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Posted On Monday, 01.27.2014 / 2:42 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Capuano keeping Islanders' focus on Bruins

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Fans of the New York Islanders already are getting excited about their team's showdown with the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday in a 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2).

But for coach Jack Capuano and his players, there's still the matter of a game against the Boston Bruins on Monday to deal with before they can turn their attention to the outdoor game.

Capuano admitted after his team's morning skate at Nassau Coliseum that while the Islanders are keeping their focus on Boston, it's tough not to be cognizant that their next game will be a franchise first.

He also admitted he had seen some of the Rangers' 7-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils at the Stadium on Sunday.

"I watched a little bit of it," he said. "It's 200-by-85 [rink size]. To me it's the atmosphere. It's the crowd. It's Yankee Stadium. It's the Bronx. You're in one of the greatest venues in the world. It was pretty amazing what the NHL did. As far as the hockey goes, it was a big two points for both teams. I thought the ice was great. It was a fast-paced game."

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Posted On Monday, 01.27.2014 / 12:34 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Visnovsky back for Isles; Nabokov to dress

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky will be back in the lineup for the New York Islanders when they host the Boston Bruins on Monday after missing more than three months with a concussion.

In addition, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was activated from injured reserve and will dress for the first time since leaving the Islanders' 7-3 victory against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 6 with a lower-body injury. Coach Jack Capuano said Nabokov will back up Kevin Poulin against the Bruins but might start Wednesday when the Islanders play the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2).

"Kevin will be in net [Monday]," Capuano said after the morning skate. "[Nabokov] is getting where he needs to be. He'll back up. [Visnovsky], if things go well, and they did this morning, he'll be back in."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.16.2014 / 6:18 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Tavares OK with playing wing for Canada

Though John Tavares has spent his entire NHL career as a center, the New York Islanders captain knows there's no guarantee he'll be in the middle when he takes the ice for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics next month.

And he's OK with that.

Canada is loaded with talent down the middle, including Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf. That could result in Tavares spending his time in Sochi on left wing, though he said this week he "hasn't heard anything" about his ultimate position.

"Really, the only thing I know is from the camp in the summertime, they had me at center," he said. "They talked to me about playing the wing and being versatile. I know there’s a possibility being in a different spot than I’m accustomed to.”

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Posted On Saturday, 11.16.2013 / 6:52 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Red Wings' Alfredsson scratched due to groin injury

UNIONDALE. N.Y. – Forward Daniel Alfredsson was a late scratch by the Detroit Red Wings for their game against the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Alfredsson had to be scratched after injuring his groin in warmups before the Red Wings' 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday night. He made the trip to New York, but said after the morning skate that he might not be able to play.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 7:12 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Nielsen, Nelson in lineup for Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen is in the lineup Saturday for Game 6 of his team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Nielsen, who centers the Islanders' second line and plays on both special teams, left Game 5 on Thursday with a lower-body injury and didn't skate Friday.

Rookie Brock Nelson is making his NHL debut, taking the place of healthy scratch Jesse Joensuu.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 1:49 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Islanders have confidence in Nabokov

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Evgeni Nabokov's first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2010 has had its ups and downs. Though he's been pulled by New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano in Games 1 and 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nabokov will be back in goal for Game 6 on Saturday at Nassau Coliseum (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Capuano left no doubts that Nabokov remains his man, even though he has a 4.69 goals-against average and .847 save percentage.

"He's gotten us here. He's played a lot of hockey for us down the stretch," Capuano said of Nabokov, who was 23-11-7 in the regular season, with a 2.50 GAA and .910 save percentage. "He's a veteran guy with experience. I think if you look at the last two months, I thought defensively we were pretty good, pretty solid, and he was a big reason why."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 1:22 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Islanders expect another boost from home crowd

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders' return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs has brought the noise back to Nassau Coliseum. They hope the roars that raised the roof of the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike in Games 3 and 4 will help them win Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

The Coliseum is the oldest non-renovated facility in the NHL. It's small (16,170 capacity) and lacks the amenities of newer buildings. But its low roof means that the noise generated by a packed house has nowhere to go but back toward the ice. The result is the kind of noise you rarely hear in a newer, larger building.

"Playing at home for us has been great," Islanders captain Mark Streit said after the morning skate Saturday. "The fans have been unbelievable. It's been so loud and energizing in here. It's a big advantage for us."

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Posted On Friday, 05.10.2013 / 6:50 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Crosby honored to be Hart Trophy finalist

Not even missing the Pittsburgh Penguins' last 12 regular-season games was enough to keep captain Sidney Crosby from being named a finalist for the Hart Trophy, given to the NHL's regular-season MVP.

Despite missing the last quarter of the season, Crosby joined Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and John Tavares of the New York Islanders as the three finalists.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 7:34 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Penguins hope Orpik will return soon

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma won’t discuss injuries, so he wouldn’t say whether shutdown defenseman Brooks Orpik will be ready to go in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders.

Orpik and another prominent injured Penguin, forward James Neal, were on the ice in full gear for Pittsburgh’s optional afternoon skate at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Monday, but Bylsma said after practice that the question of injuries was “not a discussion point.”

However, he left no doubt that the Penguins miss Orpik, who has yet to play in this series due to a lower-body injury suffered two weeks ago.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 3:59 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Byslma ready for another noisy night at Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma hopes his players do a better job of handling the raucous atmosphere at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series than they did in Game 3.

The Coliseum, one of the NHL's smallest and oldest buildings, was roaring on Sunday when the New York Islanders played their first home game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six years. Bylsma, an assistant coach with the Islanders before joining the Penguins' organization, had warned his players that the atmosphere they'd see in Game 3 wouldn't be like anything they'd seen in their regular-season visits to Long Island.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:38 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Overtime is no longer 'Islander Time'

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- For the first two decades of their existence, the New York Islanders were the most successful overtime team in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Islanders won the first of their four consecutive Stanley Cups on Bob Nystrom's OT goal in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final. They eliminated the arch-rival New York Rangers in the fifth and deciding game of their first-round series when Ken Morrow scored in overtime. And they completed one of the biggest upsets in playoff history when David Volek's OT goal in Game 7 of the second round eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were going for their third consecutive Stanley Cup.

At that point in their history, the Islanders had played 36 overtime games in the playoffs and won 29 of them.

Twenty years later, they're still looking for win No. 30.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:22 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Islanders' penalty-killers need to improve

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders were among the NHL's poorest teams at 5-on-5 for much of the regular season, and only their special teams kept them in the playoff race until a late-season improvement at even strength carried them to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After a 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first game of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, the Islanders were excellent at full strength in Games 2 and 3 -- only to see their penalty-killers come up short.

Pittsburgh went 2-for-4 in the opener and 1-for-4 in the Islanders' 4-3 win in Game 2. New York jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in Game 3, but two power-play goals in a span of 19 seconds got the Penguins even. They added a third power-play goal on their fifth attempt of the day when Chris Kunitz scored in overtime to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 victory.


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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:11 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Capitals-Rangers series blog

Capitals stick with winning lineup for Game 3

NEW YORK -- After eliminating the New York Rangers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two of the previous four seasons, the Washington Capitals now bring a two-game lea in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series to Madison Square Garden.

But there was no talk Monday of how a road win in Game 3 would give the Capitals a series stranglehold on a team that beat the Capitals in seven games in last year's conference semis.

"We're just thinking about tonight, we can't get too far ahead," Capitals coach Adam Oates said following Monday's morning skate. "The crowd will be crazy and you've got to enjoy that. As a player, you've got to want that feeling and be prepared for them to be excited about it. You've got to be in control and make good decisions with the puck."

