Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eight that will carry on with playoff dates

With only the San Jose Sharks ruining our perfect record of round one (though some would suggest we were folly for having such faith), we carry forth with our prognostications on the second round of the NHL playoffs.

While we were a tad off on the number of each games required by some of our selections, for the most part (yes thank you San Jose) we found success and thus we tempt the hockey Gods one more time.

Chicago Black Hawks and Vancouver Canucks

Schedule of round two games

The Canucks are rested up, have healed the majority of their aches and pains and now begin the quest for success in a second round. Their opposition just finished a hard fought first round battle with the Calgary Flames, but surprisingly the Black Hawks look ready to go for another seven games if the need be.

Of all the teams that the Canucks might have had a second round date with, the Hawks offer up the best opportunity for a Vancouver advance, if only because of their relative youth and first time appearance in the playoffs after a fairly long sabbatical.

The two teams matched up well in the regular season and each game proved to be a hard hitting and at times nasty affair. The Canucks will be riding on the back of Roberto Luongo once again, as he continues to showcase why he's one of the best, if not the best of goaltenders in the league.

Scoring in the first round came from the Sedins and Alexander Burrows, what Vancouver needs is some scoring from the second and third lines now, if either of them can help take some of the load off the first line then the Canucks will be doing just fine.

Chicago will have to take advantage of the scoring opportunities when they become available, for with Luongo in the nets the chances will be few and far between. While toughness is their mark these days, taking too many penalties will provide Vancouver with a chance to put its power play to work, that could be the difference in a close series.

There's a lot to be optimistic about in Chicago these days, this is a very young team and one that seems destined for greater things, however, these things take stages. This is but phase one, phase two comes next year...

Vancouver to defeat the Black Hawks in five games.

Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings

Schedule of round two games

Stanley Cup champions always find it hard to repeat in the NHL, the nature of the long regular season and the constant hitting and physical nature of the playoff rounds can leave many would be repeat squads battered and left by the side of the playoff trail.

Detroit however is heading into the second round not only in fairly good health shape but building on the confidence of a rather convincing round one victory over the Blue Jackets.

The Ducks have come through to the second round having also been convincing but a little more battered, having played a tough series with their rivals in California the Sharks.

Still they did win that series, an upset in that they topped the number one team in the West, though not quite an upset considering that team was after all the seemingly always under performing Sharks.

It will bring back together two teams that have met before in the playoffs and offered up some pretty intense games, where the Ducks control in physical play the Red Wings can punish with offense. A fine line will be in place for Anaheim and their always hard hitting nature, take too many liberties and they'll be filling the penalty box and sending one of the leagues most dangerous power plays to work. Sit back a little too much and give the Wings room to use and well it will seem like a power play anyways...

Goal tending may prove to be a deciding factor for the series, the Ducks riding the hot hand of Jonas Hillier who surprised all with his work in round one, the Wings had a good run in the first round as Chris Osgood stood strong in the Wings nets, although there wasn't a great test offered up by the Blue Jackets in most games.

Still he's been strong in the Wings net when required and if he can continue on in that frame of mind then he will be offering his team the opportunity to control the game.

The Ducks struggled through most of the year, making a push for the playoffs in the waning weeks. They played hard in the first round but showed signs of stumbling, the Wings are not the Sharks they will take advantage and they will advance...

Red Wings over Ducks in six games.

Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins

Schedule of round two games

Carolina is still probably reliving those fascinating last two minutes of Tuesday night, when they turned around a New Jersey lead and sent the Devils down to defeat. Game time Friday night is 7 pm, one would imagine that head coach Paul Maurice will have managed to turn their attention to the Bruins by then, as if they're still looking back at their success with the Devils they may find that it may be the last happy moments that they have.

The Canes go up against the dominant team of the east this year the Boston Bruins, a team solid in every position and playing some of that old time Bruins hockey that the folks in New England look back on with fondness.

With Boston finally back on top, they'll be anxious to secure their place in the strata of sports teams in the Boston area, with their penchant for heavy hits and fast moving puck handling the Bruins will prove to be a huge challenge for Carolina.

Paul Maurice has once again moved his Carolina team into a playoff run, a spot that seemed all but lost for him while he toiled away in Toronto. The Canes will have to be up to the intensity level of the Bruins however, who play a much faster and harder hitting game than the Devils did.
The Bruins will have learned from their rest just how dangerous the Hurricanes can be in the last minutes of play, if the game is even close expect Carolina to pay the price for any incursion into Bruins territory in the waning moments.

There's a sense of destiny with this Bruins team this year, they easily took care of the Canadiens and one has the feeling that Carolina may put up a bit more resistance but in the end will also fall by the wayside.

Bruins over the Hurricanes in five games

Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals

Schedule of round two games

It's the marquee series for the NHL, with the top stars of the game facing off against each other, one series too soon for the drama of an Eastern final, but you take your gems where you find them.

The Capitals having survived their near death experience with the Rangers will be more than aware that if they allow the Penguins to take a three game to one lead, then the chances of moving on will be remote.

