Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
This is the moment of reckoning for the Montreal Canadiens.
The NHL's second-best team in the regular season with 110 points never has garnered the kind of respect and belief from the rest of the hockey world that the runners-up to the Presidents' Trophy would normally get. Perhaps some of that is the new age of parity in today’s NHL, where there are truly no longer any great teams by yesteryear’s definition.
But more than anything, it’s the perception, fair or not, that Hart Trophy front-runner Carey Price cooked the books all year long and provided a mirage in the standings, lifting the Habs to a place they truly don’t belong.
And so with the Ottawa Senators now breathing down their necks with that knowing look in their eye, the Canadiens are faced with their first real adversity of the entire season.
Unlike the Sens, who have played like there's no tomorrow for two months, the Habs have coasted comfortably from Day 1 in October, never once losing more than three games in a row all season.
They’re in the frying pan for the first time. And all those people around the league who don’t believe in them, from the analytics community to just old-school scouts, are waiting breathlessly to jump on them over the next few days if they blow a 3-0 series lead.
from Dave Hodge of TSN,
Despite a fairly successful season after sweeping changes to the front office and the coaching staff, it is thumbs down to the Vancouver Canucks' less-than-rosy outlook for next season and beyond. Concern begins with their inability to defeat Calgary in the first playoff round. Entering this season, the Flames were not one of the teams that should have concerned Vancouver. Now it may be safe to say the Canucks will have Calgary to worry about, and maybe to chase, for a good long time.
And last night’s loss will leave a mark. No one expects Los Angeles and San Jose to suffer again as they did this season, and I know you've heard this before with other names attached, but Edmonton is on the verge of something big if Connor McDavid and Peter Chiarelli deliver as expected. Anaheim would appear untouchable at the top of the Pacific Division, and Arizona probably remains at the bottom.
Can the Canucks expect to do as they did this season and finish ahead of the Flames, Kings, Sharks and Oilers? Is it possible they will not finish ahead of any of them? You wonder if the Canucks have gone as far as they can go with a lineup that relies on the Sedins to lead them in scoring.
Is Ryan Miller their starting goalie when next season begins? And there are more questions. The Pacific Division wasn't its usual strong self this season. It should look plenty strong when Vancouver contemplates the future.
continue for some praise for Mike Babcock...
from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
Tearing everything apart again and starting over makes no sense. It’s easy to say Rutherford and especially Johnston should be fired. Detroit coach Mike Babcock is a free agent-in-waiting, and many fans are begging the Penguins to take a run at him. But Babcock is expected to get a huge offer to stay in Detroit or go to Toronto or Philadelphia. He won’t be worth it. Check out his NHL record. It’s not any better than Bylsma’s.
“Ron [Burkle] and Mario [Lemieux] have never given any consideration to replacing our general manager or our coach,” Morehouse said.
“The coach never had a chance to coach his team. The injuries started in training camp and never let up. We had a player diagnosed with cancer. We had another with a blood clot. We had five guys with the mumps. And that was before the regular hockey injuries.”
The injuries peaked right before the playoffs when Letang and Christian Ehrhoff went out with concussions, joining Olli Maatta (shoulder surgery) in the press box.
“You have to look at reality,” Morehouse said. “I don’t know if any team in the league would win without three of its top four defensemen.”
from Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun,
With some wind at their back, the Senators will get an extra push in Game 6 from what could be the loudest, wildest crowd Canadian Tire Centre has ever hosted.
The once unimaginable story of Ottawa's Comeback Kids has the citizens in a state of euphoria.
"Games 3 and 4 were incredible," Bobby Ryan said when asked to predict what the atmosphere would be like Sunday. "I was told about it and prepared for it, but couldn't believe it. The building is going to be rocking, and our fans certainly deserve it."
It started off like that at Bell Centre on Sunday night, but the Senators never did really allow the Habs' faithful anything to get overly excited about.
"The only stat I know is we beat them," coach Dave Cameron when asked about 18 turnovers by his club, which was outshot 46-25. "I don't think at any point that game was in doubt, from our point of view."
