Tag:2011 NHL Playoffs
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 5:47 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 6:37 pm
 

Caps use defense first to be first winner in East


So far, so good.

That's the early return on the Washington Capitals and their offseason investment to defense first.

Last year around this time, the sport's most explosive team was in the middle of collapsing, losing to the eighth-seeded Canadiens. Add it to the list of shortcomings in recent postseasons for one of the regular season's best.

This time, however, the focus has changed. And so, it looks like, have the team's postseason possibilities.

All five games against the Rangers were close; the Caps weren't dominating anybody in this series. But they were playing playoff hockey, a tough, defensive-minded game where easy scores are rare. Exactly what was missing before.

They made an average offensive team a bad offensive team, minus the one New York outbreak in Game 4. An offensive powerhouse before, they are becoming a power at protecting their house.

Part of the turnaround can be attributed to Michal Neuvirth in net, to be sure. And he deserves credit. He was incredibly solid and reliable for a team that had featured a turnstile in net the past few seasons.

"He [Neuvirth] didn't give them a chance. He was great. He covered up pucks, didn't give rebounds," Bruce Boudreau said after the game. "A lot of people don't know his name too much, except around our parts, but he's a heck of a goalie."

But it's pretty amazing how much better a goalie is when the shooting lanes are clogged and opposing skaters can't set up and fire away with the accuracy of a regular sharpshooter. Thank the defense.

"I think they've really bought in. From that [7-0 loss Dec. 12 to the Rangers] on, I bet you we had the best goals against in the league," Boudreau said. "They want to win. When they heard this is what we think we have to do to win, they bought in. They've come a long way."

"You can see how we sacrifice our body. Everybody blocked the shots," said Alexander Ovechkin, who played on the right wing instead of the left on Sunday. "It was very important for us to not give them many chances to score goals. To not give them momentum. When we get ahead, We focused on our neutral zone and defensive zone."

It takes a complete breakdown now for the Caps not to have three or more skaters near the net. Granted, this is not new to hockey, it's rather standard for many teams. But it hasn't been for Washington.

After all, defense isn't prone to slumps the way offenses are.

Of course, the price to pay for all this comes at the offensive end. The Caps aren't scoring as much. Nowhere near it. But, as they proved in Game 4, they can abandon the stay-at-home philosophy when needed and let their playmakers go to work. When that list of names includes Ovechkin and Semin -- who each scored in Game 5 -- that’s a daunting proposition.

Now the Capitals get something no other team in the East will benefit from: a rest. They are the only team to wrap up their series in five games or less. It's probably a nice break for fans rocking the red, too. For the first time since the lockout, the Capitals played a series that didn't go seven games.

This has to be what Boudreau imagined when his retooling began. But next round we'll find out how much that defense has truly improved.

-- Brian Stubits

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
Posted on: April 23, 2011 1:49 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 1:57 am
 

Bobby Ryan's highlight reel goal wasted

ANAHEIM --- David Legwand, as the Nashville Predators defenseman stumbled down the ice like he was immersed in a bad dream,  got to see something the Anaheim Ducks were missing the last couple games: Bobby Ryan

Ryan -- forced out of Games 3-4 due to a suspension -- swiped a lazy cross-ice pass from Legwand, then turned the defender inside out a couple times before he schooled Preds goalie Pekka Rinne with a deke to his backhand. The tally 40 seconds into the third period gave the Ducks one of their two leads of the night, but the Predators wound up with a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 5 of the first-round series at Honda Center on Friday. 

“I just tried to duck and dodge him a few times,” Ryan told CBSSports.com. “It might have been more luck or skill, but I’ll take it.”

Sure it wasn’t the game-winner, but Ryan scored the goal of the playoffs --- at least so far. Ryan, however, was hardly in celebratory mood. 



“I guess it’s a moot point when you drop the game and you don’t come through with a series lead like we should have tonight,” Ryan added. “It was a nice goal, but I will probably try and forget it.”

Predators coach Barry Trotz said it won’t be so easy for Legwand to put out of his mind. 

“He knows it wasn’t a smart play,” Trotz said. “I won’t have to talk to him. It will be on all the highlights on every station across North America. He’ll be able to see it a lot.”

Ryan was suspended two games for stomping on the foot of Preds defenseman Jonathon Blum as the two fought for position along the boards in Game 2. Ryan said before the game that the first suspension of his career wasn’t going to change how he approached the game. 

Ryan was physical (three hits were credited to him) and he put four shots on net. 

As Ryan returned, the Ducks were this time without the services of Jarko Ruutu. He was suspended one game for his hit on Preds winger Martin Erat that the league determined was too late. Erat did not make the trip out here to Southern California and he’s questionable for Sunday’s Game 6 with a an upper-body injury. 

-- A.J. Perez
 
 
 
 
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