Tag:Steven Stamkos
Posted on: April 9, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: April 10, 2011 1:31 am
 

Hurricanes lose control early, miss playoffs

Let's be literal when it comes to the phrase “destiny is in your own hands.”

By definition, that can't happen. Destiny is not controllable. Just look at the Carolina Hurricanes, who were a win away from a playoff berth entering Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Hurricanes responded -- well, they took the ice at least at the RBC Center -- with a listless first period and never recovered en route to a 6-2 loss. Instead of the playoff returning to Raleigh, it will be the New York Rangers who get to face the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.

“I didn't feel the tension (early), but it mounted when it got (to a) two (goals),” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice told reporters after the game. “Simple things became difficult to do. . .  I think there was a chance (that Carolina) was in shock at 3-0. We felt alright going out and had come off the good night and then, boom. It happened so fast that you're shell-shocked a little bit.”

The 'Canes could not solve lanky Lightning goalie Mike Smith, who only had one victory in 10 games against Carolina. (That one victory did come March 26, the ‘Canes only regulation loss in their previous 10 games.) Smith made 42 saves, had one assist and came a couple feet away from scoring with 'Canes goalie Cam Ward pulled in the closing minutes of regulation.

Not bad for a goalie who will likely begin the playoffs on the bench in deference to the more veteran Dwayne Roloson

The Lightning built a 3-0 lead in the first period off goals by Dominic Moore, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. It became a 4-0 lead midway through the second period off a Brett Clark tally. 

By the time the ‘Canes got on the board with 7:29 left in the second via a Cory Stillman power play goal, the game was basically unsalvageable. 

What a difference 24 hours makes. The ‘Canes cruised to a 6-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers a night earlier, a game that put them into a position to earn the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference a couple different ways. A Rangers loss to New Jersey would have made the Lightning-Hurricane game moot. Instead the Rangers earned a 5-2 comeback victory over the Devils to set up a win-or-golf game for the Hurricanes. 

Still, Maurice said he’d take the disappointment of just missing the playoffs over being an also-ran. 

“It should make it harder (to take),” Maurice said. “It should make it more painful. The more you invest in something, the more painful it should be when it goes away from you. Still, we’d much rather be in a situation where we fought as hard as we could to get to this point and have to go through the pain of this result than if we would have let it slip away a month ago.”

With the end of the season, teams usually start to list the injuries they have hid the last several weeks. The first was captain Eric Staal, who Maurice said suffered a pulled groin three weeks ago. 

“It got to a point last week (that) we weren’t certain we were going to have him in the lineup,” Maurice said. “He played so very well on limited legs and produced points.”

With Saturday’s loss comes the end of a stellar season by rookie Jeff Skinner, a favorite for the Calder Trophy. Skinner had an assist to bring his point total to 63, the highest of any rookie.  His 31 goals were the third-most goals by a rookie, trailing New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner (34) and San Jose’s Logan Couture (32). 

Soon the ‘Canes will assess who will be around next season. Forwards Erik Cole, Chad LaRose, Stillman and Jusi Jokinen, along with defenseman Joni Pitkanen will be unrestricted free agents. Maurice, who is in his second stint as Carolina’s head coach, even addressed if he might be back. 
“(General manager) Jim (Rutherford) will make his assessment,” said Maurice, who took the ‘Canes to the playoffs after he replaced Peter Laviolette during the 2008-09 season. “I’m very proud of the way the team has performed this year.” 

It didn’t take long, however, for Luke DeCock of The News & Observer to point the blame: 
Someone’s going to have to answer for this. Surely it will be coach Paul Maurice, who hasn’t taken a team he has coached for a full season to the NHL playoffs since 2002 and who cannot account for a loss Saturday that cost the franchise millions of dollars.

No matter how highly owner Peter Karmanos and general manager Jim Rutherford regard Maurice, even they must see that it’s time for a change. Maurice is a good man and a good coach, but the past two seasons haven’t measured up, and Saturday’s flat-line with everything on the line defies explanation.

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Associated Press
Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:29 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 4:54 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Toronto nearing must-win territory



Tampa Bay Lightning (38-22-9) at Toronto Maple Leafs (30-29-10)


Air Canada Centre, 7 pm ET 

SERIES: Tampa 3-0-0; Toronto 0-2-1

IMPLICATIONS: Tampa can pull within a point of fourth-place Pittsburgh in the conference standings and to within three points of Southeast Division-leading Washington. Toronto can climb back within fourth points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. 

BREAKDOWN: The Maple Leafs aren’t just looking to just avoid a season sweep by the Lightning. A victory is nearly a must to keep pace in the hyper-competitive East. There is currently one team (Carolina) between the Leafs and the eighth-place New York Rangers and there will only be a dozen games left on Toronto’s schedule after tonight. With the Atlanta Thrashers and a resurgent New Jersey Devils team on their tail, the Leafs might not to want to squander this home tilt.

Tampa has shut out the Toronto in each of the last two meetings and the Lightning have outscored the Leafs 10-3 overall this season. Martin St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos each have two goals and an assist versus Toronto this season. The Lightning enter on a two-game skid. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Tampa Bay D Eric Brewer vs. Toronto D Dion Phaneuf. Brewer played more than 25 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Florida and he can expect a heavy workload again tonight. This is the final game the Lightning will be without defenseman Pavel Kubina, who was suspended three games for his hit to the head of Chicago’s Dave Bolland. Phaneuf, Toronto’s captain, logs nearly 25 minutes a game himself has thrown 161 shots on net, but only has four goals to show for it -- only two more than a season ago when he was limited to 26 games due to injury. 

KEY STAT: 26.4. The average age of Toronto’s roster, the third-youngest in the NHL. 

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 7, 2011 4:18 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 5:31 pm
 

Playoff watch: Diving Lightning take on Caps


Washington Capitals (36-20-10) at Tampa Bay Lightning (37-21-7)

St. Pete Times Forum, 7 pm ET (Versus)

SEASON SERIES: Washington 3-1-1; Tampa Bay 2-3-0

IMPLICATIONS: Tampa Bay would move back into first with either a regulation win or OT/shootout victory over their division foes. The Lightning have the edge in the first tiebreaker, games played. There's a rundown of the full tie-breaking rules at the bottom of our playoff tracker

BREAKDOWN: These teams enter three-game streaks going in opposite directions. Tampa, which held sole possession of the division lead for more than two months, allowed Washington to take the Southeast lead with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday. 

This sixth and final meeting was expected to be spirited ---even before Caps coach Bruce Boudreau’s comments made the rounds on Monday. “(Steven) Stamkos, dives every two seconds,” Boudreau said in comment picked up by The Washington Post“You start to get a hatred on for guys like that. So, it will be interesting."

Gamesmanship for sure and Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher refused to respond, other than to say he had "more respect for the players to say their players or our players are divers." We’ll see how smart it was to go after Stamkos, who hasn’t had a point in four games. (He still enters with a league-leading 41 goals.) 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Caps LW Alexander Semin vs. Lightning RW Stamkos (above). Stamkos is expected to play the wing opposite pf Martin St. Louis on a line centered by Dominic Moore, according to  Damian Cristodero of The St. Petersburg Times. Stamkos has only one goal over the previous 11 games, just as Semin -- the first Caps player with four hat tricks in a season since Peter Bondra (1995-96) -- has contributed more than just head-scratching penalties. Semin scored the game-winner in OT on Sunday and has 21 goals lifetime against Tampa Bay.

KEY STAT: 8-10. The Caps’ less-than-stellar record in games that go past regulation. 

Photo: Getty Images
 
 
 
 
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