Tag:2011 WC Playoffs
Posted on: April 15, 2011 2:14 am
Edited on: April 15, 2011 3:31 am

Road to the Cup: Miller, Price keep blanks coming

Ryan Miller didn't show signs of any lingering injury. Carey Price made Habs fans forget about what's his name? Oh, yeah. Jaroslav Halak.

Miller and Price each posted shutouts Thursday, a night after Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne also held their opponents scoreless. Eight games, four shutouts so far in the playoffs.

Miller, who missed four of Buffalo's final six regular season games with an upper-body injury, stopped all 35 shots he faced in a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Price, who sat on the bench while Halak led the Montreal Canadiens to the conference finals a season ago, halted 31 shots in a 2-0 win agianst the Boston Bruins.

With their donuts, Miller and Price stole home-ice advantage for their respective teams.

"You want to come out and establish that we can skate with these guys and come out and play our system and win a game," Miller told CSN Philadelphia. "We still think that they have a load of experience, and they’ve showed that they’ve been down and out before. So we certainly we’re not going to be comfortable."

Price passed off the credit for his third postseason shutout to his skaters, who blocked 19 shots.

“We have had good chemistry all year,” Price told The Montreal Gazette. “All I do is try to make the first save. They have done a really good job of getting to the rebounds, blocking guys out and blocking shots. . . . Guys were sacrificing their bodies all night.” 

Even in a loss, rookie Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who struggled at the end of the regular season, answered a few questions. He can hardly be faulted for the game-winner in his first playoff start, which was tipped in on rebound by Sabres Patrick Kaleta.

“He played really well,” Flyers defenseman Sean O’Donnell told CSN Philly’s Sarah Baiker. “I think Bob answered a lot of critics. We never questioned him. As a team, we didn’t play well the second half, but we knew we were revved up to come in here for Game 1, and he gave us a good chance to win tonight.”


Highlight of the night

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick settled, well, quickly after the San Jose Sharks forward Dany Heatley scored on the second shot of the game. (It came 28 seconds into the game, the fastest the Sharks have scored in the playoffs in franchise history.) Quick stopped 41 of the next 42 shots to get the Kings into overtime before Kyle Wellwood found Joe Pavelski for this game-winner as the Sharks earned a 3-2 victory:




Top performance

Justin Williams missed the Kings’ final nine games of the regular season with a separated shoulder. Early reports after the Mach 21 injury against the Calgary Flames said he'd miss the rest of the season -- the playoffs and all. He declared himself healthy earlier this week, Kings coach Terry Murray said earlier Thursday he’d put Williams in the lineup and Williams, in turn, grinded out a gutsy night where he had a stick in both goals. Williams had the primary assist on Dusint Brown’s second-period tally and tied, 2-2, later in the same period. 

-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 14, 2011 11:38 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2011 3:04 am

Could Kings's Stoll be in line for suspension?

Jarret Stoll may become the latest Los Angeles Kings forward forced out of the lineup, although it won't be by injury. 

Stoll elbowed San Jose Sharks defenseman Ian White with 25 seconds left in the first period, a hit that sent White's head off the glass and left him wobbly.  White, who had a bloody nose, was assisted to the locker room by the Sharks' medical staff, likely to a dark, quiet room mandated by new concussion guidelines.

Here's a look at the hit:

Stoll was not called for a penalty on the collision, although that may not be the end of it.

"I don't like it," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun. "I didn't like it the first time around, and I don't like it on the replay."

LeBrun reports league officials in Toronto were reviewing the play.

"They should," said Boyle. "I don't know that Stoll is that kind of a guy but that's exactly what we're talking about and trying to eliminate (from the game). The guy's head is this far from the boards and you drive your forearm and elbow in there? That's what they're trying to get rid of. I didn't like it." 

Stoll said there was no intent to injury on the play, The Associated Press reports.

"I hope he's all right," Stoll said. "You hate to see a guy get hurt in the regular season or playoffs and I definitely wasn't trying to hurt him. ... There wasn't a penalty on the call so I'm not expecting anything."