If any NHL coach should be familiar with the MSG crowd during the playoffs, it's Oates. As an assistant with the New Jersey Devils last season, Oates went against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, which New Jersey won in six games. Prior to that series, Oates and the Devils coaching staff scouted New York's second-round series against - of all teams - the Washington Capitals. All those games and all that scouting has sharpened Oates' familiarity with his first-round opponent.

"I think it's very similar," Oates said of this year's Rangers squad compared to last year. "The type of style they play, it's hard hockey, so your team has to be ready for hard hockey. The first two games [in this series], the margin of error was really slim. Both teams played well, both goalies played well."

The Capitals will ice the same lineup for Game 3 in New York that won the previous two games in Washington. Forward Brooks Laich, who has been out of the lineup with a groin injury since April 4, did not participate in the team's practice and remains out, although he did work out on a stationary bike following the skate.

Here is the projected Washington Capitals lineup for Game 3 Monday night against the New York Rangers:

Marcus Johansson -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat -- Mike Ribeiro -- Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera -- Mathieu Perreault -- Eric Fehr

Matt Hendricks -- Jay Beagle -- Joel Ward

Karl Alzner -- Mike Green

John Erskine -- John Carlson

Jack Hillen -- Steve Oleksy

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jeff Schultz, Wojtek Wolski, Aaron Volpatti, Tom Poti

Injured: Brooks Laich (groin)

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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 1:06 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Islanders must find way to limit Crosby

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – For all of their hard work in Games 2 and 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islanders still couldn’t find a way to shut down Sidney Crosby.

Pittsburgh’s captain missed the series opener due to the broken jaw he suffered in a game against New York on March 30. But Crosby had two first-period goals in Game 2, just hours after being cleared to play, then set up three goals – including the overtime winner – in Pittsburgh’s 5-4 victory Sunday.

The Islanders know they can’t let Crosby continue to pile up points if they hope to win the series. But knowing that they need to shut him down and doing it are two different things.

“We have to be aware of him on the ice,” Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said after practice Monday. “He’s hurt us the past couple of games. We have to know where he is at all times and try to play him hard, try to finish our checks.

“We know that he’s going to create opportunities, he’s going to have chances. We have to accept that and make sure those second and third opportunities aren’t there. We’re going to try to take away some of his time and space.”

The Islanders aren’t having any more success against Crosby in the playoffs than they’ve had in the regular season. In 41 games against New York, he has 20 goals and 75 points.

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Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 10:51 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Isles stick with Game 2 winning formula for Game 3

UNIONDALE, N.Y.New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano changed up his lines before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins and saw his team rally to beat the Eastern Conference's regular-season champion.

With the series returning to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for an afternoon Game 3 on Sunday, Capuano said he's not going to change a thing.

"The way we handled our lineup all year was that the guys who played well deserved to play the following game," Capuano said, about two hours before the Islanders took the ice for their first playoff game at the Coliseum since 2007. "We're not going to change our mentality, as far as that goes."

That means Matt Moulson, the regular left wing on a line with John Tavares and Brad Boyes, will play with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo; John Bailey will switch onto Tavares' line. The move paid off in Game 2, with the Islanders rallying from a 3-1 deficit for a series-tying 4-3 victory. Moulson had a goal and assisted on Okposo's game-winner.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.04.2013 / 7:02 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Penguins-Islanders series blog

Change in lines changes outcome for Islanders

Matt Moulson and John Tavares have been joined at the hip since they came to the New York Islanders in 2009. It's been a combination that has benefitted both parties -- Tavares has emerged as one of the NHL's top young stars, and Moulson became a three-time 30-goal scorer as his wingman.

The two were apart once in the regular season -- Moulson missed an early April game against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a case of the flu. That's why there were more than a few double takes when Islanders coach Jack Capuano changed his line combinations before Game 2 of New York's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With his team having scored twice in three games, and not at all in a 5-0 loss in Game 1, Capuano switched left wings on his first two lines, moving Josh Bailey onto a line with Tavares and Brad Boyes while putting Moulson with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo.

The result: Moulson was the game's first star after scoring a goal and assisting on the game-winner in New York's 4-3 victory Friday night.

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Posted On Saturday, 03.09.2013 / 12:29 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Visnovsky back, game-time decision for Isles

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Washington Capitals make their only visit of the season to the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday afternoon as the New York Islanders wrap up a seven-game homestand. The Capitals are coming off a 7-1 win against Florida at home on Thursday, the same night the Islanders lost 2-1 in overtime to the New York Rangers.

Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who missed the Islanders' last two games for person reasons, is back and will be a game-time decision.

Washington will give rookie Philipp Grubauer his first NHL start in goal, with Braden Holtby likely to play against the Rangers on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here is the tentative lineup for the Islanders:

Matt MoulsonJohn TavaresBrad Boyes

Josh BaileyFrans NielsenKyle Okposo

Michael GrabnerMarty ReasonerDavid Ullstrom

Matt MartinCasey CizikasColin McDonald

Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic

Mark Streit - Lubomir Visnovsky/Joe Finley

Thomas Hickey - Radek Martinek

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

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Posted On Saturday, 02.09.2013 / 6:14 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Visnovsky, Bailey to make season debuts for Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Forward Josh Bailey and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky will make their 2012-13 debuts when the New York Islanders host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Bailey, the Islanders’ top pick (No. 9) in the 2008 NHL Draft, hasn’t played due to a knee injury sustained while playing in Germany during the work stoppage. The Islanders activated him Saturday and placed defenseman Matt Carkner on injured reserve.

Visnovsky, acquired by New York from Anaheim last summer for a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, did not report to the Islanders until this week. The native of Slovakia played with HC Slovan of the KHL during the work stoppage, and then stayed home for personal reasons until this week. He passed his physical on Thursday and had his first practice as an Islander on Friday.

The 36-year-old has 117 career goals and led all NHL defensemen with 68 points in 2011-12.

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Posted On Monday, 07.23.2012 / 2:40 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - NHL Free Agency 2012 blog

Versteeg agrees to four-year deal with Panthers

Kris Versteeg can finally look forward to spending some time in the same place.

The 26-year-old forward, who went from Chicago to Toronto to Philadelphia to Florida in the space of a year after winning the Stanley Cup with the Hawks in 2010, agreed to a four-year deal worth $17.6 million with the Panthers.

"It's been a bit of a whirl for the last two years," he said Monday during a media conference call. "Security was the No. 1 thing for me, and playing in Florida was the No. 1 thing for me. It all came down to wanting to be in Florida -- I've loved my time here and I'm excited to get going again and try to win the Stanley Cup with the Florida Panthers."

The deal enabled the two sides to avoid an arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday.

Kris Versteeg
Right Wing - FLA
GOALS: 23 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 54
SOG: 181 | +/-: 4
"Sometimes you have to keep negotiating right to the bitter end," general manager Dale Tallon said during a conference call when asked about the arbitration process. "It happens a lot -- you really don't want to go to arbitration, and we decided we didn’t want to. It made sense for both sides."

Said Versteeg: "I think we both got a fair deal and we're both excited about what the future of the franchise can be. I was confident we were going to get something done."

Versteeg, who was acquired by Florida from Philadelphia on July 1, 2011, is coming off the best season of his career, scoring 23 goals and adding 31 assists for 54 points in 71 games to help the Panthers win the first division title in franchise history. He had his first career hat trick in November and was part of Florida's top line along with Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann.

"I loved playing with those guys," Versteeg said. "They made me a better player."

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Posted On Wednesday, 07.04.2012 / 10:16 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - NHL Free Agency 2012 blog

Bowman: Hawks made 'impressive offer' to Parise

The Chicago Blackhawks didn't get Zach Parise -- this summer's top free-agent forward opted to sign with Minnesota on Wednesday -- but GM Stan Bowman said it wasn't for lack of trying.

