Saturday, May 3, 2014

Kings hero Gaborik has found a home in Los Angeles


ANAHEIM -- The Los Angeles Kings were able to land Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets before the NHL Trade Deadline, while the Anaheim Ducks reportedly attempted to acquire Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler but were unsuccessful.


Each team was looking for another impact forward to add to a Stanley Cup-contending roster. Though Gaborik had struggled with injuries and inconsistency, he's been a boon for the Kings and never more so than when he scored the game-tying goal with seven seconds remaining in regulation and the winner 12:07 into overtime Saturday night in a 3-2 victory against the Ducks at Honda Center in Game 1 of this Western Conference Second Round series.


Gaborik has settled in on the top line for Los Angeles, and he now has five goals in eight postseason games for the Kings.


"When you play him and [Anze Kopitar] together, they're like this dynamic duo," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "When they're both on their games, it's hard to stop them. [Gaborik] was a huge part to our win tonight, three points, two huge goals. When those two are on their game and when all of lines are on their game, we're a tough team to play against. That's what we need."


Gaborik set up the opening goal of the game with a crafty pass to defenseman Alec Martinez on the power play in the first period. He swatted the puck past Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller in the dying seconds of regulation in a goal-mouth scramble.


After the puck came off the boards along the left wing in the Ducks zone, Gaborik took a direct path to the net and Kopitar led him with a perfect pass to redirect off the post and in to help the Kings win for a fifth straight game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and take a 1-0 lead in this series despite Anaheim having the better of the quality chances for much of the game.


"Both those goals were classic goals, you have to go to the net to score in the playoffs," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "In overtime, [Kopitar] makes a great play to someone going to the net. Not many guys can score those goals, but you have to go to the net for sure."


This has not been an easy season for Gaborik. While playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets, he was sidelined in mid-November with a knee injury. In his first game back on Dec. 21, he sustained a broken collarbone and did not play again until after the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. One of the top players from his native Slovakia, he was left off his country's roster in part because of the injury.


Once considered one of the very best goal scorers in the sport, Gaborik had 11 in 41 games this season, including five in 19 games for the Kings after the trade. He had 12 in 2012-13.


He's been traded twice by teams expecting to contend for playoff berths since scoring 41 goals in 2011-12, but Gaborik might have found a place that suits him well in Los Angeles.


"I'm glad to be here of course," Gaborik said. "This team with the system we have is working for us so far. It has been the same since they won the Cup. This team has been a contender for the past few years and I'm just trying to be part of it. You have to keep playing."


While the Blue Jackets' season ended with a first-round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Gaborik had three goals and five points in seven games to help the Kings rally past the San Jose Sharks in a Western Conference First Round series.


"He played really good the first round," Sutter said. "He scored three goals. He had a lot of good opportunities in the first round. Quite honest, he was a big reason we won the first round."


The Ducks were the fresher team for Game 1, having needed six games to defeat the Dallas Stars to earn five days of rest before the game Saturday. They also caught a break when veteran defenseman Robyn Regher was knocked out of the game midway through the first period with an undisclosed injury.


Even though Gaborik pushed this game to overtime, the Ducks were playing a team with less rest and five defensemen available. Anaheim had more chances to score in the extra session, but one of the stars on this night for Los Angeles, Martinez, made maybe the biggest save of his career with goaltender Jonathan Quick out of position on a shot from Ducks star Corey Perry.


That was a continuation from regulation, when the Ducks were able to hang with the Kings in puck possession, an area that was expected to be a decisive advantage for Los Angeles, and also generate better chances.


This one slipped away from the Ducks because of a bad bounce here or there, and Kings pounced when they had the chance. It wasn't all that dissimilar to what transpired on deadline day, when Los Angeles landed its target moments before the market closed while Anaheim couldn't pull the trigger.


"I think this is what all the games are going to be like," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We had opportunities to win the game, we didn't covert, they converted when they had to.


"If you don't look at the result of the game, and you look at the 54 hits and a lot of zone time, you're going to feel good about it. We did a lot of good things, but we ended up with the loss, so it doesn't really matter. We've got to do better."


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Ducks draw positives from Game 1 despite loss to Kings


If the Anaheim Ducks were negative types, they’d linger on the missed opportunities from their 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1 to the Los Angeles Kings.


It’s not as if Jonas Hiller totally denies some of those thoughts, as he admitted that it was tough to give up that game-tying goal to Marian Gaborik in particular.


Still, many of the takeaways were positive. Andrew Cogliano called it the Ducks’ best effort against the Kings in two years, even with the loss.


Head coach Bruce Boudreau pointed out how much of a tossup it seemed to be:


… While Matt Beleskey emphasized the need to shake it off quickly:


The Ducks host the Kings in Game 2 on Monday, so they do indeed need to bounce back in little time, whether they truly find reasons for optimism down 0-1 or not.



Dan Boyle ‘doesn’t believe for one second’ that he’s too old


The San Jose Sharks made a point to re-sign veteran forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau during the 2013-14 season, yet they left things hanging with defenseman Dan Boyle. The scoring blueliner told the Mercury News that he’d like to remain with San Jose, but he made one thing even clearer: he believes that he has plenty left in the tank.


“It’s too easy to say ‘he’s old and done,’ ” Boyle said. “That’s just a thing that’s too easy to say. At some point that’ll be true, but I don’t believe for one second that that is true.”


It’s easy to boil it all down to his point totals – 36 in 75 regular season games, four assists in the seven playoff games – and point to his days as a regular 50+ point guy. The 37-year-old made no mistake that he was limited by a concussion for a big chunk of this season and believes that a nice finish (including five points in six April games) makes an argument that he can still flirt with the work from his prime if healthy.


“I play a certain way. I’m a risk-reward type of player and we went through a stretch of games where we were winning and I wasn’t getting any points,” Boyle said. “I was making some very simple plays, but they were effective. The fact that it was too simple, eventually, I received some unfair comments because of that.”


The outspoken defenseman blasted the media for criticizing him, but ultimately, it all comes down to how the Sharks feel about him. If they think the game has passed him by to the point that they won’t offer the deal he wants (Boyle appears eager to get more than a one-year contract), then he may need to convince one of the league’s other 29 teams otherwise.


