Kukla's Korner Hockey
RANGERS SOLVE HAMMOND, ARE FIRST TO CLINCH PLAYOFF BERTH
Even at 1-1 midway through the first period, the Rangers scored four unanswered goals – highlighted by 2-1—3 from Chris Kreider – to improve to 9-2-1 in their last 12 games and become the first team to clinch a berth in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
* The Rangers clinched their fifth consecutive playoff berth, ninth in the past 10 seasons and 57th in franchise history.
from Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette,
What follows is a very lightly edited transcript of our conversation that evening, from beginning to end. So join us now for dinner, but without the calories and the restaurant background noise.
• I get the sense there’s much more to the leadership that’s being asked of you than having had an A stitched on your jersey. And you’re taking French lessons.
Yes. I take this with so much more pride than ever before. Little things used to bother me. The best thing for me was to spend last summer in Florida. I didn’t think or talk about hockey once. I just let it all go and I came back with an open mind and I think that’s something I’ve needed to do for a long time: be more open-minded to different, I guess, environments and situations.
I never grew up in a place like Montreal. It was tough for me at first to realize that if I had a bad shift or didn’t score a goal, it affected another person’s life. That’s just the reality of the way it is in Montreal.
And I’ve grown to love it. Even just this year, I’ve learned to love it more than ever. It was tough for me to understand really at first, but now that I’m more open-minded to everything, Katia and I can’t see ourselves being anywhere else. It’s crazy how much you can change in a year, but it’s not bull, it’s 100 per cent true.
As for the French, I’ve told my teacher she’ll have to be a little slower with me at this time of the year, my mind isn’t always there and I can be a little tired. I can read French because I understand Spanish, but the accents — they’re tough. And she’ll be telling me, “il est” or “elle est.” (laughs) What makes an object male or female?
• The other night in Tampa Bay, without an A on your road jersey, you went to discuss a call with an official at the timekeeper’s bench. Without the A, that’s not often done.
Relationships with the referees is probably one of the biggest parts about being a leader. I’ve talked to Berge and Mike about that early on and they said, “It’s really important because everything goes through you, on the ice. We can’t be out there, you have to have a good relationship with the refs.”
FRISCO, Texas - Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has activated forward Valeri Nichushkin from injured reserve and loaned him to the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL), on a conditioning assignment.
Nichushkin, 20, has missed the last 59 games after having hip surgery. Additionally, he missed seven games from Oct. 14 - 28 with a hip injury. He has skated in four games this season for Dallas, posting zero points and two shots. He also appeared in two games for Texas on a conditioning assignment from Oct. 31 - Nov. 1 and registered an assist.
Florida's finisher, the Jets have a hot goaltender, Landeskog, lineup news and more in Scott Cullen's Statistically Speaking.
Brandon Pirri - The Panthers centre scored a pair of goals in a 4-1 win at Toronto. Pirri has 11 goals in the past 13 games and has 20 goals and two assists for the season.
Ondrej Pavelec - The Jets goaltender stopped 39 of 41 shots in a 5-2 win vs. Montreal. It's quite a turnaround. From 2011-2012 through 2013-2014, there were 29 goaltenders that played at least 100 games, and Pavelec's .904 save percentage ranked 29th.
However, since the beginning of March, Pavelec's .963 save percentage is best in the league (minimum 240 minutes).
Gabriel Landeskog - Colorado's captain is finishing strong, even the Avalanche push for the playoffs is an uphill battle. He tallied a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win at Vancouver, and has 23 points (12 G, 11 A) in the past 20 games.
John Tavares - Along with linemate Kyle Okposo, the Islanders' first liners had trouble against Los Angeles' first unit, on the ice for all three Kings goals against and managing possession in the low-to-mid-30s when facing their most common matchup against Anze Kopitar (35.7%) and Justin Williams (32.1%).
read on at TSN...
from Craig Custance of ESPN,
We always refer to the trip Eastern Conference teams make through Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim as the "California gauntlet", but the swing through the New York metro area isn't exactly a cake walk for Western teams. Cory Schneider has been an absolute wall for the Devils, while the New York Islanders and New York Rangers are high-end playoff teams.
That's what makes the Los Angeles Kings' march through that portion of their schedule so impressive. They beat the Devils, Rangers and Islanders by a combined score of 10-5 over the last week. The winning goal over the Islanders on Thursday night was vintage Kings: the trio of Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams put in a dominant shift in the offensive zone that led to Kopitar scoring the game-winner.
If they keep this up, the reigning champs may not only make the playoffs, but could end up earning home ice in the first round.
read on for Strang on the Senators, LeBrun on the Panthers and more...
from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News,
There was an overtime winner scored Thursday night in First Niagara Center that sent tons of folks home happy. It was accompanied by loud cheers with fans leaping out of their seats, many with arms in the air.