"We made a very impressive offer to Zach. It came down to a family decision. You have to respect that," Bowman said during a conference call Wednesday night. "Our objective is not to make 'a splash.' Our objective is win hockey games. You can't look past the group we already have."

Bowman said that missing out on Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter -- who also signed with the Wild -- won't stop the Hawks from trying to get better.

The one thing Bowman said he couldn't offer was the chance to play at home.

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Posted On Friday, 06.29.2012 / 9:46 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - NHL Free Agency 2012 blog

Report: Schultz to make decision on Saturday

Blue-chip defense prospect Justin Schultz reportedly will decide on Saturday which team he'll sign with.

According to a tweet from TSN's Bob McKenzie, "Free agent defenceman Justin Schultz will decide tomorrow where he's signing." He cannot actually put his name on a contract until Sunday, when free agency begins.

TSN's Darren Dreger reported Friday that the Edmonton Oilers, one of the teams reportedly on Schultz's short list, brought in a couple of big guns to make their case -- both Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey talked with him.

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Posted On Tuesday, 06.12.2012 / 1:40 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings wrap up a spring to remember

It took the Los Angeles Kings 45 years to win their first Stanley Cup. But when they did, they won with a flourish.

The Kings completed their run to the Stanley Cup on Monday night by routing New Jersey 6-1 in Game 6 of the Final, capping a postseason in which they went 16-4. That leaves L.A. in a four-way tie for the fewest games needed to win the Cup since 1987, when the NHL adopted a best-of-seven format for all rounds of the playoffs.

The 1988 Edmonton Oilers won in 18 games (16-2), the fewest any team has needed to win the Cup in the last 25 years. The Kings are tied with the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, the 1995 New Jersey Devils and 1997 Detroit Red Wings for second place -- all won in 20 games.

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Posted On Monday, 06.11.2012 / 11:41 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Six is lucky number for Kings

Not only did the Los Angeles Kings win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, they found a way to do it that no team had ever done before.

L.A.'s 5-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night gave the Kings their first championship since entering the NHL in 1967. The Kings became the first team ever to win the first three games of the Final, lose the next two and take the Cup by winning Game 6. Of the previous 25 teams to take a 3-0 lead, 20 finished off the sweep, three needed five games to win, the 1945 Toronto Maple Leafs won in seven and the 1942 Detroit Red Wings lost in seven -- the only time that's happened in the Final.

The Kings also became the lowest-seeded team to take home the Cup -- they were 13th in the overall standings during the regular season. Before this year, the lowest-seeded team to win it all was the 1995 Devils, who were ninth -- just as they were this season. L.A. also became the first No. 8 seed to win the Cup since the current format was adopted in 1994.

Los Angeles became the first team since 2007 to win the Cup at home -- the Anaheim Ducks did it five years ago by beating Ottawa -- and ended a four-game losing streak by teams that had a chance to win the Cup in front of their own fans.
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Posted On Saturday, 06.09.2012 / 11:56 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings impressive road win streak snapped

Because the longest road winning streak in Stanley Cup history is over, the Los Angeles Kings will have to try again on Monday to win their first championship.

The Kings brought a 10-0 record on the road this spring and a 12-0 mark during the past two seasons into the Prudential Center on Saturday night. They left with both streaks ended after a 2-1 loss that cut their lead in the series to 3-2 and sent everyone heading back to the West  Coast for Game 6 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

The Kings didn't make history because they couldn't defy it -- none of the three teams that won the first three games of the Final and lost Game 4 at home have won Game 5. That scenario hadn't happened since 1945, when Toronto won the first three games only to lose Games 4, 5 -- and 6 -- before winning Game 7 on the road. In the other, Detroit won the first three games in 1942, only to see the Leafs win the next four.
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Posted On Thursday, 06.07.2012 / 8:57 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Devils vs. Kings Stanley Cup Final blog

Kings not worried about going on the road again

They'd rather have spent Thursday celebrating the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. But the Los Angeles Kings weren't wasting any time Thursday wondering what might have been.

The Kings missed a chance to wrap up the first Stanley Cup in franchise history when they lost 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. Instead of celebrating, the Kings spent the day flying -- to Newark for Game 5 on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

But with a 10-0 record in road games during this spring's playoffs, the Kings were anything but worried about having to make another trip to Prudential Center.

"We just don't let any distractions bother us. We go in, we play our game," forward Justin Williams said before the Kings' flight to Newark on Thursday. "We know the Prudential Center's going to be rocking, just like when we had to go back to Phoenix and play Game 5, go back to Vancouver and play Game 5. The arena's are going to be rocking, and we'll have to be ready for them."

The Kings are just 1-3 in Game 4s this spring, losing three times at home when they've had the chance to complete a series sweep. But they're perfect so far in Game 5s -- L.A. has completed series victories with wins at Vancouver in the opening round and at Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals.

"We feel comfortable on the road," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "It's unfortunate we couldn't close it last night. But we'll try to do it on Saturday."

Not that it will be easy.

"Elimination games -- I don't know, the teams you play against are there for a reason," forwards Trevor Lewis said. It's not supposed to be a sweep all the time. You're not supposed to win every game.

"We know the fourth game is going to be the hardest," Lewis added. "It's the Stanley Cup Final here. It's pretty tough to sweep. We've got to make sure we're prepared and get ready for Game 5."

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.06.2012 / 11:45 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Once again, Kings can't close the deal

The Los Angeles Kings have done almost nothing wrong this spring. Their only failing continues to be an inability to complete sweeps.

The Kings are the first team ever to go up 3-0 in all four series in a single playoff year, and they're also the only one to miss out on three chances to sweep in the same spring -- all at home. L.A. lost Game 4 to Vancouver in the opening round, did it again against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals -- and dropped Game 4 for a third time on Wednesday when they allowed three third-period goals in a 3-1 loss to New Jersey that sent the Stanley Cup Final to a Game 5 in Newark on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

Los Angeles was the 26th team to take a 3-0 lead in the Final -- and just the sixth that failed to complete the sweep. The last one was the 1981 New York Islanders, who lost Game 4 to the North Stars in Minnesota before winning Game 5 at home. Before that, you have to go back to 1957, when Boston won Game 4 in overtime at home against Montreal, which won the Cup at the Forum in Game 5.

The last eight teams that had the chance to complete a sweep in the Final had done so, until Wednesday.
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Posted On Monday, 06.04.2012 / 11:28 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings make history, poised to make more

The Los Angeles Kings made some history on Monday night. They're ready to make even more on Wednesday.

The Kings' 4-0 victory against New Jersey in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final was the 15th of the 16 they need to bring the Cup to L.A. for the first time in franchise history. At 15-2 through 17 games, they've tied the 1988 Edmonton Oilers for the best mark ever at this stage of the playoffs -- and they became the first team since the playoffs went to an all best-of-seven format in 1987 to take a 3-0 lead in all four rounds.

L.A. is showing the value of getting through the early rounds as quickly as possible. The Kings could win the Cup in just 18 games, the same number the Devils played in winning three rounds just to get to the Final.
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Posted On Sunday, 06.03.2012 / 12:39 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings stay perfect on the road

Teams spend six months battling for the home-ice advantage. The Los Angeles Kings continue to turn that strategy on its head.

The Kings made it 10 wins in as many playoff games away from Staples Center this spring when Jeff Carter's overtime goal gave them a 2-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. The 10 road wins match the record held by the 1995 and 2000 Devils and the 2004 Calgary Flames -- but L.A. is the only one of those teams to reach 10 road wins without a loss.