Beside the video evidence, it doesn't help things that Kings coach Terry Murray all but predicted a bruising game earlier in the day. Here's what Murray said after the morning skate via Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider:

“We know it’s going to be a real revved-up series, a real hard series. Everything I read, from the San Jose players talking, it’s going to be a bit of a gong show, with fighting. I’m reading about Clowe’s bloody nose and Ben Eager all over the place and Mayers fighting. So we’re going to gear ourselves up for that kind of a game. We’ll keep Westgarth in the lineup. That’s the way they’re setting it up, so we’re going to be ready to battle.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: April 12, 2011 4:48 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 7:50 pm

Preview: No. 2 San Jose vs. No. 7 Los Angeles

All three California teams made the playoffs -- that’s one more than Canada, if you’re counting -- and no rivalry in the state goes back as far as Sharks-Kings. At the end of November as the Sharks sat in 11th place, it was questionable whether San Jose would even make the playoffs, let alone win another Pacific Division title. But the Sharks -- using some new and old parts –- rebounded and enter the playoffs relatively healthy. The same can’t be said for the Los Angeles Kings, who could be without both their top scorers from the regular season. Azne Kopitar (ankle) is out the rest of the season and Justin Williams is a question mark for the series. The teams split their six regular-season contests. 

Here's the breakdown: 

Forwards:   Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau are a veteran corps that led San Jose to the conference finals for the second time in team history. Thornton didn’t take many faceoff circles down the stretch possibly due to a hand injury, but he said he could go back to draws now that it’s the playoffs. Rookie Logan Couture was also one of the Sharks’ most consistent forwards this season with 56 points (32 goals, 24 assists). The Sharks are a bit hobbled in the gritty forward category as both Ryane Clowe (lower body) and Scott Nichol (upper body) missed time down the stretch. Kopitar, the Kings’ leading scorer at 73 points, tore ligaments in his ankle on March 26. Williams, who separated his shoulder a week earlier, has returned to practice, but no decision has been made on when he’ll return. Captain Dustin Brown, who was tied for second with Williams with 57 points, and trade deadline acquisition Dustin Penner will be leaned on to make up the difference.

San Jose. 

Defense: No Sharks blueliner who played more than 29 games had a negative plus-minus. Dan Boyle led the Sharks in ice time (26 minutes, 14 seconds per game) and finished with 50 points, seventh overall on the team and first among defensemen. Jason Demers and Marc-Edouard Vlasic took another step in their development this season and 6-foot-3 bruiser Douglas Murray was again reliable. The Kings counter with a solid core group of defenders as well. Drew Doughty hasn’t had the same kind of season that led him to become a Norris Trophy finalist, but it was a solid effort at 42 points and plus-13. Jack Johnson led all Kings defensemen in points (42), but his minus-21 may cancel that out. The Kings also have a Cup winner in Rob Scuderi to lean on and rookie Alec Martinez also performed well throughout the season. The Kings allowed the third fewest shots per game (27.9)

Edge: Kings.

Special teams: San Jose had the league’s second-best power play (23.5 percent) and scored 68 goals on the man-advantage in the regular season. Heatley, Joe Pavelski and Marleau each had 11 goals. With the Sharks' depth at forward, they have been able to create two solid power-play units. Kings forward Ryan Smyth may not have the explosiveness he did earlier in his career, but he can still be a force in front of the net, as evidenced by his team-high nine PP goals. The Kings were 21st in power-play percentage (16.1), although they fared much better on the PK.  Los Angeles was fourth-best in the league with an 85.6 percent success rate. The Sharks were 24th, 79.6 percent.

San Jose. 

Goalie: Evgeni who? Antti Niemi, a free-agent acquisition last offseason, has done more than just replace Evgeni Nabokov, the Sharks goalie for the better part of the last decade. The Sharks finally have a goalie with size --- which seems to be a must in the modern NHL --  and Niemi is coming off a season where he helped lead Chicago to the title. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick had the sixth-best goals-against average (2.24), although he did lose three of four down the stretch and was yanked mid-game after he allowed four goals against the Sharks on April 4.

Edge: San Jose. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 12, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 5:18 pm

Preview: No. 4 Anaheim vs. No. 5 Nashville

The Ducks may have to rely on their scoring a little more than they might have had to early in the season. With a goalie situation that remains in flux due to injuries, Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy-winner Corey Perry and his linemates can certainly lead that charge. Nashville, however, has one of the stingiest defenses in hockey, led by likely Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne. There might not be two differing styles of play on display in the first round than what we have here. The Preds won three of the four meetings. 

Here's the breakdown: 

Forwards: Perry, who is the only player in the league to finish with 50 goals, leads a star-studded line with Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. It could very well be the top line in hockey at the moment, but the Ducks do have some secondary scoring. Teemu Selanne, who at age 40, had an 80-point season (31 goals, 49 assists) and Saku Koivu finished with 45 points. Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat, the Predators’ top scorers with 50 points, would only be tied for sixth with that kind of output in Anaheim. Edge: Anaheim. 