The highlight reels should fill up quickly as Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Crosby, Malkin and Guerin to name a few make the plays and score the goals that we'll be talking about every morning after the game.

Both teams play a fast paced and entertaining style of hockey, the template for what the NHL would like to be. Both teams are more than willing to play hard and hit hard and both have a nice mix of veteran and young stars to keep us entertained through this second round.

Goaltending will be an interesting position to watch as the Caps apparently will continue on with their young but relatively unknown phenom Varlamov, Pittsburgh counters with Marc Andre Fleury who has given signs that this may be his break out post season, the time when players make that step to their next level of development.

Pittsburgh which did not have the greatest of regular seasons is back on a roll after a hard hitting series with the Flyers, hopeful of a return to the Stanley Cup final which they left last season with a few bitter memories.

The Capitals have been the rising team of the NHL for the last few years, their style of play bringing fans to the game (though some of the traditionalists are a little weary of their sense of celebration in DC). This is the series that will define whether they are ready to make their move to top team status or if they will settle in at the middle, one of those teams that shows so much potential but can't seem to break through (hello there San Jose).

As they say this one is going to be a beauty, settle in for a long and enjoyable ride.

The Capitals in seven...

Round Two Reviews Archives

We will archive our items from Round Two of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs here.

Round Two Schedule and Scores

HockeyNation predictions for Round Two
Series one Updates

Series Reviews:

Chicago Black Hawks and Vancouver Canucks
Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings
Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins
Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals

Round Two Reviews

Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals

Scoring summaries

Game One-- Pittsburgh 2 at Washington 3
Game Two-- Pittsburgh 3 at Washington 4
Game Three-- Washington 2 at Pittsburgh 3 (1st OT)
Game Four-- Washington 3 at Pittsburgh 5
Game Five-- Pittsburgh 4 at Washington 3 (1st OT)
Game Six-- Washington 5 at Pittsburgh 4
Game Seven-- Pittsburgh 6 at Washington 2

The Penguins win the series 4 games to 3

Pittsburgh Penguins stats page
Washington Capitals stats page

Notes from the Media pages

Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Washington Post
Washington Times

Team websites

Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals

Round Two Reviews

Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins

Scoring summaries

Game One-- Carolina 1 at Boston 4
Game Two-- Carolina 3 at Boston 0
Game Three-- Boston 2 at Carolina 3 (1st OT)
Game Four-- Boston 1 at Carolina 4
Game Five-- Carolina 0 at Boston 4
Game Six-- Boston 4 at Carolina 2
Game Seven-- Carolina 3 at Boston 2 (1st OT)

The Hurricanes win the series 4 games to three

Boston Bruins stats page
Carolina Hurricanes stats page

Notes from the Media pages

Boston Globe
Boston Herald
Raleigh News and Observer

Team websites

Boston Bruins home page
Carolina Hurricanes home page

Round Two Reviews

Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings

Scoring summaries

Game One-- Anaheim 2 at Detroit 3
Game Two-- Anaheim 4 at Detroit 3 (3 OT)
Game Three-- Detroit 1 at Anaheim 2
Game Four-- Detroit 6 at Anaheim 3
Game Five-- Anaheim 1 at Detroit 4
Game Six-- Detroit 1 at Anaheim 2
Game Seven-- Anaheim 3 at Detroit 4
The Red Wings win the series 4 games to 3

Detroit Red Wing stats
Anaheim Duck stats page

Notes from the Media pages

Orange County Register
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Daily News
Detroit News
Detroit Free Press

Team websites

Detroit Red Wings home page
Anaheim Ducks home page

Round Two Reviews

Chicago Black Hawks and Vancouver Canucks

Scoring summaries

Game One-- Chicago 3 at Vancouver 5
Game Two-- Chicago 6 at Vancouver 3
Game Three-- Vancouver 3 at Chicago 2
Game Four-- Vancouver 1 at Chicago 2 (1 OT)
Game Five-- Chicago 4 at Vancouver 2
Game Six-- Vancouver 5 at Chicago 7
Game Seven

The Black Hawks win the series 4 games to 2
Chicago Black Hawk Stats
Vancouver Canuck Stats

Notes from the Media pages

Chicago Tribune
Chicago Sun Times
Vancouver Province
Vancouver Sun

Team websites

Chicago Black Hawks homepage
Vancouver Canucks

On to the second round

We'll track the scores and recaps of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs from here.