Kings of overtime -- Four of the Kings' 10 victories have come in overtime, including their wins in Game 1 and 2 of the Final. All four of the OT victories have come on the road -- a big reason that the guys in the white sweaters are now 16-9 this spring.

Counting their five-game loss to Montreal in 1993, the Kings have played seven games all-time in the Stanley Cup Final -- and five of them have gone into overtime. L.A. lost Games 2-3-4 to Montreal in OT 19 years ago.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.31.2012 / 12:25 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Road teams continue to thrive in overtime

When it comes to winning in overtime during the Stanley Cup Final, it pays to wear the white sweaters.

Anze Kopitar
Center - LAK
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 16
SOG: 52 | +/-: 14
The Los Angeles Kings continued their own success away from home this spring as well as extending the success of visiting teams in the Stanley Cup Final by beating New Jersey 2-1 in OT on Wednesday in Game 1. Anze Kopitar's goal at 8:13 of overtime improved road teams' record in Final games that go past regulation to 6-1 since 2004 and 17-5 since 1990, when Edmonton's Petr Klima scored at 55:13 of extra time in Game 1 to win the longest game in Final history.

Overall, the visiting team has won 44 of the 74 Final games to go past regulation (not counting a pair of ties).
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.29.2012 / 7:58 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings vs. Devils by the Numbers

The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils have never faced each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they don't have a lot of history against each other in the regular season either. The teams have met just 57 times in the 29 seasons since the then-Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey in 1982.

But both teams have had unexpected playoff runs this postseason -- their combined finish in the overall standings (22) is the lowest for the two teams in the Final since Pittsburgh (7) and Minnesota (16) in 1991. The Devils would match their own mark for the lowest seed to win a Stanley Cup; the Kings, seeded No. 8 in the West, would easily be the lowest-seeded club to win it all.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.26.2012 / 12:10 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Brodeur and Devils slay the ghosts of 1994

It took 18 years, but Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils finally got it done.

The Devils saw a trip to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final vanish when they couldn't hold onto a 2-0 lead against the Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at home. New Jersey blew another 2-0 lead Friday night -- again in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final -- but, this time, they got to overtime before Adam Henrique's goal at 1:03 gave the Devils a 3-2 win and their fifth trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1995.

Game 6 in 1994 marked the sixth straight playoff start for a rookie goaltender named Martin Brodeur. Friday's game marked Brodeur's 188th consecutive postseason start -- no one else has started a playoff game for the Devils since the series with the Rangers began 18 years ago.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 11:45 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Unlikely contributors fueling Devils' playoff ride

The New Jersey Devils have plenty of star power in players like Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. But they're one win away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in nine years thanks to some of their foot soldiers.

Ryan Carter
Center - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 5
SOG: 13 | +/-: 5
The Devils got two of their goals in Wednesday's 5-3 victory against the Rangers from the one trio of forwards coach Peter DeBoer has left relatively intact -- the fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. Gionta opened the scoring 2:43 into the first period and Carter broke a 3-3 tie with 4:24 left in regulation, finishing off a passout by Gionta.

While most teams are happy if their fourth line can get off the ice unscathed and maybe provide a little energy for the big guns, the Devils continue to get scoring from their fourth unit. The Carter-Bernier-Gionta unit has accounted for eight goals and 16 points in 17 games -- even though Carter and Gionta see less than nine minutes of ice time per game and Bernier plays less than 11 minutes per night. Also, all of the unit's production has come at even strength -- Carter and Gionta (3) have accounted for more 5-on-5 goals than Kovalchuk (2).
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 1:52 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Los Angeles is Kings of the road

The Los Angeles Kings will have the road-ice advantage when the Stanley Cup Final starts next week.

Most teams would rather open a series at home, but the Kings will take the longest road winning streak in Stanley Cup history with them when they open in New York or New Jersey on May 30. The Kings made it 8-for-8 on the road this spring and 10 in a row away from the Staples Center overall by beating Phoenix 4-3 on Tuesday to close out the Western Conference Finals in five games.

The Kings' 10th straight road win moved them past the New York Islanders of 1982 and '83, who won nine straight road games on the way to the last two of their four consecutive Stanley Cups. 

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Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 1:14 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Quick having a spring for the ages

Though Jonathan Quick is a Vezina Trophy finalist, few people would have mentioned him in the same breath with Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk before the playoffs started. But the two now share an accomplishment that no one else achieved in a six-decade span.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 11-1-0
GAA: 1.41 | SVP: 0.951
Quick has won 11 of his 12 starts this spring while leading the Los Angeles Kings within one victory of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993. Thursday's 2-1 victory against Phoenix marked the eighth consecutive game in which Quick won without allowing more than two goals. The last goaltender to put together that kind of streak was Sawchuk, who went 8-0 while leading Detroit to a sweep in the 1952 playoffs -- a stretch of brilliance in which he allowed just five goals and posted four shutouts.

Quick wasn't quite that good -- he allowed 10 goals in the eight wins -- but he's been the best goaltender to take the ice so far this spring. In 12 games, Quick has 11 wins, a 1.41 goals-against average, a .951 save percentage and two shutouts -- putting him first in all four categories.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 12:06 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Tight games continue to be the rule this spring

The hardest thing to get in this spring's playoffs is a big lead.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 9-4
GAA: 2.05 | SVP: 0.921
New Jersey's 3-2 victory against the Rangers in New York on Wednesday night got the Devils even in the Eastern Conference Finals heading into Game 3 in Newark on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). It also marked the 44th time in 73 games this spring that the winning margin was a single goal -- and in eight other games, the two-goal margin of victory included an empty-netter.

There have already been more one-goal games this spring than there were in all of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 playoffs. Last spring's playoffs had 48 games decided by one goal, a total that's a pretty good bet to be exceeded as well. The most one-goal games in the past 10 years came in 2007, when there were 51.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 12:48 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Los Angeles now Kings of the road

The Los Angeles Kings were among the poorest road playoff teams in NHL history -- until now.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 10-1
GAA: 1.45 | SVP: 0.951
Before this spring, the Kings had won just 29 of 95 playoff games away from L.A. since entering the NHL in 1967 -- and that included wins in their last two games at San Jose during their six-game loss to the Sharks in 2011. The back-to-back wins matched the longest road winning streak in the franchise's playoff history.

But the Kings have been flawless away from home this spring. They improved to 7-0 on the road Tuesday night by dominating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. The seven straight wins match a single-season record for consecutive road wins last accomplished by the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 11:24 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers advance despite lack of firepower

There are two ways to win in the postseason: You can try to outgun your opponent (think Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh in the first round), or you can try to play shutdown defense, get great goaltending and hope to get enough offense.

The New York Rangers have opted for Plan B -- and they're playing it to perfection,

The Rangers survived Game 7 for the second time in as many series by beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Saturday night. It marked the NHL single season-record 14th consecutive playoff game -- every one they've played this spring -- in which the Rangers held the opposition to three goals or less.

Of course, it's not like the Rangers are filling the net. After scoring four times in their playoff opener against Ottawa, the Rangers have gone 13 straight games without getting more than three goals in a game.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 9:39 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Coyotes play down underdog staus

The Phoenix Coyotes seemingly are perpetual underdogs. Between their struggles on the ice and their unsettled ownership situation, it's easy to forget that they've made the playoffs three years in a row and are the reigning Pacific Division champions.

The Coyotes earned the third seed in the West this spring by virtue of their division title, and they'll have the home-ice edge for the third series in a row against Los Angeles. It's the third year in a row they've been in the top six in the West -- a fact that Phoenix captain Shane Doan doesn't want people to forget.

