Saturday, April 19, 2014

MacKinnon, Avs shine against Wild, take 2-0 series lead


Few expected Nathan MacKinnon to match the three assists he generated in helping the Colorado Avalanche win Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild. He didn’t in Game 2; instead, he surpassed that output, generating a beautiful goal and three assists for a four-point masterpiece that is prompting onlookers to throw the words “Hall of Fame” around.


The prodigious 18-year-old may or may not be matching the special things Sidney Crosby did at that same age, but the Avalanche probably don’t care with a 2-0 series lead against the Wild thanks to a 4-2 win. It’s also easy to overlook slightly less sexy storylines; Paul Stastny is having a magical run of his own, as he followed up his Game 1 heroics with a one-goal, three-assist night of his own.


The Wild must be merely happy to move the series back to Minnesota. They might have questions in net after the Avalanche chased Ilya Bryzgalov, but either way, they need to find a way to slow down this Colorado attack.


(Perhaps having the last change and a refuge from the high elevation may do the trick?)


The luckiest group in Game 2 wasn’t the Avalanche, it was the officials. P.A. Parenteau can attest, as he was the centerpiece of two controversial moments in the wild third period. Despite being clearly cut by an errant stick, officials didn’t call a penalty, let alone a double-minor. If that wasn’t enough, it’s believed that officials botched an offside call that erased a Parenteau empty-netter.


With a Wild goal moments later, what could have been a 4-1 lead was instead a suddenly nervous 3-2 situation. Those with whistles had to be a little relieved that the Wild’s comeback bid fell short, then.


Either way, the Avalanche and their young scorers are riding quite the high right now. It’s up to Minnesota to make a series out of this one starting with Game 3 on Monday.



Blackhawks face major challenge after two OT losses


ST. LOUIS -- The Chicago Blackhawks have the type of composure and swagger befitting a team that has won the Stanley Cup twice since 2010. Now they need to show their thick skin and resiliency as well.


The Blackhawks were hoping to win at least one of the first two games at Scottrade Center in their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues. Instead, they fly home down 0-2 following back-to-back 4-3 overtime losses.


Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko scored a power-play goal with 6.4 seconds left in regulation Saturday to tie the game and defenseman Barret Jackman won it for St. Louis with a seeing-eye slap shot through Chicago goalie Corey Crawford's legs 5:50 into overtime.


Not only is this Chicago's second straight overtime loss to start the series, the Blackhawks are in the 0-2 hole because they couldn't hold one-goal leads late in the third period of both games.


Jaden Schwartz tied Game 1 with 1:45 left in regulation before Alexander Steen scored the winner 26 seconds into the third overtime. Tarasenko and Jackman did the damage in Game 2.


Game 3 is Monday in Chicago (8:30 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDSI, CSN-CH, FS-MW).


"You're right there, six seconds away," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "The other game was tough; it was tough losing with a buck and change. But [Saturday] was brutal."


After losing Thursday, the Blackhawks talked about leaning on their experience, about how it was only one game.


Judging by Quenneville's use of the word "brutal," which he said used twice after the game, getting over the Game 2 loss won't be as easy.


But the Blackhawks won't dare talk about that, even if there is some truth to it.


"It's hard to think about what could have been these last two games, but what are you going to do?" captain Jonathan Toews said. "We've got a great opportunity to go home and turn this thing around in our own building, and take that momentum and find a way to not let it go.


"We've had it late in the last couple games and we gave it up, [and they] come back and score in overtime, so it's not a good feeling. But like we did before [Saturday], we put the last one behind us and we move on to the next one. It's as simple as that. That's all we can do."


They could also play better in the first half of Game 3 than they did Saturday.


The Blackhawks went down 2-0 when Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored at 19:58 of the first period. They followed that by being outshot 6-0 through the first nine minutes of the second period before Quenneville changed his lines.


Quenneville moved Kris Versteeg off the top line and onto the third line with Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw. On his first shift with his new linemates, Versteeg set up Duncan Keith for a goal with 2:35 left in the second period.


Chicago took over the game from there, scoring twice more in the third period on point shots by defensemen that deflected in off of Blues' forwards to take a 3-2 lead.


Brent Seabrook scored at 4:53 when his shot went in off of Blues center David Backes. Michal Rozsival scored at 6:38 when his knuckling shot hit Blues forward Kevin Porter, dipped and went past goalie Ryan Miller.


"Everyone started playing a little more physical, a little more emotion in their game. You saw the result," Toews said. "We were getting shots from the point. We were getting traffic. We were getting pucks back. We were winning battles. We did a lot of great things. We did what we had to do to win. We just didn't finish it."


They didn't give themselves the best chance either.


Seabrook was assessed a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct for his hit on Backes with 4:51 to play in regulation. Chicago forward Bryan Bickell was still in the penalty box for his kneeing penalty on Blues center Vladimir Sobotka.


Chicago killed off the 46-second 5-on-3 and was close to doing the same to Seabrook's major, but Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo held the puck in and set up Tarasenko for a low shot from the top of the right circle that snuck past Crawford.


The Blues owned the overtime, outshooting Chicago 7-2 and dominating possession until Jackman scored.


"We're not going to cry about it," Crawford said. "We just have to work harder."


---



Experienced Rangers: We won’t relax in Game 2 … It’ll be Emery in goal for Flyers again


First a couple of things … Looks like we’re going to try to do the Live Chat with Dave Maloney at some point Wednesday afternoon after practice, assuming the Rangers do indeed have a practice, whether it be a full workout or an optional.


Second, our friend Manny (Nannu, Nanny, Diver, etc.) has put up the BEFORE pictures for The 5th Sometimes-Annual, 2013-2014, Paul Mara Playoff Beard Contest


He said, and I quote: “I assume a few more entries will slowly roll in from our more lazy Boneheads…”


http://semiannualpaulmaraplayoffbeardcontest.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/the-official-before-pictures/


********************************************


Here’s my story from The Journal News and lohud.com:


By Rick Carpiniello


NEW YORK – If you’re not getting better during a playoff series, you’re getting worse.


