around a little longer, feeling there was still more ground to cover.
This amused Gretzky. Such enthusiasm, he told Ovechkin, reminded him of the first time he met Gordie Howe. “I could’ve asked questions for two days,” Gretzky says. “I had that same sense with Alex.”
The timing felt right for Ovechkin to seek such counsel. Even after losing to the Kings in overtime the night before, he and the Capitals were cruising toward the league’s best record; in less than three weeks they would clinch the Presidents’ Trophy before any other Eastern Conference team secured a playoff berth. Ovechkin, meanwhile, remains the same dominant goal scorer. On Nov. 19 he overtook Sergei Fedorov atop the Russian-born career list. On Jan. 10 he became the fifth fastest to reach 500. On April 9 a hat trick in St. Louis gave him three straight 50-goal seasons, or three more than the rest of the NHL in that time. But these days his individual milestones only highlight what he still lacks.
“I have everything in my career besides a Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal,” he says. “Nobody remembers who’s second place. Everyone remembers the winner.”
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
For all the years Barry Trotz has coached in the NHL, the one thing he’s never understood is why he has to explain the failures of an organization’s past. Trotz has been behind the bench of the Washington Capitals for exactly two seasons, during which time they’ve made the playoffs twice. This year, they went wire-to-wire atop the league standings, and have been anxiously waiting for the start of playoffs for weeks now, with little tangible to play for.
But the Capitals also had the best record in the NHL six years ago, and lost in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Montreal Canadiens thanks to Jaroslav Halak’s brilliant goaltending performance.
In the NHL’s salary-cap era, there is much talk about windows of opportunity for winning championships. They open for a short time and slam shut faster than you can imagine.
This may well be the Capitals’ best chance ever, and yet all Trotz hears about are the sins of the past, particularly 2010. Why, he wonders, should that have any bearing on whether they can win now?
“I’m the coach, so I’ll use coaches as an example,” Trotz said in an interview.
“I don’t care what Bryan Murray’s teams did, or Jim Schoenfeld’s, or Bruce Boudreau’s. It really doesn’t matter. This is our team in the moment, and we’re trying to make some history of our own, and not worry about the past history. I think we understand that.
from Frank Seravalli of TSN,
... let’s take a look at one X-Factor from each first-round series, a player or scheme that could have the most significant impact on the outcome:
WASHINGTON VS. PHILADELPHIA
X-Factor: Flyers defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere
Why: Conventional wisdom would suggest Philadelphia’s prayers for an upset centre around Sean Couturier’s ability to frustrate and neutralize the Capitals’ top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. That would not be incorrect — Couturier did it against Pittsburgh’s stars four years ago. But the Flyers will also need to score to win. And so much of that depends on a dynamic Gostisbehere driving play. Last week, the Red Wings seemed to discover the recipe for success against him. They blanketed him in all three zones, swarming his every movement. It led to juicy turnovers, two of which resulted in Detroit goals. Washington would be wise to follow suit - particularly when the game is on the line, considering the Ghost’s flair for the dramatic.
Series pick: Capitals in six
the rest of the playoff matchups...
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
Now the real games begin.
With the NHL regular season having come to an end on Sunday, the two-month grind that is the road to the Stanley Cup begins this week. Here is a brief breakdown of the eight opening round series.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS vs. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Why the Caps can win: Depth.
With the emergence of young star Evgeny Kuznetsov and the off-season additions of talented T.J. Oshie and multiple Cup champion Justin Williams, stopping Ovie and Nick Backstrom no longer guarantees opponents of beating the Caps.
Why the Flyers can win: Momentum.
No team comes into the post-season on a bigger high than the Flyers, who went on a 14-5-3 run to clinch a playoff berth on Saturday.
Keep your eye on: Caps G Braden Holtby.
On paper, he easily should win the goalie matchup versus the Flyers’ duo of Steve Mason/Michal Neuvirth. Nevertheless, now is the time to walk the walk.
continue for a mini breakdown of the seven other playoff series...
from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
Confession time: I’ve never really understood how you vote for the National Hockey league’s most-valuable player award.
I mean, I know the Hart trophy says it’s the player judged to be most valuable to his team, but how do you delineate between the runaway scoring leader Patrick Kane, who has figured in 45 per cent of Chicago Blackhawks goals and has eight game-winners this season, and Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who claims 48 of his team’s 56 wins, tying Marty Brodeur’s all-time single-season record set in 2006-07.
Kane is 28 points better than anybody else on the Hawks. He’s 14 points clear of Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn for the Art Ross, but last year, Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price was spectacular with a 44-16-6 record and a 1.96 goals-against average, and was the runaway Hart winner, and Holtby’s numbers are better than Price’s.
continued plus more hockey topics...
from Bob McKenzie of TSN,
Barry Trotz, take a bow.
It's too soon to say how members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association will officially vote on the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year) once the regular season ends on Sunday, but the NHL coaching fraternity has spoken.
And they've done so quite emphatically in favour of the Washington Capitals head coach, who led his team to the President's Trophy as the NHL's best in the regular season.
In a TSN Hockey almost-end-of-season NHL head coaches' poll, Trotz was No. 1 on 18 of the 27 ballots submitted during voting conducted Tuesday. Coaches were asked to provide their top three choices; Trotz's name appeared on 24 of 27 ballots.
Florida Panther head coach Gerard Gallant, who led his team to the Atlantic Division regular-season crown, was the runner-up to Trotz. Gallant received seven first-place votes and appeared on 22 of 27 ballots.
In all, 10 of the 30 coaches received at least one vote although only four - Trotz (18); Gallant (seven), Bruce Boudreau (one) of Anaheim; and Ken Hitchcock (one) of St. Louis — received a first-place vote.
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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