Tag:2011 NHL Playoffs
Posted on: May 15, 2011 2:46 am
Edited on: May 15, 2011 12:05 pm

Preview: No. 1 Canucks vs. No. 2 Sharks

Well, we're guaranteed one thing: one of two teams that have been carrying burdens of playoff disappointments will make the Stanley Cup Finals.

Both Vancouver and San Jose can probably understand each other's plight pretty well. The two squads have entered the last few postseasons with very high expectations, local fans dreaming of their organization's first Stanley Cup title, only to fall short of the Finals. San Jose has had perhaps the biggest label of playoff underachiever, but the Sharks were in the conference final last year. This is Vancouver's first trip since 1994, when it lost in seven games to Mark Messier's Rangers.

"It's always fun playing in the playoffs. I mean, it's the conference finals," Daniel Sedin said. "It's going to be extremely tough games. Everyone keeps saying that Nashville plays tight defensively. I think San Jose is equally as good defensively. They probably have more firepower up front. It's going to be a tough series, equally as tight."

Ironically enough, the top two seeds in the Western Conference have taken similar, albeit reversed, paths to get this far. In the first round it was the Canucks playing a Game 7 after holding a 3-0 lead on Chicago whereas the Sharks had the same scenario against Detroit in the second round, holding off the Red Wings in Game 7.

In the four games played between the two this season, the Canucks had plenty of success, taking seven of a possible eight points. The Sharks picked up three.

"It'll be interesting. We'll enter a series as the underdog. That hasn't happened before. Maybe there will be a little pressure taken off us there and we can go play free," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.

Here's the breakdown:

Forwards: When you look at the list of players on both sides, you begin to understand real fast why these are the top two seeds in the West. With these two, it's really pick your poison. The Canucks have a Hart Trophy winner (Henrik Sedin last season) and one in the running this season (brother Daniel) and perhaps the hottest skater in hockey right now (Ryan Kesler). Going into Round 2 against Nashville, there were questions about how much would the Canucks score as the offense was struggling some and the Predators are stingy. For San Jose, the names Thornton, Pavelski, Marleau, Heatley, Setoguchi, Clowe and Couture are enough to scare any opponent. It's an elite and deep group of forwards the Sharks throw out on the ice. But much like Vancouver with the Sedin twins, the Sharks are looking for a little more production out of their top players, namely Marleau. The Sharks star was criticized by Jeremy Roenick among others during the series against the Red Wings, but perhaps his Game 7-clincing score will be the boost he needs to start producing like he does annually in the regular season.

Edge: Hate to cop out, but it's a push.

Defensemen: When you start looking at the two units, there is a troublesome stat/note for both. For San Jose, it's concerning that they surrendered 40-plus shots to the Red Wings in Games 3, 4, 6 and 7. That's asking a lot from your goaltender night in, night out, especially against a team with the skill of the Canucks. Vancouver, meanwhile, has had just one pairing of defensemen stay together through the whole of the first two rounds, luckily for them it's their top shutdown duo of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa. When you compare the meaningful sample size of the regular season, you start to see an appreciable difference. The Canucks were the toughest defense to score on in the NHL at 2.20 goals against a game compared to San Jose's 2.54, good enough for 10th. Talking offensive production, the two teams look pretty similar with one standout racking up 50 points this season (Dan Boyle for the Sharks, Christian Ehrhoff in Vancouver) and a pretty steep drop off to the next.

Edge: Canucks

Goaltenders: Again, the two goalies, like the teams, have had similar postseasons so far. Both Roberto Luongo and Antti Niemi struggled mightily in their respective first-round series with each being pulled at one time. In the second round, however, each was spectacular, recording save percentages above .930 (.933 for Luongo, .931 for Niemi). Luongo was the center of a heaping of criticism for his play against Chicago, adding on to what has always been a subpar postseason resume. Perhaps that's behind him after he finally got past the conference semifinals for the first time in four tries. For Niemi, there's been no such perception problem when it comes to playoffs. With the series win over Detroit, Niemi is a perfect six-for-six after leading the Blackhawks to the Cup last year. Keep this one in mind: against the Canucks this season, Niemi was 1-2-1 with a 3.64 GAA and .896 save percentage. But also remember he beat the Canucks last year in the playoffs.