"No one seems to mention that two years ago we finished with 107 points and we were three points away from leading the West, and five points away from leading the whole NHL," Doan said during Thursday's conference call with the media. "But no one recognizes that. We got knocked out in seven games by Detroit. Had a couple things go wrong with a couple of injuries in the playoffs that really hurt us. But I think that it's kind of been it's been kind of the next step as we move along, and we want to keep it going."

Coach Dave Tippett doesn't mind having his team labeled the underdog against the Kings -- after all, the Coyotes weren't favored to beat Chicago or Nashville in the first two rounds, and they did.

"Hasn't bothered us much yet, so we'll find where we are," he said of being the underdog. "It was very competitive all year in our division. I think we won the last couple of games of the regular season to get the third seed, which turned out to be very important to us for home ice advantage.

"But our team, I think, a lot of people always view us as a smaller-market team that we're in the hunt, but nobody views us as a contender. I look at our game as kind of evolved [during] the last part of the regular season into the playoffs, where we have the confidence we can beat anybody. We recognize that we'll probably always be looked at as the underdog, but that hasn't changed for us in the last three years. So we're comfortable in that mode."

Tippett said his team benefitted by having to deal with fewer off-ice distractions this season.

"The distractions were less this year," he said. "I thought the NHL did a very good job of keeping it away from us. The thing about last year, we were going through a situation where it looked like there was an owner and then lawsuits, and gold water groups. There was a lot of stuff going on that we didn't have to deal with this year.

"I think ultimately what's happened is we've become very hardened to it. Our group has always used it as a motivating factor, not a crutch. This year as much as it was still around, it seemed less infectious on us."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 9:21 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings bring back memories of '04 Flames to Sutter

The Los Angeles Kings haven't been this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 1993 -- but their coach has. In fact, Darryl Sutter took Calgary to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2004 before the Flames came up a goal short against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sutter was asked during a media conference call on Thursday to compare two of the key players on this year's team, captain Dustin Brown and goaltender Jonathan Quick, to Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, their counterparts on the '04 Flames.

Sutter, who has guided the Kings to the Western Conference Finals, noted that Iginla has much better offensive numbers than Brown, but found several other similarities between the two captains.

"The big difference when I went to Calgary with Jarome, Jarome was already a Hart Trophy winner, had won a scoring race, and he had won all the major awards. That is significant," he said. "There is a big difference in terms of Jarome Iginla -- he is a 50-goal scorer over and over. Other than that, in terms of personality and character and what they bring, there are real similarities."

For his part, Brown said Iginla was one of the players he tried to model himself after.

"He's been a top player in this League for quite a few years now," he said. "You look at the goal scoring and all of that with Jarome. But he also brings that mean streak and that physical edge in the way that he plays.

"I probably don't score to the extent that he can score. But a lot of other things that I try to do -- I grew up watching him in my first few years. He was one of those guys that I looked and watched how he played the game because he led by example on the ice, and I think that's probably the best way to do it.

Sutter saw more similarities between Quick and Kiprusoff.

"I think they play a lot the same way in their styles," he said. "It's a little bit different than other guys. Same practice habits -- both have real similar work ethics, both have the same demeanor in the locker room -- but there are real similarities between these two guys."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 9:05 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings eager to get back to work

The best news the Los Angeles Kings got Thursday was finding out when they'll be going back to work.

The Kings had a long break after beating Vancouver in the first round, then found themselves with another in-season vacation after they completed a sweep of St. Louis in the second round on Sunday. L.A. finally learned on Thursday that its Western Conference Final series against Phoenix will begin Sunday night in Glendale, Ariz. (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Kings captain Dustin Brown is glad to have a starting date after three days of not knowing when the series would begin. He just wishes it were sooner

"Does it bug me we have to wait till Sunday to play? Definitely I'd rather play today," Brown said during a media conference call. "It's one of those things that just the way the scheduling works with the TV games and trying to put it on national TV, and the East going as long as it is, it's one of those things that is part of getting yourself ready.

"From a playing standpoint, I think if you ask any player in Phoenix or L.A., I think they were probably wishing we were playing tomorrow night."

Coach Darryl Sutter has been careful to walk the fine line between rest and rust for his team.

"We gave everybody two days [off], so that cut into it," he said of the long break. "We've had two days of practice, and I don't think anybody gets stale. Some guys are still very much in recovery mode from injuries, so the more you can get them healthy, the better you are."

The Kings didn't necessarily prefer to play the Coyotes rather than the Nashville Predators, but there is one benefit -- Phoenix is only about 350 miles from L.A.; Nashville is nearly 1,800 miles away.

"Well, I thought that was one of the breaks of playing in the Western Conference. We got a little bit of less travel like the East," Sutter deadpanned when asked about playing what passes for a local rival in the spread-out West. "God bless Los Angeles and Phoenix."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 7:23 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Doan: We'll go as far as Smith takes us

It's a hockey cliché that you win or lose as a team. But for Phoenix captain Shane Doan, one Coyote has become indispensable to the team's success.

Goaltender Mike Smith was an unheralded free-agent signing last summer who led the Coyotes to the first division title in franchise history and has backstopped the team into the conference finals for the first time since it joined the NHL in 1979. To Doan, he's the guy they can't do without.

"He's as valuable to our team as there is a player in the League," Doan said during a conference call with the media on Thursday. "Obviously he's proven himself, but last series he got to go against Pekka Rinne who is nominated for the Vezina. And this series he gets to go against Jonathan Quick. Another guy nominated for the Vezina.

"We're going to go as far as Smitty can carry us."

In the eyes of Doan, perhaps the most impressive thing about Smith is his competitive nature.

"I don't think you could ever beat his competitiveness out of him," Doan said. "It's not like you could get four goals on him, and he's like, 'oh, man. I've had a bad game. I'm going to [quit], this isn't my game.' It's like, 'well, there is no way you're getting that fifth one.'

"That is kind of what I get from him. He's so competitive."

The Coyotes signed Smith last summer after trading free agent-to-be Ilya Bryzgalov partly because coach Dave Tippett knew him from their time together in Dallas. Tippett also felt that Smith, a big goaltender at 6-foot-3, would work well with Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke, who was among the NHL's tallest goaltenders during his playing days.

"I had history with Mike in Dallas, and I thought he was a player that if he got the opportunity could really flourish," Tippett said. "I thought the relationship between him and Sean Burke would be a very good one. Both of them are similar kinds of goalies and have gone through similar issues in their career. Mike came in, was looking for an opportunity. We had an opportunity to give. And the work he and Sean have done together has given us a very, very good player."

"I really believe through this year he's evolved into one of the elite goaltenders in the League, and certainly that's been on display in the playoffs."

Tippett said one reason for the Coyotes' springtime success is the fact that he's confident in his own play -- and that his teammates share that confidence.

"We always talk about confidence is earned," Tippett said. "If you look at the year he's had and the work he's put in, he's earned that confidence. I would second that in the fact not only is he confident in his own play, he's earned the trust and the confidence of the players in front of him. So when a goaltender can do that, it leads to a very competitive team."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 6:35 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Brown's more than a hitter now

Dustin Brown has been one of the NHL's most prolific hitters since entering the NHL eight years ago. He's still one of the League's top thumpers -- his 293 hits during the regular season were second to Matt Martin of the New York Islanders -- but he says his style of play has evolved.

"I think my game has changed a lot from when I first came up," the Los Angeles Kings' captain said during a media conference call Thursday. "I'm a little more even keel."

Unlike a lot of big hitters whose usefulness is largely limited to their physical play, Brown has been a productive offensive force -- he's scored at least 22 goals in each of the last five seasons. Brown also leads the Kings in playoff scoring with 11 points, including six goals, and is tops among all players with a plus-9 rating.