Having played in five playoff series the last two springtimes, the core of the Rangers understands this. So does their newest player, Martin St. Louis, a former Stanley Cup champ, and Alain Vigneault, who has 79 playoff games as a head coach.


Don’t underestimate lessons such as these. Inexperienced teams, as the Rangers were just a few years ago, might relax after a win, as the Rangers did just a few years ago.


They head into Game 2 against Philadelphia, on Sunday at the Garden at noon, off a 4-1 win in which they were the better team, but were 1-1 in the third period and had to kill a big penalty to keep it tied. Statistically, the Rangers dominated. It was still a game they could have lost.


“I think they’re going to be a lot different and we’ve got to match that, or even more,” said Brad Richards, a Cup champ and Conn Smythe Trophy winner with 94 career playoff games, coming off a three-point Game 1. “This is where we have to realize the level is going to go way higher, and you can’t get caught … resting on Game 1. It’s going to be a whole new speed and intensity level, and we’ve got to rise to that.


“We got on them quick. We tried to move the puck up quick and get it out of our zone. We didn’t spend a lot of time there. That’s the way we’ve been playing all year. But like I said, it’s going to have to be quicker. There’s going to be more hits. That’s just the way it goes in a playoff series. Every game is going to be faster and better.”


The Rangers will face Ray Emery in goal again, as Steve Mason (probable concussion) practiced at the Garden Saturday but was ruled out by coach Craig Berube and general manager Paul Holmgren. Mason will not even dress as the backup, Berube said.


Emery was hardly the problem for the Flyers. Their problem was with the way the Rangers defended, and dominated possession and zone time.


Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi shut down the Flyers’ top line, holding Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek without a point or a shot on goal. It was the third time in five meetings this season that those two were off the scoresheet, and in one of the other two they combined for a meaningless goal with less than two minutes left in a Garden loss.


“The best way to play defense is to hold on to the puck and keep them in their own end,” Rangers winger Rick Nash said.


“I do know when you play against a line like that, you’ve got to do the right things with the puck,” Vigneault said. “And so far, I think we’ve done a good job there.”


Now they have to do it again. And better.


Twitter: @RangersReport



Blues use smarts rather than emotion to win Game 2


ST. LOUIS -- They saw their captain down, victimized by a hard, high and illegal hit into the end boards. This was not good, not ever.


The St. Louis Blues' players don't want to trade the skill, size, strength and heart of David Backes for anyone, but they had no choice with 4:51 remaining in regulation of Game 2 on Saturday. Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook delivered the hit that forced both players to leave the game, one by way of injury and the other by way of a major penalty and a game misconduct.


The Blues, now pulsating with emotion, raw and potentially overwhelming, then saw 5:00 go onto the scoreboard clock above center ice, signaling a long power play and a chance at redemption.


The tone of this Western Conference First Round series would hinge on how the Blues handled themselves in this moment at Scottrade Center, with less than five minutes to play and the Blackhawks holding a one-goal lead.


Would the Blues forget about trying to score the game-tying goal and go chasing after revenge? Or would they calm down, use the time smartly, work the puck around and make the Blackhawks pay for Seabrook's untimely charge?


The Blues chose door No. 2. They chose wisely.


Forward Vladimir Tarasenko scored the tying goal with 6.4 seconds remaining in regulation, dropping to his knees and pumping his fists after the puck went into the net. St. Louis then dominated overtime before defenseman Barret Jackman put a seeing-eye slap shot through Chicago goalie Corey Crawford's legs for the winner.


The Blues won 4-3 in overtime for a second straight game to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, which shifts to Chicago for Game 3 at United Center on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDSI, FS-MW, CSN-CA).


None of this is surprising. At least it shouldn't be.


"I know the stats on who picked [St. Louis to win the series] and who didn't, all that stuff," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "But knowing our real team you'd have given us a chance in this series knowing that if we got a little bit healthy we'd be competitive."


The Blues weren't healthy or competitive down the stretch. They were on their way to winning the Presidents' Trophy and being a popular pick to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Playoffs until the bottom dropped out with six games to play in the regular season.


Injuries to Tarasenko, Backes, Jackman, Alex Pietrangelo, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Alexander Steen and Brenden Morrow sent the Blues off the rails and into a tailspin. They lost their final six regular-season games, fell out of first place in the Central Division and into this first-round series against the defending Stanley Cup champions.


They had 111 points through 76 games, but their doubters were everywhere, even though all but Oshie and Berglund were back for Game 1.


The eight members of NHL.com and NHL Network tasked with making first-round predictions all had the Blackhawks beating the Blues. It seemed too convenient to ignore St. Louis' first 76 games.


"We heard a lot of bad things after losing six in a row in the regular season," center Maxim Lapierre said.


What they didn't hear was talk about their character, mental toughness, and ability when icing a healthy lineup. Now that's all you're going to hear about the Blues, at least until Game 3 at United Center.


The Blues got healthy and rediscovered how to perform in the clutch.


Jaden Schwartz did it Thursday in Game 1, forcing a turnover with a sneaky check down the wall in the offensive zone and scoring the game-tying goal seconds later, with 1:45 remaining in regulation.


Pietrangelo and Tarasenko combined to do it in Game 2, with time winding down and the Blackhawks seconds away from leaving with what would have been a come-from-behind 3-2 victory on an afternoon when two of Chicago's three goals went into the net off of Blues' forwards.


Pietrangelo got the puck in the right circle, delivered a pass to Tarasenko and the 22-year-old Russian, the player St. Louis missed the most during that injury spell because of his shot and his explosiveness, set himself up on his forehand, aimed low glove and hit his target, the back of the net.