Edge: Ever-so-slightly to Canucks, Luongo.

Special teams: After detailing the firepower both teams possess, it should come as no surprise that these were the NHL's two most efficient power-play units. The Sharks are in a little rut with a man up coming out of the Detroit series as Devin Setoguchi's Game 7 tally was their only goal in the last 13 tries. It's worth noting, though, that the Sharks have five players on the roster who recorded nine goals or more with a man up compared to just two for the Canucks, so it's safe to say San Jose can throw two solid power-play lines on the ice. Perhaps the biggest mismatch in the series, though, comes in the battle between Vancouver's power play and San Jose's penalty kill. In that department, the Sharks were ranked 24th in the league this season at a 79.6-percent kill rate. In the playoffs it has been a little better, killing off 82.7 percent. Vancouver, meanwhile, has kept pretty consistent with its third-ranked regular-season penalty kill percentage of 85.7, including their current run of just one goal allowed in the last 26 short-handed attempts.

Edge: Canucks

Prediction: This was the better matchup of the two possibilities for the Canucks, not to mention they had to love the Wings pushing the Sharks to the limit and helping exhaust them before getting this series under way. Believe it or not, this is the first time the perennial playoff teams have met in the postseason. But as has been the norm in the West the last few weeks, expect every game to be close, with every loose puck being fought for with the utmost tenacity. Although the Canucks got almost every edge from me, the differences aren't large, except some when talking defense. I'm inclined to say the Canucks will prevail in six games.

-- Brian Stubits

Western Conference Finals
No. 1 Vancouver vs. No. 2 San Jose - Series Tied, 0-0
Date Site Time/Result
May 15 at VAN 8 p.m.  
May 18 at VAN 9 p.m.  
May 20 at SJ 9 p.m.  
May 22 at SJ 3 p.m.  
* May 24 at VAN 9 p.m.  
* May 26 at SJ 9 p.m.  
* May 28 at VAN 8 p.m.  

Posted on: May 15, 2011 1:05 am
Edited on: May 15, 2011 3:52 am

Bruins again find no success on power play

BOSTON – It took all of one game before the Boston Bruins’ power play became an issue again.

The Bruins mustered only four shots and were scoreless in their four power play chances en route to a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at TD Garden on Saturday night. 

“If we do our job properly, I think we are going to have success, but you need the execution,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “I think the plan for the power play is good and we know how good they have been on the kill. (The team knows) what we need to do and we had some opportunities.”

Tomas Kaberle rattled a slap shot off the post and a Milan Lucic deflection just went wide, but for the most part chances were few and far between as the Bruins struggled on the extra man. The Bruins went scoreless in their first 30 power-play chances of the playoffs before Zdeno Chara broke through on a 5-on-3 opportunity in Game 3 of the second-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Lucic added another power -play goal in Game 4 last round.

Overall, the Bruins are 2-for-41 on the power play. That works out to 4.9 percent, which is a good margin of error for a national political poll but horrid when it comes to a power play.

“There was lots going on and we got maybe a little frustrated,” Bruins forward David Krejci said. “You know, we talked about it we have to stick with it and I think we have to get the power play in the third period. It’s too bad we didn’t score. That’s the story of our playoff this year.”

The fact that the Bruins are playing against the best penalty kill of any playoff team that made it out of the first round doesn’t help either. Tampa Bay has killed off 94.8 percent of the power plays its faced.

“I think we’ve had a good penalty kill all year long, top 5 for most of the year,” Bolts coach Guy Boucher said. “I think we’re following that up in the playoffs. We had a really good penalty kill in the first series and the second series. We’ve got to adjust to the other team and at the same time stay confident in what we are doing.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 14, 2011 1:45 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2011 8:17 pm

Former teammates mourn loss of Boogaard

BOSTON --- New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard was remembered less as a bruising enforcer and more for his less-fierce, kind demeanor off the ice by some of his former teammates.