Chicago Black Hawks and Vancouver Canucks

Game One--Thur, April 30-- Chicago 3 at Vancouver 5
Game Two-- Sat, May 2-- Chicago 6 at Vancouver 3
Game Three-- Tues, May 5-- Vancouver 3 at Chicago 1
Game Four-- Thurs, May 7-- Vancouver 1 at Chicago 2 (1 OT)
Game Five-- Saturday, May 9-- Chicago 4 at Vancouver 2
Game Six-- Monday, May 11-- Vancouver 5 at Chicago 7
Game Seven--

The Black Hawks win the series 4 games to 2
Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wing

Game One-- Fri, May 2-- Anaheim 2 at Detroit 3
Game Two-- Sun, May 3-- Anaheim 4 at Detroit 3 (3 OT)
Game Three-- Tues, May 5-- Detroit 1 at Anaheim 2
Game Four-- Thurs, May 7-- Detroit 6 at Anaheim 3
Game Five-- Sunday, May 10-- Anaheim 1 at Detroit 4
Game Six-- Tuesday, May 12-- Detroit 1 at Anaheim 2
Game Seven-- Thursday, May 14-- Anaheim 3 at Detroit 4

The Wings win the series 4 games to 3

Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins

Game One-- Fri, May 1-- Carolina 1 at Boston 4
Game Two-- Sun, May 3-- Carolina 3 at Boston 0
Game Three-- Wed, May 6-- Boston 2 at Carolina 3 (1 OT)
Game Four-- Friday, May 8-- Boston 1 at Carolina 4
Game Five-- Sunday, May 10-- Carolina 0 at Boston 4
Game Six-- Tuesday, May 12-- Boston 4 at Carolina 2
Game Seven-- Thursday, May 14-- Carolina 3 at Boston 2 (1 OT)

The Hurricanes win the series 4 games to 3

Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals

Game One-- Sat, May 2-- Pittsburgh 2 at Washington 3
Game Two-- Mon, May 4-- Pittsburgh 3 at Washington 4
Game Three-- Wed, May 6-- Washington 2 at Pittsburgh 3 (1 OT)
Game Four-- Friday, May 8-- Washington 3 at Pittsburgh 5
Game Five-- Saturday, May 9-- Pittsburgh 4 at Washington 3 (1OT)
Game Six-- Monday, May 11-- Washington 5 at Pittsburgh 4 (1 OT)
Game Seven-- Wednesday, May 13-- Pittsburgh 6 at Washington 2

The Penguins win the series 4 games to 3

We are all Canucks...

For hockey fans in the True North strong and Stanley Cup free, there is but one hope left this season for repatriation of Lord Stanley's mug from the clutches of those that dwell below the 49th parallel.

With the early exits for both the Montreal Canadiens and the Calgary Flames, the weight of the nation will fall on the shoulders of the Vancouver Canucks, hoping to revisit the finals they last participated in a good number of years ago.

Vancouver took care of the Blues in four straight, though the first round series was certainly much harder and much closer at times that those four straight wins might suggest. They now face off agains the rising Chicago Black Hawks, fresh off their hard hitting and intense competition with the Calgary Flames.

While Chicago has proven to be a dangerous opponent and one not to be taken lightly, it was perhaps the match up that best suits the Canucks hopes for a long term run in this years playoff season.

The Canucks match up well with the Hawks, and if they can find some secondary scoring aside from the Sedins line then Chicago may find round two to be a little less rewarding than round one turned out to be.

In the nets the Hawks were still singing the praises of Nikolai Khabibulin's performance against the Flames, but soon may be talking in amazement about the fellow at the other end of the rink as they prepare to face the best that the game has to offer these days in Roberto Luongo.

It should prove to be an entertaining series, as the enthusiasm of the Hawks matches up with the sense of national purpose that will now be passed on to the Canucks.

For those that have longed for a Stanley Cup parade somewhere in Canada in the month of June, the mantra will be simple, for May and June.... They are all Canucks...

Don Cherry's worst case scenario arrives..

"It's special, too, with three Russians nominated. It's a great thing for our country and our sport."-- Alexander Ovechkin reacting to the news that the Hart nominees will take on a very European look this year.

Somebody best hide the sharp instruments for a few days over at the CBC and while they're at it they had best be sure not to show any highlight reels from the Hart nominees, for Don Cherry is not going to be in a good mood.

The NHL announced its candidates for the Hart Trophy on Wednesday, a list of three who all call Mother Russia home. Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk will be your nominees for when the awards are handed out in Las Vegas on June 18th.

The trio of Russians provide just a sample of the changing face of the game in North America, as more and more European based players seem to be finding their way to awards table as they take on key roles with their teams.

As for Mr. Cherry it's been a bad week all around, the Canadian content in the playoffs as far as host cities goes has been whittled down to one, with but the Vancouver Canucks ready to carry the torch for the nation, while a quick scan of the rosters will find that a good number of the remaining players feature names of European lineage.

He can however find some solace that both the Bruins and the Black Hawks have carried on into the second round. Both teams play the kind of hockey that Cherry preaches, the hard hitting, team oriented approach with little time for over celebrating achievements on the ice.

If they can go far into the playoffs, it may help take some of the sting out of the early developments thus far in the post season.

Globe and Mail-- Russian trio up for Hart Trophy
CBC-- All-Russian affair in NHL Hart Trophy race
National Post-- Ovechkin, Malkin and Datsyuk up for Hart

A two minute turnaround seals the Devils fate

The news of the Rangers elimination had travelled fast and the fans in Newark seemed to already be planning for the next round as the Big Apple's last hope for a Stanley Cup this year, the only thing was that Carolina hadn't quite been given the ending to the script.

