Tag:2011 WC Playoffs
Posted on: April 30, 2011 1:51 am
Edited on: April 30, 2011 3:04 am

Joe Pavelski singles in equalizer for Sharks

Joe Pavelski lists the Milwaukee Brewers as his favorite baseball team, although they were hardly contenders as he grew up in Plover, Wis. 

The San Jose Sharks forward may have picked up a few pointers anyway. He batted the puck out of midair off a rebound to send the game to overtime, where the Sharks won, 2-1, to take Game 1 of the second-round series against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night. 

Pavelski, who leads the Sharks with five goals this postseason, had his prints all over the equalizer, which came midway through the third period. He drew the penalty -- a boarding minor called on Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi -- that put the Sharks on that power play. Pavelksi’s head bounded off the boards on the collision, but he took his normal spot on the power play as he directed the puck into the net after a blast by Joe Thornton wasn’t controlled by Wings goalie Jimmy Howard

Pavelski became a marked man in the second period for the snow shower he gave Howard, who froze the puck a moment earlier. Howard took exception and shoved Pavelksi in the head a couple times. Each were called for roughing. 

David Pollak of The Mercury News chatted with Pavelski about his action-filled night at the Shark Tank: 
The part about batting the rebound into the net was improvised, but Pavelski resisted the usual notion that childhood baseball training came in handy.

“Maybe ping-pong,” he said.

As far as his run-in with Howard, here’s what Pavelski had to say:

“I don’t know if he had a chip on his shoulder, but he’s played well. We knew we had to go and get traffic there.

“I didn’t really think anyone was probably going off. They said I clipped him in the head there. Whatever happens, we were just going to the net and there’s going to be times like that.

Howard had a similar view of the encounter.

“That’s just the playoffs and emotions,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 29, 2011 6:07 am
Edited on: April 30, 2011 2:50 am

Preview: No. 2 Sharks vs. No. 3 Red Wings

Full NHL brackets, schedule 

The San Jose Sharks, a franchise celebrating their 20th season in existence, often see their postseasons run through Hockeytown USA. This is their fifth postseason meeting overall and the second consecutive season the clubs have met in the second round. (The Sharks advanced in five games a season ago.) The teams have split the four playoff series overall, which stretches back to the Sharks’ seven-game upset of the Wings in 1994. But San Jose coach Todd McLellan, a former assistant with the Wings, asked not to read much into the prologue. 

“One of our biggest jobs as a coaching staff is to separate last year from this year,” McLellan told reporters this week. “We are a very different team when you look at our goaltending, the blue line and the forwards we’ll be using. That lineup will definitely be different. The circumstances are different. If we reach too far back to those experiences last year in that playoff series, we’ll be trailing before we know it.” 

Here’s the breakdown: 

Forwards: After sweeping the Phoenix Coyotes, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and his coaching staff have experimented with different lines in practice. It’s a luxury --- now that Henrik Zetterberg , who missed the first round with a lower-body injury, is healthy --- rather than a necessity. The Wings will also have the services of playoff beast Johan Franzen, who missed the final game of the first round with an ankle injury. Pavel Datsyuk, who had injury woes of his own in the regular season, was a force in the first round with six points (two goals, four assists). Sharks captain Joe Thornton may have shed – or maybe at least shrunk --- the notion he’s an underperformer in the playoffs. He scored in OT of Game 6 as the Sharks clinched the series against the Los Angeles Kings. Hardnosed Ryane Clowe led the Sharks in scoring (seven points) in the first round. The Sharks have also gotten decent secondary scoring from Kyle Wellwood and Torrey Mitchell among others.

Edge: Sharks

Defense: Nicklas Lidstrom is, well, still Niclkas Lidstrom. This is his 19th season in the league and it might not just be a coincidence this is the Wings 20th consecutive season in the playoffs. Now that defensive partner Brian Rafalski is healthy, they’ll be the best 1-2 combo in the series. San Jose will counter with Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle. But the most productive pairing of the first round was Niclas Wallin and Ian White. White, who missed a game with a concussion, still managed to lead all Sharks defenders in scoring with five points. 