"I still get my hits," he said, "but the flip side is that I'm in better position to get scoring chances. It's a matter of balance."

Like the rest of his teammates, Brown has been waiting since Sunday to see when the Kings would start the Western Conference Finals -- they've been off since completing a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues this past Sunday. The Kings learned Thursday that they'll begin their series against the Phoenix Coyotes Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

Brown conceded that he understood that arena factors and other considerations are responsible for the long break -- but to say he's ready to go now would be putting it mildly.

"Does it bug me that we have to wait until Sunday to play?" he said. "Yes. I'd rather play today, but that's the way the schedule works."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 11:21 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Capitals don't let OT losses get them down

Braden Holtby
Goalie - WSH
RECORD: 7-6
GAA: 1.95 | SVP: 0.935
The Washington Capitals are nothing if not resilient.

The Caps have lost four times in overtime during this year's playoffs, including a pair of excruciating losses to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- a triple-OT loss in Game 3 and a 3-2 loss in Game 5 in which they were 6.6 seconds away from winning.

But the Caps have refused to feel sorry for themselves. They rebounded from each of the first three overtime losses with victories, then did it again on Wednesday by beating the Rangers 2-1 in Game 6 -- sending the series to the limit and becoming the first team in NHL history to won four straight times after an overtime loss in a single playoff year.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 11:13 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Scoring first not a winning formula for Flyers

He who scores first usually scores most -- unless one of the team is the Philadelphia Flyers in this year's playoffs.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Goalie - PHI
RECORD: 5-6
GAA: 3.46 | SVP: 0.887
In a League where the team that gets the first goal won more than two-thirds of the time during the regular season, the Flyers managed to lose six times in seven tries this spring after they opened the scoring. That includes all four of its losses to New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- the Flyers scored first again on Tuesday but saw their season end with a 3-1 loss in Game 5.

In all, the team that scored first in the Flyers' 11 postseason games won just once -- Philadelphia scored first and beat Pittsburgh in Game 6 to close out their first-round series. The Flyers were 4-0 when they allowed the first goal this spring, but became the first team ever to score first in all four of its losses in one series.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 4:53 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Holtby getting plenty of help

Washington goaltender Braden Holtby had to face only 20 shots in the Capitals' 3-2 win in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon. For that, he can thank the other 18 guys in the red sweaters.

While the Rangers managed to get just 20 shots on goal, Holtby's teammates blocked 26 others -- exactly half of New York's total of 52 attempted shots. The Caps did a better job of getting their shots through to the net; Washington attempted just 40 shots, but 26 of them got to Henrik Lundqvist -- and three of them went into the net.

The Rangers blocked just seven shots on Saturday after getting in front of 41 during Game 3. They had blocked 14 in each of the first two games.
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 11:17 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Preds turn into 'gang that couldn't shoot straight'

If the Nashville Predators don't get past the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Semifinals, their inability to capitalize on Grade-A chances in Game 4 will be a big reason.

Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
RECORD: 7-3
GAA: 1.85 | SVP: 0.946
Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was flawless in stopping all 25 Nashville shots that were on net in Friday night's 1-0 win. But the Predators hurt themselves even more by firing shots that were off-target -- Nashville missed the net on 14 shots, including a handful of excellent scoring chances in the second period when the Predators carried the play but couldn't cash in.

No player symbolized Nashville's off-target shooting more than Patrik Hornqvist, who ended the second period having taken eight shots at goal -- and getting none on target. He had three blocked and missed the net on the other five, including three glorious chances that saw him hit a post, fire a shot over the crossbar and push a pass from David Legwand wide of the right post.

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:49 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Brodeur enjoying overtime success this spring

Success in overtime during the playoffs has been one of the few things that has eluded Martin Brodeur during his career -- he entered this year's playoffs with a record of 12 wins and 21 losses. But as he prepares to turn 40 on Sunday, Brodeur is having the most successful overtime spring of his career.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 6-3
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: 0.917
Brodeur got the win Thursday night when Alexei Ponikarovsky's goal gave the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers and a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. It was the fourth time in their last five games that the Devils have gone to OT -- and the third victory, all with Brodeur in goal.

The three overtime wins are the most Brodeur has ever had in a single playoff year. Thursday's win was also Brodeur's first in four playoff overtime games against the Flyers, who beat him in 1995 and 2010 before doing it again in a 4-3 victory on Sunday.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 1:34 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers end OT drought in dramatic style

Maybe what the New York Rangers needed to end their overtime drought was a game for the ages.

Marian Gaborik
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 7
SOG: 23 | +/-: -1
Overtime has never been the New York Rangers' forte -- they entered Wednesday night having won just 31 of 70 playoff games that had gone past regulation and had dropped seven in a row, including two in the first round this year. One more loss would have tied the NHL for consecutive OT losses.

Instead, the Rangers ended their drought with the second-longest victory in franchise history -- no mean feat for a team that began play in 1926. Marian Gaborik's goal at 14:41 of the third overtime gave the Rangers a 2-1 win at Washington in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 10:55 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Flyers defy 'score first and win' trend

Scoring first is usually the best way to win an NHL game. Someone has failed to get the message to the Philadelphia Flyers and their opponents during this year's playoffs.

For the seventh time in the Flyers' eight games, the team that scored first lost. Unfortunately for the Flyers, they opened the scoring against New Jersey on Tuesday, but went home with a 4-1 loss in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

The team that scored first lost all five games in the Flyers' first-round series against Pittsburgh before Philadelphia closed out the Penguins after scoring the first two goals of Game 6. The Devils scored first in the series-opener on Sunday, a 4-3 overtime loss, but dominated the Flyers in Game 2 after rookie Matt Read's early goal put the Flyers ahead.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 11:11 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kreider is the toast of the town

Three weeks after leading Boston College to the NCAA championship, Chris Kreider is the toast of New York.

Kreider signed with the Rangers after BC's title game victory on April 7, and he's one of the big reasons New York beat Ottawa in the first round and leads Washington 1-0 in the second. In his six games as a pro, Kreider has a pair of game-winning goals -- including the winner in Saturday's 3-1 victory against the Caps -- making him the first Rangers rookie to get more than one in the same year since Mike Allison in 1981 to get more than one.

Kreider, the first player since John Byce in 1990 to go directly from winning an NCAA championship into the playoffs, had the winning goal and an assist in the Rangers' 3-2 win in Game 6 against Ottawa, then did the same thing on Saturday against the Caps. The 20-year-old is the youngest Ranger to score a playoff goal since Niklas Sundstrom in 1996; he's just the third player ever to score a playoff goal for New York before playing in a regular-season game for the Rangers.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 1:45 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Parade of overtime games continues

We've moved past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the deluge of overtime games shows no signs of abating.

After 16 of the 48 games in the conference quarterfinals went past regulation, the conference semis started out the same way, with Phoenix needing an extra 14:04 to beat Nashville 4-3 on Friday night in the opener of their Western Conference Semifinal series.

It was the first OT game of the playoffs for Nashville, the only team to make it to the second round without playing one. The Coyotes more than made up for it -- Phoenix tied a playoff record by going into overtime in each of its first five games against Chicago and set a Stanley Cup record by going past regulation for the sixth time in their seven games.
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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 2:53 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Flyers vs. Devils series blog

Devils enjoy first series win since 2007

Five years without winning a playoff series is a long time for a franchise that's as accustomed to success as the New Jersey Devils. That's why they hope ending their postseason drought with a first-round win against Florida is a harbinger of good things to come.