The Hurricanes scored a one two punch in the waning moments of game seven to manufacture a dramatic come from behind win and an advancement to the next round of the playoffs. It was enough to silence the normally rambunctious residents of New Jersey who suddenly had kinship with their relatives across the River.

The Canes were on the losing end of a 3-2 score with but a minute and half to go in the game when they did the unthinkable, they put two much needed goals behind one of the best goaltenders that the game has ever seen.

And while the normally unbeatable Martin Brodeur had a two minutes from hell, he had a lot of company, a team that once made back checking and neutral zone shutdowns a religion suddenly allowed the Canes to take territory and positioning at will, setting up their dramatic comeback and turning a season ending loss into a playoff advancing victory.

The season was a back and forth affair for all of the seven games, two rather evenly matched teams exchanging goals, hits, scoring chances and mental errors. In the end, one team seemed to let up content in the thought that victory was theirs, while the other kept pushing against the anticipated outcome, changing their destiny for at least four more games.

The next round for the Canes won't be any easier, they move on to the NHL's success story for the year the Boston Bruins, a team that will be more than ready to change the tempo of the game and take the body at every chance.

Carolina will head into the next round feeling that anything is possible, and as they have shown it is, but one gets the feeling that the Bruins won't be making the same mistakes as the Devils did in those closing minutes. There won't be near as much open ice to work with and standing at the side of a net all alone is a luxury that won't be found deep in the Boston end of the rink.

Coming from behind is an exciting part of the game and something that the Hurricanes seem to have found comfort in, for the second round however, one suspects that playing with the lead might be the better strategy against the Bruins.

Capitals finally show that killer instinct

Discipline, it was the key word in the first round of the Rangers/Capitals series, whether it was the misguided antics of Sean Avery or the misfiring water bottle tosses of coach John Tortorella, the distractions in the end proved to be more damaging to the Broadway boys than anything else.

Prior to the start of the round one series, the thought was that the offensively charged Capital line up would have little trouble handling the Rangers, making quick work of them and saving up their goals for more adventurous times to come.

The problem was that in those early games the Rangers managed to play a solid disciplined game, one which shut down the high profile stars of the Caps while sneaking in the one goal that would make a difference and steal away a win. After each Capital loss, it was a familiar sight on the highlight reels, the Caps could be found firing off the shots at Henrik Lundqvist and he would turn each one aside with calmness, turning some of the games most impressive offensive threats into frustrated rink rats wondering what it takes to score.

The Rangers had a three game to one lead, requiring just one more win to eliminate the Caps and they could not find it. While the Capitals finally found their scoring in the final three games, the Rangers lost theirs, even more troublesome they provided the Capitals with more opportunity than was prudent, with less than intelligent penalties giving the Caps power play opportunities and sloppy play in their own end of the rink eventually making even Lundqvist look human at times.

And while all that was spinning out of control they had the twin distractions of their most controversial player raising his coaches temperature, while the fans in Washington managed to take John Tortorella past the point of no return (well for one game at any rate).

Tortorella had benched Avery for one game following a string of costly penalties in game five, only to lose his own code of discipline in a incident with fans in Washington, his actions costing him a one game suspension for game six.

By the time all that drama had cleared from the headlines for game seven, the Rangers were in fragile territory, that 3-1 lead long gone and a resolute and confident Capitals team ready to make amends for their early lethargic start and secure their place in the second round.

In the end, the team that everyone thought would advance did, the one that offers up more drama off the ice than on sometimes received their just reward for an inability to put away a team that had opened that door.

There are going to be many questions to ask in New York in the off season, chemistry between coach and players and questions of discipline for both on ice and off.

For the Capitals the second round beckons with the Penguins on the marquee and the showcase series for the NHL of the clash of their rising stars.

While the NHL office may be in New York and the market is key for the NHL's television success, the match up to come is the best one for the hockey fan and one that has been a much anticipated event since the rise of the likes of Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin and Bakstrom.

And to think it all could have been derailed if the Rangers had kept their cool and focused on just one more win on the ice without all the drama that seems to follow them around.

Same old fish stories in San Jose

"Their goalie was better than ours. Their defense was better, and their forwards were better. We had a great regular season and a disappointing playoff, and for that, you have to give them credit."-- The San Jose Sharks Dan Boyle nicely summarizes the first round series between the Ducks and Sharks

Hockey Pool fans really should know better, each year as the playoffs begin the names stay the same and the results it seems do to, as the team that showcases some of the best in offence in the regular season stumbles through the first round of the playoffs and on to an early exit.

The Sharks, the team that can sink a hockey pool participant in less than two weeks once again did their annual disappearing act, surrendering their run for the Stanley Cup in the first round as always, this time to their downstate rivals the Anaheim Ducks.