Edge: Red Wings

Goalies: Jimmy Howard was in net last season as a rookie when the Wings fell to the Sharks. Now, he doesn’t have the luxury of a tested backup since Chris Osgood is done for the year after hernia surgery. He stopped .915 percent of the shots he saw in the first round. After letting Evgeni Nabokov walk last offseason, the Sharks signed Antti Niemi. He hasn’t been on top of his game ---and nowhere close where he was when he led the Chicago Blackhawks to the title a season ago --  but he has the faith of McLellan. Niemi was yanked twice in the first round and finished the series with a horrid goals-against average (3.99) and mediocre save percentage (.863). On the plus side, Antero Niittymaki was solid in relief. 

Edge: Sharks

Special teams: The Wings had a success rate of 26.7 percent in the first round, the second-best rate among teams who made it to the second round. Detroit, however, struggled on the kill. The Wings allowed six goals on 18 shorthanded opportunities for a 66.7 kill percentage, the worst of the 16 playoff teams.  Maybe the Wings’ PK is just what the Sharks need to kick start their moribund power play. San Jose scored only twice in 23 trips to the power play (8.7 percent). San Jose got better after a shaky start on the kill against the Kings as the series progressed, highlighted by a five-minute kill that stretched from the end of regulation and into OT in Game 6. 

Edge: Red Wings 

Prediction: The Sharks are still (barely) in the stage where they are a year more experienced rather than just a year older. Niemi should be able to rebound from his shaky first-round performance and the Sharks will eventually break out of their power play malaise. The Sharks should win this in six.

No. 2 San Jose vs. No. 3 Detroit - Series tied, 0-0
Date Site Time/Result
April 29 at SJ 10 p.m.  
May 1 at SJ 3 p.m.  
May 4 at DET 8 p.m.  
May 6 at DET 7 p.m.  
* May 8 at SJ 8 p.m.  
* May 10 at DET TBA  
* May 12 at SJ TBA  

-- A.J. Perez
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 28, 2011 3:06 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 3:36 am

Preview: No. 1 Canucks vs. No. 5 Predators

Full NHL brackets, schedule

It wasn't supposed to be the Predators getting through their first-round opponent before the Canucks, but that's the Stanley Cup playoffs for you. Harken back a week's time and you had Vancouver looking like the Presidents' Trophy winner it is. But it nearly coughed up the series, needing overtime in Game 7 to finally advance past the defending champion, but considerably weakened Blackhawks. For Nashville it was a first-round matchup with the Anaheim Ducks, arguably the hottest team entering the postseason. Never scoring fewer than three goals in any game, the Predators took care of Anaheim in Game 6, advancing past the first round for the first time in the organization's history.

Here's the breakdown.

Forwards: On paper, there's not much comparison between these two groups. Vancouver's fourth-leading scorers (Mikael Samuelsson and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff) would be tied for the team lead for Nashville in points. But if the first round is any evidence, the Predators' forwards are playing at a higher level right now. Averaging more than a goal per period in any playoff series is impressive, I don't care if a team is missing their first-string goaltender as Anaheim was in Jonas Hiller. But still, they will need Martin Erat to be fully healthy for the series. He has returned to practice since the big hit he suffered in the last series made him a spectator by the series' end. They will need him to join back up with Patric Hornqvist, David Legwand and crew. That's because when playing to its fullest potential -- that's the key here -- no team in the league can boast better talent up front than Vancouver. It's more than just the Sedin twins (gratuitous chance to throw this classic video in ) with Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Samuelsson and more pitching in. Wildcard watch: Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn had the highest shooting percentage this seasn of anybody who played more than 25 games, scoring on 24.7 percent.

Edge: Canucks

Defensemen: Last offseason Vancouver's No. 1 priority was to boost the defensive corps to help Roberto Luongo come playoff time. To do so, the Canucks went out and grabbed Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard. It helped as Vancouver ranked first in the NHL this season in goals against. But don't dare call Nashville a slouch in this department. The Preds were nipping on the heels of Boston for third in the league at 2.32 GAA. Granted, sometimes the stats can be misleading when talking about defensemen because often times, just like penalty killing, the best defender is likely your goaltender. When talking about offensive capabilities from the blue line, each team has a man worth keeping an eye on. The aforementioned Ehrhoff leads the Canucks D corps in scoring while cannon-for-a-shot Shea Weber was two points off the team lead in scoring with 48 for Nashville. Vancouver is hoping to have Sami Salo back in the rotation after he had to sit Game 7 vs. Chicago with a leg injury. In the end, it's no contest when looking at name recognition, but that means squat. Nashville has shown it's stout in its own right in the back end and we're pretty much splitting hairs between these two.