Related:


Boyle resisted discussing his injury for some time


He believed that he returned too soon


Todd McLellan said Boyle was back to form in early April


His regrets from the playoffs



Video: Gaborik sends Kings – Ducks Game 1 into OT in waning seconds


The Los Angeles Kings traded for Marian Gaborik for situations just like this.


His tired team needed a tying goal late in Game 1 as the Anaheim Ducks were nursing a 2-1 lead. While this isn’t the high-finesse type of goal many think of when they hear the name Gaborik, it was one of the biggest one in ages for the talented winger:


Gaborik already has four goals in this postseason.



Shawn Thornton isn’t a ‘fan’ of P.K. Subban ducking


Rugged Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton left Game 2 briefly but was able to return after hurting himself attempting to check Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who ducked the hit. Thornton admitted after the Bruins’ win that he isn’t a “fan of ducking,” as CSNNE.com reports.


“I don’t like people ducking,” Thornton said. “I think Marchy [Brad Marchand] got about five games for it once. I will say, off the draw he apologized afterwards, so there’s that. I think it’s a dangerous play, personally. But it’s playoffs, it’s hockey, I’m fine, so we’re okay.”


Take a look at video of the exchange to judge for yourself:


The 36-year-old addressed the incident on CSNNE.com, which you can see here:


Either way, it must feel better for Thornton that the Bruins were able to fight back from a 3-1 deficit to win 5-3 in Game 2. There’s no indication that the bruising Bruins winger will miss Game 3, even though he’s dealing with what he jokingly called a “full-body injury.”



Video: Bruins score four third period goals in under eight minutes


The Boston Bruins’ incredible third period comeback was capped off as they scored four consecutive goals to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3.


If you wanted to see what it looks like to score four in a row in under eight minutes to beat your biggest rival, check out this video of just how Dougie Hamilton, Patrice Bergeron, Reilly Smith, and Milan Lucic did it.



Roaring Back: Bruins tie series with 5-3 comeback victory


The Boston Bruins helped add to the “Year of the Comeback” after overcoming a 3-1 third period deficit to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 and tie the series 1-1.


After Thomas Vanek scored his second goal of the game to make it 3-1, the Bruins scored four consecutive goals. Dougie Hamilton started it off at 10:56 with his second of the playoffs. Patrice Bergeron tied it with a snap shot that took a funny hop on the way to the net and past Carey Price with 5:43 left in the third.


Reilly Smith‘s third goal of the playoffs put the Bruins ahead for good just 2:11 after Bergeron’s tally. Milan Lucic‘s empty-net goal sealed the deal with 1:06 remaining, capping the latest in what’s become a long list of comebacks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


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Even though Price played stellar in goal yet again (30 saves), it was Tuukka Rask who benefits the most. The win against the Canadiens in Boston was the first of his career. While Rask saw Vanek victimize him twice with deflections in front, he got to enjoy the second half of the third period watching his team dominate after a lackluster second. He finished the game with 25 saves.


The series now heads to Montreal and if you had asked the Canadiens before the round started if they’d take a split in the first two games in Boston, they would and run with it. After a dispiriting loss like this, Montreal has to avoid a letdown in Game 3. Stealing home-ice advantage many never felt as bad as it could for the Canadiens.



Canadiens find comfort in split after blowing lead


BOSTON -- The Montreal Canadiens did exactly what they set out to by splitting the first two games on the road in their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins.


It's how that split came about that may linger in the Canadiens' minds for a couple of days.


Montreal did not lose in regulation time once in 42 games when it led after two periods, going 35-0-3 in the regular season and 4-0-0 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs entering Game 2 on Saturday.


The Canadiens were 10 minutes away from making that 43 games and 5-0-0 in the playoffs, but a 3-1 lead turned into a 5-3 loss in a matter of minutes, and now Montreal is left to wonder what might have been.


The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 on Tuesday at Bell Centre (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).


"It would have been nice, honestly," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "It would have been nice to be in the position to pick up two games here. It would have been a great accomplishment. We have to look at the big picture, winning the first game here.


"We are going home and we know that if we play our game we will get chances."


In contrast to Game 1, when they were outclassed up and down the ice by the Bruins in a 4-3 double-overtime victory, the Canadiens were the better team Saturday. They took care of the puck better than the Bruins and got two power-play goals from Thomas Vanek, who had scored once in his first five games of the playoffs.


In each game at TD Garden, goaltender Carey Price was outstanding. He allowed seven goals but gave the Canadiens an opportunity to take the lead, which they failed to hold.


Price was almost defiant after the game Saturday, stating that the Canadiens will not dwell on how suddenly they blew a two-goal lead in a playoff game, and will instead focus on taking care of home ice.


"Winners regroup and realize the situation they're in," Price said. "I thought we did an excellent job so far. We came and did what we wanted to do, split these two games. Now we're going to move forward and take it to them on home ice."


The two-goal game was a relief for Vanek, who was removed from Montreal's top line for a large chunk of Game 1 and was called out by Therrien prior to Game 2.


"Work ethic is not negotiable, attitude is not negotiable and competing is not negotiable," Therrien said Saturday morning when asked about Vanek. "This is something we ask from every player on our hockey team. We have to make sure everyone brings those elements every single shift. That's the way I see it. It's not about one player, because you can't judge a player with points, or goals.


"As a coach, sometimes I have to make adjustments regarding those things that are not negotiable."


Vanek responded by tipping home two P.K. Subban point shots on the power play at 18:09 of the second and 6:30 of the third to give Montreal that 3-1 lead, one that disintegrated over the final half of the third period.


"It feels good to contribute, especially at that time of the game with the penalties they were taking," Vanek said. "It was good to get the lead. After we made it 3-1, I thought we played well after that, but that one goal just kind of turned the momentum.


"That's a good team. They know how to win. They didn't quit, they just kept believing in themselves. We got the lead we wanted and just gave it away."



Bruins turned frustration around in Game 2


BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins have been one of the top teams in the NHL for years, but the Montreal Canadiens have consistently found a way to give them problems.


A big reason has been frustration.


Frustration with the Canadiens' speed, frustration with officiating, frustration with their inability to beat a team that is not nearly as good as they are, at least on paper.


