Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,
And it will be bloody - not in the literal sense - for the Islanders, who established themselves as a playoff contender over the first half of the year with a relentless work ethic that overcame holes in the lineup, but who have been unable to muster the necessary inspiration to overcome fatigue, warts, injuries and a suspension down the stretch.
Have we mentioned that the Islanders are 5-7-4 since Garth Snow appropriately pulled the trigger on the trade for Ryan Smyth?
Have we mentioned that the Islanders are 3-7-2 since Alexei Yashin returned to the lineup on Mar. 8 after going 8-2-4 while he was down with a knee?
Hmmm. Must be a coincidence….
There is tonight for the Rangers and Islanders, but if the Blueshirts win, there will be no tomorrows for Ted Nolan’s team. This more likely than not means no tomorrows on the Island for, among others, Smyth and Jason Blake. Talk about an organization on the brink.
from Stan Fischler at the Hockey Journal,
• Mats Sundin crying about the NHL’s playoff arrangement is pure and simple sour grapes. Why would he suggest that it’s unfair that the Southeast Division-winner getting home ice in the first round is unfair? Sundin knew the score at the start of the season and said nothing about it then. That’s why we can’t buy any of his end-of-campaign bleating.
• Marty Biron may be the answer to the Flyers’ goaltending prayers. But, then again, his showing on Friday and Saturday suggests that Robert Esche and Antero Niittymaki would have been just as good with the mediocre squad in front of them.
from Al Strachan at Fox Sports,
There are many things that can be said about New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello — not all of them complimentary.
But this much you have to concede: He’s decisive.
Sensing now, as he did in 2000, that his team was doomed to playoff failure despite a modicum of regular-season success, he fired his coach….
To say that the hockey world was shocked would be something of an understatement. Usually in situations of this nature, the whispers have been going around and a few insiders have been confiding to their friends that the coach in question is on a slippery slope.
But in the New Jersey gulag, where loose talkers get deported to other franchises, where media relations personnel eavesdrop on conversations, where a hidden camera spies on players who might talk to the media in the hallway, where player attendance at off-day meals is mandatory and mature adults are not allowed a glass of wine with dinner, the free flow of information is not a high priority.
from John Buccigross of ESPN,
The playoffs begin next week. So, for those of you who need a refresher course on what has happened this NHL season, here are some notes from while you were away.
• This season’s story has unquestionably been what is happening in Pittsburgh. Last season, the Penguins had the fewest points in the Eastern Conference and the second fewest in the NHL
• What is happening in Buffalo this season is right on the heels of what is taking place in Pittsburgh. The Sabres don’t have that transcendent, matinee idol in Crosby, but they have a pulse provided by fans that gives the Western New York experience a sense of community that is warm and pure. It is middle America at its finest.
much, much more from John…
from Eric Duhastchek of the Globe and Mail,
This is what we know for sure with a week to go in a delirious, nerve-wracking, throat-constricting National Hockey League playoff race:
The Vancouver Canucks are in; the Ottawa Senators are in; and the Calgary Flames will get in, provided they win one of their four remaining games.
The Edmonton Oilers are out; the miracle run of 2006 a long-forgotten memory. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens can technically both still make it, but in all probability, only one will. If that happens, it will likely be at the expense of the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes, meaning that for the first time in 80 years, both of last year’s finalists would fail to qualify for the playoffs.
from Helene St. James at the Detroit Free Press,
Sunday during the telecast of the Detroit-Columbus game, former Wing Brett Hull, now an NBC hockey analyst, stated that Pavel Datsyuk would not be back next season because he’s unhappy with coach Mike Babcock.
I asked Datsyuk about that claim this morning, and Datsyuk said he didn’t know where Hull got that information. The two talked briefly before yesterday’s game, but “we did not talk about next year,” Datsyuk said. “I ask him what he doing there, he say he is commentator.”
Hull’s remarks created a stir among Wings fans at A2Y...
Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, Florida Panthers center Olli Jokinen and Detroit Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hasek have been named the NHL’s ‘Three Stars’ for the week ending April 1.
Each Monday, the NHL will recognize three players who delivered the League’s top performances over the past week.
FIRST STAR—MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF, G, CALGARY FLAMES
Kiprusoff backstopped the Flames to three consecutive victories, posting a 1.30 goals-against average and .959 save percentage. He made 38 saves in recording his seventh shutout of the season as Calgary defeated the Minnesota Wild 1-0 in overtime March 27, blocked 23 of 25 shots in a 4-2 victory over the Wild March 29 and closed the week with 32 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks March 31. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the League’s top goaltender has posted a 40-21-9 record, 2.40 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in 71 appearances this season.
Breaking news via the AP,
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—The New Jersey Devils have fired coach Claude Julien.
Update 1:00 pm EDT:
Again, from AP via ESPN,
Claude Julien was fired as New Jersey Devils coach Monday and replaced by general manager Lou Lamoriello with a week to go in the regular season.
The firing comes after the Devils won four of their last five games. The team is in first place in the Atlantic Division with three games to go.
Julien guided the Devils to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, posting a 47-24-8 mark in his only season as coach.
added 2:10pm, from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
The suspicion was that the majority of players believed Lamoriello was the controlling, behind-the-scenes influence anyway; that Julien had little actual input into the overall scheme of things; and this move was mostly about Lamoriello stepping out from behind the curtains and putting himself squarely on the firing line, as he is wont to do.
NEW YORK (April 2, 2007)—With dramatic playoff races reaching their peak, NHL clubs set an all-time record for March attendance. A total of 3,778,189 fans attended the 218 games for a per-game average of 17,331, well ahead of the previous March high of 17,144 set in 2001-02 and the largest monthly figure in League history (minimum 100 games).
The late-season surge has increased the 2006-07 per-game average to 16,920, with 19,965,364 fans (91.5% of capacity) attending the 1,180 games. The League will surpass the 20-million mark in total attendance for the sixth consecutive season Tuesday and would, with a per-game average of 17,777 over the final 50 games of the regular season, surpass last year’s record attendance figures of 20,854,169 (total) and 16,955 (per-game average).
League-wide average attendance has increased month by month in 2006-07: 16,537 in October, 16,538 in November, 16,850 in December, 17,075 in January, 17,146 in February and 17,331 in March.
from Shawn P. Roarke at NHL.com,
At just 19, Crosby has the brightest of futures still ahead of him. Barring injuries, Crosby should have at least two decades to engineer what promises to be a stunning assault on the NHL record book.
Wayne Gretzky, the current holder of most of the NHL’s offensive records, can’t wait for the assault to begin.
“What he is accomplishing now is truly remarkable,” Gretzky told NHL.com. “He deserves all the accolades he is getting. It will be great to watch his progress here.
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