Edge: Even

Goalies: It's becoming an all-too familiar pain in Vancouver come playoff time. Roberto Luongo, a finalist for the Vezina this season, struggling when the brightest lights come on. The Chicago series was nightmarish for Luongo, who was pulled in the Game 5 beatdown and didn't start in Game 6. He was pressed back into action though when backup Cory Schneider had to leave in the middle of the game. Luongo was the only option for the Canucks in Game 7, which is when he looked like the world-class goalie that won Canada Olympic gold. The only blemish on his statline was a short-handed goal surrendered to the Blackhawks in the final two minutes to force overtime. If his confidence is right, there really aren't many better in the game. Very quietly on the other end of the ice is Pekka Rinne, another elite goaltender who struggled some in the first round. His struggles weren't all-too obvious, but he clearly wasn't the best he can be. Except for Game 1 when he allowed just one score, the Ducks were able to find the back of the net a few times each game. So in a way that's good news for Nashville: it was able to get past Anaheim without its best player flashing his A-game. Either way, he didn't go through the meltdown Luongo did and the subsequent drama surrounding his status as the starter.

Edge: Predators

Special teams: You want to find a disparity in the stats? Here you have it. Vancouver was the most effective team in the NHL this season on the power play -- is there a stat the Canucks weren't tops in?? -- while Nashville was ... 26th. This can be largely attributed to the difference in pure skill between the teams. With the type of players the Canucks have, when things start to break down in the power play, they have enough skill to make something happen on their own. As good of a coach as Barry Trotz is -- and he's damn good -- there's only so much he can do. If things start to fall apart, Nashville just doesn't have enough players that can make something happen with the puck by themselves. But things are on a much more level playing field when on the PK. As you'd expect with the stout defenses and goaltenders, each team placed in the top five in PK (Vancouver third, Nashville fifth). It is worth noting that Nashville does a good job of not letting other teams get their power-play unit on the ice, taking the second fewest amount of penalty minutes per game in the NHL this season.

Edge: Canucks

Prediction: It is so tempting to pick Nashville here. I'm a believer in Trotz on the bench and Vancouver just seems ripe for the picking. But perhaps the Canucks exorcised some playoff demons, finally getting past the Blackhawks. I fully expect the Predators to push the Canucks to the limit, but Vancouver will live to see another round. Or perhaps I'm just too much of a wimp to go out on the limb. Either way, Canucks in seven.

-- Brian Stubits

No. 1 Vancouver vs. No. 5 Nashville - Series tied, 0-0
Date Site Time/Result
April 28 at VAN 9 p.m.  
April 30 at VAN 9 p.m.  
May 3 at NSH TBA  
May 5 at NSH TBA  
* May 7 at VAN 8 p.m.  
* May 9 at NSH TBA  
* May 11 at VAN TBA  

Posted on: April 27, 2011 2:01 am
Edited on: April 27, 2011 3:35 am

Blackhawks fall, but don't disappoint

Failing to make the playoffs could have been an embarrassment for the Chicago Blackhawks since they would have joined the Carolina Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils as the only teams over the last 15 years to miss the playoffs a season after winning the Stanley Cup. 

This exit --- sealed with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 --- is hardly that.  Despite the fact the ‘Hawks were forced to cede some of their best players -- including Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Antti Niemi -- due to salary cap restrictions and pushed an untested goalie into the fray, Chicago still fell to within a goal of advancing anyway. 

Not bad for a Chicago team who entered as the No. 8 seed that faced a Vancouver squad fresh off its first Presidents’ Trophy.

The Blackhawks weren't hanging their heads, ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers reports:

Tired and saddened, Toews was asked to sum up the incredible 13 days. He paused. 

