Tag:2011 WC Playoffs
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
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
Posted on: April 22, 2011 6:16 am

Should Canucks go away from Luongo?

Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo has allowed 10 goals over the last 30 shots he's faced, but he will find himself back in the net for Game 6 on Sunday . 

Is that the right call?

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he’s not going away from Luongo after a 5-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 on Thursday night. He was pulled for the second game in a row as the 'Hawks staved off elimination again.

Luongo told The Chicago Tribune that he’s not about to change how he goes about things:

"I've been at the top of my game for the last five months. I feel good in what I've been doing. Just make sure you apply that process in a game. Obviously you don't lose something like that in a game or two. For me, nothing changes. The work is going to be there and I'm going to be focused to play the next one."

While Luongo has had his struggles in the postseason, the Canucks haven’t had a viable backup the past couple postseasons. That changed this season as Cory Schneider went 16-4-0 with a healthy .929 save percentage, although he did let in the first shot he faced when he came into the game in relief on Thursday. 

-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 22, 2011 2:14 am
Edited on: April 22, 2011 5:42 am

Murray: Heatley's trip in third period 'gutless'

LOS ANGELES --- Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray called  San Jose Sharks forward Dany Heatley's actions “gutless” minutes after his squad fell 6-3 in Game 4 of the first-round series at Staples Center on Thursday. 

Murray took issue with Heatley’s trip of Kings defenseman Alec Martinez that occurred with about three minutes left in the third period. Heatley was called for a tripping minor, although Murray said it was actually a slew foot – the act of using a leg or skate to kick another player’s legs out from underneath him. 

“That’s a very dangerous play,” Murray said. “That’s where you break your leg. That’s where you blow your knee out. I hate that play. That’s a gutless move in my mind. You just don’t do that in hockey.”

Slew-footing can result in a major penalty, an ejection and can subject a player to fine or suspension; the act can also be reviewed under the league’s supplementary discipline guidelines even if it's not called duirng the game.

San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who spoke to reporters immediately after Muray’s news conference, said he couldn’t comment on the alleged incident since he hadn’t seen the replay. 

And Murray wasn't done talking about Sharks players and penalties. 

He credited Sharks forward Scott Nichol for drawing Kings defenseman Drew Doughty into a coincidental rouging minor penalty in the second period. (Replays showed that Nichol was upset after a near knee-on-knee collision.) Ryane Clowe and Jason Demers scored on the ensuing 4-on-4 as the Sharks took a 2-0 lead. 

“You can’t lose Doughty to Nichol,” Murray said. “Give him credit. He’s the reason they won tonight. . . . You just don’t want to lose your top defenseman to a player of that stature.”

Doubt that was a knock on Nichol’s 5-foot-9 frame. Nichol is a fourth-line center with no points in the series. Nichol also drew a double minor when Kings defenseman Matt Greene clipped him with a high stick. Clowe scored his second goal of the game on the power play. 

--- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 21, 2011 5:31 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 5:55 am

Can Kings regroup from Game 3 breakdown?

LOS ANGELES --- The man who capped the most dramatic playoff comeback in NHL history tried to put one of the game’s biggest collapses in perspective.

“Sometimes you need a little bit of a slap,” said Daryl Evans, who scored the game-winning goal in OT as the Los Angeles Kings overcame a 5-0 deficit in the third period against the Edmonton Oilers in 1982’s Miracle on Manchester. “You hate to say you need a wake-up call in the middle part of April in the playoffs, but sometimes you need that. I think the Kings have been a resilient team all year.”

Exactly how resilient is the question as the Kings take on San Jose Sharks at Staples Center for Game 4 of the first-round series tonight. The Sharks became the fourth team in playoff history to overcome a deficit of four or more goals on Tuesday en route to 6-5 overtime victory. 

“The bottom line, in the playoffs, is that we embarrassed ourselves,” Kings coach Terry Murray told reporters (via Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider). “We played a terrible game. Now what you have to do is, how do you deal with that kind of performance? We have to bounce back (Thursday) and we have to play our best game. It’s as simple as that.”

Evans, a broadcaster with the Kings for more than a decade, said it was fairly clear Los Angeles went away from their game plan that not only resulted in a 4-0 victory in Game 2, but a 4-0 lead early in the second period of Game 3. 

“They chased the puck,” Evans said. “That’s not the way the Kings usually play. Terry Murray has them very structured defensively, but they started to chase the puck and chase the game. . . . You have to give San Jose a lot of credit. They could have packed it in early and they didn’t. That goes to show you the experience they have and the veteran players they have.”

Now, it’ll be up to Drew Doughty, Dustin Penner, Dustin Brown and the other Kings players can get past Tuesday’s defeat. A victory tonight, while it won’t erase what happened Tuesday, will get the series back up to the Bay Area tied 2-2. 

"I think we learned our lesson. I'd like to believe we have," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell told The Los Angeles Times.