“He’s not at all what people would think from watching him play hockey,” said Tampa Bay forward Dominic Moore, who played two seasons with Boogaard when they were teammates on the Minnesota Wild. “I always thought he was a real gentleman. He was a thoughtful, smart guy and a good person.”

Boogaard, 28, was found dead by family members on Friday, although the cause of death was not immediately determined. An official with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office told CBSSports.com that the results of the autopsy conducted Saturday will not be released for a couple weeks as toxicology and other lab tests are conducted.

A moment of silence was observed before the start of the opener at TD Garden, although a few fans yelled out "Boo" in recognition of the late player's nickname.

News spread among Boogaard’s current and former teammates via text message hours before the story was reported late Friday night. 

“I was waiting (for the reports) to come out,” said Boston Bruins forward Shane Hnidy, who also played with Boogaard in Minnesota. “Eventually, they did. It’s a terrible loss. He’s still a young man.”

Boogaard, a 6-foot-7 bruiser known more for is fists than his scoring, was described as a gentle person off the ice. The last time Hnidy talked to him, Boogaard had just signed a four-year, $6.5 million deal with the New York Rangers last offseason.

Boogaard, however, missed the second half of the season after a concussion. He had suffered at least two other concussions during his NHL career, which began in Minnesota in 2005-06.

“You just see him as this big, tough guy,” Hnidy said. “He’s a great guy. He’s always having fun. I’m going to remember him more for (what happened) behind the scenes. He was a guy who gave back to the community. Where things went from there, I’m not sure.”

Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, who played with the Wild during Boogaard's rookie season, recalled Boogaard work ethic as well. 

“He was an awesome guy in the room,” Roloson said (via WEEI-AM). “I remember when he first broke in, every day he came in to work hard, and he wanted to get better. He wanted to make it to the NHL and prove every person out there that said he couldn’t make it wrong. He worked hard every every day on and off the ice. He was one of those guys that was the first on and last off, had that type of attitude to get better, and obviously he succeeded.”

Earlier Saturday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement:

“The news that we have lost someone so young and so strong leaves everyone in the National Hockey League stunned and saddened. The NHL family sends its deepest condolences to all who knew and loved Derek Boogaard, to those who played and worked with him and to everyone who enjoyed watching him compete."

UPDATE: Here's some reaction from some of his Rangers teammates via a statement from the club:

Marian Gaborik:
“I found out immediately, like right away...it was late at night here...I couldn't believe it. It was weird because I just couldn't believe it. It's really sad, a young guy like that.”

“It was devastating news. I played with Boogey for a long time in Minny and then in New York. He was a great guy. We got along together great. We helped each other out on the ice and off the ice. We were very close. I tried to help him along in New York, and we had a very good relationship. It's just very sad.”

“He was one of the very best at what he did. Every team would have loved to have him, whether on the ice or off the ice as a great teammate.”

“He was a year younger than me, and you could see that he improved so much. But he always was such a calm guy, got along with everybody. We had a lot of good times together. He was a really easy going guy, really caring. We talked pretty much about everything. He's just the type guy who would be there for you whenever you needed him”

“We spoke before the World Championships. We were in touch a lot. He was focusing on coming back, training every day. He was really looking forward to coming back in great shape and prove that he's the best at what he does. He was really looking forward to that. He was always so positive and optimistic. “

New York Rangers Captain Chris Drury:
"On behalf of all Derek's teammates, I would like to say that he was a great friend and a great teammate and that we are all going miss him dearly. This is a tragic loss for the hockey community. All of our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family"

Brandon Prust:
“I am still in shock. It keeps hitting me off and on all day as I'm driving home. Though he was a fighter on the ice, he was definitely a gentle giant off the ice. He was just a real good guy, a team guy all the way. I've been looking at some of the silly pictures I have from when we were roommates and it just hits me what a good guy he was. I still can't believe I am referring to him in the past tense.”