Anaheim which just barely squeaked into the playoffs this year, looked more like the Stanley Cup champs of a few years ago and by far the more aggressive of the two teams, with a new goaltender to mark down for reference as the key to success. Jonas Hillier made his playoff debut in grand style, frustrating the normally explosive offense of San Jose and holding off any thoughts of moving beyond the first round.

It was a hard hitting and occassionally violent series, with the Ducks seeming to hold true to the adage of Conn Smythe to beat them in the alleys, though they also found ways to beat the Sharks on the ice as well. The Ducks were more than ready for their chance to once again deny the Sharks their planned destiny, from the opening moments of game six with Joe Thornton taking out his frustrations on Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks knew that by getting the Sharks off their game was key.

And while Getzlaf may have lost that opening bout on most score cards, it was the score at the end of the game that most will remember, especially in San Jose where these early round exits are becoming the norm.

There were changes in the off season behind the bench in San Jose, a move that showed some positives during the year but judging by the results of the post season they may not have been enough.

There may yet be more change to come in Northern California, whether in upper management or a little closer to the ice for those that sat on that bench this year and watched as another playoff run was derailed before it could even get underway.

As for the Ducks the job never gets easy when you're the number eight seed, the reward for defeating the Sharks is a chance to play the defending Stanley Cup champ Red Wings, making for an interesting clash in styles and intensity of play to come in the second round.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Youth trumps experience as Hawks advance

The Calgary Flames had been carefully retooled the last few years with one goal in mind a return to the Stanley Cup finals and those golden days of Mike and Joe and Lanny. The start of the season providing a strong declaration that the missing ingredients had been found, the trading deadline that the one extra piece was in place and the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs that all plans can fall apart.

Things actually began to go wrong for Calgary a few months before the annual spring time ritual, the team which had previously shown a penchant for scoring goals suddenly couldn't, a normally reliable and talented goaltender began to let the odd goal get by him and a team that had come to define the concept of depth was quickly shown to stumble when injuries began to pile up.

Their competition was young, inexperienced in playoff action and expected to find the first round as a stepping stone for future success in years to come, the only thing was they began to find that playoff hockey is addictive, you get a taste and you want more of it.

The Black Hawks one of the big success stories of 2008-09 found that with hard work, a dedication to the team game and with a little luck that their run through the spring could be extended a little bit further.

Nikolai Khabibulin stymied the Flames shooters, while on a nightly basis his team mates found that their game plan of crashing the Flames end, taking the body and neutralizing the Flames main attractions was more than enough for a four game to two victory in round one.

They outplayed the Flames at the style of play that the Flames had refined over the last few years and despite their relative youth on the bench, the made fewer mistakes and had more composure than their more veteran opposition.

Their victory in the series was a testament to their coaches and their ability to transfer the game plan from the dressing room to the ice, something the Flames couldn't do.

They were two teams seemingly heading in different directions, the Flames once again bowing out in a first round, the third time in three years that they have not advanced past the first round.

While the Hawks, youthful exuberance and all decided that just being happy to be there wasn't enough and now will seek to reward their fans with hockey into May, a month that Calgary fans are quickly finding is more suitable for gardening, golf and other outdoor activities far, far away from a hockey rink or a television set.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Time out for Tortorella

Perhaps the wiser course for Rangers head coach John Tortorella would have been to follow the advice that he had frequently given to troublesome child Sean Avery, just concentrate on the game and leave the stupid stove behind.

While Avery sat out game five Saturday for his misdeeds of game four, the coach was stepping over the NHL's line when it comes to personal contact with the fans.

Tortorella became involved in an incident behind the Rangers bench, where he sprayed some water and then launched a water bottle at a fan after becoming agitated with the fans behaviour. As it to accentuate his point, Tortorella also grabbed a hockey stick to poke over the glass before finally calming down after his assistants talked things over with him.

For his efforts on Friday night in Washington, Tortorella has been suspended, forced to sit out game six of the best of seven series, leaving it to his assistants to run the team and decide if Mr. Avery will get another chance in the line up in this first round series.

It's expected that Jim Schoenfeld will be behind the bench on Sunday afternoon when the Rangers make their next attempt to eliminate the Caps from the playoffs.

The timing of the suspension has a few fans surprised, but the NHL has been more than clear about these kind of situations in the past and really had no recourse but to act swiftly and with discipline.

Should the Caps survive game six and force a game seven, that elimination game will take place back in Washington, with Tortorella eligible to return to the bench. One suspects that security will be stepped up a fair amount should that game come to pass and Tortorella passes through DC one more time this spring.

New York Daily News-- Rangers coach John Tortorella suspended for Game 6 against Capitals
New York Times-- N.H.L. Suspends Rangers Coach Tortorella for Game 6
Globe and Mail-- Rangers coach suspended for aqua outburst
National Post-- Tortorella suspended for throwing bottle at fans

Penguins take series after remarkable comeback in game six

By the start of the third period, one could sense that the Flyers fans and maybe the Flyers themselves were already thinking ahead to game seven in Pittsburgh.

Lost in thought perhaps that by the time they noticed that the Penguins were clawing their way back into game six, it became to late.

