Tag:2011 WC Playoffs
Posted on: May 13, 2011 12:20 am
Edited on: May 13, 2011 12:44 am

Veteran Wings see season, possibly era end

Entering Game 7, it was clear which team would have the advantage in the intangibles: experience, momentum, poise, etc. Those all belonged to the Red Wings. And it showed. They were the veteran group comfortable in the spotlight as they had been there so many times before.

Perhaps Detroit was too comfortable. The Wings came out knowing all too well they had to stem the tide in a rocking arena on the road. They weren't taking many chances, trying to make their way through. As a result, they were outworked and outplayed in the opening period. And they left it trailing by two.

They did have 11 shots on net in the first, but a lot was just firing from beyond the dots. The quality chances weren't there. The team was not interested in being caught in transition. They were relaxed. It looked like they weren't willing to take the risk for a shot at the rewards.

But the somewhat sleepy first period doesn't explain the night away. As much as they were dominated in the first period, they were as dominant in the second, getting one goal to show for their efforts.

"We pushed the issue the rest of the game, but their goalie was outstanding. I thought this series was a good series. It was entertaining, it was fast," coach Mike Babcock said after the game.

Babcock credited some line changes necessitated by the injuries to Todd Bertuzzi and later a friendly-fire hit on Dan Cleary as being the catalyst to get them back in. Yes, for a team that had erased a 3-0 deficit to get here, a 2-0 lead in a game didn't seem insurmountable. That doesn't mean those guys going down didn't hurt.

"We missed those guys, but it was an opportunity for other guys. I'm proud of our group, our group worked real hard," Babcock said.

On this night, though, it was the special-teams battle that didn't go Detroit's way. Not only did they give up a goal on the penalty kill, but they couldn't get much going on their own opportunities a man up. It seemed that everytime there was a faceoff in the offensive zone, it went the Sharks way. Then it was an adventure just to get the puck back into the zone for a great puck-controlling team.

The special-teams difference was one goal, and wouldn't you know that was the difference.

"Your disappointed tonight for sure, you're disappointed in your heart as you felt you were going to win tonight for sure."

Now you have to wonder if this is the last we've seen of this group of Red Wings. No, the window isn't completely closed. If we've learned anything in the last two decades it's that Detroit always does a goob job of restocking without becoming irrelevant. Take, for example, that this is the 20th straight season the Red Wings have been in the postseason, the same number of seasons the Sharks have been in existence.

"I'm pleased with the growth of our young players. Our high-end forwards. [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Henrik] Zetterberg were fantastic in this series and I think that's real important," Babcock said. "They showed great leadership quality, which is fantastic. We still feel we have a real young core and an opportunity to get better. As we continue to change our organization to try and be current, we need these guys to be great."

It's very possible Nicklas Lidstrom has played his last NHL game. But would anybody be surprised if he returns after watching the way this team never quit in this series? Regardless, the stalwarts from the last decade-plus are going to make way for the next generation of Wings soon.

Either way, we're talking about probably the classiest franchise in the game. There's a reason the Red Wings have become a playoff mainstay. It was on display all series long. It was a team that never quit, never panicked. They did Hockeytown proud.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: May 12, 2011 2:18 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 2:29 pm

Clowe, Franzen may crack Game 7 lineup

San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe took part of the team’s very optional skate earlier today, although he was not made available to reporters.

Clowe, the Sharks’ top scorer this postseason, missed Game 6 with what is described as an upper-body injury. He skated for about 20 minutes as the rest of the Sharks’ regulars took the morning off in preparation for tonight’s Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings .

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the skate that Clowe remains a game-time decision.

“He's feeling pretty good,” McLelland told reporters (via CSN Bay Area’s Brodie Brazil).

Meanwhile, Red Wings could have their gritty forward back in the lineup as well. Johan Franzen reportedly maneuvered well in the Wings’ pre-game skate. An ankle injury suffered in the first round forced Franzen out of the lineup for Game 6.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Franzen will be a game-time decision as well. Brian Rafalski and Pavel Datsyuk weren’t in the ice for the skate, but both will be in the lineup.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 12, 2011 4:33 am

Game 7 breakdown: No. 3 Detroit at No. 2 San Jose

Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV: Versus

Road to Game 7

Once a rarity, Detroit's comeback from an 0-3 hole isn't that shocking anymore. The Red Wings are the third team --- joining last year's Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks, who did it a round prior this postseason --- to accomplish the feat over the last two seasons and eighth team overall. (Philly advanced over the Bruins, while the Canucks righted the ship in time to beat the 'Hawks.) Take away a Darren Helm empty-net goal in Game 6 and each game in the series has been decided by one goal with two games going to OT. The clubs have been tied or separated by a single goal 90 percent of the time, according to the NHL.

