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from Amalie Benjamin of the NHL's website,
These are four teams that don't always get the headlines and the publicity, that don't come from traditional hockey markets, that have everything to gain from the spot in which they find themselves, here in the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. Combined, the Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights have won the Stanley Cup twice, with the Hurricanes winning it in 2006 and the Stars in 1999.
They will begin the next step of trying to make some new history -- and some new fans -- when they start off the conference finals, with the Panthers and Hurricanes playing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday at PNC Arena in Raleigh (8 p.m. ET; TNT, CBC, TVAS, SN) and the Stars and Golden Knights playing Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Friday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (8:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, CBC, TVAS, SN).
"A deeper playoff run will draw attention to the unique players that we have that you can come and enjoy watching play," Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. "What happens in these runs, it's not just about getting excited because of the spectacle of playoff hockey. You want to get the connection to the home crowd too.
"There'll be a whole bunch of people who are going to buy (Panthers forward) Sam Bennett jerseys based on what they saw. And then I can say that about a bunch of different guys."
from Ken Wiebe of Sportsnet,
The road to this point of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been an interesting one, to say the least, with the Panthers relishing the role of underdog in knocking off the top-seeded and record-setting Boston Bruins in the seventh game in the opening round, then stunning the hockey world once again by ousting the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games, moving Maurice into the fourth conference final of his coaching career.
For the Hurricanes, it’s mostly been a business-like approach in knocking off the New York Islanders in six games and New Jersey Devils in five.
This is a group that’s enjoyed plenty of regular-season success, had a taste of the playoffs over the past few seasons and was supposed to be ready to take the next step, at least until an Achilles injury to Max Pacioretty and a torn ACL for Andrei Svechnikov sent the two high-scoring wingers to the sidelines, reducing them to the role of spectator.
As if that wasn’t enough to overcome, fellow forward Teuvo Teravainen suffered a hand injury in Game 2 of the opening-round series with the Islanders, taking another potent weapon out of the Hurricanes lineup.
Instead of wilting under the pressure and leaning on the excuse of not having enough offensive catalysts to persevere, the injuries seemed to have galvanized the Hurricanes. What is surprising is that the team is scoring at an even higher rate, all the while playing a structured style that has made it difficult for the opponent to penetrate.
As Maurice pointed out to reporters in Florida earlier this week, there are certainly similarities when it comes to the style these two teams play.
5 1/2 minutes to watch.
from Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic,
...you’ll find the NHL’s top 50 unrestricted free agents with player cards showing future trajectories and value for the most intriguing ones. For those who need it, an explainer can be found at the bottom of the post.
Strong Support Players
The best forward available in the 2023 UFA class is Tyler Bertuzzi. Yeah. Not the sexiest list of marquee names at the top this year. Any team looking for a game changer at the top of the lineup won’t find one.
Bertuzzi, though, is a game changer in the middle of a contending lineup. The perfect second-line winger that can score the greasy goals necessary to come out ahead in a playoff atmosphere. The Bruins may have lost in the opening round, but that was through no fault of Bertuzzi’s, whose first taste of playoff action was a huge success. He scored five goals and 10 points in seven games and looked like a beast on every shift.
That’s not unexpected given his history with the Red Wings where he’s always been a strong play-driver and scored 62 points in 68 games last season. After a rough start to the year, he carried that over once he joined the Bruins, a predictable outcome considering how much offense Bertuzzi was creating.
The rub with Bertuzzi is that his play without the puck can be his undoing. His defensive impacts are below average and it’s a big reason why the Bruins were heavily outscored and outchanced with Bertuzzi on the ice at five-on-five in the playoffs. That’s what’s keeping him from being a true top-line player, but he’s still a great fit in any top six.
many more ($) names
Talk, saves and goals.
from Bob Duff of Detroit Hockey Now,
Marco Kasper’s NHL debut for the Detroit Red Wings ended in rave reviews and with a broken kneecap. He suffered the injury while crashing knee first into the boards during a game at Toronto’s Scotiaback Arena.
Even though it was just a one-game audition, Kasper was leaving his veteran NHL teammates suitably impressed.