The Penguins launched one of the great comebacks of NHL lore on Saturday, after they scored five straight goals, erasing a three goal deficit on the way to5 - 3 victory and a win in their series with their cross state rivals the Flyers.

Sidney Crosby scored two goals including the empty net marker that sealed the fate of the Flyers, though the real turning point of the game came with Maxime Talbot squaring off with the Flyers Daniel Carcillo, taking the worst of the meeting but seemingly inspired his team mates to wake up from their lethargy and begin their improbable comeback.

With the always rambunctious Flyers home crowd making their usual noise in anticipation of a game seven showdown in Pittsburgh, the Pens went about bringing silence to the Wachovia Centre as the flow of the game began to reverse itself and what seemed like a safe lead began to disappear.

As if losing the lead and the series was not enough, the quiet leadership of Sidney Crosby more than likely has caused much distress for followers of the Flyers. Crosby who no doubt no knows when he's in Philly purely by the noise, took charge of his team in the third period, controlling the ice and taking and making the hits to get the job done.

With each Penguin goal you could see the tide beginning to turn, and it quickly became much too late before the Flyers could make their changes to their plans and try to stem the onslaught from the Pens.

While the ultimate goal for the Pens is obviously the Stanley Cup Finals, there must be a rather sweet sense of satisfaction today about their ability to look defeat square in the eye and turn things around so quickly.

The Flyers may have deserved a better fate, for good portions of most of the games they seemed to be the team in control and but for a few bounces the wrong way may have already claimed the series as their own. But in the end the inability to hold a lead and to allow a team to storm back to take the series proved to be the downfall of the Flyers. When you have a team on the ropes you have to be able to finish off the job, Philly somehow lost that focus on Saturday and it cost them in a most definitive way.

Sending the Flyers off to their summer activities, probably will rank up there as a close second to a skate around the rink with Lord Stanley's Mug held high. They proved quite a bit to themselves on Saturday, that no lead is insurmountable and no venue can be intimidating.

Lessons that will come in handy as they move forward in the quest for the Stanley Cup.

Globe and Mail-- Penguins end Flyers' season
National Post-- Penguins' big comeback eliminates Flyers
Philadelphia Daily News-- Flyers' season ends with Game 6 loss
Phildaelphia Inquirer-- Flyers blow 3-0 lead, are ousted by Penguins
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-- Penguins turn 3-0 deficit into series clincher; catch fire after Talbot's fight
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-- Just call Talbot 'Rocky'
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-- Penguins' Locker Room: Malkin savors victory, eyes some rest
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Five-goal rally lifts Pens to next round
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Flyers ponder what might have been
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Talbot turns momentum for Penguins
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Flyers chairman likes Penguins chances

Friday, April 24, 2009

World Championships updates

Switzerland is the home for the 2009 edition of the World Hockey Championships, we'll highlight the scores and items leading up to the Gold Medal game on May 10th.

Gold Medal Winner-- Russia
Silver Medal Winner-- Canada
Bronze Medal Winner-- Sweden
Fourth Place Finish-- USA
Sunday May 10-- Gold Medal Game - Canada 1 vs Russia 2
Sunday May 10-- Bronze Medal Game - Sweden 4 - USA 2
Friday May 8-- Semi Final - USA 2 vs Russia 3
Friday May 8-- Semi Final - Canada 3 vs Sweden 1
Thursday May 7-- Canada 4 vs Latvia 2
Wednesday May 6-- Finland 2 vs USA 3
Wednesday May 6-- Russia 3 vs Belarus 4
Monday May 4-- Sweden 6 vs France 3
Monday May 4-- Slovakia 3 vs Norway 2
Monday May 4-- USA 3 vs Switzerland 4
Monday May 4-- Canada 3 vs Finland 4
Monday May 4-- Hungary 1 vs Germany 2 (relegation round)
Monday May 4-- Denmark 5 vs Austria 4 (relegation round)
Sunday May 3-- Norway 1 vs Canada 5
Sunday May 3-- Latvia 1 vs Russia 6
Sunday May 3-- Germany 0 vs Austria 1 (relegation round)
Sunday May 3-- Hungary 1 vs Denmark 5 (relegation round)
Saturday May 2-- France 1 vs Latvia 7
Saturday May 2-- Russia 4 vs USA 1
Saturday May 2-- Finland 1 vs Belarus 2
Friday May 1-- USA 6 vs France 2
Friday May 1-- Germany 3 vs Denmark 1 (relegation round)
Friday May 1-- Austria 6 vs Hungary 0 (relegation round)
Thursday April 30-- Russia 6 vs Sweden 5
Thursday April 30-- Belarus 3 vs Norway 2
Thursday April 30-- Switzerland 1 vs Latvia 2
Thursday April 30-- Canada 5 vs Czech Republic 1
Wednesday April 29-- Group B-- Austria 0 vs Latvia 2
Wednesday April 29-- Group B-- Sweden 6 vs USA 5
Wednesday April 29-- Group A-- Denmark 4 vs Norway 5
Wednesday April 29-- Group A-- Finland 4 vs Czech Republic 3
Tuesday April 28-- Group B-- Russia 4 vs Switzerland 2
Tuesday April 28-- Group B-- France 2 vs Germany 1
Tuesday April 28-- Group A-- Hungary 1 vs Belarus 3
Tuesday April 28-- Group A-- Canada 7 vs Slovakia 3
Monday April 27-- Group B-- USA 6 vs Austria 1
Monday April 27-- Group B-- Latvia 3 vs Sweden 2
Monday April 27-- Group A-- Czech Republic 5 vs Norway 2
Monday April 27-- Group A-- Finland 5 vs Denmark 1
Sunday April 26-- Group B-- Switzerland 3 vs Germany 2
Sunday April 26-- Group B-- Russia 7 vs France 2
Sunday April 26-- Group A-- Canada 9 vs Hungary 0
Sunday April 26-- Group A-- Slovakia 1 vs Belarus 2
Saturday April 25-- Group B-- USA 4 vs Latvia 2
Saturday April 25-- Group B-- Sweden7 vs Austria 1
Saturday April 25-- Group A-- Norway 0 vs Finland 5
Saturday April 25-- Group A-- Czech Republic 5 vs Denmark0
Friday April 24-- Group B- Germany 0 vs Russia 5
Friday April 24-- Group B-
Switzerland 1 vs France 0
Friday April 24-- Group A- Canada 6 vs Belarus 1
Friday April 24-- Group A- Slovakia 3 vs Hungary 4


