Tag:Conference Quarterfinals
Posted on: April 28, 2011 3:03 pm

Octopus thrower enters not-guilty plea

The Detroit Red Wings fan who was arrested after he tossed an octopus on the ice pleaded not guilty and asked for a jury trial earlier this week. 

Charlie Graves, a resident of Farmington, Mich., was arrested at Game 1 of the first-round series against the Phoenix Coyotes on April 13 after he tossed the octopus onto the ice, a tradition for Detroit playoff games that stretches back decades. He was fined $500 fine and was charged with disorderly conduct.

Police said afterward that the NHL had requested them to clamp down on octopi tossers.

A defiant Graves, who was in court on Tuesday, explained to WDIV-TV why he pleaded not guilty:

"It is a 50-something-odd-year tradition," Graves said. "I feel the city of Detroit takes pride in their tradition, and if the (NHL) commissioner thinks we are going to go down without a fight, he is wrong."

Graves said he will fight the charge in support of the tradition. .

"I pleaded not guilty, of course," Graves said. "I'm going to fight for this tradition. And so, I have to come back in July for a trial, and I'll be lawyered up."

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:23 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:59 pm

Luongo back in Vancouver net for Game 7

There’s likely something wrong with Roberto Luongo

Mentally. Physically. Luongo, the Vezina Trophy finalist who has been the cornerstone of the franchise for a while, isn't right. Not that it matters. He's getting the nod for Game 7, at least that's what Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Monday. 

“Yes, Roberto is starting,” Vigneault told reporters (via The Vancouver Sun). “Positive. Wouldn't lie to you. I'm not kidding. Does this look like the face of a kidder?”

Rookie Cory Schneider was the surprise starter in Game 6, putting Luongo and his $64 million contract on the bench. This came after Vigneault told reporters, evey different way, that Luongo would be in there. After Sunday's 4-3 OT loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, Vigneault said he “went with the gut.”
That stint in a ballcap for Luongo -- who allowed 10 goals on 40 shots when he was yanked in Games 4-5 -- ended in the third period after Schneider went down awkwardly on a penalty shot by Chicago’s Michael Frolik. Schneider, who had let in three goals on 20 shots he faced, was helped off the ice. 

"I just lost my legs and I seized up and couldn't do anything after that," Schneider told ESPN Chicago.

Luongo -- who's rumored to have hurt something, likely his arm, in Game 4 -- made 12 consecutive saves after he entered before rookie Ben Smith scored in overtime. Luongo made the initial save on a shot by Niklas Hjalmarsson, but the rebound squirted over to Smith who shot the puck over Luongo.

The Vancouver Sun details some of Luongo's postseason struggles, which go far beyond letting the Blackhawks come back from 3-0 in this series:

Luongo may have handled the big Olympic stage but he hasn't been able to handle the Blackhawks in any of the last three playoff years. His win-loss record against Chicago is 7-11. His playoff record, dating back to 2007, is 13-9 against the rest of the league. Overall, Luongo is a pedestrian 20-20 in his post-season career, all with the Canucks.

The issue of Tuesday’s starter became a comical one Monday when Luongo, who met with reporters prior to Vigneault's daily press conference, attempted to stick-handle around the question.

“I am getting ready as if I'm playing,” he said.

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 24, 2011 11:22 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 11:24 pm

Selanne one of few questions for Ducks

Teemu Selanne wasn’t about to discuss whether his 18th season would be his last in the NHL after the Anaheim Ducks were eliminated by the Nashville Predators on Sunday.

Selanne, who turns 41 in July, tends to let these kinds of decisions linger well into the summer -- if not longer.

“No,” was his simple answer to a reporter’s question on if he had a timetable for a decision after the Ducks lost, 4-2, in Game 6.

Ducks GM Bob Murray doesn’t have a ton of work ahead of him this summer. All his Stars are under contract and his goalie situation --- which could easily be blamed for the Ducks’ first round exit --- will likely be worked out if Jonas Hiller gets healthy this offseason. Hiller, who was having a Vezina Trophy-type season at the All-Star Break, missed all but one of the Ducks’ final 24 preseason games and didn’t get a minute of playing time as he battled dizziness linked to vertigo.