“Seeing Marco play that game and practice with us, it seems like there’s a lot of good players coming that would help us, help us a lot,” Red Wings defenseman Olli Maatta said.
Reports out of Austria are providing indications that Kasper’s rehab from his season-ending injury are also providing positive returns.
The 19-year-old center, the eighth selection of the 2022 NHL entry draft by Detroit, is already off crutches less than six weeks after suffering the injury as he progressively regains his health. Kasper is working out in Klagenfurt with many of the players from his old club....
He’s reporting no pain from the injury, only stiffness in the movements of the leg as he recovers full use of his knee. Kasper is focusing on upper body workouts to build up his strength as he aims toward earning a spot with the Red Wings in training camp next fall. As his progression continues, projections are that Kasper will be back on skates within a month.
original post was on 5/16/23 at 10:17am KK members' second round picks.
Let's see your Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals picks. If you did not participate in any of the earlier rounds this is the time to show your expertise.
* The puck drops for Game 1 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Final between the Hurricanes and Panthers tonight at 8 p.m. ET on TNT, Sportsnet, CBC and TVA Sports.
* The Panthers, who entered the postseason as the lowest-seeded team, aim to match the second-longest road win streak in Stanley Cup Playoffs history when they take on the NHL’s second-best team from the regular season.
* The Hurricanes, who enter the penultimate round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with home-ice advantage for the third time, eye their first win in the Conference Finals since 2006 – a postseason that concluded with the franchise’s first and only Stanley Cup.
Edmonton Oilers president of hockey operations and general manager Ken Holland said Wednesday that he intended to honour the final year of his contract and remain in the role for the 2023-24 season.
But he added that, while he has "unfinished business," he can't say for sure how long he'll remain in the role.
"I don't invest in green bananas," Holland said at his end-of-season press conference.
Holland, 67, is entering the fifth and final year of his contract after joining the Oilers ahead of the 2019-20 season. Before that, he was general manager of the Detroit Red Wings for 22 years.
The Oilers have made the playoffs in all four seasons under Holland. This season, Edmonton posted a 50-23-9 record and finished second in the Western Conference with 109 points. But the Oilers season ended in the second round against the Vegas Golden Knights and now the GM is looking at his roster to plan for another run next season.
from The Athletic NHL Staff,
It isn’t just the product on the ice that matters. The team in the broadcast booth also plays an important part in shaping the enjoyment of every hockey fan’s television viewing experience.
The Athletic has asked hockey fans to rate their experience with local market broadcasts every year since 2020, after which we do a ranking from 32 to 1.
It’s time to voice your opinion again. We’re inviting you to rank your favorite team’s broadcast on a scale from 1 to 5 and as many other broadcasts as you would like on the same scale.
continued (not sure if it is paid or not)
Less than 3 minutes long.
from David Staples of the Edmonton Journal,
This in from hockey commentator Chris Gawlik of the Locked On VGK podcast, some hardcore criticism of the work of Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft for his work during the Oilers loss the the Vegas Golden Knights.
Gawlik had predicted heading into the series that Vegas would win in seven games because of coach Bruce Cassidy and goalie Laurent Brossoit being superior to Woodcroft and Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner: “Give me the best coach and give me the best goaltending and then we’ll go from there and try to figure things out…. We’ve got the notch in those two categories… Both those checkmarks go to Vegas.”
Did Gawlik’s prediction prove out?
The Vegas commentator is blasting Woodcroft for many of the same things now being heard in Edmonton, with the Oilers coach taking major heat i for not going with goalie Jack Campbell in Game Six, and for his decisions on line-matching in Game Six as well.
Gawlik is astonished that Campbell did not get a start. “You pull Skinner three times in five games and you roll with him in Game Six? I don’t get it.”
Woodcroft failed to start either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl in Games Five and Six and instead went with Ryan McLeod, who took an early penalty in Game Five and was out for the early goal against in Game Six.
* The new-look Conference Finals open Thursday and are set to feature a mix of notable players either returning to the round before the Stanley Cup Final or reaching the final-four series for the first time in their NHL career.
* The 2023 Conference Finals will mark the second time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history that the round before the Final features multiple head coaches facing a franchise with whom they previously held the same role.