Canada looks to avenge last years disappointment at the World Championships

Canadian teams have become rather used to bringing back gold medals at International tournaments, so last years silver finish at the World Championship has only proven to be a motivating factor for this years collection of the European Expeditionary Force.

Canada sets out to begin the process of reclaiming gold on Friday, as the Canadian squad takes to the ice against Belarus. The championships will be the final competition before next winters Olympic games in Vancouver, so the Canadian squad will be playing for gold and for some a chance to join that Olympic team and a shot at an Olympic medal.

Head coach Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres has drawn the assignment of repatriating the gold medal, taking his club into the tournament considered a co-favourite with the Russian team. As has been the case over the last number of years, all teams go into the opening round of the tournament with a few spots held open for potential recruits as the NHL playoffs continue with their process of attrition.

It's an intangible that is hard to plan for, but one which can change the dynamic of the tournament quite quickly, depending on which teams back in North America are eliminated and which players are quick to accept the invite to come overseas to play for their nation.

There's not much to be done about that until the names are proposed and the travel arrangements made, so for the short term it's a case of preparing for each game with the personnel on hand, not quite a homogeneous team, but certainly better than your average pick up squad at the local rink on a Saturday night.

In addition to Belarus, Canada will face Hungary and Slovakia in the opening round, before the seeding changes for the second stage of the tournament. All of Canada's World Championship games will broadcast back to Canada on TSN.

Canadian Press-- Erase the bitter taste

Detroit snaps seven year streak with victory over Columbus

The Colorado Avalanche were the last NHL team to move past the first round in defence of their Stanley Cup victory, on Thursday night the Detroit Red Wings finally brought that strange streak of ineptitude away, with a hard fought game four victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Wings became the first defending champion team to advance beyond the first round since those Avs of 2002, taking the Blue Jackets out in four straight, but not without a few anxious minutes in game four.

Columbus finally found some scoring resolve in what would be their final game of their playoff debut, counting five goals against Chris Osgood, more in one game than they scored in all three previous matches.

The Blue Jackets came back from two separate two goal deficits to make the final period an end to end rush of excitement for the sold out home crowd, the first real taste of playoff enthusiasm that they could enjoy, thought it would be brief.

The final score of 6-5 in favour of the Red Wings propels them on to the second round, though it does not truly indicate the nature of the series, as the Red Wings were fully dominant for the previous three games. The final game while high scoring and enjoyable for the home side crowd, was fascinating in that the Blue Jackets proved to themselves that on a given night they could be almost more than the Red Wings could handle, the problem of course was that they needed four of those kind of nights and that just didn't seem in the cards in this series.

In the end, the only real damage to the Red Wings was to Chris Osgood's Goals Against Average, which took a huge hit. The Wings were as head coach Mike Babcock put it "caught up in the moment", turning away from the formula that had served them well for three games and instead turning the fourth into a wild west kind of shoot out, where the final goal would be the winner.

The game was decided on a controversial, but correct too many men on the ice call, which provided the Red Wings with a power play and the opportunity was taken by Johan Franzen who scored the winning goal with 46 seconds to go in the final period.

The goal brought to an end the Blue Jackets first appearance in the NHL playoffs since the team joined the league nine years ago and it moves one of the most storied of franchises on to the second round and the continued defence of their title.

While the last game was out of type, the series was a return for the Wings of the kind of dominating play that they have been known for over the last few seasons, providing lots of scoring, solid defensive play and some quality goal tending from Chris Osgoood.