The Devils got past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007 by outlasting Florida 3-2 in double overtime on Thursday night to win Game 7 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Now it's on to Philadelphia and a rematch with the team that wiped them out in five games in the opening round two years ago.

"Winning a playoff series goes a long way," said goaltender Martin Brodeur, who made 43 saves and is now 6-4 in 10 career Game 7 starts. "I think for people it's just a confidence and sometimes you need adversity. …The first round, I think when you haven't been in the playoffs, especially the year before and it's been struggling getting out of the first round, when you get through that it feels good for a day and then after that we've got to face the Flyers."

By the time the game ended at 12:17 a.m. ET, Thursday night had turned into Friday morning -- marking the 20th anniversary of Brodeur's first NHL playoff game, on April 27, 1992 against the Rangers.

The win means that the NHL's winningest regular-season goaltender will get to spend his 40th birthday doing what he does best -- the Devils will host Philadelphia in Game 4 a week from Sunday.

With 43 saves, including a handful of series-savers, Brodeur looked as sharp as ever.

"He was outstanding, especially in the first overtime and late in the third period," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "He was our best player tonight and he had to be or we don't win."

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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 1:58 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

No place like home for Rangers

If the New York Rangers have to play a Game 7, there's nowhere else they'd rather play it than Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers rode the benefits of playing in front of their home fans to a 2-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Playing the deciding game at MSG was their reward for finishing first in the Eastern Conference -- and they'll have the same reward for as far as they go in the playoffs.

The Rangers are now 4-5 all-time in Game 7s -- 4-0 at the Garden and 0-5 on the road. The victory against the Senators was their first in a Game 7 since they held off Vancouver to win the 1994 Final. The other two Game 7 wins both came against New Jersey -- they won 8-4 in the opening round in 1992 and 2-1 in double overtime in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.

Ottawa has yet to find a way to win Game 7. The Senators have gone to a seventh game five times but have yet to win one -- in fact, they've scored just six goals in the five games.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 4-2-0
GAA: 2.06 | SVP: 0.922
Marty comes through -- Playoff overtime has never been Martin Brodeur's strong suit, but he came through in back-to-back games when the New Jersey Devils needed him most.

Brodeur made 43 saves before Adam Henrique's goal 3:47 into the second overtime gave New Jersey a 3-2 win at Florida in Game 7 on Thursday night. Brodeur and the Devils also won Game 6 in OT, giving him overtime wins in back-to-back games for the first time beating Toronto in Games 2 and 3 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Despite the two wins against Florida, Brodeur is still just 14-21 in overtime during the playoffs.

The winningest regular-season goaltender in NHL history now has won six of his 10 decisions in Game 7 -- he's 3-2 on the road and at home. Brodeur has split the two Game 7s that went into overtime; he lost to the New York Rangers in double overtime in the Eastern Conference Finals 18 years ago.

The Game 7 win against Florida came about 20 minutes after Thursday night turned into Friday morning -- and April 27 is the 20th anniversary of Brodeur's first Stanley Cup Playoff game, an 8-5 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their first-round series in 1992.

Fitting conclusion
-- It was appropriate that the first round of the playoffs ended with the longest game of the record 16 contests to go into overtime.

Adam Henrique
Center - NJD
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 10 | +/-: 1
Henrique's goal at 23:47 of overtime concluded an opening round that saw exactly one-third of the 48 games played go past regulation. It's the most OT games ever in the opening round -- and puts the NHL on track to break the record of 28 overtime games in a single playoff year, set in 1993.

Of the eight series in the conference quarterfinals, only one -- Detroit-Nashville -- didn't have at least one overtime game. Phoenix and Chicago tied a record when they went to extra time in each of the first five games, and the Washington-Boston series had four OT contests.

That the visiting Devils won Thursday night shouldn't have come as a surprise. Road teams won 12 of the 16 overtime games -- and all three that went into a second extra period.

20 and counting -- The departure of the Senators means that the Stanley Cup will be staying south of the 49th parallel again. Not since the Montreal Canadiens beat Los Angeles in 1993 has a Canadian-based team taken home the Cup. This is the first year since 1996 that the final eight in the playoffs don't include a Canadian team.

Ottawa's loss also kept another streak intact. Since the current playoff format was adopted for the 1993-94 season, we haven't had both No. 8 seeds win. Los Angeles became the 12th No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed by eliminating Vancouver, but the Senators came up a goal short in their effort to oust the Rangers, the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

First-round review -- No sweeps. Three seven-game series. Domination by visiting teams. Such was the first round of this year's playoffs.

For the second time in three years, all eight conference quarterfinals went more than four games. Three -- all in the West -- were decided in five games. Two others went six games and three Eastern Conference series went to the limit, the second time that's happened in as many years.

The Vancouver Canucks became the 10th top seed in a conference to fail to get out of the first round when Los Angeles beat them in five games. Boston became the second straight defending champ to be knocked out in the first round when it lost to Washington.

The trend of road teams dominating the opening round continued -- the guys in the white sweaters won 30 of the 48 games, the third year in a row visiting teams have won more than they've lost in the first round. None of the eight winning teams was perfect at home.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 10:26 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Coyotes will be rested for Game 1

Not only did the Phoenix Coyotes win their first playoff series since 1987 when they eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night, they earned themselves some much-needed rest.

After beating the Hawks in a grueling six-game series that saw the first five go into overtime, Phoenix got a welcome three-day break before the Nashville Predators come to the desert to open their Western Conference Semifinal series on Friday night.

Instead of practicing on Wednesday, the Coyotes held a team meeting instead. A few players took the ice while others received treatment or worked out. Coach Dave Tippett put his team through a practice on Thursday in preparation for the series opener on Friday night. He anticipates having everyone available for Game 1 except suspended forward Raffi Torres.

The four remaining teams in the West have a combined total of four appearances in the Stanley Cup Final -- three by St. Louis from 1968-70 and one by Los Angeles in 1993. Neither the Coyotes nor the Predators have gotten past the second round.

But both Phoenix and Nashville are here after eliminating Original Six teams -- Chicago and Detroit. The Predators have been off since beating the Wings in five games last Friday.

"It helps the grassroots. You get excitement," Tippett said of the turnover on top of the conference. "New blood in there, the more teams we can get to that element, I think that's great for the League."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 11:33 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Caps and Bruins finish off a series to remember

It will go down as the tightest series in NHL history -- and for the Boston Bruins, one of the most disappointing.

Braden Holtby
Goalie - WSH
RECORD: 4-3-0
GAA: 2.00 | SVP: 0.940
Boston's reign as Stanley Cup champs came to a stunning end Wednesday night when Joel Ward scored 2:57 into overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 victory in Game 7, sending the Caps onto the second round and the Bruins home for the summer.

It's the first seven-game series in Stanley Cup history in which every game was decided by a single goal -- no other series had had more than five one-goal games. For all but a 2:54 span late in the second period of Game 5, neither team led by more than one goal at any point in the seven games -- meaning that for 427:34 of the 430:28 played in the series, the teams were tied or separated by one goal. 
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 11:59 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Plenty of overtime again this spring

If playoff overtime is your thing, this year's opening round has been a moveable feast.

New Jersey's 3-2 victory against Florida on Tuesday marked the 14th time in 45 games so far during this spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs that the teams were unable to decide matters in the regulation 60 minutes. That equals the number of first-round overtime games a year ago, which ended with 22 of the 89 games being decided in OT. It's also the same number of first-round overtimes as 1993, which ended with a record 28 games going into OT.

Extra time has not been kind to home teams this spring. The Devils became only the fourth home team in the 14 OT games to win when Travis Zajac scored at 5:39 of the first overtime. 
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 12:43 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Penguins one step closer to making history

The Pittsburgh Penguins had never won a Game 5 in a series when they trailed 3-0 until they beat Philadelphia 3-2 on Friday night. They're hoping for some more firsts in the next few days.