* The 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs Interactive Information Guide has been updated through the Second Round.
From dynasties and superstars to dominant regular seasons and playoff runs — hockey has come a long way since its humble beginnings. The debates live on forever about which NHL franchise or which season was "the best ever," and these types of discussions lead us on an exciting journey through the rich history of hockey through all eras. If you're anything like me, you live for this debate! So let's dive into our Top 5 All-Time NHL Teams - get ready, settle in, and prepare to be amazed at more than a century's worth of extraordinary teams!
from Pierre LeBrun of the Athletic,
Tis the season.
We’re down to four teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which means for 28 other teams around the NHL, the offseason is in full swing.
The Penguins have been busy conducting interviews as they seek to fill out their front office. They’re looking to hire both a president of hockey operations and a general manager.
They chatted with a dozen or so people via Zoom in the first round of GM interviews and are cutting down the list to a shorter group for in-person second-round interviews, according to league sources. Some of the first-round candidates were informed Tuesday that they are no longer in the running.
I’ve confirmed seven people who were part of the first-round Zoom interviews: Marc Bergevin (Kings), Eric Tulsky (Hurricanes), Peter Chiarelli (Blues), Jason Karmanos (Sabres) and a hat trick of Devils front-office people: Dan MacKinnon (senior vice president/AGM), Kate Madigan (AGM) and Meghan Duggan (director of player development).
On the Leafs
And then there’s Mitch Marner. Because he’s got two years left on his deal, his no-move doesn’t kick in until July 1 and there wouldn’t be an extension in play, he’s the cleanest transaction on the table. Teams would see natural value in Marner having two more years. And the Leafs would have the entire NHL market at their disposal before July 1.
But what would entice the Leafs to move a player of Marner’s immense talent? What would it take for them to consider it a franchise-forwarding deal?
To me, that’s a deal that has to at least net a top-pairing defenseman.
much more ($)
E60: Little Choices
via the YouTube page of the NHL on ESPN,
Before he was a Stanley Cup Champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Toronto Maple Leaf forward Ryan O’Reilly was just another kid from the tiny Canadian town of Seaforth, Ontario. The man who ran the local rink in Seaforth, Graham Nesbitt, used to open the arena early on school days to let Ryan practice for free before class. It was a selfless act of kindness that fueled the passion of a young hockey player. Two decades later, Nesbitt fell ill with kidney disease and required a transplant.
The fluid odds.
Five minutes of your time.
from Kevin Allen of Detroit Hockey Now,
Here is a sampling of unrestricted goal scorers the Red Wings can consider this summer:
Alex Killorn (Tampa Bay Lightning):
If you talk to people around the NHL, they think Yzerman will make a pitch for Killorn. He knows him, and his ability, from their time together in Tampa. Killorn is 33, hard-edged, and has scored 52 goals over the past two season. He’s been a durable player throughout his career. Killorn is currently on a streak of 265 games played. Plug him into the second line and count on 20 goals and a strong all-around season.
Right Wing Vladimir Tarasenko (New York Rangers)
At 31, he’s still a potential 30-goal scorer. Proven scoring touch. Two years ago, he posted 34 goals and 82 points in 75 games. Injuries undermined him last season and he had 50 points in 69 games. What could he do with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond?
from Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times,
There is no joy among the Kraken players now, but they shouldn’t be short on pride.
They might not have made any celebratory toasts Monday night, but they spent the past month as the toast of the town.
This fledgling franchise just gave Seattle a gift that spanned 14 games over this postseason, captivating the Emerald City in a way few saw coming before the playoffs began. Pain is understandable after that 2-1 defeat to Dallas in Game 7, but that improbable run was pure pleasure.
It’s wild to juxtapose the Kraken of the past few weeks against the Kraken of the previous three months. It’s even wilder to compare the playoff Kraken to the team that finished with the third-worst record in the NHL last season.
Yes, it’s postseason hockey, where unpredictability is a factory setting. But to knock out the Stanley Cup-champion Avalanche in the first round and then take the Stars to seven in the second? It will likely go down as the foundation for the long-term love affair between this team and its city.