Brian Boyle:
“He was a great person. He really was. He was such a caring guy, an unselfish guy. He put himself in front of bullets for the guys. I had some great talks and great laughs with him in our car rides into the city. I will remember him fondly, and I think we all will. There are so many great things Boogey brought to our team and to our lives. For however long you knew him, it was a blessing because on the ice he was an amazing teammate, and off the ice he was an even better friend.”

Sean Avery:
“As big of a man as Derek was, his heart was even bigger. I hope that his family, friends and most importantly, those who didn't know him, understand what a great teammate he was and how much he meant to us all.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 14, 2011 1:08 pm

Rested Gagne ready for return to Bolts lineup

BOSTON --- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Simon Gagne thought he’d get a chance to return last round.

“We know what happened,” Gagne said before Game 1 of the conference finals against the Boston Bruins on Saturday. “We beat Washington in four, so that helped me to not rush it back and get some time off. Even after the series against Washington, we’ve had almost a week and a half. That’s a perfect situation for myself.”

Gagne suffered a concussion in the first game of the second-round series against the Capitals on April 29. Caps defenseman Scott Hannan drove Gagne into the boards in the first period, but more damage was done when Gagne’s head bounded off the ice. Gagne appeared to lose consciousness briefly and a stretcher was brought onto the ice, although he skated off with assistance. Here’s a look at the collision.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher told reporters it wasn’t a difficult decision to slide Gagne into the lineup once he’d been cleared medically. (Gagne will be inserted in place of Blair Jones.) Gagne has two goals and five assists in the playoffs, but those numbers aren’t nearly as impressive as what he did to the Bruins as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers last postseason.

In his first game back in the lineup in weeks after he underwent foot surgery, Gagne scored in overtime of Game 4 to prevent a Bruins sweep. He scored two more goals in Game 5 and tallied the game-winner in Game 7 as Flyers became the third team in NHL history to win a series despite falling behind 0-3.

“He's been in pressure situations in the NHL so many years and he's come up with big goals,” Boucher said. “He's one of those guys who is a clutch player. He has and will be playing a huge part in our team.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 14, 2011 11:41 am
Edited on: May 14, 2011 3:28 pm

Bergeron skates before Bruins' practice

BOSTON – Partice Bergeron skated on his own before the rest of the Boston Bruins took the ice for the morning skate Saturday, the first time club's high-scoring forward has been on the ice since his concussion on May 6.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said not to read too much into it.

“It’s just protocol,” Julien said. “He’s going through the normal stuff. Today was a light skate on his own. He just got off the ice as we went on. I don’t think there’s much more guys.”

Bergeron, who was not made available to reporters, suffered what was called a “mild concussion” on a check from Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux in Game 4 of the second-round series. Both Julien and Boston GM Peter Chiarelli have said Bergeron will miss the first part of the conference finals, which begin here tonight.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 14, 2011 1:24 am
Edited on: May 14, 2011 1:30 am

Sharks' White's wife goes into labor before game

We all know hockey players are tough. But how about a little love for the ones they love?

In attendance at the Shark Tank before Game 7, Sharks defenseman Ian White's wife Tess felt the onset of labor contractions, at which point she sent a text to the team with a clear message: We need to go to the hospital ... when the game is over.

According to the Oakland Tribune, the Whites went straight to the hospital after the Sharks beat the Red Wings 3-2 and Tess gave birth to daughter Gracelyn Sophia on Friday morning.

So while her husband was going through the agony of a Game 7, she was going through the agony of early labor. Hardly seems like a fair tradeoff. But kudos to Mrs. White for getting in the playoff spirit and toughing it out.

White logged 14:12 of ice time, recording two shots and a plus-1 rating. Little did he know then, but his wife was recording her own plus-1 for the family.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: May 13, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 9:12 pm

Preview: No. 3 Bruins vs. No. 5 Lightning

All the dramatics in the other conference have turned the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins into bystanders for more than a week. By the time the Eastern Conference Final begins at TD Garden on Saturday night, the Lightning will have had 10 days off and the Bruins idle for eight days after their second-round sweeps of the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers, respectively.