If you just looked at the box score, you would wonder what Cameron was smoking. If you watched the game, you understood him to be correct.
"We're still down 3-2. We have to concentrate on the game (Sunday)," said Cameron. "The fact that you're home doesn't guarantee you anything. We have to find a way to win another hockey game.
from Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times,
The Lightning's top scoring threat was held without a goal for the eighth consecutive playoff game, dating to last season's first-round defeat against Montreal. Including the regular season, Stamkos is on a six-game drought without a goal and has only three in his past 14 games.
"It's tough," said Stamkos, who was second in the league with 43 goals during the regular season. "Obviously I want to produce. It's not for lack of effort. … It's just not going the way I want it to right now."
Detroit's defensemen have been a big reason for that, limiting him to two assists in Game 2 and nothing since.
The Red Wings have made it a focus to limit Stamkos' opportunities by keeping the puck away from him. He had only two shots Saturday in 19 minutes on the ice, including 2:43 on the power play.
"Obviously when you look at their team, the guys who are going to get the most attention are (Tyler) Johnson and Stamkos," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "You do everything you can to make sure those guys have the fewest touches possible."
from Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Let’s get this out of the way up front: I’m not counting the Blues out. The Note is certainly up against it, trailing the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. The Blues must win Sunday’s Game 6 to haul the series back to St. Louis for a final showdown.
I don’t rule out a win in St. Paul. Since the calendar flipped to 2015 the Blues have played their best hockey on the road, revving up for an impressive 16-4-3 record that includes Games 3 and 4 of this series.
We’ll see how the Blues will choose to confront their potential demise in Game 6. Can they win two consecutive games, survive and advance to a spot in the second round?
I’m highly skeptical, because this team is so fragile.
I really believed that would change after the Blues’ emphatic statement in their 6-1 victory in Game 4. Refusing to slide into a 3-1 series deficit, a skittish team that had been so easily dismissed in three previous Stanley Cup tournaments finally put up a fight and trounced the Wild.
But just when you thought it was safe to believe the Blues would show up and doggedly protect their home-ice advantage in Game 5, they had another letdown.
from Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune,
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times,
To be a goalie is to be the target for target practice, the easy excuse for every goal and the person most likely to be benched. Yet goalies eat their gruel and ask for more.
Saturday was another reminder of the job’s wild extremes and why, given a choice, an aspiring goalie might want to seek more stable employment, such as bomb defuser.
Scott Darling, the biggest sports story in Chicago a few days ago, was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period and likely won’t see the ice again during the playoffs. Corey Crawford, treated like a communicable disease around town last week, took Darling’s place to huge roars at the United Center and even louder ones when the Blackhawks came back to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 and advance to the next round of the playoffs.
It would be a miracle if neither of these guys has major trust issues in life.
There would seem to be no turning back now for coach Joel Quenneville as it concerns his goalies. Crawford replaced Darling with 11 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first period, and it will be a shocker if we see Darling again in the playoffs. A coach can’t keep yo-yoing his goalies like this. Make a decision and stick with it.
In the end, when the horn went off, there seemed to be extra meaning in the hugs that teammates gave Crawford. First Duncan Keith, who scored the winning goal, then the rest of the Hawks, who know what Crawford has been through.
from Scott Mitchell of the Calgary Sun,
The thing about playoff hockey is the longer you play, the harder it gets.
Minutes after dispatching the Vancouver Canucks in six games thanks to a rousing come-from-behind 7-4 win at the Saddledome on Saturday, the Calgary Flames quickly turned their attention to the Anaheim Ducks.
And the Honda Center.
It’s been a house of horrors for the Flames, who haven’t won in Orange County in the regular-season since 2004.
They did pick up a win at The Pond in the playoffs back in the ’05-06 season, but lost that series in seven games.
“Thanks for reminding me,” quipped Flames winger Jiri Hudler, whose sensational two goal, two assist performance in the clincher helped book the date with the Ducks.
Can they change their fortunes in Southern California?
“We hope so,” Hudler said. “We’re going to play hard and we’ll see what happens.”
Here is the NHL's recap...
Below, Sportsnet's has a shorter version...
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.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org