One thing was missing: The goal horn. That’s because the goal wasn’t scored by the Sabres.
It came from Arizona’s Sam Gagner and gave the Coyotes a 4-3 win over Buffalo in a game played through what has to rate as one of the most awkward atmospheres in franchise history.
In the bizarro world of Tankapalooza 2015, Thursday’s defeat rates as a major victory in the turtle race for 30th overall in the NHL. The Coyotes moved six points ahead of Buffalo in 29th place. Buffalo has a game in hand but only eight games left, including Monday’s rematch in Glendale, Ariz.
It looks like a huge deficit for Buffalo to overcome. The fact is, however, the masses’ obsession with Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel means they want no part of it getting wiped out.
from Stephen Lorenzo of the NY Daily News,
With just three wins in the Islanders’ last 12 games and no home wins in March, one must seriously wonder if it’s time for the Isles to press the panic button.
The Isles dropped another game at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday, this one, 3-2, to the Kings. A poor clearing effort by the entire team − particularly Kyle Okposo − led to a late third period Anze Kopitar goal to seal it for Los Angeles. The Isles have now dropped six straight at home.
“We can’t sit back at this point in the season and be happy (about) where we are. We haven’t done anything,” Travis Hamonic said. “There are teams right behind us. I don’t know who won tonight, but there’s teams right behind us and we’ve got to realize what’s at stake.”...
“Clearly we have to be a lot better, starting with myself,” said John Tavares, who played one of his worst games of the season. “I know that I have not played close to my best the last couple of games, certainly tonight.”
from lJay Palansky of the Toronto Star,
To be fair, Ovechkin has had a good season and there really aren’t any forwards that have stepped up and separated themselves from the pack. Still, giving Ovechkin the MVP would be a travesty.
Mainstream analysts see that Ovechkin’s 47 goals leads the league by 7, he has a +/- of +11 — which looks positively stellar compared to the disastrous -35 he put up last year — and that the Capitals are going to make the playoffs. That’s all they need to know.
To them I say it’s time to look beyond goals. Ovechkin’s offensive numbers actually aren’t particularly impressive. In 5-on-5 play, he’s 90th in the league in points per 60 minutes. Plus, Ovechkin has only 26 assists, a microscopic 14 of which are 5-on-5. Since 1970, the fewest assists by a forward to win MVP in a full season was 45 — and that was by Brett Hull in 1990-91, when he potted 86 goals. Even adjusting for the overall decrease in scoring in the league since 1991, Ovechkin’s season isn’t in the same universe,
The love from some in the analytics community is more unexpected. Their argument focuses primarily on Ovechkin’s solid shot attempt differential of 54.5 per cent. They then apply some magic analytics pixie dust by disregarding Ovechkin’s actual goal differential to calculate what the Capitals’ “expected” goals for and against when Ovechkin is on the ice would be if Ovechkin’s linemates and goalies had a “league-average shooting and goaltending,” rather than the considerably below-average shooting and save percentages they actually have.
from Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press,
They have not wilted. No fade and no quit. And if they can manage to get into the post-season, the Winnipeg Jets just might prove to be a tough out.
With each passing day, the Jets appear to be getting stronger. They've won six of seven, they're getting brilliant goaltending and, little by little, they're getting healthy.
After 75 games, it appears they will need three more wins to achieve their first goal. After that, well, they say anything can happen.
There's reason to believe with the way the Jets are constructed, this won't be a team that reaches the playoffs only to be swept away in short order.
Big, fast and willing to bang, the Jets will be inexperienced but built with some of the characteristics needed to win in the post-season.
Their offence comes from hard work and not flash. The blue-line has size and mobility. And right now, at this most crucial of junctures, they are getting outstanding goaltending.
Last night's 5-2 bouncing of the visiting Montreal Canadiens gave the Jets 90 points on the season. They're knocking at the door. Soon they'll be pounding at the door. And maybe, just maybe, in the immortal but slightly sanitized words of Bum Phillips, they'll kick the son of a gun in.
from Darren Dreger of TSN,
"There will be a formal announcement soon," is how prospective NHL owner Bill Foley responded when asked if his group is moving closer to expansion to Las Vegas.
Foley won't divulge specifics, but says he hopes to be in position to make the announcement in a month.
"We're really pleased with how it's going," Foley told TSN. "Now we want to expand our base to ensure the support we have is as widespread as possible."
Sources familiar with this process suggest the corporate sector, including the many casinos in Las Vegas represent the next phase of the ticket drive and overall market study.
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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