As the second period of Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series progressed Sunday, that frustration began to rear its ugly head again.


Bruins defenseman Andrej Meszaros, playing for the first time in two weeks, was called for roughing against Tomas Plekanec at 16:23 of the second, giving Montreal a rare 4-on-3 power play.


Just as that power play became a standard 5-on-4, Thomas Vanek scored to put the Canadiens ahead 2-1.


The Bruins, led by coach Claude Julien, reached their boiling point and began to show that frustration. They were slow to line up for the faceoff, Jarome Iginla was jawing with Brendan Gallagher, and Julien was called for unsportsmanlike conduct to give the Canadiens a second straight power play.


The game was within reach for the Bruins yet they were getting unhinged.


"The referee," Julien explained afterward, "I kind of told him that I didn't agree with his calls."


In the past, the Bruins have allowed that frustration to be their undoing against the Canadiens.


They didn't let that happen this time.


Even after falling behind 3-1 on another Vanek power-play goal, the Bruins took all the energy they had been using on frustration and channeled it into their game to orchestrate a spectacular comeback with four third-period goals in a 5-3 win that tied the best-of-7 series 1-1 heading to Montreal.


"We had a tough second period, and the start of the third they got that other power-play goal, but the way we just battled back through I felt a lot of [garbage] that we put up with today was pretty indicative of what our team's all about," Julien said. "It just shows that if you focus on the things you need to focus on there's a pretty good team that can accomplish a lot."


Faced with the possibility, or likelihood at that point, of going to Montreal with a 2-0 series deficit, the Bruins found that focus.


Dougie Hamilton's goal at 10:56 of the third through a crowd in front of Montreal goalie Carey Price, who to that point looked invincible, was Boston's second shot of the period. Though the Bruins appeared to leave much of what happened in the second period behind them, they weren't playing particularly well.


Their season, one when they finished with the best record in the NHL, was 10 minutes away from being in serious jeopardy.


But that Hamilton goal changed things dramatically, and the Bruins were rewarded for their renewed concentration. A Patrice Bergeron goal at 14:17 tied the game, and a Reilly Smith goal at 16:28 gave Boston the lead.


"I thought in the second maybe we got a little too charged up or whatever, but we found a way to focus that there in the third and use some of that energy, use the energy in the building and stay as positive as we could," Iginla said. "It felt pretty good to have it go the way it did."


Three goals in 5:32 allowed the Bruins to tie the series and go to Montreal in a much better state of mind, but they are entering an arena where the temptation to allow frustration to overcome them multiplies.


No longer will Iginla and the Bruins be able to use the energy in the building in their favor, with 21,273 screaming fans making Bell Centre a very inhospitable place for a road team, especially one dressed in black and gold.


The Bruins avoided disaster Saturday, but they're not out of the woods.


Uncharacteristic turnovers in their zone and the lack of discipline shown in the first 40 minutes Saturday will need to be left in Boston. The Bruins leave for Montreal on Monday to play Game 3 on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).


But those final 10 minutes of the third period will need to be packed in the Bruins' luggage.


"We've got to be disciplined," forward Shawn Thornton said. "For whatever reason in that building, it always seems to be a couple of things. We know we can't win games if we're killing penalties all night.


"I think that's just common sense."


The Bruins came to their senses just in time Saturday.



Bruins forward Smith making name for himself


BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward Reilly Smith scored two goals in his last 30 games of the regular season.


Bruins coach Claude Julien kept trust in the 23-year-old, and that faith has been rewarded in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.


Smith scored the game-winning goal Saturday, when the Bruins evened their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-3 win at TD Garden.


Game 3 is at Bell Centre at Montreal on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), and Smith will start it with three playoff goals.


"I think it's, sometimes the puck is going in the net and sometimes it's not," said Smith, who finished the regular season with 20 goals and 51 points in 82 games. "I just tried to stick with what got me success this year. The puck won't go in the net all the time, but you stick to what got you success and what you do well, then sooner or later you are going to get back to your game and the positives are going to start showing."


After a slow start to the third period, the positives started showing for Boston, even with Montreal forward Thomas Vanek scoring to give the Canadiens a 3-1 lead at 6:30.


Defenseman Dougie Hamilton started the Bruins comeback with a goal from the blue line at 10:56, and Smith was in the thick of the action. He and linemate Brad Marchand were battling in front of Montreal goaltender Carey Price when Hamilton's shot made its way through the traffic.


Smith did some yeoman's work down low, along with Marchand and center Patrice Bergeron, prior to Bergeron's game-tying goal at 14:17. Then came Smith's ultimate display of two-way play.


First he tracked down Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher, who was streaking on the left wing of a 2-on-2. After forcing Gallagher to cough up the puck, Smith bolted back the other way with the Bruins in possession. Defenseman Torey Krug wound up with it down low on the left side and fed it across the slot off Gallagher's stick to Smith low in the right circle.


Smith somehow settled the puck enough to lift a wrist shot past Price with 3:32 remaining for a 4-3 lead.


"There was a huge momentum swing in that third period as soon as we got that first goal and it kind of just built up until that moment," Smith said. "So there was a lot of emotions and a lot of passion going in to that. I was obviously just really happy that it went in to the back of the net because, especially in this series, Price has stood on his head a couple times where we thought we had for-sure goals and he has made big saves."


Smith joined the Bruins last summer as part of the package Boston received from the Dallas Stars in a trade for forward Tyler Seguin. The centerpiece of that package was Loui Eriksson, who was widely expected to be the right wing on the line with Bergeron and Marchand. Eriksson's injury troubles opened that spot for Smith, who thrived there. Playing his first full NHL season, Smith was plus-28 skating against opponents' top lines almost every night.


Even when he was struggling to score, Smith maintained his focus on his two-way game.


"Yeah, I think there is a lot more to my game than just scoring goals," Smith said. "I have learned a lot with playing with [Bergeron]. This year especially, him being such a tremendous two-way forward, you pick up little things. Probably, coming in here a lot of people thought that [scoring] was the only part of my game, and I think playing with [Bergeron] and [Marchand], you know, a lot of leadership and the character has helped my defensive game tremendously this year."