That left the job in net to Ray Emery (unrestricted free agent) and Dan Ellis (signed through 2011-12). Neither were spectacular in net, although Emery did show, after more than a year on the shelf after hip surgery, that he could at least serve as a viable backup somewhere.

The only other cogs in the Ducks’ lineup who is unrestricted is grinder forward Todd Marchant and defenseman Andreas Lilja.

As far as coach Randy Carlyle goes, it’s doubtful he’d get the boot. Murray received an extension in February when the Ducks were out of the top-8 in the Western Conference standings and Carlyle --- whose contract runs two more seasons --- guided Anaheim to an admirable finish despite losing Hiller in arguably the toughest division in hockey.
-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 24, 2011 9:34 pm

Brian Boucher tapped as Flyers starter for Game 7

The Philadelphia Flyers have their man, again, in net. 

Brian Boucher, who came into Sunday’s Game 6 in relief of Michael Leighton and backstopped a 5-4 Flyers OT victory over the Buffalo Sabres, was tapped as the starter for Tuesday’s decisive Game 7, CSN Philadelphia reports

“I can’t say enough about him,” Buffalo coach Peter Laviolette said. “Brian expects to start, and I respect that about him. He had an opportunity tonight to come in and help this team live for another day, and he was tremendous.”

Leighton was the third different goalie to start in the series. The Flyers entered the series with Sergei Bobrovsky in net. After he flamed out in Game 2, Boucher got the starts in Games 3-5 before Leighton -- who carried the Flyers deep in the playoff a season ago after Boucher went down with simultaneous knee injuries -- got the start in Game 6. 

Here’s more from CSN Philly:
Laviolette’s three-headed goalie monster this series is the first time in Flyers history that the team has used a trio of netminders in one playoff series, but Boucher is used to the juggling.

“Isn’t it always bizarre in Philadelphia with goaltenders?” Boucher said. “I mean, it’s nothing new. I’m pretty used to it. I know when I came back here I knew what I was getting myself into, so you just roll with the punches and deal with it.”

Despite the revolving door in the crease this series, one thing is for sure – the Flyers don’t change their style when a new mask appears between the pipes behind them. Philadelphia’s ferocious forecheck gave the Sabres fits Sunday, especially in the second period when they rallied to tie the game on Danny Briere’s power-play goal 8:43 in.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s Bob, Boosh or Leights,” Meszaros said. “It’s the playoffs.”

“Brian brought us a sense of calmness when he came in,” winger Kris Versteeg said. “That’s what we needed. Being down so quickly I think sometimes your emotions can get the best of you. We knew that we had a team that can score goals, we just had to stick to the plan.”

Leighton allowed three goals off eight shots before he replaced by Boucher after the first intermission on Sunday. Boucher probably would have liked to have that one goal he allowed on 25 shots --- a volley from the point by Buffalo’s Nathan Gerbe in the third period that deflected off a Flyers defenseman’s stick -- but he provided the steadiness in net that settled the Flyers en route to another comeback. 

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 24, 2011 9:33 pm
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Posted on: April 24, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 5:14 pm

Report: Rangers extend Tortorella's contract

Torts’ stay in the Big Apple wasn’t halted when the New York Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Washington Capitals on Saturday. 

The New York Post ’s Larry Brooks reports today that Rangers coach John Tortorella’s contract has been extended, likely through the next three seasons. Tortorella -- who was hired midway through the 2008-09 campaign -- orginal contract was  to expire after this season. 

Here’s more from Brooks’ report:

Two years ago it was a seven-game series, the Rangers blowing a 3-1 series lead. This time, it ended in a tidy five games, elimination coming yesterday with a 3-1 defeat in which the Rangers scored their lone goal — and just their eighth goal of the series — with 31.5 seconds to play.