"Some teams are built differently than others," Hitchcock said. "We have role players and it fits, but it started to not fit [at the end of the regular season]. It got a little bit dicey, but I think between the coaches and the players they all deserve a lot of credit for moving the team forward. We washed it clean."


Backes' injury presents yet another dilemma. He is without question St. Louis' leader and arguably its most important player. If he's out for any length of time, the Blues will again be tested and questioned.


Hitchcock also brought up his concern about Sobotka, who had a knee-on-knee collision with Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell 13:55 into the third period but managed to skate away from it and stay in the game.


What if Sobotka wakes up with a swollen knee Sunday? What if he can't play Monday? What if neither Backes nor Sobotka can play? The Blues would be missing their top two centers with only one, Berglund, potentially on the mend.


These are questions that can't be answered until Sunday at the earliest; Monday in reality. The rest of this series may hinge on how the Blues respond, regardless of whether Backes and Sobotka play.


Don't bet on an overreaction.


"We've got guys in this room who can step up," Pietrangelo said.


---



Pavelski continues to play big role in Sharks' success


SAN JOSE -- The Los Angeles Kings were the best possession team in the NHL this season. Teams generally create more shot attempts per minute after offensive-zone faceoffs, especially faceoff wins, than at any point during a game, and the Kings are among the League's best at winning draws.


Ceding a faceoff in the defensive zone against the Kings is akin to yielding set pieces to the best soccer teams in the world. The San Jose Sharks are well aware of Los Angeles' prowess, but they have something few teams possess to combat this situation.



Joe Pavelski



Center - SJS


GOALS: 0 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 1

SOG: 2 | +/-: 1



Enter Joe Pavelski.

Pavelski enjoyed a breakout season in 2013-14, setting career highs in goals (41) and points (79), perhaps meriting consideration for the Hart Trophy. He's always been one of the best two-way players in the sport, and Game 1 of this Western Conference First Round series was a prime example.


Seven times the Kings had a faceoff at the Sharks end of the ice at even strength with Pavelski waiting in the circle. Seven times, win or lose, Pavelski and his teammates prevented nary a shot attempt from Los Angeles before the next whistle or the next line change.


"It's nice. I think you want to be in all situations," Pavelski said of being San Jose's go-to guy in a key faceoff situation. "Six years ago when [this coaching staff] came, they said if you get your faceoffs up you can earn a lot more ice time just because of that. It was something we worked on and kept trying to get a little bit better."


Pavelski said his work in the faceoff circle started to become a clear strength during two years at the University of Wisconsin.


"Once you get to the NHL, it started getting harped on and you worked on it a lot more," he said. "I remember my rookie year, you thought you were good, but you really weren't even anywhere near being good. You just develop and learn guys tendencies, which help out too."


Pavelski has been one of the best players in the faceoff circle for several years. He's won more than 54 percent of his draws in each of the 82-game seasons since 2008-09 and he's been better than 56 percent in four of those five years.



Pearn: Kings need fewer turnovers, more zone time



For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, NHL.com has enlisted the help of former NHL coach Perry Pearn to break down the action. Pearn will be checking in throughout the series.


Pearn has spent the past 18 seasons as an assistant coach in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and a second tenure with the Jets in 2012-13 and 2013-14.


SAN JOSE -- The towels move in unison. The giant Shark head descends from the ceiling. Smoke fills the area where it is going to end up on the ice.


SAP Center is one of the loudest buildings in the NHL, and fans of the San Jose Sharks get worked into a frenzy even before the opening faceoff. The Sharks went on the attack early against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of this Western Conference First Round series, and they fed off the energy created by both their play and the fans in a raucous atmosphere.


"The one thing I've always noticed when you go into San Jose is it's a tough building to play in. They are a very, very good home team," Pearn said. "The momentum got rolling San Jose's way, and it almost seemed to me like L.A. decided, 'Well, OK, we're going to try to get back in this by getting on the attack,' but I thought what really hurt them, and it's an area the Kings are usually so good in, is they had a lot of turnovers that created scoring chances and created zone time for San Jose. That just kind of fed into the momentum.


"The key goal to me was right at the end of the first period. If L.A. gets out of that period, even though they didn't play very well, if they get out 2-0 they go to the room with more belief they can back into it."


San Jose pushed the pace against Los Angeles, and the typically composed Kings did not respond in a positive manner. The Sharks controlled the opening period and added a pair of late goals to make the score line look more like what had transpired.


Each team loves to possess the puck, but the Kings struggled to get out of their zone without having to give it up. It became a cycle of momentum for the Sharks, as they continued to hem the Kings in from shift to shift.


If the Kings are going to improve in Game 2 on Sunday night (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-W, CSN-CA) at SAP Center, they are going to have to find a better way to combat the Sharks territorially.


"You have to talk about the little things," Pearn said. "One of the things I'd be pushing on the bench is I'd say, 'Let's make sure we are getting the puck behind their defense. Let's go finish some checks and see if we can create some zone time.'


"What happens when games are getting away is lines go out there, and if you're caught in your end for like 25-30 seconds, you finally get the puck and you get going, but you've already expended all your energy trying to get it back, so there is nothing left to attack with it. You have to be patient enough to say, 'OK, we can't attack, but let's get it down there in the right place and hopefully we can change the momentum by doing that so we don't get in more trouble."


-- Corey Masisak




Whether Pavelski is playing center or on the wing, Sharks coach Todd McLellan finds ways to put him on the ice for key faceoffs. When he plays on the top line, he and Joe Thornton, also one of the NHL's best, are able to take draws almost exclusively on their strong side of the ice.


Pavelski can also still be a weapon when his line isn't scheduled to be on the ice. McLellan put him out with the third line for a defensive zone draw three times in Game 1, and the result was the same as the four he took with the top line … a whole lot of nothing for the Kings.