“It won’t register tonight, but this group changed the landscape of hockey in Seattle,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “This group changed the culture, and the trajectory and the belief of our franchise.”
from Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel,
This is who you’re happy for: the long-time usher by the penalty box; the voice of more than 1,800 Florida Panthers games; the bartender pouring drinks in their arena for 17 years and greeting a regular, as always, between Sections 101 and 102 during the Toronto series....
There are many who worked for years and waited for decades for this franchise to make the larger world notice. It has been 27 years since the Florida Panthers played this deep into a hockey spring, meaning this is a rare run, a special event, maybe even a career opus for the team, depending on where it ends.
All the talk of patience centers around the center, Aleksander Barkov, who was 8 months old the last time the Panthers were in an Eastern Conference final game. Now, at 28, he’s played for the franchise 10 often driftless years — until now.
“This is what you play for,’’ Barkov said earlier these playoffs. “It’s what we’ve wanted as an organization for years here.”
from Max Bultman of The Athletic,
... But after seven years picking in the top 10, that vision looks a bit different. By necessity.
The Red Wings have, of course, brought in high-end talent as a result of their on-ice woes. Moritz Seider is a cornerstone piece on their blue line. Lucas Raymond is one of the most talented young wingers in hockey. Simon Edvinsson and Marco Kasper are right on the doorstep, looking to prove they belong in that same conversation.
In terms of finding their own Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby or Nathan MacKinnon, though? That lottery-delivered savior never did materialize for Detroit. And with the team now on the upswing, it’s only getting less likely to happen.
Does that mean the rebuild can’t work? That a Cup contender can’t be built?
It certainly won’t make it any easier. But while having a true superstar of course helps — you’ve likely heard the stat that every champ but one since the ’08 Red Wings (St. Louis in 2019) has had a top-two pick on the roster — it has never truly been that simple.
Building a true winner demands great players, there’s no doubt about that. But as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews would surely tell you: it also demands a whole lot more.
from Marc Engel of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram,
Much like their first round series against Minnesota, the Stars moved on against Seattle for the same reason. They’re the better team.
The Game 7 victory they celebrated on Monday night was was won years ago. Not on the ice. In the front office.
It was won by Stars GM Jim Nill, and team owner Tom Gaglardi for giving him the space, money, and time to build a team that can win the Stanley Cup.Drafting and developing young players like starting goalie Jake Oettinger.
Drafting Heiskanen, who is one of the NHL’s top defenseman. Drafting forward Wyatt Johnston, a first round pick in 2021 who scored the Stars second goal on Monday night.
"That was definitely one of the better birthday gifts,” said Johnson, who did score the goal on his birthday. He looks 13, and ... he may actually be 13. (He’s 20).
Drafting winger Jason Robertson, who has struggled to score goals this postseason but has contributed more offense than he’s been given credit.
more on the Stars...
from John Niyo of the Detroit News,
The sights were something to see, no doubt. But it’s the sounds of spring that we’re really missing these days in Detroit. And the calendar is full of reminders.
Take May 16, for example. This is the anniversary of that anxious evening back in 1996 when Steve Yzerman nearly blew the roof off Joe Louis Arena with a double-overtime winner to beat St. Louis, 1-0, in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. The indelible sound of that 60-foot slapshot ringing off the crossbar, the sellout crowd erupting, air horns blasting … man, we’ve missed that in this town....
Yzerman’s NHL career began 40 years ago next month. And prior to returning to Detroit in 2019, he only needed one hand to count the number of years he’d been a bystander when the puck dropped on the Stanley Cup playoffs. So put it this way: He feels your pain.
“It's an emotional roller coaster for our fans, and I understand that,” Yzerman said last month. “Myself included, there's days you walk out of the rink, and you're like, ‘You know what? I'm real happy with the way things are going.’ … And then two weeks later, you walk out of the rink and you're like, ‘Oh, my God, there's no end in sight.’”
See what I mean? He’s with you. And quite frankly, that's the problem: They're all in this together, and so are we, watching and waiting and wondering when the silence will end.
more ($), Niyo brings up all the four teams in Detroit...
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