Kukla's Korner Hockey
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The commissioner wanted parity in the league and he's got that whole-heartedly. There are 16 teams that get into the playoffs and legitimately any one of them could get out of their conference this year. That's what the league wanted and they did a nice job. But I don't know if they anticipated the parity of the top 8 or 9 top players, how similar and how valuable they all are to their own teams; how valuable a guy like Tavares is to the Islanders, Voracek to the Flyers, Crosby to the Penguins, and so on. I don't know if we've ever seen in hockey so many superstars that are so equally matched at this point in their careers. It's parity in teams, and it's parity with the superstars, that's pretty good for hockey."
-Wayne Gretzky. More from and on Gretzky from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.
from Aaron Vickers at NHL.com.
With eight games remaining in the regular season, Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley isn't concerned about his poker face.
A critical five-game road trip facing the Flames, one that could have serious implications on their bid to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, instead has Hartley insisting Calgary's crew is all in.
"It seems that we always find a way to elevate our games in situations that we need to and right now we're all in," Hartley said. "The chips are all on the table right now. There's no bluffs. We have to come up with our best performances and it's fun. I'm enjoying the games. The players are on the job. This city is right behind us."
The Flames, who completed a five-game homestand with a 2-1-2 record following a 4-3 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, begin their final extended road trip of the season Friday against the Minnesota Wild. It continues against the Nashville Predators, Stars, St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers.
Calgary will start the trip on the outside looking in.
In ninth place in the Western Conference, the Flames are one point behind the Los Angeles Kings for third in the Pacific Division and three behind the Vancouver Canucks for second.
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.”
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 email@example.com