“It’s been the same for both teams,” Bruins forward David Krejci said on Friday. “Hopefully, there are not going to be excuses on either side.”

The time off has allowed both teams to heal from the nagging issues that crop up during 82 regular season games and a couple rounds of playoffs, but Tampa (defenseman Pavel Kubina) and Boston (forward Patrice Bergeron) will be without players -- at least to start the series --- due to concussion-like symptoms. Tampa will have Simon Gagne, who, like Kubina, suffered a concussion in Game 1 last round, back in the lineup.

Since it feels like these teams haven’t played since the All-Star break, there’s also the issue of carryover. Will there be any? Third-line Lightning forward Sean Bergenheim scored four goals last series and leads Tampa Bay with seven overall in the playoffs. Bruins forward Milan Lucic also broke out of a playoff slump by scoring his first two goals of the playoffs in Game 4 against the Flyers.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he’s not overly concerned about the break. The Bruins had about a three-week break two years ago in the second round against the Carolina Hurricanes and won Game 1, although the ‘Canes ultimately took the series.

“I think it's been a group effort that mentally we stayed on top of our game, on top of our focus,” he said. “At the same time, the physical part of it, I don't think too many players get out of shape at this time of year.“

Here’s the breakdown:

Forwards: The only two forwards left from the Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup-winning team of 2004 have played like they want another crack at it. Martin St. Louis (six goals, seven assists) and Vincent Lecavalier (five goals, seven assists) lead the lightning in scoring. But it’s the secondary scoring that’s been most impressive. Steve Downie (two goals, 10 assists) and Bergenheim (seven goals, one assist) have each scored more than Steven Stamkos (four goals, two assists), Tampa’s top goal scorer during the regular season. The fact that Gagne is expected back in the lineup gives Tampa two high-powered top lines with one of the most (unexpectedly) potent third lines of the playoffs. The Bruins have their weapon even minus Bergeron, who absorbed a hit by Flyers Claude Girioux and suffered a “minor” concussion. Julien said Bergeron is “progressing” but reiterated that he doesn’t expect to have his services early in the series. Bergeron has not been cleared to take part in practice. Rookie Tyler Seguin will take Bergeron’s place in the lineup. Now, the Bruins need somebody to pick up some of Bergeron’s production. The top candidate would be Lucic, who has struggled mightily but also had points in back-to-back games as the Bruins closed out the Flyers. Pesky rookie Brad Marchand has done more than just been an agitator on the ice; he’s been the second most productive Bruin with 11 points.

Edge: Lightning

Defense: The Lightning may not have a 6-foot-9 blue liner on its roster --- the closest they will get on Saturday is 6-4 Mattias Ohlund --- but the Lightning’s defense has stood out anyway this postseason. While a lot of the credit will go to goalie Dwayne Roloson, only two Tampa players enter the series with a negative plus-minus. Ohlund, plus-6, leads in that category. Eric Brewer is tops in both ice time (26 minutes , nine seconds per game) and points (six) this postseason. Randy Jones, who missed a month with a high-ankle sprain, replaced Kubina in the lineup and has a point in three games. Chara has obviously recovered from the dehydration issue that kept him out a game in the first round. He’s tops in the playoffs in plus-minus (plus-11) and leading the Bruins in ice time again (28:41). In fact, all the Bruins defensemen have at least an even plus-minus rating. The Bruins should get Adam McQuaid, who suffered a neck injury in Game 2 last round, for Game 1 and Boston’s depth on the blue line will only get deeper now that Steven Kampher, who has been out since the closing days of the regular season with a knee injury, has returned to practice.