Julien tried different line combinations toward the end of the regular season, including putting Eriksson with Bergeron and Marchand, but the coach went back to Smith to start the postseason. He had one goal and one assist, including a game-winning goal, against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. His fine play continued in the second round with a goal in Boston's 4-3, double-overtime loss in Game 1.


For Smith, it took less than a season to be among Julien's most reliable players.


"He plays like a veteran. And he's very calm in those kind of situations," Julien said. "You don't see him make too many big mistakes because he's a smart hockey player, and some guys have it. It's a knack he's had from the start, and with his experience playing with guys like Bergeron and Marchand. He's just gotten better."


Smith's late-season slump is a now distant memory.


"He's got the right mentality. He wants to get better. He wants to be a difference out there," Bergeron said. "I think even in that [slumping] stretch he was still making the right plays and playing well. I love playing with him; he's always in the right spot making great plays. Right now, he's played some great hockey. He's really fighting, battling, making some right plays, going to the front of the net, making some great back checks, and that's what you need."



Ramsay: Defense is key for Blackhawks and Wild


For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks , NHL.com has enlisted the help of former NHL coach Craig Ramsay to break down the action. Ramsay will be checking in throughout the series.


Ramsay played in more than 1,000 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres before going on to coach the Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers. In the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he led the Flyers to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Final. Ramsay was most recently an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers .


The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Minnesota Wild 5-2 in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series Friday. But longtime coach Craig Ramsey told NHL.com that the score in that game was not indicative of how well the Wild played. In fact, he believes Minnesota gave Chicago all it could handle before Patrick Kane scored two third-period goals that decided the game.


Ramsay said Minnesota shouldn't make too many adjustments heading into Game 2 on Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, TSN, RDS). As the Wild did in Game 1, they will continue to rely on their defense to supplement their offense. Defenseman Clayton Stoner sparked Minnesota's comeback from a 2-0 deficit with a goal 2:19 into the third period and made a real impression on Ramsay.


"He banged everybody. He got a goal but he was very physical all night long. I think he set a nice tone and the rest of the team followed," Ramsay said. "The key now is to have your blue line involved. Who is the leading scorer on the Blackhawks? Right now it's [Brent] Seabrook."


Seabrook's eight points tie him with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for the Blackhawks lead, but Seabrook has his eight points in four games; he was suspended for three games during the first round. His defense partner, Duncan Keith, has seven points. Minnesota must find a way to keep Chicago's talented defensemen honest. Ramsay said they've done it so far by adopting a longtime Chicago strategy.


"Both teams use a lot of stretch plays on their breakouts. Chicago has always done that but I thought Minnesota did it a number of times as well; using that stretch guy to back up the Chicago [defense]. It's important because Chicago's defense is such an important part of its offense," Ramsay said. "I really think Minnesota has a chance to win the series. I thought they really played a strong game."


The difference in an otherwise even Game 1 was Kane, who bailed out his team 86 seconds after Kyle Brodziak tied the game 2-2 at 6:56 of the third period. Kane's highlight-reel game-winner was another example of the Blackhawks' depth of talent.


"Chicago has so many weapons, they can really explode on you and create goals in a hurry," Ramsay said. "[Kane] is a pretty dynamic player and that goal he got to get the lead back was pretty special. People try to knock him off the puck but he's just so strong on his feet. His ability to hold on to the puck and make plays and score goals is really impressive."


Minnesota can't match Chicago's talent, so its goaltending must find a way to cancel out the Blackhawks' stars. That didn't happen in Game 1, when Ilya Bryzgalov allowed four goals on 17 shots.


"At some point you need the goalie to win you a game or a period when you don't play well," Ramsay said. "[Corey] Crawford has done that for the Hawks, and Minnesota is going to have to get that from their goaltender at some point."



Stoner bedrock for Wild's physical game


CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Wild have won games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by utilizing their size, strength and experience.


It's a formula that enabled them to win their Western Conference First Round series against the Colorado Avalanche in seven games and an approach that must be adhered to in their second-round meeting against the Chicago Blackhawks.


Defenseman Clayton Stoner is more than happy to lead that charge.


Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said his team didn't do enough in a 5-2 loss in Game 1 against the Blackhawks on Friday, even though the Wild outshot (32-22) and outhit (37-24) the defending Stanley Cup champions.


"It's not just effort and trying hard; it's doing things the right way," Yeo said. "There wasn't enough urgency in the details and little things that add up to make a difference this time of year. We slipped a little bit from our last game and didn't play at the same level. So we'll rectify that."


The Wild allowed 24 shots per game and averaged 27.7 hits against the Avalanche on the way to their first playoff series win in 11 years. Is that too much to ask against the Blackhawks in this best-of-7?


"I thought [our physicality] was good in Game 1," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "We're not a team that goes out of its way to hit someone. When the hit is there, we make it, and I think we do a good job in the playoffs. We're not getting so consumed by that or distracted with being physical. We're still playing within ourselves, and, at the same time, when it's there we've done a good job of bumping them."


Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said he believes the Wild are a much better team this spring than last, when Chicago eliminated Minnesota in five games in the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals.


"I don't think they want to finish with the same results as last year," Toews said. "I think there's that determination. They want to prove that they are the better team, but they are playing better as a team as a whole and they have a lot of skill. They play smart and patient hockey and we have to give them that respect and be much better if we want to beat them."


Game 2 is Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, RDS, TSN).


Stoner had perhaps his finest playoff performance in the Game 1 loss. The 6-foot-4, 216-pound left-handed shooter scored his first playoff goal and delivered a team-high six hits.


In Game 1 of the first round against the Blackhawks last season, Stoner had an assist but missed the remaining four games with a lower-body injury. He was certainly out to put a hurting on any Chicago player in his cross-hairs Friday, and that's something that needs to continue.


Despite missing 15 games in the regular season with a lower-body ailment, he led the Wild in penalty minutes (84) and was fourth in hits (99).


"I thought he was a difference-maker [in Game 1] but this is the way he's played all playoffs for us," Yeo said. "He recognizes the investment he must make in the series and wants players to know when he's on the ice. He shouldn't be a fun guy to play against. He knows his identity, knows his role."