"It's nice to have the puck. It's a real good thing to start with it," McLellan said. "I think a lot has been made about the two teams and their ability to forecheck and hem the other team in. Well, you can't start a forecheck without the puck, and faceoffs dictate that you at least have the chance to do that. Special teams faceoffs are real important. We were good on the power play, not so good on the penalty kill [in Game 1]. That has to get better. But it's really a key part of the game. It happens some nights 70 times. You can't overlook its importance."


Pavelski is much more than a faceoff specialist. He's earned a reputation for being one of the best forwards in the defensive zone. He's one of the most versatile players in the NHL, with his ability to succeed against tough competition regardless of where on the ice he starts his shift.


McLellan can deploy Pavelski as the center on his third line behind Thornton and Logan Couture, and few teams in the NHL can match up with that type of depth down the middle. When Tomas Hertl was injured earlier this season, Pavelski took his place on the wing next to Thornton and Brent Burns. Pavelski produced 41 goals, third-most in the NHL, and a team-high 79 points.


"He's an amazing player," Sharks forward James Sheppard said. "He kind of does it all, except for win the fastest lap contest. He's an amazing player. He has world-class skill and talent, but the way he works might be his best thing about him."


Veteran defenseman Scott Hannan said, "He's so good. He's a great leader. He understands the game. I think it is his hockey intelligence, and the way he reads the play. You could put him on defense and he'd probably be pretty good, although I don't how great he is at skating backwards. He understands how to play positionally. He's one of those guys that is able to slow down the game and you can see it when he’s out there."


Pavelski has 16 of his goals on the power play this season, which was second to Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Washington finished the regular season tied for first in extra-man efficiency; the Sharks were tied for 19th.


With the ability to play on the point or float in the same area Ovechkin likes to call home (somewhere in or near the left circle), Pavelski finds ways to get open and has of the League's best setup men looking for him in Thornton.


"[The Kings] have to be aware of what he does. For example, one of the areas he's most dangerous is on the power play," former NHL assistant coach Perry Pearn said. "You can't take that away, but what you can do is know what his tendencies are, try to push the puck to other areas of the ice so that it stays away from him. He's not maybe quite as dynamic as Ovechkin, but he's very effective. I don't think the Kings are going to be able to completely take him away on the power play.


"I think the fact that he gets moved around the lineup is one of the things that makes San Jose such an effective team. They're a better team right now to me because they're more balanced than they've been in the last three or four years. I think the third and fourth lines are just better when they're healthy than they’ve been. It gives them a little more flexibility with where they can put Pavelski."


There is a cluster of players with a strong case to join Pavelski in Las Vegas at the NHL Awards show should he be named a finalist for the Hart Trophy. Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf are likely in that group. So too are Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux, Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and a trio of Boston Bruins, center Patrice Bergeron, defenseman Zdeno Chara and goaltender Tuukka Rask.


Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said Bergeron "would be a very good comparison" for Pavelski. The advent of advanced statistics and the ability to better quantify two-way play has raised the profiles of players like Bergeron and Pavelski and made it possible for guys who don't score 50 goals or rack up 100 points to be MVP candidates.


Pavelski has added the traditional offensive numbers this season as well, while still being a responsible, versatile weapon for McLellan to deploy in any important situation.


"He's pretty special," Boyle said. "He's dangerous offensively, but he's also so reliable in his own zone. It is faceoffs, blocking shots, penalty killing, a power-play guy, he can play first line, second line, third line, center or wing ... he's just a luxury most teams don't have."


And what about being mentioned for the Hart Trophy, and going from underrated to considered a top two-way player to being an MVP candidate?


"Obviously it's nice, but there's a lot of help in this room, [my] linemates," Pavelski said. "We've had a good season and that's part of the equation. It's cool, but this is the [part of the] season we all want to be playing, so you want to be talked about like that at this point."



Hitchcock’s Backes update: He’s not great


As expected, there aren’t many specifics regarding the condition of St. Louis Blues captain David Backes, particularly if he’ll be able to play in Game 3. Even so, Blues head coach Ken Hitchock’s vague update probably says a lot:


Other than that, Hitchcock was careful to avoid the kind of comments that might draw a fine.


While it might slip under the radar thanks to the higher profile hit by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, Hitchcock also expressed concern about Vladimir Sobotka‘s knee after a collision with ‘Hawks forward Bryan Bickell.


Seabrook defended the check he delivered, but Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville avoided making a comment; he told CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers that he hasn’t had time to analyze the hit just yet.


Not surprisingly, Blues such as Alex Pietrangelo expressed their displeasure in ways that their coach could not.


However both teams – not to mention the league – feel about that blow on Backes, NHL.com’s Lou Korac reports that it was a motivational moment for the Blues.


“As soon as that hit happened, we’re like, ‘We’re winning this for him,’” Chris Porter said.


It remains to be seen if Backes will be healthy enough and if Seabrook will be suspended through Game 3, which takes on Monday in Chicago.



WATCH LIVE: Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins (Game 2)


The Pittsburgh Penguins managed to pull away from the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1, but if Wednesday’s contest was any indication, this could be a tough series. Of course, the Blue Jackets need to grab their franchise’s first playoff win to make that more than an impression.


The two teams play in Game 2 on NBCSN Saturday. You can watch the game there or via the live stream link below.


CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE


The Blue Jackets will bring R.J. Umberger back into the lineup, which could be more of an impact move than it might seem (considering that he’s really struggled this season). Umberger is from the Pittsburgh area, so he may have an added level of motivation (beyond the already considerable drive of proving that he shouldn’t be a healthy scratch).


The Penguins and Blue Jackets should be well-rested tonight, so we’ll see if that opens things up in Game 2.



Video: Bryan Bickell goes knee-on-knee with Vladimir Sobotka


Things started going awry for the Chicago Blackhawks late in the third period when Bryan Bickell was called for going knee-on-knee against St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka.


