Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Mark Spector of the National Post,
Exactly one year ago this morning, the hottest kid in the National Hockey League bounced out of bed in a nation’s capital, hustled good and early down to the rink, and readied for a night he’d looked forward to for all of his hockey life.
And on that night—April 11th, 2007—Sidney Crosby notched his first career playoff goal. It was a meaningless, last-minute strike in a 6-3 loss at Ottawa, but those inside Scotiabank Place knew right then and there they had witnessed something to tell the grand kids about.
This morning, the hottest kid in the NHL will wake up just outside a nation’s capital, step over the fan mail that people have taken to dropping randomly on his doorstep, and begin this long awaited day. Tonight is the night that Alexander Ovechkin has anticipated since he pulled a Washington Capitals sweater over his mane of hockey hair as the first pick in the 2004 draft.
You can watch a report on Ovechkin from Russia Today…
Capitals GM George McPhee via Dan Rosen’s blog at NHL.com,
“Everybody tries to build their team the same way. You need scoring, good goaltending, defense, grit, physical play, speed, depth, leadership. The Flyers have done a good job of putting that together. We think we have to. It should make for a good series. I don’t think anybody has any idea who is going to win this series. You look at some of the other series and say if Team A plays its best and Team B plays its best, well Team A is going to win. I don’t think you can say that about this series. I don’t think anybody knows who is going to win this one.”
much more on McPhee and the Caps…
From the AP via Sports Illustrated,
“I’ve had a good run here,’’ Kolzig said Thursday. “And I hope it continues in the next two months.’‘
In other words, until the playoffs are over. After that, Kolzig will become a free agent, presenting an understandably murky future for a 38-year-old goalie who lost his starting job just as the Capitals were becoming good again.
“The worst thing I can do is have a pity party,’’ Kolzig said. “I’m not really going to talk about the situation until the end of the year, but it is what it is and I’ve come to grips with it.’‘
Kolzig has been supplanted by Cristobal Huet, acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline.
From Dan Steinberg at the DC Sports Blog (Washington Post),
The Stanley Cup playoffs require a wide-ranging level of civic commitment. For Mike Green, that commitment was on display this morning, in the form of an early-morning mohawk. Dozens of fans will be receiving similar ‘hawks tomorrow. For Pat Sajak, that commitment might involve a red-eye flight back East from a “Wheel of Fortune” taping next Friday, to make sure he can get to Verizon Center in time for Game 5.
“If the Caps don’t sweep,” Sajak noted. “I’m pretty well at their mercy.”
Yeah, that’s right, Sajak has become a hard-core Caps fan, a front-row season ticket holder for the past two seasons who attends 30 games a year and was “Rocking the Red” throughout last week’s spasm of Caps passion.
Unfortunately, there’s a good reason Sajak isn’t going to be able to pull off his own mohawk to support his favorite team.
from Mike Hume of the Falls Church News-Press,
Since the rebuild began, Leonsis tried to sell fans on his team. But for all of silver-lining citations and what, at times, seemed like overly-optimistic opinions, he never once presented a false front. He never lied about his commitment to the team and to the fans — even the ones that had temporarily forsaken him.
In a perfect world, such behavior would be common place, but struggling sports teams seldom receive the commitment the Capitals have from Leonsis. Fans of the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates, feel free to send in your testimonials.
So as the euphoria of the Stanley Cup Playoffs washes over Washington this weekend, praise the players that willed this team into the postseason. But save something for the man in the owners’ box that made this playoff push possible.
added 10:16am, The Wall Street Journal published a Q & A with Ted Leonsis today,
The Wall Street Journal: Like most other NHL teams, the Capitals get little exposure. What can the NHL do to get a better TV deal than the arrangements with Versus and NBC—and, of course, more fans?
Mr. Leonsis: My belief, and what I’ve been advocating, is we’ve lost the TV war. That’s where the puck is. We want to go to where the puck’s going to be. We want to fight the big battle, and there we’re advantaged. The NHL has the most wired, the most affluent fans. They’re living their life on the Net. We wanna be, and we’re becoming, the leader in growing digital media.
more (not sure if it is for paid subscribers only)
from Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News,
One player cannot halt him alone. It really does take a village to stop an Ovechkin. Saying that and acknowledging that, though, recent history suggests that one sweater among all of the black-and-orange sweaters will be greeting Ovechkin most of all:
No. 44, Kimmo Timonen.
“It’s going to be a big challenge, but I’m looking forward to it,” said Timonen, the Flyers’ smoothest defensive presence. “Taking his time and space away - that’s the key for me. If you give him too much space and time, he’s going to make a play, he’s going to shoot the puck. So, for me, going into the game, you have to make sure you’re right on him all the time and contain him.”
from Chuck Gormley of the Courier-Post,
The Flyers’ rationale heading into the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals that begin Friday night in Washington is simple. If Ovechkin spends more time exacting revenge on irritants such as Mike Richards and Scott Hartnell, he’ll spend less time firing rubber in the direction of Marty Biron.
“The big knock on Peter Forsberg was that you could get him playing more of a physical game instead of trying to score,” Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher said. “I can see Ovechkin going that way. He seems like he might have that in him, where he’s more worried about hitting guys than he is scoring. If you can push him that way, yeah, that’s good. We’ll see. It’s his first playoff series, right?”
from Chuck Gormley of the Courier-Post,
Now, after an equally long and circuitous career as a minor-league coach, Boudreau is where he has dreamed of being all along, playing for a Stanley Cup.
Much like his coaching counterpart, John Stevens.
On Friday night in Washington, Boudreau and Stevens will coach their first Stanley Cup playoff games when the Flyers visit the Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Boudreau led the Capitals to a miraculous turnaround, taking them from 15th in the conference three months ago to a playoff-clinching victory in the final game of the regular season.
from the Washington Times,
This whole deal for the Washington Capitals — the sellout crowds, the crazy flurry of wins to finish the season and a return to the postseason — started with a fire sale.
Owner Ted Leonsis and general manager George McPhee decided during the 2003-04 season that the Caps were not a Stanley Cup contender and — with a possible work stoppage looming — it was time to start over. So McPhee went about taking apart the roster he had put together, sending away his best players for prospects, draft picks and salary relief.
“The process is hard to go through, but when the ownership back you up like they did, you feel like you can take your time and build it right,” McPhee said.
from the Philadelphia Daily News,
“We’re excited to play the Capitals,” said winger Scottie Upshall, whose second-period goal was all the scoring the Flyers needed against the Pens on this afternoon. “It’s going to be a good test. They have a great team. We’re pumped to be playing one of the best players in the world right now.”
How hot is Ovechkin? This hot: His 65 goals not only led the league, but were the most ever by a left winger and 13 more than any other player this season. Eleven of those goals were game-winners, also tops in the league.
Asked for his thoughts on playing the Caps, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said, “Well, obviously No. 8. That guy makes them go. They’ve probably been the hottest team in the league for a month-and-a-half. It won’t be easy.
“But if we play the way we did Friday [a 3-0 shutout of the always-troublesome New Jersey Devils] and [yesterday], for all 60 minutes, we’ll be OK.”
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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