Defense: Anaheim’s Lubomir Visnovsky was tops among NHL defenseman in scoring (68) and assists (50) and second in goals (18). He also finished strong down the stretch, with six points over his final seven games and was plus-18 on the season. The Ducks, however, have some vulnerabilities, especially if Francois Beauchemin’s injury limits his play. Ducks coach Randy Carlye likes his defenseman to be active on offense, but Beauchemin is one of his shutdown guys. Shea Weber, the only Nashville blueliner to play in all 82 regular season games, anchors the Preds’ defense that allowed the third-fewest goals (2.32 goals per game). Ryan Suter has evolved into an even more solid defenseman this year and was a  plus-20 to go along with his 39 points. All the Preds defenseman who played more than 45 games were in the plus territory this season. Edge: Nashville. 

Goalies: The Ducks’ made it through the first half of the season leaning on Jonas Hiller, who put up some of the league’s best numbers in the crease. Then he had his bout with vertigo after the All-Star break and the team’s goalie situation was no longer settled. Ray Emery, who was out of the NHL more than a year after hip surgery, and Dan Ellis, acquired from Tampa Bay before the deadline, stabilized things. Ellis will likely get the start in Game 1. Boston’s Tim Thomas may have put up slightly better numbers and faces more shots, but Rinne should be right there with Thomas in the Vezina conversation. He’s the primary reason the Preds allowed the second-fewest goals this seasons. Edge: Nashville. 

Special teams: These two power play units couldn’t be any different from a production standpoint. The Ducks finished with the third-best power play (23.5 percent), while the Preds finished 26th (15.2 percent) – the worst among the 16 teams in the playoffs. The stats are flip-flopped on the PK, with Nashville ranked fifth and Anaheim 19th during the regular season. Selanne (16 goals) and Perry (14) combined, scored just 14 goals fewer than the Preds tallied on the power play combined. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 12, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 5:09 pm

Preview: No. 3 Detroit vs. No. 6 Phoenix

We’ve been here before, right? The Coyotes, a team that has unanswered ownership issues, against the Red Wings, a team that now reached the playoffs 20 seasons in a row. The first-round series went the distance last season before the Wings cruised to a 6-1 victory in Game 7. The Coyotes' top scorers in that series, Wojtek Wolski, is now with the New York Rangers, but many of the combatants remain the same. The teams split the season series. 

Here’s the breakdown: 

Forwards: Henrik Zetterberg, the Red Wings’ top-scoring forward (80 points), will miss Game 1 of the series, his third consecutive game on the sideline after he suffered a lower-body injury. There are other veterans --- like Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk – who can step in and fill the void. The Coyotes lost the services of Shane Doan in Game 3 of last year’s series to a separated shoulder.  Doan was again the Coyotes’ most reliable scorer, although that’s not saying a lot. He was their only 20-goal scorer and led the team with 60 points. The Coyotes were in the middle of the pack in scoring (14th, 2.76 goals per game). Edge: Detroit. 

Defense: Nicklas Lidstrom is still around, so that just about automatically makes the Wings’ one of the top defensive teams in hockey. But while he’s still garnering some Norris Trophy consideration, Lidstrom, who turns 41 at month’s end, had a negative plus-minus (minus-2) for the first time in his career. The Wings, who allowed the 23rd-most goals per game (2.89), were banged up this season. Brian Rafalksi missed time this season with a knee injury and back spasms and Niklas Kronwall is just getting back from an upper-body injury. The Coyotes are led by defenseman Keith Yandle, who was second on the team in scoring with 59 points, and have veterans Adrian Aucoin and Ed Jovanovski to help anchor a Phoenix defense that allowed 2.68 goals per game (tied for 12th-lowest) this season. Edge: Phoenix. 

Special teams: This could be the biggest difference in these two teams in the series. If the Wings get Zetterberg back, they’ll have one of the league’s most potent scorers on the man advantage. He had 10 goals and 20 points on the power play this season. Holmstrom and Franzen also chipped in 10 goals on a power play that was fifth-best (22.3 percent) in the league. Phoenix’s PK killed off a middling 78.4 percent of changes, 26th overall in the league. The Coyotes’ power play also wasn’t all that impressive. It ranked 23rd in the regular season 15.9 percent, led by Doan (11 goals) and Radim Vrbata (10). Edge: Detroit. 

Goalies: Jimmy Howard will be the man in the crease for the Red Wings again this playoff season. There is no real fallback position for Wings coach Mike Babcock since Chris Osgood is likely done for the season after hernia surgery and Joe MacDonald has no playoff experience. Howard's numbers this regular season (2.79 goals-against average and .908 save percentage) were off from last year’s marks, but you could chalk that up to a an ever-changing defense in front of him because of injuries. Likely because he’s in Phoenix, but Ilya Bryzgalov remains of the most underappreciated goalies. He’s often the reason the Coyotes find themselves in games since they allowed the third-most shots per game (32.6). Edge: Phoenix. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
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