The Sharks coughed up third-period leads in each of the last two games, although Game 5's two-goal margin hurts the most. Rookie Logan Couture gave the Sharks a 3-1 lead in the opening minute of the third period on Sunday, but the Wings were able to tie the game within five minutes off goals by Jonathan Ericsson and Dan Cleary. Their one-goal lead secured on another Couture goal early in third period of Game 6 was more of a product of the play of Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who turned away the first 38 shots he faced.

It's no doubt that Detroit's veteran cast -- minus ailing Johan Franzen -- has gotten stronger as the series has moved on. Take Pavel Datsyuk, whose undisclosed injury (likely hand) hasn't seemed to bother him much as he set up the game-winners in Games 5 and 6. He still may not being taking many faceoffs -- he didn't go into the circle in Game 5 and only took four draws in Game 6 -- but he's showing exactly why he's considered by many the best two-way forward in the league. He has a goal and seven assists in the series.

The Sharks were minus their top scorer in the playoffs, Ryane Clowe, in Game 6 and he wasn't on the ice for practice on Wednesday. (The team is calling it an upper-body injury.) Clowe is the sort of hard-nosed player that can battle with the likes of Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom and Datsyuk, so his absence would be a major blow to the Sharks. But the sky won't be falling at the Shark Tank on Thursday if one of the veterans, say, Patrick Marleau, shows up. Yes, he's still looking for his first point of the series, but San Jose does have a few other options: Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle. As clutch as Joe Pavelski -- who scored the game-winner in the Sharks' last Game 7 against Calgary three years ago -- has been in the playoffs, one of the team's Stars will need to step it up -- even if Clowe is a go.

In net

Jimmy Howard (Detroit) vs. Antti Niemi (San Jose). Howard allowed one goal against the Coyotes in a first-round Game 7 victory a year ago, a contest the Wings won 6-1. His 39-save effort in Game 5 pushed the series to a sixth game, where he allowed one goal -- which went over the line by maybe an inch or two -- on 25 shots. Niemi's tremendous 42-save effort went for naught in Game 6, but he's proven a much more reliable goalie than in the first round against the Los Angeles Kings. This will be the first time Niemi has faced an elimination game in his NHL career (the Blackhawks never were in danger of elimination in their Stanley Cup run a year ago with Niemi in net).

Injury report

Franzen (ankle) is questionable for Game 7, although Detroit coach Mike Babcock told reporters on Wednesday he wouldn't rule him out just yet. Veteran Mike Modano started in Franzen's place in Game 6 and although he went without a point, he did win six of his nine faceoffs. Goalie Chris Osgood (hernia) is out. Clowe will be a game-time decision, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after practice on Wednesday.

Our picks

A.J. Perez: I called Sharks in 6 and I'm going to stick with San Jose. No, it doesn't have momentum -- not by a long shot -- but that can be overcome with an early goal or two. I'd like its chances a lot better if Clowe breaks the lineup, but there is still plenty left to get the deal done -- especially on home ice. For some reason, I'm thinking this could be the highest scoring game of the series.

Brian Stubits: The natural inclination is to pick the team with the home ice in a Game 7, but things just seem to be tilting Detroit's way for me. Intangibles, as little as they often mean, mostly belong to the Wings, an experienced group. I just can't get over the Sharks stigma of playoff problems, this series going seven doesn't alleviate that. With the game almost being a toss-up, I've got the team riding high, and that's Detroit.

Posted on: May 11, 2011 1:09 am
Edited on: May 11, 2011 3:11 am

Filppula breaks out of slump, keys Wings win

Before Valtteri Filppula broke out his slump, the Detroit Red Wings forward felt a thud. 