Bickell’s hit put Sobotka down on the ice for a few moments before he got up and headed to the bench. It was just 1:14 later that Brent Seabrook delivered a shot to the head of Blues captain David Backes and led to a five-minute major for charging and ultimately the tying goal with six seconds left by Vladimir Tarasenko.


While everyone will rightfully recall the Seabrook hit, it was Bickell who got the bad vibes started with his questionable hit on Sobotka.



McCarthy: First goal, beating trap keys for Lightning


For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens , NHL.com has enlisted the help of longtime NHL assistant/associate coach Kevin McCarthy to break down the action. McCarthy will be checking in throughout the series.


McCarthy played in more than 500 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers , Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins , then spent a decade as an assistant and associate coach with the Carolina Hurricanes , where he was a member of the staff that led the franchise to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006. He joined the Flyers as an assistant during the 2009-10 season and stayed in Philadelphia until October 2013.


If there is one person who can relate with Lightning coach Jon Cooper right now, it would be Kevin McCarthy.


He was behind the bench of the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes, who went down 2-0 to the Montreal Canadiens at home and headed to Montreal facing a must-win Game 3. The Hurricanes put a rookie named Cam Ward in goal and went on to win four straight games to take the series in six, eventually winning the Stanley Cup.


Cooper would obviously love nothing more than to replicate what happened to McCarthy's Hurricanes.


"We told the players that there's no such thing as a momentum in a series, we believed that momentum swings happen within a game," McCarthy told NHL.com. "We told them it's about desperation; the more desperate team will win. And obviously, the team with the most to lose will be the one that's most desperate, so the Canadiens will need to match that in Game 3."


McCarthy has been impressed with Montreal's defensive play through two games, comparing the Canadiens to the way the New Jersey Devils played under coach Jacques Lemaire in his first tenure with the team from 1993 to 1998.


"They're playing that smothering neutral zone trap," McCarthy said. "What that does is lead teams to do things individually because guys think they can beat it by themselves. But that's the trap."


McCarthy believes the Lightning have to commit to chipping pucks into the offensive zone in order to gain possession and keep it, but they need to do it smartly. Similarly to the Devils with Martin Brodeur, the Canadiens have an excellent puck-handling goaltender in Carey Price, who can kill a forecheck by himself.


"Once that goalie touches the puck, your forecheck has been eliminated because you're playing defense right away," McCarthy said. "Offensive zone time is going to be a key for the Lightning."


In order to achieve that, the Lightning will need to make soft dumps into the corner to keep the puck away from Price, or chip it in and chase it, more than once if necessary, McCarthy said. Once established in the zone, the Lightning need to start shooting from all angles and look for goals on rebounds and bounces, he added.


"The way Montreal collapses on their goal, there are really no passing angles available," McCarthy said. "So if you try to make those passes, more often than not they're going to be intercepted."


Finally, McCarthy believes the importance of getting the first goal for the Lightning is even more vital than usual because it will force the Canadiens to open up and play more offensively, which will in turn create opportunities for the Lightning.


"Getting the first goal is always important," McCarthy said. "But it's almost doubly so against Montreal because of the way they play."



Canadiens know perils of 2-0 series lead


BROSSARD, Quebec -- Three years ago, the sixth-seeded Montreal Canadiens came home with a 2-0 series lead over the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Bell Centre was rocking when the Canadiens and Bruins took to the ice for Game 3.


But instead of riding the momentum of winning the first two games of the series on the road, the Canadiens lost Game 3, 4-2, then lost Game 4, 5-4 in overtime. Boston won two of the final three games to advance, and Montreal was left wondering what happened to the "commanding" 2-0 series leads they had.


The Canadiens now have plenty of different players on their roster and a different coach. But for those that remain, it was a valuable lesson learned that can be applied to Games 3 and 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Montreal leads the best-of-7 series after winning the first two games in Tampa Bay, including 4-1 on Friday. Game 3 is Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, SUN).


"It's big, it's huge, but at the end of the day we fell into that trap against Boston a few years back," Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said Saturday. "We won two games in their building and we came back and let off the gas a bit. So we need to make sure that tomorrow night is our focus and we have to do the things that have made us successful in the first two games and make sure we stick with that."


Gionta can provide advice and insight for the younger Canadiens who haven't been in this situation before. He plans to be as much of a calming presence as he can, but as he said Saturday, it's about them drawing from what experience they have.


Last spring, some of the young core of this Canadiens roster got their first taste of the playoffs. Montreal came into the playoffs as the second seed in the Eastern Conference after winning the Northeast Division but lost to the underdog Ottawa Senators in five games. Gionta said he is hoping that serves as a similar lesson to the one he and the 2011 Canadiens learned.


"You need to go out there and experience it for yourself, and that's the whole point of having gone through it before," Gionta said. "You can say all you want and you can look to people all you want, but unless you're out there and doing it, it's tough to gain that experience. Our young guys have been extremely composed so far through the first two games, but it's just that, it's the first two games."


Michel Therrien the Canadiens coach in 2011, but he was for that series loss to Ottawa. Through the first two games of this series with the Lightning, he's seen his team maintain an even-keel approach it didn't have last season, especially after their 5-4 overtime win in Game 1 when they could've gotten carried away.


"We have to make sure we stay stable with our emotions," Therrien said. "I thought after Game 1 our emotion was stable, and then the next day we understood that we had to prepare and practice for the next game, and that's what we did. Now today we're doing the same thing."


The Canadiens' biggest test in terms of controlling emotions and channeling momentum may await them at Bell Centre for Game 3. Though the support of the fans and the raucous environment can work against the visiting Lightning, it can backfire and work against the Canadiens. Gionta said his teammates must channel the energy to their advantage and not get too caught up in the atmosphere.


"We want to use that momentum," Gionta said. "Momentum swings in games and series are dictated by what you do on the ice. The home crowd can be behind you and you need to use that to your advantage. They're great support for us and it's a tough building to play in as a visitor and we need to make sure that we make it that way."