Stoner knocked Chicago forward Andrew Shaw from the game midway through the first period with a crunching body check along the boards in the offensive zone. The hit could leave the Blackhawks without their feisty third-line forward for a few games. Coach Joel Quenneville acknowledged that Shaw is questionable for Game 2.


Stoner was a bulldozer in every zone and spared no one. He tagged Joakim Nordstrom twice and knocked into Toews. That physicality forced the Blackhawks to be aware of where Stoner was at all times.


"It's something I try to bring throughout the playoffs and the physicality ramps up with everybody," Stoner said. "They're being physical so I'm just trying to do my part. Being physical is something you need to do to slow them down. They're a great rush team, and if you can slow them down in the series, hopefully that can wear guys down."


Stoner cited Minnesota's first-round series against Colorado as an example of the importance of slowing down the opposing rush. Speedy rookie Nathan MacKinnon was lighting up the Wild offensively until they decided enough was enough.


After generating two goals, 10 points and a plus-8 rating in the first five games of the series, MacKinnon was held without a point and a minus-6 rating in Games 6 and 7. It's something Minnesota might look to against Chicago's offensive spark plug, Patrick Kane.


Kane was a one-man wrecking crew in the third period of Game 1, scoring two goals, including the winner at 8:22 off a splendid individual effort. MacKinnon had three assists in a 5-4 victory against the Wild in the first-round series opener.


"I think we were tested in Game 1 against the Avalanche; MacKinnon was fast," Stoner said. "He was pushing the [defense] back and we had to find a way to slow him down. We found a way of getting three coming back and our defense was a little tighter. We had that tight gap throughout ice so there was no space in between for him to make those moves.


"Our defense and whole system learned a lot from that last series."


Yeo was quick to point out that the Blackhawks' high-powered offense doesn't need 30 opportunities to ring up five goals.


"This is a talented team, so we have got to make sure we're doing a good job of limiting their opportunities," Yeo said. "It's pretty tough when you're giving up back-door plays and plays right in front of your net. But we have to clean that up in order to have success."


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Staal stands out for Rangers after rough recovery


PITTSBURGH -- Marc Staal said he never doubted.


Never gave up hope that despite the concussion, despite the serious eye injury, he could get back to being the player he was before. The one who was a first-round draft pick, who played in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game and was on his way to becoming the next great New York Rangers defenseman.


Now that he's fully healthy, the hockey world is seeing what Staal, 27, always believed would happen.


Through eight games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Staal has one goal, one assist and a team-best plus-7 rating while averaging 20:24 per game in ice time. He raised that level even higher in the Rangers' 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, playing a game-high 26:03. On every one of his 25 even-strength shifts he was head-to-head against one of the Penguins' dynamic centers, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.


So heading into Game 2 on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), if anyone was wondering how Staal is doing, he'll tell you he's just fine.


It just took him a while to get there.


"I don't think there's an exact moment [that I felt like myself]," Staal said. "Throughout the year I was just trying to get better and better, get back to the level I'm used to playing at."


He's certainly better now than he was the previous two seasons.


His issues started late in the 2010-11 season, when a hit by his brother, Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, left Marc with a concussion. He played through it for the remainder of the season but was feeling the effects when 2011-12 began. He sat out the first half of the season, making his debut Jan. 2, 2012, but wasn't particularly effective when he returned, finishing with two goals, five points and a minus-7 rating in 46 regular-season games. He was a bit better as the Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, with three goals and six points in 20 playoff games.


He was healthy when the 2012-13 season started, but that ended when he was hit in the face by a puck shot by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen during a game March 5, 2013. Staal returned for one game in the 2013 playoffs but his vision wasn't where it needed to be for him to be effective.


It was unknown how 2013-14 would turn out.


"You have ups and downs through any season," Staal said. "Coming back from injuries is not the easiest thing. For me it was just all the abilities and things that I've done are still there. Nothing's changed that way. I think it was just a matter of doing it consistently. Try to do that all year long, to get better and better."


Teammates certainly were rooting for him.


"Since I've been here he's had a tough time with injures," forward Brad Richards said. "The year before I got here we played them, the year he went to the All-Star Game, we played them in Dallas and he was on the ice for 30-plus minutes, stick so long. I remember playing against him and it was a very hard game against him. Since then, we've only been able to see a little bit of it because of all the major injuries he's had."


Forward Derek Stepan, who lived with Staal for a time last season, said Staal has been a source of encouragement during his four NHL seasons.


"I've got nothing but good things to say about Marc Staal," Stepan said. "Since I've been here, he's been a guy that I can lean on, a guy that during the lockout I didn't have an apartment and I was able to stay with him. He's been a good friend to me. As a leader, you see the way he plays down the stretch here, we rally around that because he played so great. Off the ice you know how Marc is. He always seems to be in a good mood. He's a guy that you can certainly enjoy yourself around."


In 72 regular-season games, Staal had three goals and 14 points while playing an average of 20:31 per game, settling into a spot on the second pairing with Anton Stralman.


Coach Alain Vigneault said prior to joining the Rangers in the summer of 2013 he knew Staal only by reputation; coaching the Vancouver Canucks the previous seven seasons gave him little chance to see Staal in person. But from what he's watched this season, he said he's been impressed by how Staal continually has gotten better as the season has gone on, and that's carried over into the postseason.



Marc Staal



Marc Staal


Defense - NYR


GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2

SOG: 7 | +/-: 7



"We always knew he was a good defender and he still is one of the best defenders in the League," Vigneault said. "But this year he's improved his puck decisions. Moving the puck, helping us break out of our end, and he's a player that still has room to improve and I'm confident he will."

Staal credits more time on the ice rather than the trainer's room with his improved decision-making.


"I think the more hockey you play the more automatic things become," he said. "You get into a groove as the season goes along where you're not really thinking too much on the ice and you're just playing. For a large part at the beginning of the year I was thinking about what I should do next instead of just reacting and playing. Those decisions become natural and automatic to you. It wasn't there in the beginning but throughout the year it's gotten better. On the ice I felt that being more confident with what you're doing and just reacting to it."


Now that he's back to just playing rather than thinking too much, he's focused on doing it on a consistent basis.


"It's just trying to get wins and playing playoff games," Staal said. "It's a lot of fun."


---



The Battle for Manhattan Beach. LA and Anaheim Collide. My Pick.

