Edge: Bruins

Goalies: Lots will be made of the next few days about Tampa’s Roloson, 41, and his 37-year-old counterpart Tim Thomas. Along with New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, they are the last of the old-school goalies who don’t depend purely on the cookie-cutter butterfly goalies that populate the NHL. Regardless of how they do, each has been successful this season. Both have nearly identical numbers in the postseason, although Thomas gets the nod during the regular season. Thomas has the highest save percentage (.938) since the stat began to be tracked 34 years ago. He was also tops in goals-against average (2.00) and second in shutouts (nine). Thomas, who didn’t even start in the playoffs a season ago, is a primary reason the Bruins have ventured into the conference finals for the first time since 1992.

Edge: Bruins

Special teams: Tampa Bay, successful in 26.7 percent of their opportunities, has the top power play among the four teams left in the playoffs. The Lightning also have the best penalty kill (94.4 percent), especially impressive when you factor in they had to contend with the high-powered Washington Capitals last round. The Bruins may have solved their power play issues. It took until the third game of the second round (0-for-30) before Boston scored on the man-advantage. But they closed out the final two games against the Flyers with a 2-for-7 mark. Boston has the lowest-ranked PK of the remaining playoff teams, 80.5 percent.

Edge: Lightning

Prediction: These two teams both had seven-game series in the first round followed by sweeps. I think this will be closer to the former. The Bruins are better defensively --- a nod to the blue line and Thomas --- but how they handle the Lightning’s potent offense will make interesting viewing. I think minus Bergeron, you have to give the benefit of the doubt to Tampa Bay. I’ll take the Lightning in seven games. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Eastern Conference Finals
No. 3 Boston vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay - Series tied, 0-0
Date Site Time/Result
May 14 at BOS 8 p.m.  
May 17 at BOS 8 p.m.  
May 19 at TB 8 p.m.  
May 21 at TB 1:30 p.m.  
* May 23 at BOS 8 p.m.  
* May 25 at TB 8 p.m.  
* May 27 at BOS 8 p.m.  
Posted on: May 13, 2011 1:02 am
Edited on: May 13, 2011 1:20 am

Marleau scores key goal, silences biggest critic

Patrick Marleau shoved more than just the puck into the net with eight minutes left in regulation of Game 7 on Thursday night.

The San Jose Sharks forward tossed aside --- at least for one night --- the allusion that he is a playoff no-show, something that former NHL player tuned broadcaster Jeremy Roenick hammered home days earlier and a theory carried on as he failed to score in the series. But Marleau made his one goal --- and only point in the second-round series --- count as his tally off the scramble in front of the Detroit Red Wings’ net turned out to be the game-winner in a 3-2 victory.

“The job isn’t finished yet,” Marleau said in interview on Versus. “I like the way (the series) ended, that’s for sure.”

It wasn’t too pretty the last few days for the Sharks and for Marleau in particular. The Sharks lost three games in a row and were in danger of becoming the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead. Marleau was called “gutless” --- twice --- by Roenick, a former teammate of Marleau’s in San Jose.

But even the outspoken Roenick could do nothing but applaud Marleau’s performance, although he hinted that his play in the second period was a little off. You can’t argue with that assessment, especially as Marleau failed to clear the puck on multiple occasions late in the second frame.

In the playoffs, however, it’s all about how you finish. Marleau not only scored the decisive goal in the decisive game, he also cleared the puck from his knees as time ticked down. He also drew a slashing penalty on a whack by Niklas Kronwall.

“This is the kind of play you need at the end of games and Patrick Malreau was there to make them tonight,” Roenick said. “Listen, I have no problem telling somebody when they did something bad. I have no problem when they come back at me and show something good. The only reason I'm tough on Patrick Marleau is because I know how good he is. I know what’s he capable of doing. He showed me tonight by getting the big goal, making the big plays when it was needed and that's why the San Jose Sharks won.”

Here's a look at the video via Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy blog:

It looked like Marleau proved some of critics wrong last year when he scored on overtime of Game 3 and tacked on the game-winner in Game 5 in the second round against the Wings last year. He was also the rare Shark to play well against the Chicago Blackhawks in the next round, compiling five goals and an assist as San Jose was swept.

Let’s see how long Thursday’s performance stays fresh in the minds of pundits.

-- A.J. Perez
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com