"(Logan Couture) shot it at me and it stung a bit in my hand," Filppula told Ansar Khan of mlive.com. "It was good to get it, and then (Pavel) Datsyuk just made a great play. When you are playing with him, you know there’s always a chance (you’ll get the puck back).”

The sequence that started when Filppula picked off the laxideasical dump in by Couture ended with a one-timer past a fellow Finn, Sharks goalie Antii Niemi. The goal gave the Detroit Red Wings the lead en route to a 3-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday night. 

"Bad play by (Couture),” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “He’d like to have that one back. You know it's a bad play when the player is actually standing still and doesn’t have to move to pick him off.”

It was Filppula first goal of the series --- he netted his first point on Henrik Zetterberg’s equalizer a couple minutes earlier --- and it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time for the Red Wings, who are now even with the Sharks after dropping the first three games of the series. 

“I thought he really stepped it up tonight,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “He made some good plays. That was a great play by him individually. He’s an important guy for us. He probably feels great about himself, which is important and that will help us be better in Game 7.”

Babcock was looking for a forward to step up in place of the injured Johan Franzen, who was a scratch after it became clear in Game 5 he could barely skate due to the ankle injury suffered in the first round. Veteran Mike Modano got into the lineup in place of Franzen, but Filppula was among the forwards who saw more ice time. He skated 18 minutes, two seconds, nearly three minutes more than Game 5. 

The Red Wings outshot the Sharks, 45-25, although Detroit was unable to solve Niemi until Filppula rushed through center ice and into San Jose’s zone. He found an open Niklas Kronwall, who fired a slap shot that Zetterberg deflected over Niemi’s glove. 
-- A.J. Perez 
Posted on: May 11, 2011 12:39 am
Edited on: May 11, 2011 11:00 am

Sharks need to halt their generous ways

In close proximity to the Big Three, this Detroit Red Wings comeback doesn’t come close to Ford, GM and Chrysler all returning to profitability at the same time. 

That’s because the San Jose Sharks have been more generous than any stimulus package the latter two car companies received from the governments of the U.S. and Canada. The Red Wings almost couldn’t help themselves but force a decisive Game 7. 

Facing a soft defense that retreated toward its own net in a misplaced attempt to hold onto the lead, Henrik Zetterberg deflected in a blast from a wide-open Niklas Kronwall to tie the game. Two minutes later Sharks rookie forward Logan Couture passed the puck directly to Valtteri Filppula, who finished the play be burying a cross-ice pass from Pavel Datsyuk for the game-winner. Add in an empty-net goal by Darren Helm and the Red Wings seized a 3-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday night. 

Now, the Red Wings stand to become the fourth team in NHL history to advance despite dropping the first three games with a Game 7 victory in San Jose on Thursday. The Wings are already the eighth team to even a series after starting 0-3 -- and the third over the last two postseasons as they join the Philadelphia Flyers (won Game 7 to advance over Boston) and this season’s Chicago Blackhawks (lost Game 7 to Vancouver). 

“We shouldn’t have been down 0-3,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We were playing pretty well. We had a chance to win them all. That’s how tight a series this has been. . . . You would have thought that it’d a long series that would go six games. It’s going to seven games. It’s good for hockey.”

Maybe outside the Bay Area. The Sharks, tagged as perennial chokers, didn’t help their cause and the term “sanjoseitis” could find its way to into the next Scrabble dictionary. (Props to former NHLer Aarron Ward for coming up with that.) 

Silicon Valley survived the dotcom bubble of a decade ago, but will the Sharks and their fanbase get over a loss at HP Pavilion on Thursday? Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he’ll do his best not to let them down. 

“I think anyone who has been in our building understands the noise level and the rabid fans we have,” he said. “The support we get in San Jose is remarkable. We have a Game 7 and we need to make sure they leave the rink happy. That’s our job."

The Sharks really had no business even being in the hunt until the closing moments of Game 6. Antii Niemi played his best game of the series -- maybe the best playoff game since he helped the Blackhawks to the title a year ago -- as he turned away the 32 shots through the first two periods. He finished with 42 saves.

“We were awfully lucky to even be in the game in the third period,” McLellan said. “I’m not too concerned about (blowing the lead).”

McLellan expects his players to be ready for Game 7, even if they sleepwalked through two periods on Tuesday.