All key elements that will prove to be required parts of the Wings playbook if they intend to continue on with their defense of the title.

Globe and Mail-- Detroit sweeps into second round
National Post-- Wings end Blue Jackets' inaugural playoff run
Detroit Free Press-- Wings' experience begets calmness amid craziness
Detroit Free Press-- Wings finish sweep, await Canucks or Ducks
Detroit News-- Wings' Johan on the spot
Detroit News-- Wings wear out 'Jackets
Columbus Post Dispatch-- Bitter ending for Jackets
Columbus Post Dispatch-- There is pain, but no shame, in this loss
Columbus Post Dispatch-- Howson: Official got call right

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bruins bid adieu to Canadiens in four game sweep

While the fans were busy booing the home side (and maybe the guys in the white jerseys as well) they perhaps didn't find time to reflect back on the last few months of the season, for if they had they surely would not have been surprised at the outcome of this series.

Montreal never seemed to factor into the four games of Boston's sweep, they did have the odd moment where they controlled the play or took charge, but they were few and far between. This was a solid four game set from the Bruins, a powerful display of their physical ability to control the flow of the game and score the big goals when required.

Combine that with the stellar goal tending of Tim Thomas and it's hard to find a reason as to why the Habs fans ever thought their favourites (well perhaps not favourites anymore) ever stood a chance.

The seeds of this defeat were set much earlier this year, the first rumblings of the discontent between Alex Kovalev and then coach Guy Carbonneau, the unnecessary distractions of the criminal elements hovering around some of the players and the fickle nature of affection of the fans for their goaltender Carey Price.

For Price games three and four had to be the most painful of experiences, once hailed as the next legend between the pipes, his slide through the final months of the season morphed into a terrible playoff round, not entirely of his own making, but as countless goaltenders in Montreal have learned before, when things go bad, it's the goaltender who bears the brunt of the crowds anxieties.

GM (and losing coach) Bob Gainey, took time from his post game commentary to criticize those fans who booed their own goaltender in this series, replaying for them the many times that Price was left on his own to face the Bruin onslaught. And while the goal tending certainly wasn't of playoff calibre in the Montreal end, neither was the defensive play and the missing offense through the four games was just as responsible for the Habs exit from the playoffs as were the Bruin goals.

Gainey provided a warning to the faithful about driving away the young goaltender, suggesting that the fans wouldn't want to see him coming into the Bell Centre in another jersey. A rather astute observation considering it was a former Hab, Michael Ryder who did the most damage on the Canadiens in game four, with two goals and some spirited play through the sixty minutes.

Boston was full value for their dominating win and their first playoff success in a decade. The Bruins in this series, continued to showcase the skill and power that has made this past season a remarkable turnaround year for the B's. All the pieces have fit together down the stretch and into the playoffs. The team concept has been accepted as scripture, each player responsible to the other on the ice and the team as a whole.

There are no overwhelming stars on the roster, though the names that stand out are the ones you would expect, Thomas, Chara, Savard and Lucic, all the key ingredients in the four game series with the Habs and all four will have larger roles to play in the series to come.

Yet it was the remainder of the roster that kept the Bruins on a roll, unafraid to take to the corners to fish out the puck, regularly beating the Canadiens to the puck wherever it went. The Bruins controlled all three zones of the surface, finding the most success in the Montreal end where they seemed to be allowed to set up at will and fire enough pucks unit they gained the desired result.

This Bruins team seems like the strongest contender that Boston has put together in a very long time, they're playing smart and are being coached in a smart fashion as well.

It takes sixteen wins to take home Lord Stanley's mug, the Bruins are but twelve more away from rewarding their fans for their many years of support and enthusiasm.

They were booing in Montreal on Wednesday night, but we suspect that the cheers in Boston could be heard as far away as New York City.

Montreal was home to much second guessing and frustration on Wednesday, a feeling that will eventually go away, but the reminders will be there for a while yet we suspect.

Boston with the four game sweep solidifies the impression that they are the team to beat in the east this year, the four game series with the Habs only adds to the evidence that the road to Stanley, will be keeping on a straight line to Boston.

Montreal Gazette-- Superior Bruins sweep Habs
Montreal Gazette-- Disappointment muffles city streets
Montreal Gazette-- Scalpers bemoan Habs' fate
Globe and Mail-- Canadiens swept out of playoffs
Globe and Mail-- Montreal crowd quiet for U.S. anthem
National Post-- Bruising Bruins sweep Price, Canadiens aside
National Post-- Canadiens' anniversary season a long funeral
Boston Globe-- Ryder leads Bruins to sweep over Habs
Boston Herald-- Bruins make clean getaway
Boston Herald-- Michael Ryder happy to be on series’ winning side
Boston Herald-- David Krejci is delivering like a pro
CBC-- Bruins sweep Canadiens out of playoffs
CBC-- Gainey takes aim at Montreal boobirds
CBC-- Koivu uncertain of future with Habs