May 3, 2014, 12:19 PM ET [16 Comments]








Eklund

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Amazing as it is, these teams have never met in a playoff series...until today!


Let's get into it.


This Year...


The Teams played 5 games this year and Anaheim won 4 holding LA to only 8 goals in the process..However, they also only scored 13. .


Last Three Years...


As one sided as this year has been, the Kings have won 8 of the last 15 games played over the past 3 years. Home ice has only been a minor advantage in this series. The Kings are 5-3 in LA, The Ducks are 4-3 in Anaheim.


All time...


LA has 32 wins.

Anaheim has 23 wins.

There have been 4 ties that left fans of both teams feeling empty inside...


My pick:


Jonathan Quick in 6.



Join the Discussion: » 16 Comments » Post New Comment


Video: Ducks need their leaders to step up against Kings


If the Anaheim Ducks are to earn a berth in the Western Conference final, they’ll need their leaders to guide them there. Certainly, the leadership group in Anaheim, including Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, prevailed in the first round, but that’s going to have to continue against the L.A. Kings, who are coming off a historic first-round series win of their own.



Patrick Kane: ‘I was pretty pumped up after that one’


It was an important goal. It was a beautiful goal.


Patrick Kane gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 3-2 lead in the third period with a backhand goal top-shelf on Ilya Bryzgalov. It stood as the winning goal, as the Blackhawks defeated the Minnesota Wild to take Game 1 on Friday. It halted any momentum Minnesota might’ve gained from two quick goals to tie the game early in the third period.


And the goal also ignited Twitter, as rapid reaction poured in via social media. Yes, it was spectacular. As Kane celebrated emphatically, you could him yell out, “Showtime!”


“Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m saying. I was pretty pumped up after that one,” Kane said afterward, as per Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune.


“Kaner scored one of those goals that not many guys in the league could try or get done,” added head coach Joel Quenneville, as per Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago.



Patrick Kane scores the winner, Blackhawks take Game 1 over Wild


Patrick ‘Showtime’ Kane busted Friday’s playoff game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild wide open on Friday.


Kane scored twice in the third period, including an absolutely stunning goal in which he roofed a backhand top-shelf, short-side on Ilya Bryzgalov, to lift the Blackhawks to a 5-2 win over the visiting Wild. Chicago now leads the best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series 1-0.


The Blackhawks were able to recover after blowing a two-goal lead earlier in the third period.


Minnesota scored twice in the first seven minutes of the final period to tie the game at two-goals apiece. Comebacks have been a common theme in these playoffs, and again here in the second round. It looked as if this game might perhaps be headed for overtime.


But that was before Kane dazzled everyone with his talent and the Blackhawks eventually put this one away with three unanswered goals, including one into an empty net. Wild coach Mike Yeo pulled Bryzgalov for the extra attacker with over two minutes remaining in the game, echoing the strategy employed in the first round by Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy.


It didn’t work out for the Wild, despite outshooting the Blackhawks 31-22 overall and 23-9 over the final two periods.


It wasn’t all good news for the Blackhawks. Forward Andrew Shaw left the game in the first period after taking a heavy hit along the boards from Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner. Shaw did not return.



Showtime: Patrick Kane goes top shelf with the backhand


Patrick Kane. Wow.


The shifty and highly skilled Chicago Blackhawks forward put his talents on full display, beat Ilya Bryzgalov top shelf on the short side to give his team a 3-2 lead over the Minnesota Wild in the third period of Friday’s game.


Showtime.



Wild won't fret even though they trail again


CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Wild again face an uphill battle in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


The Chicago Blackhawks made certain of that in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round on Friday when they scored three straight goals to snap a tie on the way to a 5-2 victory against the Wild at United Center.


It's nothing new to the Wild, who spent all of their first-round series playing from behind against the Colorado Avalanche before finally winning Game 7 in Denver for their first postseason series victory in 11 years. The Wild overcame 2-0 and 3-2 series deficits and four one-goal deficits in Game 7 before Nino Niederreiter's overtime goal gave them a 5-4 win.


Wild coach Mike Yeo was asked if that confidence gained against the Avalanche will be put to good use against the defending Stanley Cup champions.


"We're not fretting here," Yeo said. "The next game is what I'm looking forward to right now but I know [Chicago] will be better next game. This is a veteran team that recognizes the importance of that game, and they taught us a lesson last year in Game 2 where we thought we could have won but they taught us a lesson.


"We have to recognize the importance of [Game 2]. We know they will recognize it. The areas where we weren't good enough and the guys who know they can bring more, will be ready to bring it."


In their five-game, first-round loss to Blackhawks last spring, the Wild won Game 3 but were outscored 8-1 in Games 4 and 5. The Wild had several opportunities throughout this Game 1, outshooting their opponent 32-22. They won three of five regular-season games against the Blackhawks, going 2-1-0 in St. Paul and 1-0-1 in Chicago.


"We had some good jump and lot of good zone time and rush chances," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "We feel good about what we did, but at the same time we have to understand that this is a team that has players that have won the Cup twice and they're going to turn their game up a notch, I guarantee that."


Among the many positives the Wild can take away from the loss was the performance of their top line with Mikael Granlund centering Parise and Jason Pominville. It accounted for two points and nine shots against goalie Corey Crawford (30 saves).


"They're going to be a lot better in Game 2 and now it's up to us to match that and improve our game too," Parise said. "But I think we should expect them to be a much better team next game."


Game 2 is Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, RDS, TSN). Yeo said his team could have delivered even more and anticipates a better showing.


"We had some good moments in the game, but what it came down to is we weren't complete enough to win this hockey game," he said. "We weren't complete enough collectively and individually. Even at that, like I said, there were some good moments, but trust me, we're not happy with our game. I felt that we didn't have everybody at the level that we needed to be at, so we'll rectify that. We recognize that they'll be better next game, and with that we'll make sure that we're better to."


One key for success might be keeping close tabs on Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, who scored two goals on four shots in Game 1 and broke the 2-2 tie.


"I thought we had momentum in the game but it was a good goal by [Kane]," Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner said. "A good team like that has players who can take the game over and we just have to know that and be aware of it."