If the Canadiens are successful in doing so, they will hold a 3-0 lead with a chance to sweep at home on Tuesday.


"We all know this is a special place to play in here in Montreal," Therrien said. "We've got tremendous fans and they're going to be there to support us, and I believe the players really compete from that. So tomorrow is going to be a special night I hope."



Pearn: Kings need fewer turnovers, more zone time


For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings , NHL.com has enlisted the help of former NHL coach Perry Pearn to break down the action. Pearn will be checking in throughout the series.


Pearn has spent the past 18 seasons as an assistant coach in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets , Ottawa Senators , New York Rangers , Montreal Canadiens and a second tenure with the Jets in 2012-13 and 2013-14.


SAN JOSE -- The towels move in unison. The giant Shark head descends from the ceiling. Smoke fills the area where it is going to end up on the ice.


SAP Center is one of the loudest buildings in the NHL, and fans of the San Jose Sharks get worked into a frenzy even before the opening faceoff. The Sharks went on the attack early against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of this Western Conference First Round series, and they fed off the energy created by both their play and the fans in a raucous atmosphere.


"The one thing I've always noticed when you go into San Jose is it's a tough building to play in. They are a very, very good home team," Pearn said. "The momentum got rolling San Jose's way, and it almost seemed to me like L.A. decided, 'Well, OK, we're going to try to get back in this by getting on the attack,' but I thought what really hurt them, and it's an area the Kings are usually so good in, is they had a lot of turnovers that created scoring chances and created zone time for San Jose. That just kind of fed into the momentum.


"The key goal to me was right at the end of the first period. If L.A. gets out of that period, even though they didn't play very well, if they get out 2-0 they go to the room with more belief they can back into it."


San Jose pushed the pace against Los Angeles, and the typically composed Kings did not respond in a positive manner. The Sharks controlled the opening period and added a pair of late goals to make the score line look more like what had transpired.


Each team loves to possess the puck, but the Kings struggled to get out of their zone without having to give it up. It became a cycle of momentum for the Sharks, as they continued to hem the Kings in from shift to shift.


If the Kings are going to improve in Game 2 on Sunday night (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-W, CSN-CA) at SAP Center, they are going to have to find a better way to combat the Sharks territorially.


"You have to talk about the little things," Pearn said. "One of the things I'd be pushing on the bench is I'd say, 'Let's make sure we are getting the puck behind their defense. Let's go finish some checks and see if we can create some zone time.'


"What happens when games are getting away is lines go out there, and if you're caught in your end for like 25-30 seconds, you finally get the puck and you get going, but you've already expended all your energy trying to get it back, so there is nothing left to attack with it. You have to be patient enough to say, 'OK, we can't attack, but let's get it down there in the right place and hopefully we can change the momentum by doing that so we don't get in more trouble.'"



Lightning could use Palat to challenge Canadiens


TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are hoping to have rookie forward Ondrej Palat back in the lineup when they play the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference First Round series on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS, SUN).


The Canadiens lead the best-of-7 series 2-0 with the scene shifting back to Montreal.


Palat skated for about 45 minutes with the scratched Lightning players as well as forward Cedric Paquette and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis.


“I felt good today, I had a good practice,” Palat said. “It’s going to be a game-time decision tomorrow.”


Palat left Game 1 on Wednesday with an upper-body injury after playing one shift to start the third period of the 5-4 overtime loss, and did not play in the 4-1 loss in Game 2 on Friday.


Tampa Bay’s leading scorer in the regular season with 59 points in 81 games, Palat led the Lightning with a plus-32 rating. He plays on the penalty kill, on the power play and regularly faces the opposition’s top forwards.


“He’s one of our top players,” Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness said Saturday. “Rookie or five-year veteran, it doesn’t matter, this kid is a great player. He’s a gamer. He’s one of those players you look at and say, ‘Wow, we can win with this guy. We can win the Cup with this guy.’ He’s a valuable addition.”


Valuable or not, Palat alone will not solve what has the Lightning facing an 0-2 hole in the series heading to one of the loudest buildings in the NHL for Game 3.


Tampa Bay has been unable to create any semblance of a consistent presence in the Montreal zone in nearly seven periods, stymied by Canadiens forwards who have pressured the Lightning defense and come back hard defensively to disrupt the entries into the offensive zone.


The Lightning have appeared disorganized at times, indifferent at others, and frustrated in general.


“What’s disappointing is not only the outcome of the games, but it’s how we’ve played the game. We know we’re a much better team than that,” Bowness said. “The players addressed it after the game amongst themselves.


“Regardless of the outcome of the game, you’ve got to play the game the right way. You’ve got to play the game with a certain amount of intensity that’s going to give you the opportunity to win the game. I think that’s where we’re disappointed in ourselves. We haven’t thrown our A game at them yet.”


The Lightning players held a closed-door meeting after the game Friday and hashed out some of the inconsistencies, a move commended by coach Jon Cooper as a proactive admission of fault.


“When you've got a team that cares, they take it upon themselves,” Cooper said Friday. “They understand the magnitude of what's gone on … they know they've got more in them.”


Paquette said the meeting was a frank discussion emphasizing the possibility of coming back in the series, but how that will be impossible if the Lightning’s play doesn’t improve dramatically.


“The leaders took charge of the team,” Paquette said Saturday. “They just closed the doors and talked about what wasn’t going well and what we needed to do. It’s good not to wait for the coach to tell us what we need to do all the time.”


With the series shifting to Montreal, Cooper tiptoed around the notion the pressure is more on the Canadiens than the Lightning. It seemed almost as though Cooper wanted to say it but at the last second backed out.


“They’ve got to go home and deliver,” Cooper said.


