Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing,
Heading into the Stanley Cup Conference Finals, the suits at NBC were surely crossing their fingers and doing whatever superstitious ritual they could think of to get a dream Stanley Cup Final in the ratings department: Rangers vs Blackhawks.
Chicago. New York. Two members of the original six. Two of the biggest markets in the country. Two teams with national namebrand recognition. Two cities with hockey in their sports DNA. It wouldn’t get better than that.
Instead, after three games in the west and the east, NBC is looking straight down the barrel at a matchup that is most certainly a polar opposite: Ducks vs Lightning.
Tampa Bay. Anaheim. Two of hockey’s more recent expansion representatives. Warm weather. Sunshine. Palm trees. It’s not exactly the ghosts of Stan Mikita and Eddie Giacomin.
Why is this the case? The numbers tell the story.
The Ducks were involved in the lowest rated Stanley Cup Final in the last 20 years back in 2007. Senators-Ducks averaged a paltry 1.2 rating over the course of 5 games and just 1.7 million viewers on average.
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
Despite coach Alain Vigneault’s assertions that the Lightning “aren’t dictating” the pace of the series, it’s pretty clear that’s exactly what’s happened during the past two games. The Rangers may be fast, but Tampa Bay has been faster, more insistent on the attack and far more creative. The Lightning are seizing New York’s zone. They’re scoring off the rush. And the Rangers are all but waving hello as they breeze by.
The Lightning have put them on their heels with breakouts and speed through the neutral zone. It’s easy to blame the defense for not slowing the Bolts down, but much of the problem lies in the failings of the forwards to get back and take away Tampa Bay’s numeric advantage. So instead of mucking it up, as they did so effectively in their 2–1 Game 1 victory, the Rangers’ defensemen have too often been forced to fall back and allow the Bolts entry into their end. That lack of aggression is putting too much pressure on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who looked shaky while facing 40 shots in that 6–5 Game 3 loss.
The All-Star keeper clearly has to find a way to get over the mental hump of his past two beatings. He’s has allowed 12 goals on just 66 shots in the two losses, including the very stoppable 30-foot wrister from Nikita Kucherov that ended Game 3 in overtime, after giving up just 21 goals on 379 shots in his previous 13 games.
Both teams were among the NHL’s worst this season and have a lot of questions to be answered. Today, you can’t accurately say either is absolutely on the right track, and in Toronto, Babcock has predicted “pain” for the near future. Both teams have owners who appear to be committed, but don’t have a track record of winning.
How they build and develop their respective organizations will determine whether the pieces they already have turn into anything at all, and whether Babcock made the right choice or blew it by choosing not to shuffle off to Buffalo.
-Damien Cox of Sportsnet on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. Read more on this topic from Cox.
What can you expect from Mike Babcock...
- Honesty, to the point that it may hurt at times.
- Frustration, come on Mike, play someone else, he deserves the ice time.
- Fantastic- One of his buzz words.
- Compassion for the game and his team.
- Won't disclose much, it stays in the room.
- If he does disclose, there is a reason behind it.
- If a player sits, it is because he does not give your team the best chance to win.
- Bottom line, winning, in the end that is what counts most.
Below, the opening of Mike Babcock's presser with the Detroit media.
Home Team in Caps
Anaheim 2, CHICAGO 1 – ANA leads series 2-1
DUCKS BOUNCE BACK, TAKE 2-1 SERIES LEAD OVER BLACKHAWKS
Frederik Andersen stopped 27 shots, including all 21 he faced after the first period, and Simon Despres scored the tiebreaking goal in the final minute of the middle frame to propel the Ducks to a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference Final.
* The Ducks improved to 10-2 this postseason (w/ both losses in OT). Per Elias, they have won 10 of their first 12 playoff games for the second time in franchise history. The other instance: in 2003, when the Ducks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in club history. The 2012 Kings were the last team to accomplish that feat, going 11-1 in their first 12 games en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
It was a laughing matter to Alain Vigneault, the coach so taken aback by the inquiry at the Rangers’ press availability at the team hotel Thursday that he chuckled both before answering and while saying with a touch of incredulity, “Is that a question?”
The question, and I am the one who posed it, was whether Henrik Lundqvist would be in nets for Friday’s Game 4 of the conference final against the Lightning after having been torched for a six-pack in both of the Blueshirts’ Games 2 and 3 defeats.
(Journalism 101: There might be stupid questioners but the only stupid questions are the ones not asked.)
Vigneault’s answer to the question was simply, “Yes,” just as his answer to the follow-up about whether this was something into which he had invested much thought, was, “No.”
“Hank’s the guy,” Vigneault said.
from Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Tribune,
It's the most dramatic moment in all of hockey. In all of sports, really. Is there anything more exciting, more agonizing, more gripping than sudden death overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
And the phrase itself — sudden death — is the most provocative in sports. Isn't it fascinating that it is from the perspective of the losing team, not the team that wins?
We don't call it sudden victory or sudden life. And the term is worse than sudden loss, probably because losing feels like more than just a loss.
For a hockey team, it does feel a little like death, as if your season is on the verge of passing on. For many teams, an overtime loss often does lead to the end of a season. Losing that suddenly is like having your heart ripped out. Surely that's what the Rangers must be feeling after losing Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final in sudden death overtime to the Lightning on Wednesday night.
You're so close to victory. Just a goal away. A goal and you win a precious game in a best-of-seven series. A loss in sudden death is like climbing a mountain, slipping just before the summit and falling all the way to the bottom again. All that you worked for is lost in an instant.
from Barry Rozner of the Chicago Daily-Herald,
The Ducks stifled the Hawks in the third and yet another power play went for naught when the Hawks failed to get bodies to the net and pucks to the goal.
"It's frustrating," Sharp said. "We have to be better. We have to get pucks to the net."
Captain Jonathan Toews did not use the word, but he didn't have to. His remarks were short and his temper not far behind.
"We're not making any excuses," Toews said. "We'll find ways to be better in the next one. It's a great team we're playing and we know we have to be better on special teams."
Most frustrating for Hawks fans was seeing Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom back in the lineup in place of Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette.
It meant Andrew Shaw was back at third-line center after some terrific games as a fourth-line winger. It meant the ineffective Versteeg dragged down another line, this time with Sharp on it, and it meant no Teravainen, which is inexplicable.
Perhaps most baffling is burying Sharp on the third line, when he could be helping Patrick Kane shake loose. To this point, Kane has a single point in the series after a Ducks collision offered him a loose puck in the slot and led to a goal late in the first period Thursday.
Nick Kypreos talks hockey with Keith Olbermann.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Instead of letting the past determine their future, the Anaheim Ducks revealed an inner fortitude that now has them halfway to a berth in the Stanley Cup finals.
Less than 48 hours after a crushing triple-overtime defeat in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, the Ducks turned up in one of the loudest, most difficult buildings to play in and came away with a 2-1 victory that gives them a 2-1 series lead.
It was not particularly pretty at times.
The Ducks seemed to fall into a potentially destructive shell in the third period as they tried to nurse a one-goal lead across the finish line, relying on netminder Frederik Andersen to come up huge -- again -- as Chicago outshot Anaheim 10-5 in the third period.
And the pace was well off the dazzling to and fro that dominated the epic clash in Game 2.
But when it mattered most on Thursday night, the Ducks proved they were made of sterner stuff than could be deflated by a triple-overtime loss. And the battle-tested Blackhawks revealed that perhaps winning a game in triple overtime can be as taxing as losing one.
Watch the game highlights below...
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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