Stoner, who was one of Minnesota's best players with three shots and a team-leading six hits, said the series victory against the Avalanche has given the Wild confidence to overcome any obstacle.


"We proved to ourselves in the last series that we're never out of a game, and I think even when [Chicago] took a 3-2 lead in the third, we on the bench believed," Stoner said. "We still had a couple chances after that but they just didn't go in."


---



Second-line spark carries Blackhawks in Game 1


CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville's mixing and matching of forwards has again paid off with a combination that's doing big things for the Chicago Blackhawks.


In the middle of a tough Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues, the Blackhawks coach moved Ben Smith up from the fourth line to center the second line. He flanked Smith with left wing Patrick Sharp and right wing Patrick Kane.


They started creating scoring chances against St. Louis and helped Chicago win that best-of-7 series in six games, but the line really busted out against the Minnesota Wild on Friday at United Center. Paced by Kane's two goals in the third period, they were a difference-maker in a 5-2 victory in Game 1 of the second-round series.


"I just think it's a line that's had some success in the three or four games we've played together, and you look at the three players on it, everybody complements each other," said Sharp, who picked up his first two assists of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Kane's goals. "It's nice to get a couple goals at a big time as a line, but we always want to improve as the series goes along."


Calling them big goals might be underselling it.


Prior to Kane's jaw-dropping dissection of the Minnesota defense on his first goal, the Wild had scored twice in the first 6:56 of the third period to tie the game 2-2, on goals by Clayton Stoner and Kyle Brodziak.


Combined with Minnesota dominating in shots, it could've become a meltdown moment for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Chicago developed a trend of coughing up third-period leads in the regular season then lost two straight 3-2 leads in the third period of the first two games against St. Louis, with each ending as a loss in overtime.


The revamped second line refused to let it happen Friday, led by Kane's highlight-reel goal that made it 3-2 1:26 after Brodziak tied it.


Getting the puck from Sharp at the red line, Kane zipped into the left side of the offensive zone and cut left-to-right in front of defenseman Ryan Suter. Kane briefly debated a drop pass to Sharp but opted to carry the puck around the right of defenseman Jonas Brodin with one hand on his stick. Brodziak was too late collapsing from the top of the zone and Kane was in tight on Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.


The backhand shot he shoveled past Bryzgalov to the short side was a hot topic after the game.


His second goal was the result of a great pass from Smith, who tapped Sharp's pass to the slot back to Kane in the left circle for a wide opening on the back side of the net.


Kane appeared to shout "Showtime!" after each of the goals but said he doesn't really remember.


"Sometimes I don't even know what I'm saying," Kane said. "I was pretty pumped up after that [first] one. You're kind of in your own little world, so I don't even know what I said."


Teammates and linemates know what they saw and what they often see from Kane.


"He's so calm with the puck in tight spaces and he makes shots that not a whole lot of people can make," Sharp said. "That backhand is a good example of it. The thing I like about [Kane] the best is the big stages. He always seems to put one in, whether he's back home in Buffalo in a big game, time and time again in the playoffs he scores goals and it seems like he wants that puck all the time."


Thanks to Smith's ability to battle down low to retrieve pucks, Kane and Sharp are getting it more. Scoring chances and goals are being created.


"The main thing [Smith] brings is work ethic and his ability to get pucks back," Kane said. "He's one of the best on the team at that, as far as battling in the corners. Sometimes you go to help him and you don't even need to because he's going to come up with the puck. So you try to get away from the crowd a little bit. He's really good at that and he really wants to do good."


Smith is filling a role that seems to find its own solution whenever the Blackhawks are successful in the postseason. Much has been written about Chicago's lack of a long-term center on the second line, but each of the past two playoffs when the Blackhawks won the Cup, they had somebody play well in the middle of that group.


In 2010 it was Sharp. In 2013 it was Michal Handzus. Smith might be that guy this season if the Blackhawks go on another lengthy run.


"He's a hard-working kid and probably one of the hardest workers on the team," Kane said. "It's nice to see him get rewarded with some ice time and some opportunity, because if anybody deserves it, it's him."



Friday, May 2, 2014

Rangers find energy to beat Penguins in overtime


PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers were playing their fourth game in six days. With Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime, it would have been difficult to blame them if they ran out of gas.


However, the Rangers found the energy to propel them to a 3-2 win against the Penguins.


New York carried play in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead, but when the Penguins ramped things up in the second, scoring twice and outshooting the Rangers 15-4, it looked like the final fumes were running out of their gas tank.


However, the Rangers continued to push. They were outshot 12-8 in the third period, but New York had the better of the scoring chances. And it was the same in overtime, when the Rangers had two of the three shots in the extra period, capped by Derick Brassard's goal at 3:06 of overtime.


"We came out with a great start tonight," New York defenseman Dan Girardi said. "We let it go in the second. We sat back and let them dictate play. We were lucky to survive that [period] with being tied. We had a good third and we had a good feeling going into overtime. We worked hard right off the bat, got a few chances and luckily one went in."


Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Sunday at Consol Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, NBCSN).


The key for the Rangers was the way coach Alain Vigneault rolled all four lines and all three defense pairs from the opening whistle till Brassard's game-winner.


Vigneault played his second defense pair of Marc Staal (26:03) and Anton Stralman (22:59) more than he played his top pairing of Ryan McDonagh (23:49) and Girardi (20:51).


And at forward, Derek Stepan played 20:11, but every forward had at least 10 minutes of ice time, and seven had at least 15 minutes.


"We played pretty much our whole bench pretty even minutes," Vigneault said. "Forwards and defensemen. Guys had good energy, they were focused."


That level of trust from the coaching staff, to make everyone feel important in important games, brings confidence to the entire locker room.


"I think that really helps our game when we can role the lines and not overuse anyone, use the whole bench," Girardi said. "All the lines are a threat, all the [defensemen] can play. We're lucky to have a deep team now, and that's going to go a long way in the playoffs with hopefully a long playoff run."


---



Penguins doomed by slow start in Game 1 loss


PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins came out flat. Again.


The Penguins have started slowly in more than half of their seven Stanley Cup Playoff games, but they took it to another level early on in an eventual 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series Friday.