Sharks in Game 7s
  • April 30, 1994 - def. Detroit, 3-2
  • May 14, 1994 - lost to Toronto, 4-2
  • May 19, 1995 - def. Calgary, 5-4
  • April 25, 2000 - def. St. Louis, 3-1
  • May 15, 2002 - lost to Colorado, 1-0
  • April 22, 2008- def. Calgary, 5-3 *

    * - home game for San Jose

“As far as confidence goes, each player has a toolkit, a skillset (and) a commitment level he has to bring to the rink,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. 

Although it’s easy to join Jeremy Roenick, maybe Patrick Marleau misplaced his hammer, level and crescent wrench at some point between the first and second rounds. He again went without a point in Game 6 and remains scoreless in series, but it was Couture --- not Marleau --- who coughed up the turnover that led to Tuesday’s game-winner. In Couture’s defense, he did score the game’s first goal early in the third period. 

“I don’t see (Marleau) getting nervous or anything like that,” McLellan said. “Do we need him to get involved? We need him to play effectively, shift in and shift out. I think there is more there. I know he believes there is more there. We have to find a way to get it out of him.”

The Sharks may not have momentum, but they do have some favorable history on their side. The Sharks have won four of the six Game 7s they’ve been involved in, including 1994 when the Sharks stunned the Red Wings with a goal by Jamie Baker after a failed clear by Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. 

Seventeen years later, Osgood is still with Red Wings -- although out of the lineup after hernia surgery -- but he can tell you just one wrong move can cost you a series at this point. One team’s goat is the other team’s hero, and McLellan said his roster is full of competitors who can be the next Baker. 

“A lot of our players will have the stage in Game 7,” McLellan said. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way and been taught a lot of lessons along the way. The stage will be thiers.”

-- A.J. Perez

Posted on: May 10, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 2:41 pm

Franzen, Clowe ruled out for tonight's Game 6

Both the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings will be without their top grinders for tonight’s Game 6. 

San Jose’s Ryane Clowe and Detroit’s Johan Franzen have both been ruled out. Clowe didn’t make the trip to Detroit due an upper-body injury (or flu-like symptoms, according to one report). Franzen, who has been hobbled by an ankle injury for weeks, will sit in place of Mike Modano

Franzen missed a good portion of the second period and all of the third in Game 5, so his departure wasn’t unexpected. But Clowe, the Sharks’ top scorer this postseason with 13 points (four goals and nine assists), was an unforeseen blow for San Jose, who held a 3-0 series lead before Detroit’s consecutive victories extended the series. 

“It puts a little more pressure on other players,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We’re taking the approach that the players who are dressed and involved in the game are more important than the ones that aren’t. You make sure you show up and you compete. You fill the hole. He’s obviously an important guy to our hockey club.”

CSN Bay Area and CBSSports.com contributor Ray Ratto reports that Clowe is suffering from flu-like symptoms. McLellan described it as an upper-body injury, which could fit such a diagnosis.

McLellan said Clowe’s injury wasn’t the result of this crushing hit he absorbed in the second period of Game 5:

“It had nothing to do with the hit (Niklas) Kronwall laid on him,” McLellan said. “He finished the game. With this injury, I think he’ll be able to play as we move forward.”

Modano isn’t the annoying presence that Franzen is in front of the net, but he does have experience. This is his 20th season in the NHL and he’s been eager to re-enter the lineup after playing in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Phoenix Coyotes

“The game in Phoenix went pretty well, so you just kind of wait and see,” Modano said (via the team’s website). “You do your part to kind of be prepared the best you can, but until you get out there tonight and get those first couple shifts in, hopefully you can relax after that.”

Modano is expected to play on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom. Since Modano is a center, expect him to take the majority (if not all the draws) for Datsyuk, whose injured hand kept him out of the faceoff circle entirely in Game 5. 

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 10, 2011 3:39 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 4:03 am

Predators done in by lack of scoring punch

The Nashville Predators scored more than two goals just once in the second round, which makes the fact they made it to six games all the more remarkable. 

Goalie Pekka Rinne showed why he’s a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and Shea Weber anchored the Predators blue line, although --- as predicted -- defense wasn’t the problem as the Vancouver Canucks dispatched the Preds with a 2-1 victory on Monday night. 

