Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
The best part of the hockey season begins tonight—yet we are on the outside looking in.
It is a most unfortunate place to be.
It must be different in a place such as Columbus, where there have been no playoffs, and hockey isn’t all over your television, and you don’t have a fantasy playoff draft, and you have to never think about what game is being shown on any given night.
But this is Hockey Country—and this is a market that lives, dies and emotes on a far too personal basis about everything that is Maple Leafs. And by not being good enough to make the playoffs, it isn’t only that Leafs fans aren’t always certain where to turn, it’s that they have been essentially robbed of the opportunity to be part of hockey at its very best.
Just in case you don’t know what teams play tonight.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
So why, apart from their recent pattern of stumbling in the early playoff rounds, is there so little love for the Red Wings?
Kirk Maltby, who has played for Detroit since 1996, doesn’t know for sure, but he’s heard the doom-and-gloom naysayers.
“It’s funny, we were talking about this a couple of weeks ago,” Maltby said.
“I have XM radio in my truck and I listen to it all the time. At the beginning of the year, you had all these people calling in, trying to make predictions. People were saying we would be sixth or eighth — make the playoffs, but just slide in and then don’t do too much damage at all.
“I was kind of shaking my head….”
from the New York Post,
“It looks like [Wade] Dubielewicz will keep playing,” Nolan said after the team practiced. “More than likely (it will be Dubielewicz). Ricky’s not in our thought pattern right now.”
That would change should DiPietro stay symptom-free and pass a neurological test, which could happen as soon as tomorrow. If that did occur, he still would need practice time before returning to game action.
“Rick’s trying to get back, but all our whole focus has to be on the guys we have,” Nolan said.
from Bob McKenzie of TSN,
Do the Devils have that extra gear on offence? Can Lou Lamoreillo’s squad kick it up a notch? I think the new coach is concerned about it, and that’s why he decided to go behind the bench.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, by contrast, does have that extra gear. This series is going to be a lot closer than people think because of Tampa’s extra jump up front.
read on...Bob touches on many of the firs round matchups…
from Roy MacGregor at the Globe and Mail,
He is only 23 years old, but feels almost elderly when talking about Sidney Crosby, the 19-year-old star he will face tonight when Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins visit Spezza’s Ottawa Senators in the first game of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Both were child prodigies in a game in which the majority of Canadian parents would rather see their sons play a single exhibition game in the National Hockey League than become prime minister.
Both were being written up in major newspapers by ages 13 and 14, Spezza making a quick leap from peewee hockey in Mississauga to bantam and, at 15, off to the major-junior leagues.
from Jeff Z. Klein & Karl-Eric Reif of the New York Times,
If the Stanley Cup playoffs are anything like the just concluded regular season, hockey fans are in for a treat. Despite some persistent problems — an epidemic of head injuries from legal but malicious checks, a pro-fighting backlash against new rules designed to reduce violence and lagging attendance in several cities — the hallmark of the 2006-7 season has been an abundance of beautiful, creative goal-scoring.
Buffalo and Detroit have scored those beautiful goals most often, the main reason they finished first in their conferences and are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Many of the Sabres’ goals have come from gorgeous clockwork passing on full-tilt rushes to the net, reminiscent of the great Soviet teams of the 1970s. Many of the Red Wings’ goals have come from precision combination play in tight spaces, an ingenious game of high-speed tic-tac-toe.
from Randy Youngman of the OC Register,
“No shootouts, right?” Selanne said, smiling.
Ding-ding!The Ducks were 4-10 in shootouts in the regular season, probably the only thing that prevented them from skating off with the Presidents Trophy for best overall record in the NHL.
Their second weakness was a little more subtle — playing down to the level of their competition, as they did on several occasions during the best season in franchise history.
That, however, can’t happen anymore.
“Exactly,” Selanne said after Monday’s practice at Honda Center. “There are seven teams with over 100 points in our conference, so there are no easy games anymore.”
from Jacques Demers at USA TODAY,
There’s little need for motivation. I used to put together a film demonstrating the great plays every player made during the regular season to pump them up, but the Cup was the true motivating factor. I always told my players that since everyone was a kid, they were dreaming about the Cup. We controlled our destiny. Stay away from bad penalties. Take short shifts. If someone gives you an elbow, just take it, because the person who retaliates usually gets the penalty.
Players aren’t nervous. They are edgy. They want to play. They’re not tired. They find energy. They’re looking forward to this. It’s a huge challenge to win four out of seven.
from Nicole Swanson at NHL Connect,
I really get into hockey this time of year; I get really excited about the playoffs. I remember specifically in 2003, my roommates and I, and one of the guys’ rooms in our apartment complex, we got together for every single game. We took a couch and TV out into the parking lot and watched all the games start to finish.
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