“We’ve had some good series in the past, but I have to say that’s been the best one,” he said. “We never gave up. You have to feel like it’s meant to be when you get to that point. You have to think it’s going to go your way and when it doesn’t … I can’t believe what just happened. There was no doubt in my mind we were going to win this game coming into it.” 

The Hawks’ bid to become the fourth team to advance in a best-of-7 series despite losing the first three games ended when Alex Burrows scored in OT. The goal came less than five minutes after Canucks goalie Roberto Lungo robbed Chicago’s Patrick Sharp on a power-play attempt.

While Luongo exorcised some demons against a team he lost seven of the previous 18 playoff contests against, the Blackhawks weren’t lacking in net --- especially as the series progressed. Rookie Corey Crawford had 36 saves in Game 7, six more than Luongo. Crawford even stopped a Burrow’s penalty shot 21 seconds into the third period, a stop that allowed Jonathan Toews to force OT with a goal later in the period. 

The Chicaog Tribune's Brian Hamilton reports that Crawford sounded like anything but a novice after the game:

"It's tough to lose in overtime," Crawford said. "I felt we could have won it in overtime. When you're a goalie, and when you give up a goal in overtime like that, it's hard to take. I wasn't really thinking about the saves or anything like that right after they scored."

Crawford had his moments all throughout the game but spiked the angst in western Canada in the third period specifically. First, with the Canucks holding a tenuous 1-0 lead, he denied Burrows on a penalty shot wrister just 21 seconds into the final period to revitalize his club.

"Same thing I always do, just get out there and close the gap on him and read and react," Crawford said. "He's a shooter, so I was ready for a quick shot like that."

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 26, 2011 4:24 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 1:36 pm

Game 7 breakdown: Blackhawks vs. Canucks

No. 8 Chicago at No. 1 Vancouver

Time: 10 p.m.

TV: Versus

Road to Game 7 

This series wasn’t exactly a blowout even as the Canucks spun out to a 3-0 series lead. Two of the first three games were one-goal games and other was a two-goal game. The Blackhawks are looking to become the fourth team in NHL history to win a seven-game series after losing the first three games. (The Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942, New York Islanders in 1975 and last season’s Philadelphia Flyers all accomplished the feat.) And it hasn’t just been Chicago’s Stars have contributed to this unlikely comeback. Rookie Ben Smith, for instance, scored the game-winner in Game 6. 

In net

Corey Crawford (Chicago) vs. Roberto Luongo (Vancouver): Sure, the Blackhawks have won the Cup. But they’re almost as famous for making Luongo look pedestrian in net during the playoffs. He was pulled in Games 4-5 -- he allowed 10 goals on 40 shots during those two games  -- and sat in favor of rookie Cory Schneider to start Game 6. Luongo is allegedly back in net tonight. Crawford, who seized the starting job from Marty Turco early in the season, has posted a shutout and holds a .922 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average in the series.

Injury report

Rumors of Luongo’s alleged arm injury aside, the Canucks could be without defenseman Sami Salo. He went out in the first period of Game 6 and didn’t return after an apparent leg injury. The ‘Hawks will be without forward Bryan Bickell, who the team announced Monday underwent wrist surgery to repair a tendon. 

Our picks

A.J.Perez: I’m not sure if it’s Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane or Duncan Keith, but one or some combination of the group just always seems to get the Canucks in the end. For that reason, I have to side with the ‘Hawks. As the 2008-09 San Jose Sharks and 2009-10 Washington Capitals showed with first round exits, the President’s Trophy is no guarantee of anything. Sure many pieces are long gone, but there is enough cogs left from last season’s championship team to see the ‘Hawks through one more game. 

Brian Stubits: I know what's happened in the last three games. I know what's happened for the majority of his playoff career. But I just can't imagine this Canucks team and Luongo losing this game. They are reeling. They're hearing it from the fans. If they lose now, this way, it could lead to some serious soul-searching in Vancouver among management. It's going so bad right now, you are just waiting for the other shoe to drop and levity to be restored. I'm flying in the face of momentum, thinking the Blackhawks' improbable comeback comes up short.
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
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com