Kukla's Korner Hockey
Category: Phil Coffey
Back in the day when working at NHL.com, we used to joke that Kris Draper would call the office each week just to see if we needed anything. That’s how cooperative Draper was in getting the word out on hockey. There was no ego involved. Draper wasn’t trying to blow his own horn, instead speading the gospel of hockey simply by being helpful and friendly.
My colleague, John McGourty called Draper the best defensive zone, penalty-killing center ever upon learning Draper, 40, was retiring.
“Draper was the first guy I would go to the dressing room after practices,” McGourty remembered. “He would always introduce his new teammates to me and start conversations with them. He signed a Team Canada jersey from the 2004 World Cup of Hockey tournament for me for charity.”
If you’re a Philadelphia Flyers fan, there is one thing you can never complain about, namely an inability or unwillingness from Paul Holmgren to make moves.
Holmgren is never gun-shy when it comes to shuffling the deck, be it trading picks and prospects to buy some negotiating time with a free agent like Scott Hartnell or Dam Hamhuis, or making a lot of noise at the Entry Draft in acquiring Chris Pronger.
Or drastically changing the core of a Flyers team one year removed from an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, as Holmgren did so emphatically Thursday.
It’s amazing how fast change happens. The Boston Bruins hadn’t left the on-ice celebration in Vancouver before their roster changed with the word that Mark Recchi was taking the Lanny McDonald route and skating off into the sunset with the Stanley Cup held triumphantly aloft.
So Recchi is the first to go and there will be other changes coming pretty quickly for the Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, with the upcoming draft, free-agency and arbitration season rapidly approaching.
As for Recchi, you can’t debate his decision to skate away on top. The 43-year-old exits as one of the top players of his generation and a terrific mentor for the young Bruins this season. Over his regular-season career, Recchi scored 1,533 points in 1,652 games. That’s the 12th highest total in NHL history and his games played total is fourth behind Gordie Howe, Mark Messier and Ron Francis, all Hall of Famers, a spot where Recchi is sure to reside.
“It’s the end for me,” Recchi told reporters. “This is the last time I get the chance. I’m going out on top. I couldn’t be happier with this group of guys. Regardless of what happened tonight, this was going to be one of the best groups I ever played with. We’re very fortunate to win. We’re going to enjoy this.”
According to ESPN Boston’s James Murphy, one of the most important roles Recchi played with the Bruins this season was as a mentor to rookie Brad Marchand. Judging from the dynamic play of Marchand, Recchi did quite a job getting the message across.
The Vancouver Canucks have held serve, that’s all, winning the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.
That needs to be the Boston Bruins’ mantra heading into Game 3 Monday night in Boston.
But that being said, the pressure is squarely on the Bruins’ collective back now. A home loss in Game 3 or 4 conjures up talk of the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and no team wants to discuss coming back from the dreaded 1-3 deficit.
Despite advice to wait and see what happens, the sale and move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg sure had a sense of the inevitable about it, didn’t it?
There will be more euphoria about the return of hockey to Winnipeg than angst over its loss in Atlanta. Still, the loss of the Thrashers will hurt the team’s core fans for a long time to come. Sure, we can talk about the Thrashers being swept in their only playoff series, their inability to keep star players, and the Thrashers ranking near the NHL basement in attendance. Still, there was a core of fans who “Believed in Blueland” and now are left without a team. Think about them for a minute today and put yourself in their shoes for a minute. It’s a pretty crummy feeling to lose “your” team. Success or not, fans love their team, even if they love to complain about it. In the long run, it’s better to be a “long suffering” fan, than have no team at all.
And feel worse for the team’s staffers that lost their jobs. Most won’t make the move to Winnipeg and now enter an employment market that can best be described as “challenging” to say the least. They are the ones you really need some action, not words like these from the team’s statement.
“It’s extremely disappointing to all of us that (this sale) became necessary after all other options were exhausted. We want to express my gratitude to you, the fans, for the years of dedication you have offered to the Atlanta Thrashers.”
Speaking to reporters before heading off to Vancouver for the start of the Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins provided nothing that could be called bulletin board material to a media hanging on their every word.
“There is a lot of skill, there is a lot of speed,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the Canucks. “Their back end has a lot of versatility, and they love to carry the puck up the ice a lot. So, they are a pretty potent team and obviously, they thrive on their power play. So, we are going to have to be a physical team. But we are also going to have to be a very disciplined team.”
Drat! Where is the fun in that? But you don’t expect a coach to toss around brickbats unless it’s Ozzie Gullien.
Rest assured, the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins will be chirping at one another like age-old enemies seconds after the puck drops in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. But to say there is any rivalry, what with six games between the two in six seasons, is stretching the things way past the breaking point.
This figures to be an entertaining series. Big-name goalies, strong defenses and lots of variety and skill among the forwards. I’ll let others break down all the stats here because I think it’s a clean sheet for both sides. There has been plenty of time for both sides to get ready, so forget fatigue. Neither side will be any more exhausted than what we have seen from past finalists. So, instead of breaking down power plays and penalty killing, let’s look at some other storylines worth watching.
Well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
If Bruins 1, Lightning 0 didn’t have you ohhing and ahhing Friday night then sports just isn’t your thing. The game also proved the point once again that you don’t need six or seven goals a game to have a terrific game.
Great efforts all the way around and if not for Nathan Horton’s goal, we might all still be watching. That’s how good the goaltending and defensive play was in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
“First of all, we knew we had to play a 60-minute game tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “There couldn’t be a 10-minute lapse in our game. In Game 7, you’ve got to be so focused. Our guys did a great job.
“When I walked into the room before that third period, I really didn’t have much to say because I could hear what they were talking about, and they were bang on,” Julien said. “The message was clear. It was direct. It was what you wanted to hear from your players. So I came in just said a couple of things and basically said we shouldn’t have to change anything. We just gotta stick with it and eventually we get rewarded. And that’s what happened.”
“I think it was in overtime the entire game, to be honest with you,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “That’s how it felt. I think the other team probably felt like that too. It was for who was going to make that one mistake. And it was us.
Just a few random thoughts today as provisions are being laid in for Friday’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
* At some point in the future, there will be a debate about whether Marty St. Louis belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Right now, he could care less, what with Game 7 against the Bruins fast approaching. St. Louis is the one primarily responsible for making Friday night, Two goals and an assist in an elimination game is clutch by anyone’s standards.
“I think that’s what you play for,” he said after the Game 6 win. “Whether it’s as a kid in the driveway and pretending to be a Game 7. Those are the games you watch as a kid. Those are the games that gets your fire going and those are the ones you want to play in. The do-or-die games. Our backs against the wall.
You want to leave it out there, and I was fortunate to get a couple of good bounces today. And guys made good plays. But I felt like in those games, I said I like to give myself a chance to help my team.”
In case you missed the announcement yesterday, we are pleased to welcome Phil Coffey to KK as a special blogger. Phil is well connected throughout the hockey community and his insight is most welcomed.
So, now what?
That’s the question being bandied about by the San Jose Sharks and their fans after another disappointing end to a season that held such promise.
Losing in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals to the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks might be of some consolation to other teams, but not in San Jose. Not when a Sharks team built to win now failed to grasp the last rung of the ladder into the Stanley Cup Final.
But back to the original question, namely now what?
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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