“I don’t think our team is fully built yet, and I’ll be honest, we’re not there as far as talent,” Tortorella said minutes after the season came to an end. “You look at where this Washington team was, and [how they added] draft picks. “We’re still in a process, trying to get better,” he added. “There are areas with our team where we need to be better. But we’ll continue to build and continue to find our way.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:44 am

Niemi stumbles, yanked for second time in series

Antti Niemi at least mixed in a save before his latest playoff letdown.

The San Jose Sharks goalie who allowed the first two shots on goal get to the back of the net in Game 3 earlier in the week stopped one of the first three shots he saw in Game 5 Saturday night. Niemi eventually allowed three goals on four shots and was pulled after 8 minutes, 42 seconds.

While he was solid in Game 4 and he’s one of two goalies in the playoffs with a Stanley Cup title to his credit (Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury is the other), Contra Costa Times columnist Gary Peterson writes that it’s time for a change in net:
Instead of being able to shrug off Niemi's bad night by extolling his ability to rebound from adversity, coach Todd McLellan is faced with a decision that was unthinkable five games ago.

He needs to switch goalies.

Yes, Niemi was nails in the last half of the regular season, playing at the top of his game, and playing almost every game. Yes, he was helping the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship last year at this time.

That's old news as of Saturday night, when Niemi turned in his third sketchy effort in five starts.

"We came out, and we (stunk) from the start," Logan Couture said. "That's as simple as I can put it. Everyone made mistakes. You can't pin it on one guy."

That's what a good teammate says. But the brutal truth is, one man's mistakes stood out.

Antero Nittimaki didn’t allow a goal as he faced 18 shots in relief as the Kings earned a 3-1 victory Saturday. (He also earned the victory as he replaced Niemi in Game 3 as the Sharks posted a four-goal comeback to win 6-5 in OT.) But CSN Bay Area (and CBSSports.com contributor) Ray Ratto reports that McLellan didn’t sound as concerned as who’s in net as the skaters in front of them:

“The first one (by Wayne Simmonds) comes off a hell of a deflection,” McLellan said, reviewing the nails in his team’s crest. “The second one (by Kyle Clifford), he makes a great save off a 2-on-1 that shouldn’t exist (turnover by Dan Boyle), and the third one (by Dustin Penner), he’s a little deep in his net, and he knows that.”

But then he added a subtler but more damaging assessment, one that can’t be fixed by exchanging a Finn (Antero Niittymaki) for a Finn (Niemi).

“We have six (defensemen) dressed who are better than they showed tonight,” he said. “I probably don’t have to tell them, but I will remind them of that.”

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: April 23, 2011 2:03 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 2:42 pm

Tootoo, Smithson deliver Preds historic victory

ANAHEIM --- Jordin Tootoo is a grinder not known for his pretty passes. Jerred Smithson was a player Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz said was “disposed of” by the Los Angeles Kings

Those were your heroes for as the Predators clawed out a 4-3 victory at Honda Center Friday night --- Nashville's first Game 5 and playoff overtime victories in franchise history. 

“We battled through a lot of adversity throughout the year,” said Tootoo, who set up Smithson’s game-winning goal two minutes into OT. “Guys understand those situations. It’s great to battle through those and come out on top tonight. This is a big win for our organization. We’ll enjoy this one tonight and regroup.”

While the Preds have suffered through the usual injuries and other travails like most teams, Tootoo had his own battles. He missed January after he entered the NHL/NHL Players' Association Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. 

“He’s playing great hockey right now,” Smithson said. “He’s leading by example and doing the hard things: going to the net, drawing penalties and creating scoring chances. For him to get the success is great to see.”

Tootoo’s first assist -- both of the game and the playoffs -- came midway through the first period as he faked a shot then moved the puck over to Kevin Klein, who beat Ducks goalie Ray Emery.

“He was hard to handle,” Trotz said. “He was making plays and making really good decisions. It was a really good game for Jordin. It was a big part of the victory.”

The Preds third line stepped in to fill the some of the void left by Martin Erat, who missed Game 5 with an upper-body injury. Not deep at forward already, the line provided contributions that put the Preds a game away from advancing to the second round for the first time in franchise history. 

-- AJ. 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