Kukla's Korner Hockey
from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,
This leaves an interesting battle ahead for the Penguins, who have lost just two games so far in the playoffs. Assuming the Detroit Red Wings will finally put the Dallas Stars away in the Western Conference final, the Penguins will face a complete team with more experience.
However, the Red Wings are weaker in one crucial spot: goal. Chris Osgood is not Fleury’s equal, which could be fatal given the quality of the Penguins’ shooters.
Fleury came into the season with a lot of questions surrounding him. But after he returned from an ankle injury late in the season, he began living up to the promise the Penguins saw when they took him first overall in the 2003 draft.
from Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Star-Telegram,
NBC, Versus, the suits in the NHL and, judging by their cocky attitudes, most Wings players feel the Stars have just been an annoying little speed bump on the road to their dream of Wings-Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Stars were supposed to facilitate that by doing what Philly did—going to Detroit and then going away.
Instead we have another hockey game at the AAC and a definite shift in momentum. The Stars have the hot goalie, one of the toughest captains, a cast of emerging youngsters and growing confidence.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
But just 17 months after Canadian technology mogul Jim Balsillie walked away from his offer to buy the team—and presumably begin the process of moving the team to Canada—these same Penguins are headed to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were leading the Pens to the second of back-to-back Cups in 1992.
From chaos to the Cup finals in the blink of an eye.
“It seems like a long time ago. It really wasn’t, but it just seems we’ve come a long way, on and off the ice,” GM Ray Shero said after the Penguins ended this Eastern Conference finals series with an emphatic 6-0 shutout of the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 on Sunday. “It’s a great thing for the city of Pittsburgh and this franchise.”
from Ed Moran of the Philadelphia Daily News,
This summer, Holmgren’s focus is going to be much narrower. The base of the team he built, the one that showed it was talented enough to get to the Eastern Conference final - a year after finishing dead last in the NHL - is intact.
Keeping it that way will be the first task. The Flyers have restricted free agents that include R.J. Umberger, Jeff Carter and Randy Jones. Losing any of those players would be a blow. Holmgren has to find the salary-cap space to sign them.
And then, he must add to the defensive corps. Jason Smith is an unrestricted free agent; he will not fit into the Flyers’ plans and neither will Jaroslav Modry.
Derian Hatcher’s health will be an issue. He missed a lot of hockey with persistent knee problems.
from Jeff Z. Klein of Slap Shot at the NYT,
The hockey landscape has changed — NHL clubs must now look on Russian clubs not as feeder teams whose rosters can be harvested, but as full economic equals. Fortunately for the NHL, it still has the reputation and the quality of life to assure that the Ovechkins and Semins will keep coming to North America, at least for the next few years. But NHL clubs are no longer the only ones with the money. The collapse of the IIHF-NHL player transfer agreement is proof of that.
from Mike Brophy of the Hockey News,
American TV executives must be tickled pink. It doesn’t matter who the Western Conference champion is, they got The Kid.
Sid the Kid.
Say what you want about the best two teams making the final each year; it means squat to American television and no matter what your sensibilities are concerning this issue, the NHL is still very much trying to sell itself as a major attraction in the USA.
Having Sidney Crosby in the final does that.
from James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail,
The fact that troubled winger Chris Simon and backup netminder John Grahame won’t be returning to the NHL next season likely comes as little surprise, but what’s interesting is that the pair have signed with teams in the newly branded Continental Hockey League (formerly the Russian Super League) this weekend.
Mike Babcock, Nick Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby, Pavel Datsyuk and Kris Draper talke today…
Q. Your guys said they admitted they were playing tight yesterday. When a team comes out tight like that, how do you approach that? Is that a coach thing? Is that a captain thing? A player thing? Who takes charge there?
COACH MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I think everybody does. But, I mean, that’s exactly what we talked about. I mean, you can be tight and tentative or you can be loose and try. Straightforward. When you’re tight, I mean, you’re slower.
So, yeah, you being slower, them working hard, that’s just a little bit of difference that makes, and your execution is not as good.
It’s interesting, when I walked out of the rink with my wife and my son, my son was like he got shot, you know, he said, You’re flat. Well, we’re so far from flat it’s not even funny. But for your normal fan who comes to the game, that looks like the start of a game in November where you’re half asleep. Well, that’s not the case.
But you want to win so bad, sometimes you get in the way of yourself. One of the greatest skills as a professional athlete or anybody is controlling activation level. Sometimes you just got to take a deep breath.
Q. Your team was so powerful these playoffs. Did you think, coming in after learning in only four games last year that, you could put together a run like you put together this one?
COACH THERRIEN: You always approach the playoff with a lot of confidence. And the confidence that we had is the way that we’ve been finishing the year the last two months I thought we played some great hockey.
Not only offensively, but defensively, too, as well. The way Marc‑Andre Fleury was playing, too. There was no doubt that we were approaching every single game with a lot of confidence. But to be quite honest, when we start the playoffs, we’re not thinking about the Stanley Cup final. Our main focus was on the first round, and that was our philosophy with that young group.
I’m not a big fan to look on top of the mountain when there’s a lot of steps to be made. And the next one, it’s another step.
“We’ve got good players on the horizon and we all know the Olympics are the measuring stick,” Hitchcock said. “If you’re talking about world power and you’re talking about supremacy in hockey, you talk about the Olympics. They’re missing players for this tournament – there’s a player playing in Detroit (Pavel Datsyuk) who’s not bad - and we’re missing players in this tournament. When you get it together at the Olympics and everybody is there, that’s the measuring stick. We all know that.”
more on the WC from Ken Campbell of the Hockey News…
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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