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:27 am
Edited on: April 20, 2011 5:55 am

The other side of Miracle on Manchester

LOS ANGELES ---Miracle on Manchester meet Failure on Figueroa.

Twenty-nine years after Marcel Dionne and the Los Angeles Kings in those purple and gold jerseys overcame a five-goal deficit against the Edmonton Oilers, the Kings returned the favor --- or at least very close to it. Long gone from their Forum digs on Manchester Avenue in nearby Inglewood, the Staples Center here on Figueroa Street was the site of a four-goal collapse, or comeback depending on your viewpoint. 

Devin Setoguchi shoveled the puck into the net three minutes into overtime to seal a 6-5 victory for the San Jose Sharks Tuesday, a game the rival Bay Area team trailed 4-0 at one point. It was the fourth time in NHL history a team has overcome a deficit of four or more goals in the playoffs and the first time in 26 years. 

“It was crazy,” Setoguchi said. “Before the game, I was looking at the TV and it was a ‘History will be made” commercial. It was the 5-0 (Kings) comeback. So, that it was kind of ironic we came back from 4-0 tonight. I give these guys a lot of credit. We worked hard.”

There was certainly a commercial in there somewhere. It’ll just be a little grating for the Kings, who looked like they were 40 minutes away from easing to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 first-round series.  Up 3-0 after the first period, Kings forward Bard Richardson chased Sharks goalie Antti Niemi with a marker 44 seconds into the second period. (Niemi allowed four goals on 10 shots.) 

In came Antero Niittymaki, who hadn’t seen a playoff game in five years, and Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said afterward there was still plenty of time left.

“We were talking and the feeling was that we were going to (come back),” Pavelksi said. “We just wanted to keep it simple and stay together. We talked about how much we needed to rely one another out there.”

Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe and Logan Couture scored 10 minutes apart and suddenly it was a 4-3 Kings lead. And the momentum didn’t sway after Ryan Smyth made it 5-3 as the Sharks answered with another Clowe tally followed by Pavelksi’s equalizer with 31 seconds left in the period. 

“That’s as bad as it gets in the second period for sure,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. 

Five goals in one period and the Sharks had the momentum and another promising season may have been salvaged from another postseason disappointment. 

“You could feel it on the bench,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “The more we did it, the more we believed it could happen. It ended up on our favor.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:35 am
Edited on: April 19, 2011 1:43 am

Veteran Red Wings close to another round

Twenty consecutive seasons in the playoffs is amazing enough. Factor in that the Detroit Red Wings have advanced past the first round in all but six occasions during that stretch is arguably even more impressive. 

The first year they advanced during this long stretch (1992), the Wings had this rookie named Nicklas Lidstrom on defense. He was on the ice for 18 minutes, three seconds for Monday’s 4-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 3 of the first-round series as Detroit moved closer to a sweep. 

Was this the same team that dropped five of seven to finish off the regular season? In Hockey Town where Tomas Holmstrom is virtually immovable in front of the opponent’s net, Pavel Datsyuk remains one of the best two-way forwards in hockey and Lidstrom provides stability on the blue line, this kind of postseason surge shouldn’t be a surprise anymore. 

But the early part of the Wings’ playoff streak wasn’t always pretty. The Red Wings were knocked off in the first round in three of the first seasons of their current run, including in 1994. The Red Wings won the Western Conference -- the first season since the switch from the Wales and Campbell conference alignment -- only to lose to the San Jose Sharks in the expansion team’s third season of existence in seven games.


The Red Wings broke through with their first Stanley Cup of this streak in 1997 and added Cups in 1998, 2002 and 2008. They’re the last club to repeat as champs, and, with the Chicago Blackhawks down 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks, that feat will likely remain intact for at least another year. 

Ken Holland has been the team’s GM for the last three titles and Ilitch family has provided a stable ownership for nearly three decades now. It’s the kind of stability that is rare these days and stands in stark contrast to the team they faced in the first round of the postseason for two seasons: the Phoenix Coyotes. A Red Wings victory in Game 4 on Wednesday could be the last in Glendale, Ariz, for the rudderless club as a move back to Canada appears could be on the horizon.

Along with Lidstrom, Chris Osgood (out for the season after hernia surgery) and Kris Draper are among the other Wings veterans from those Cup-winning years. Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski writes that they are pretty far into their careers, but may not quite be done:
Some might call the Wings old. It's probably wiser to call them wise, not that they really mind the labels. The Wings are big on creating attachments, composed veterans mentoring youngsters, and it's why people wait their turn. It's also why few players ever want to leave, and why Draper, 39, and Osgood, 38, would love to stay.

I think there's great value in good teammates like this, measured in places you can't see. Both of their contracts are up, and no one is looking that far ahead yet, not when there's so much to see right now.

"When I'm on the ice in practice, I got a smile on my face, and I try to be one of the last guys out there," Draper said. "I feel great. I'm loving what I'm doing, and I just want to keep doing it as long as I can."

-- 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