Nashville just couldn’t score. 

"Yeah, I mean we were one of the best teams in the league defensively again this year," Weber told The Tennesean’s John Glennon. "Sometimes, that can only get you so far. We had a lot of different guys step up this year and I think that helped get us to where we are. But obviously that little extra boost might help."

Only three Predators forwards had goals in the series, led by David Legwand and Joel Ward with four each. Matt Halischuk, who scored in Game 2, was the other. 

Here’s some more form The Tennessean’s Glennon: 
"We can't just leave it all on Leggy and Wardo to score," forward Patric Hornqvist said. "It's not going to work in the long run. It was close every game, but myself and some of the other guys didn't play as well as we know we can."

Some of the Predators who came up short on the offensive production front against Vancouver included Martin Erat (0 goals, 3 assists), Mike Fisher (0 goals, 1 assist), Hornqvist (0 goals, 0 assists) and Sergei Kostitsyn (0 goals, 1 assist).

The Predators had expected more offensive pop from the playoff-tested Fisher, whom they picked up in exchange for a first-round draft pick before the trade deadline. He had six points in the first-round series win over Anaheim, but fell silent against a stronger Vancouver defensive team.

"Yeah, we had some chances," Fisher said. "We just didn't bury them. That's the way it goes sometimes. It would have been nice to get a few, but it wasn't going."

Maybe the uptick in excitement around Nashville -- not to mention the revenue generated from six home playoff games -- will allow the Predators to be a little more generous this postseason. It’s probably doubtful the Preds will be in the running for Brad Richards, but other forwards like Erik Cole could possibly be within reach. Marcel Goc, who not available for the playoffs after he underwent shoulder surgery in February, and Steve Sullivan, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game 3 and missed the rest of the series, will be unrestricted free agents. 

Nashville coach Barry Trotz hinted after the series may have gone differently if those two -- along with Cal O’Reilly, who suffered a broken leg earlier this season -- healthy.

“We’ll never know,” Trotz said. “That’s for another day. The guys that were there were Nashville Predators and they grew a little.”

That they did. The Preds advanced to the second round for the first time in franchise history and they also won their first game while facing elimination, a 4-3 victory over the Canucks in Game 5. 

“This is very special group,” Trotz said. “I’ve been coaching a long time (and) this group had great intangibles. If this group would have beaten the Vancouver Canucks, it wouldn’t have surprised me a bit.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 10, 2011 12:17 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 2:34 am

Canucks have Kesler to thank for series win

The Vancouver Canucks’ playoff push would have stalled (again) in the second round minus the efforts of Ryan Kesler

The gritty forward had assists on both Canucks’ goals in Monday’s series-clinching 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Monday night. He finished the series with 11 points (five goals, six assists), making him a factor in all but five goals scored by the Canucks in the series.

“He obviously decided to drive the bus,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “He obviously was our dominant force on the ice. He played real strong on both sides of the rink. We needed that performance. We needed some other guys to come on board here. It’s not going to get easier.”

Kesler (pictured above, center)  instigated the first goal Monday after he stripped Preds defenseman Ryan Suter and fed the puck to Mason Raymond. His second assist came after banging the puck off Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne on a power play later in the opening period, allowing Daniel Sedin score to score first goal of the series. 

Twin brother Henrik also had only one goal during the series and the combined the Sedins were a minus-9. 

“They didn’t get a lot of production out of the Seinds,” Trotz said. “They concentrated on shutting down our guys. We concentrated on shutting down their guys. We just had (trouble) shutting down one extra guy. . . . (Kesler) had one of the most in incredible six games you are ever going to see.”

Even after running his goalie, Pekka Rinne, in the opening period, Kesler drew the respect of Nashville coach Barry Tortz (above right) and he conveyed the sentiment during the traditional handshake. 

“He had one of those series that is absolutely remarkable for one player,” Trotz said. “I said when I was going past him (in the handshake line) that if he doesn’t play that way, we are probably going to a Game 7 and we might win the series. He played to a level that few people can reach.”

Kesler made a name for himself at the 2010 Winter Olympics for Team USA’s drive to the gold medal game, and the fact he basically carried the Canucks to the conference finals for the first time in 17 years certainly raised the hardnosed forward’s stock some. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com