The Penguins possibly played their least effective period of the postseason in the game's opening 20 minutes, resulting in a 2-0 deficit entering the first intermission. They were outshot 13-8 and seemed less like the team that had three days to rest and more like the one playing a third game in four days, as the Rangers were.


Pittsburgh responded with one of its better periods, drawing even at 2-2 heading into the third period, but cooled again before losing on Derick Brassard's overtime goal.


Against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round, the Penguins faced multigoal deficits twice and won three games in which they surrendered the opening goal. They were not as fortunate against New York and realize they cannot consistently rely on come-from-behind wins if they are to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.


"Anytime you lose one game in a series where four knocks you out, I think your desperation just naturally goes up that much more," Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "You want to play with it all the time, but the fact is, once you lose games in the playoffs and you start to feel the grip of death on your season, you start to play with a little more desperation.


"We're one loss closer to being out, and I hope we bring that level on the next game."


They will get a chance to raise their desperation level in Game 2 at Consol Energy Center on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).


Penguins forward James Neal, who scored the tying goal with 6:32 remaining in the second period, wasn't as concerned with Pittsburgh's start. He was impressed with the Penguins' response and was more frustrated with the way they performed in overtime.


"We found a way to battle back in the game and gave ourselves a chance to win," Neal said. "I thought we did a good job in the second and third of getting to the net and getting pucks there and being physical and doing things in the offensive zone that we should've started with, but that's hockey and that happens.


"I think going into OT, we have to have more of a push-forward attitude and get in the offensive zone right away from the first shift. … It's tough out there. They want to box you out."


The Penguins were coming off what Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma called their best two games of the postseason. He did not share the same admiration for their effort in Game 1 against New York.


"The first period, the first 10 minutes, we passed up three, four shot opportunities getting the puck there," Bylsma said. "Even on their first goal, our first goal against, we try to shoot the puck, it gets blocked and it ends up being a rush back the other way. The first really 14 minutes of the game, we didn't generate, didn't get pucks in that area, and they got the first goal with a shot on a redirect that got by [goalie Marc-Andre Fleury]."


Part of the sluggish start had to do with the continuing scoring struggles of forward Sidney Crosby, who has not scored a goal in his past 12 playoff games. He finished the first period with one shot and one turnover, and he was on the ice for all three Rangers goals.


Crosby has stressed the importance of patience concerning his goalless stretch, saying he is earning quality scoring chances. However, the game Friday was the second time this postseason he failed to register a point.


The Penguins will likely need the NHL's scoring champion to get going soon. Crosby echoed his teammates' sentiments regarding their start and second-period response.


"I think for whatever reason, we didn't come out hard enough," Crosby said. "I thought the goals in the second definitely gave us a boost. From then on, I thought we had some good chances. We just need to make sure we play on our toes. You have to expect they're going to get chances, but just make sure we're aggressive and create things ourselves."



Flyers consider promoting Hextall to GM


Two days after the Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, owner Ed Snider said some changes may be coming within their personnel department.


Paul Holmgren, who has been general manager since 2006, will be "head of hockey operations," and Snider hinted Holmgren may relinquish the GM title to Ron Hextall this offseason.


"We're going to all sit down, and it's going to be up to Paul. We're in the process of analyzing everybody's title," Snider said.


Holmgren may not be ready to hand the day-to-day reins to Hextall, the former Flyers goalie.


"I'm the one who brought [Hextall] back. He's an excellent resource in our organization," Holmgren said. "He's a tremendous hockey man, and I have no question that he's ready to be a general manager at any point. We'll see where that goes, but I'm certainly not in any position today where I want to change chairs."


Hextall, who was assistant GM with the Los Angeles Kings before Philadelphia hired him last July, may be on the radars of teams searching for a GM, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks.


The Flyers cleaned out their lockers and met with the media Friday at Wells Fargo Center. They were eliminated by the New York Rangers in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference First Round series Wednesday.


Holmgren is not on the hot seat.


"The job that he did, I think was excellent," Snider said. "Not too many guys would have guts enough to fire the coach after three games."


Holmgren fired Peter Laviolette after an 0-3-0 start, replacing him with Craig Berube, who had never coached an NHL team.


"I'm anxious to see what Craig Berube can do with a full training camp and a fresh start," Snider said.


The longtime owner seems content with the core group and goaltending situation despite the early playoff exit. The Flyers finished third in the Metropolitan Division with a 42-30-10 record.


Captain Claude Giroux bounced back from a slow start to finish with 28 goals and 58 assists in 82 games; he was named a Hart Trophy finalist Thursday. Forward Wayne Simmonds had a career-high 29 goals; seven Flyers scored at least 20.


Goalie Steve Mason, in his first full season in Philadelphia after being acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets in April 2013, went 33-18-7 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 61 games. The Flyers signed Mason to a three-year, $12.3 million contract extension in January.


Backup Ray Emery can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.


"I think that we need certain things, obviously, and the hockey department will analyze it and tell me what they think our needs are, and we'll try to then go out and get them," Snider said. "By the same token, I think when you have and you've found an outstanding goaltender, [and] when you have one of the top three guys for the Hart Trophy in the League, it's a good place to start.


"We've got a lot of other good assets, a lot of good young talent, but you never can be satisfied being knocked out in the first round."


The Flyers will have to address their defense; Kimmo Timonen, 39, completed the final season of his contract.


"We have to replace maybe several defensemen. Maybe Kimmo wants to retire, I don't really know. Maybe he doesn't," Snider said. "These are all things that we don't know yet."


Timonen said if he plays in the NHL next season, he would like to return to the Flyers.


"This is my place. If I get back here, this is where I want to be," he said. "I like our team."


Holmgren will give Timonen some time to decide if he wants to talk about a new contract.


"Well, probably before the draft, to make sure we get our ducks in a row," he said. "Kimmo's Kimmo; I think he should take his time. He's been through a lot. He's a good person and a good man, so he deserves all the time he needs."


Holmgren announced center Sean Couturier may have a sports hernia.


"I think there was a point in January where he was checked … it wasn't at the point now, and again I haven't found out the results from today's exam yet, but it was never at the point where we had to do anything other than maintenance," the GM said.


Left wing Michael Raffl will have surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow, according to Holmgren, and right wing Steve Downie will have a second ear surgery to improve his hearing.