One player on the Lightning roster who may know that better than anyone is Tom Pyatt, who spent two years with the Canadiens from 2009-11 and played 25 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in that time. He played in 18 of the 19 Canadiens games in the 2010 playoffs when they went to the Eastern Conference Final, Montreal’s longest playoff run since winning the Stanley Cup in 1993, and he played in all seven games of a first-round playoff loss to the Boston Bruins in 2011.


Pyatt remembers how it felt to be a Canadiens player in the middle of a playoff run in Montreal, the people waiting for them at the airport, the adulation on the streets, the feeling hockey is on the minds of anyone and everyone in the city.


“It made you feel like a rock star,” Pyatt said.


Pyatt’s last playoff series with Montreal was one when the Canadiens took a 2-0 lead on the road and went back home with control of the series, only to lose four of the next five games, including an overtime loss in Game 7 that catapulted the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup.


So if there is any doubt in the Lightning room they can come back from their deficit, Pyatt is living proof it's possible.


Pyatt has not been in the Lightning lineup the first two games, so he said he probably won’t talk too much to his teammates about that experience.


“There are other guys on the team who have had similar experiences,” he said.


Actually, there aren’t that many. Five players on the Lightning’s active roster have played more than the 25 playoff games Pyatt has played: Eric Brewer, Ryan Callahan, Matthew Carle, Valtteri Filppula and Sami Salo.


If it doesn’t come from Pyatt, some guidance will need to come from the Lightning’s veteran core as they walk into what will be a daunting environment in Montreal with their season potentially on the line Sunday. For the first time in this series, the Lightning will need to play like they care for 60 minutes or more.


“It’s simple, we didn’t have any energy,” Paquette said. “We, I don’t know, we had no joy playing. Our bench was dead. We didn’t have any intensity.


“For us, that’s what’s important; if we have no intensity and we’re always flat-footed we won’t have success. That’s what happened the first two games.”



POST-PRACTICE AUDIO: Alain Vigneault, Henrik Lundqvist, Brad Richards, Derick Brassard, Rick Nash







Rick Carpiniello, 26, was born and raised in Harrison and began working in The Journal News' sports department (back when it was The Reporter Dispatch and eight other newspapers) in October of 1977 after a year of covering high school sports as a stringer. For more than 20 years he covered the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League. Carpiniello has been writing columns on everything from local sports to the big leagues since 2002.




LoHud.com Copyright 2013 | Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, updated September 2010.



Avs players rallying around Roy’s support, gutsy tactics


Patrick Roy’s aggressive tactics against the Minnesota Wild are part of the reason his young team has rallied behind him this season.


Roy pulled goalie Semyon Varlamov with three minutes left to play in Game 1 and that led to the Avs scoring the tying goal in the closing seconds before winning Game 1 5-4 in overtime.


As Jamie McGinn told Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Sun, it’s that kind of outside-the-box stuff that makes the team love him.


“All people see are the antics behind the bench, but we see what kind of guy he is, how he’s always supporting us, how he’s never negative,” McGinn said. “We want to play for a guy like that. It shows in how hard and consistent we’ve been all year. We want to make him proud and we want to make the guys in the room proud, too.”


Sounds like Roy is the ideal kind of father-figure to play for. After all, Roy put many years coaching in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts and being that sort of supportive coach is needed at that level.


Add in the fact Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said he “loved” that they pulled the goalie with as much time left as they did and you’ve got a team that will go all out for you.


Who knew that being an aggressively supportive guy would work in the NHL? Apparently Joe Sakic did when he brought him to Denver.



Milan Lucic…Seriously, What were you thinking? Should Be Suspended.

























April 19, 2014, 10:13 AM ET [50 Comments]








Eklund

RSSArchiveCONTACT



I want your opinion on this.

I think suspensions shouldn't only be reserved for hits to the head or hits from behind. On a play like this, one which is entirely premeditated and completely dirty, suspensions should be considered more then they are.


I don't honestly know what is more ridiculous...that Lucic does this or the Lucic doesn't think with a dozen cameras around this wouldn't be caught?


As it is, I am sure all that Lucic will get is a fine that he will write off against next year's taxes...but should this be a suspension?


What goes through a man's head as is he is skating back ice that says to him, "You know what I should do? I should do this...."



Join the Discussion: » 50 Comments » Post New Comment


Fourth line bolsters what had been a weakness … Mason a maybe for Game 2


Here’s my column on the fourth line from The Journal News and Lohud.com:


By Rick Carpiniello


GREENBURGH – Lest you forget what a lack of depth looks like, the five Rangers on the ice for the series-winning goal for Boston last spring were Roman Hamrlik, Steve Eminger, Micheal Haley, Kris Newbury and Derek Dorsett, who was just back from a broken collarbone.


Lest you forget who scored that series clincher, it was Boston’s fourth-line center Gregory Campbell, whose line ran over the Rangers throughout the series. So had the Devils’ fourth line in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, when the Rangers’ fourth line most often consisted of Mike Rupp, Stu Bickel and John Mitchell, and really couldn’t get off John Tortorella’s bench in big spots.


From December on, the Rangers’ depth and their fourth line were enormous reasons for the run to the No. 2 seed in the division, and their success in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Philadelphia in Game 1 of the playoffs.


“You have to be able to spread the minutes out,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Friday. “If you want to play a good-tempo game … it seems to me, the teams that have had success on a pretty regular basis — I’m thinking about the Bruins right now — they’re able to throw four lines on the ice and roll it.”


Dominic Moore, Brian Boyle and Dorsett matched Philadelphia’s physical presence in Game 1, established zone time throughout, had some offensive chances, and contributed to holding Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek without a shot on goal. On Philly’s fourth line, Vincent Lecavalier looked as if he’d rather be elsewhere, and Zac Rinaldo, as usual, was just a sideshow.


“We want to make a difference,” said Boyle. “It’s the playoffs. We’re going to come and be physical, and so are they. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. It shouldn’t be newsworthy. It’s not like the first time we threw a hit all year was against Philly. We play hard. We have all year. Anybody who says otherwise is wrong.”


Boyle, who has even found offense in his game during the first round the previous two springs, was asked if he’s a better player in the postseason.


“Yep,” said the free agent-to-be. “I think the last part of the season’s been pretty good. I don’t know what it is. … It’s fun.


“As a line, nothing really changes. It’s almost like Game 83. We know what’s at stake. There’s more at stake, obviously, but we try to go at it as business as usual.”


Dorsett expects more of the same battles from both teams in Game 2 Sunday and beyond.


“We talked about it,” he said. “We don’t want to back away from it. We’re not going to be intimidated by it. We’re all big boys, strong guys, and we can go at them and finish their checks and counter their hits. It’ll be a fun series to be a part of.”


Twitter: @RangersReport


Photo by USA Today.


***************************************


MASON A MAYBE FOR GAME 2


GREENBURGH – Philadelphia’s No. 1 goalie, Steve Mason, joined the team and practiced at Chelsea Piers in New York City Friday after remaining home and missing Game 1 with what is believed to be a concussion.


Asked if he can play in Game 2 Sunday, Mason said, “I’ll try my best.”


Backup Ray Emery lost Game 1, 4-1 on Thursday. Mason would not admit that he had suffered a concussion on the final weekend of the season, but did say he’d had two prior concussions.


He said he hadn’t been feeling well “a couple of days ago” and that he intends to practice Saturday with the team. Flyers coach Craig Berube indicated that he will wait and see before making a decision on a Game 2 starter.


Mason was 0-4, 4.27, .878 in his only playoff appearance, in 2009 with Columbus.



Gonchar: Refs missed penalty that led to Ducks’ game-winning goal


Dallas defenseman Sergei Gonchar took issue with Andrew Cogliano‘s game-winning goal in Friday’s 3-2 loss to Anaheim, saying the Ducks forward should’ve been whistled for a penalty prior to scoring his shorthanded marker.


“We had a good chance to tie this game,” Gonchar said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “I think the referee missed that penalty, on me, behind the net. In my opinion we should have been 5-on-3.”


Here’s the play in question, complete with Lindy Ruff’s animated reaction:


Gonchar probably has a legitimate beef here — aside from Cogliano’s slash breaking his stick (which is often criteria for a whistle), the incident occurred with Anaheim in the offensive zone and led directly to a scoring chance.


That said, there were a number of infractions that didn’t get called — both ways — in the third period. Ducks forward Mathieu Perreault got caught with a fairly blatant high stick to the face from Dallas’ Colton Sceviour in the final frame that also went uncalled.



Modano: Stars need more from Benn, Lehtonen and Seguin


Dallas franchise legend and current alternate governor Mike Modano was NHL on NBC’s live guest tweeter on Friday night and, following the Stars’ 3-2 loss in Anaheim, said the club needed more from its big three of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Kari Lehtonen.


Through two games, Getzlaf and Perry have racked up three goals and three assists while Benn and Seguin have combined for two goals and one assist, with Seguin going pointless in the Game 2 loss.


It’s fair to say the dynamic Ducks duo has an edge, though not a gigantic one — the bigger issue, it seems, is in goal.


Ducks rookie netminder Frederik Andersen has been solid, posting a 2.50 GAA and .930 save percentage over the first two games. Lehtonen, still looking for his first-ever playoff win, has posted a 3.56 GAA and .870 save percentage and wasn’t especially sharp in Friday’s loss. Lehtonen allowed three goals on 19 shots and was outperformed by Andersen, who stopped 34 of 36.


Modano, who had his No. 9 retired in an emotional ceremony earlier this season, currently serves as Dallas’ alternate governor and executive advisor.



Getzlaf powers Ducks to Game 2 victory, 2-0 series lead over Stars


It’s been an eventful last 72 hours for Ryan Getzlaf.


After getting his face re-arranged by a Tyler Seguin slapper on Wednesday and welcoming a baby girl into the world this morning, the Ducks captain carried his club to victory on Friday, notching a goal and assist in a 3-2 win over the Stars at the Honda Center.


With the win, the Ducks held set at home and will now head to Dallas with a 2-0 series lead — though neither victory came easy.


Like Wednesday’s game, Anaheim built up a lead on Friday but had to hold on as Dallas scored a third-period goal to get within one, then pressed hard for an equalizer in the dying minutes. It was scrappy, physical stuff at the end, reflective of a game that saw the two sides exhibit plenty of dislike for one another.


The chippy play started early and proved a jumping off point for each team’s offense. After Corey Perry took a slashing penalty — for what appeared to be a spear — on Jamie Benn at the 7:25 mark of the first period, Dallas’ Alex Chiasson opened the scoring 15 seconds later on the power play, his first-ever playoff goal.


Roughly seven minutes later, the tables were turned as Anaheim got a power play when Perry was mauled in the goal crease by Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley. The Ducks didn’t score with the man advantage but tallied shortly thereafter, as Getzlaf scored his first of the game and second of the series to tie the score at one.


Anaheim then built a 3-1 lead on the strength of Corey Perry’s second-period goal — his first playoff tally since 2011 — and Andrew Cogliano‘s shorthanded marker in the third. The Cogliano goal was somewhat controversial, though, as the Ducks forward looked to have broken Sergei Gonchar’s stick with a slash just moments before snapping home a Getzlaf pass for what proved to be the game-winner.


Much like they did in Game 1 in rallying from a 4-0 deficit, the Stars pushed hard to get back into it, outshooting Anaheim 15-2 in the final frame while drawing to within one when Ryan Garbutt scored with 10 minutes remaining. It was Garbutt’s first playoff goal, one that looked to spark Dallas as they gave the Ducks all they could handle down the stretch, notably when Getzlaf took a tripping penalty with three minutes left.


Dallas buzzed for an equalizer but couldn’t get one past Frederik Andersen, who was excellent on the night in stopping 34 of 36 shots.