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 8
SOG: 10 | +/-: 0
Now that they've won two games after losing the first three games of a series, they'll try to pull even on Sunday (noon ET; NBC, CBC). If they do, they'll get a chance to become only the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0.

Including Pittsburgh and Vancouver this year, 170 teams have lost the first three games in a best-of-seven series. The Penguins are just the 15th to get as far as a sixth game -- Vancouver will try to do it against Los Angeles on Saturday.

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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 1:51 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Another line in the record book for Brodeur

Martin Brodeur took over another line in the NHL record book on Thursday night.

The NHL's all-time regular-season leader in wins and shutouts added the record for most Stanley Cup shutouts to his Hall of Fame resume by stopping all 26 Florida shots in New Jersey's 4-0 victory in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Shutout No. 24 broke a tie with Patrick Roy that had existed since Brodeur blanked Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was just his fourth in the last nine years since a 3-0 victory against Anaheim in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. That shutout was the last of seven he had while leading the Devils to their third championship in nine years.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:28 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Penguins-Flyers series a goaltender's nightmare

Conventional wisdom is that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about tight checking and great goaltending. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers obviously didn't get the message.

After a season in which the average NHL game saw a combined total of roughly 5.3 (non-shootout) goals, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have shattered the record for the most goals scored in the first four games of a series. The Penguins' 10-3 win on Wednesday brought the total to 45 -- one more than the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks scored in the first four games of the 1985 Campbell Conference Finals.

But the Oilers and Hawks played run-and-gun in a free-scoring era -- the average regular-season game in 1984-85 featured nearly 7.8 goals per game, nearly 50 percent more than this season's average. To have two teams averaging nearly double the number of goals scored in the regular season in such a tight-checking era is nearly incomprehensible.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 10:00 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Road warriors having their way in playoffs

After a one-night interruption, the road-ice advantage in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs was back in evidence on Monday night.

Home teams won three of four games on Sunday. But the guys in the white sweaters were in charge again on Monday, winning all three games to give visitors 14 wins in the 22 games played so far. Home teams have won exactly one game in each of the eight series.

Contrast that to the regular season, when home teams were 687-399-144, a winning percentage of .551.

Road teams appear to be on their way to winning more than half of the first-round games for the third year in a row. Home teams haven't been over .500 in the first round since going 24-20 in 2008-09.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 2:26 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Home ice no edge thus far in playoffs

Remember the home-ice advantage? The thing everyone is so desperate for in the playoffs? Four days into this year's postseason, home ice has been anything but an advantage.

With 15 games in the books, home teams have won all of five contests. None of the eight teams that opened with two games at home won both of them -- and two visiting teams, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, swept both games.

For all the effort teams put into getting the home-ice advantage, it hasn't been much of an edge in the opening round in the last couple of seasons. Home teams went just 22-27 in the first round last spring and were just 23-26 in 2009-10. The last time home teams were above .500 in the opening round was 2008-09, when they won 24 of the 44 games played.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:07 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Flyers' comebacks have them in control

Maybe the Philadelphia Flyers ought to let the Pittsburgh Penguins just start the game with a couple of goals to get the preliminaries out of the way.

Friday night marked the fourth time in less than four weeks that the Penguins jumped to a multiple-goal lead against the Flyers -- and lost. On Wednesday, they led 3-0 and lost 4-3 in overtime; on Friday, they led 2-0 and 3-1, only to be beaten 8-5.

Three of the Flyers' four comebacks have come in Pittsburgh, where the Flyers are 7-1-0 at the two-year-old Consol Energy Center.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 10:51 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

It only took 77 years ...

Halley's Comet comes around every 76 years -- or almost as often as the Boston Bruins win a playoff game 1-0 in overtime.

The Bruins did just that in their playoff opener on Thursday, beating the Washington Capitals on Chris Kelly's goal 1:18 into overtime after the teams battled through 60 scoreless minutes of regulation. The last time Boston won 1-0 in overtime in a playoff game was 77 years ago -- March 25, 1935, when Dit Clapper scored 3:26 into the second extra period.

It was the first 1-0 overtime game involving the Bruins since they lost 1-0 to New Jersey in the first round in 1995 -- and the first one ever for the Caps.

One reason for the Bruins' victory was their continuing ability to shut down Alex Ovechkin, who entered Thursday with the fourth-highest points-per-game average in playoff history. Ovi led the Caps with seven hits but had only one shot on goal and has now managed just one goal in his last nine games against Boston since the start of the 2010-11 season.

Tim Terrific -- Tim Thomas started the 2012 postseason the way he ended the playoffs last year -- perfect.

Thomas wasn't severely tested in the Bruins' win against Washington, but he was flawless in stopping all 17 shots he faced before Chris Kelly's game-winner 1:18 into overtime. It was the sixth playoff shutout of his career and his second in a row -- he ended last season by putting up a zero in Boston's 4-0 win at Vancouver in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Thomas, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner this past spring, has stopped the last 58 shots he's faced in a span of 123 minutes and 44 seconds since Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre scored with 2:26 remaining in Game 6.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 10:52 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Flyers' rally should come as no surprise

Turnabout was fair play for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The last time the Flyers played the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, on April 25, 2009, they led 3-0 in Game 6 and were less than 40 minutes away from forcing a seventh and deciding game -- only to have the Penguins score five unanswered goals for a series-ending 5-3 win.

The Pennsylvania rivals hadn't met in the playoffs since that afternoon -- until the Flyers exacted some revenge in the opener of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Wednesday. This time, it was the Flyers who overcame a 3-0 deficit -- rookie Brayden Schenn's third-period power-play goal forced overtime and Jakub Voracek's goal 2:23 into OT gave Philadelphia a 4-3 win.

On one hand, the comeback shouldn't have come as a surprise -- Philadelphia was the only team to win three regular-season games after trailing by three goals (there were only 17 other games in which it happened this season) -- and this was the third time in four meetings with the Penguins since March 18 that the Penguins saw a multiple-goal lead against Philadelphia turn into a loss.
 
The three-goal comeback was the sixth in Stanley Cup play by the Flyers -- and the first since their historic rally from a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 of the 2010 conference semifinals against Boston, a game they came back to win 4-3 to cap a comeback after losing the first three games of the series.

But the loss had to be a shock for the Penguins and their fans. Pittsburgh had won 28 of the last 29 playoff games it led after two periods and was 32-0-3 during the regular season when taking a lead into the third period, as well as 29-0-0 when leading by three goals at any point in the game. The last time the Penguins led after two periods in a playoff game and didn't win was May 6, 2010, when they took a 2-1 lead into the third period of Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Montreal and allowed two quick goals in a 3-2 loss.

Preds get the jump
-- For the first time, the Nashville Predators actually lead the Detroit Red Wings in a playoff series.

The Wings ended Nashville's season by beating the Predators in the first round in 2004 (the first time Nashville qualified for the postseason) and again in 2008. In both series, the Wings never trailed.

But both of those series began in Detroit -- this year's Western Conference Quarterfinal series began at Bridgestone Arena, where the Predators got two goals by rookie Gabriel Bourque and held off the Wings 3-2 to take their first-ever series lead on Detroit.

The Predators have won Game 1 in four of the eight playoff series since entering the NHL 12 years ago. The Wings, playing in their 116th postseason series, fell to 63-52 1 in Game 1s.

If history is any guide, one thing not to expect in this series is a sweep -- Nashville has never been involved in a series that went less than five games. Nor have the Predators ever played a seven-game series; they've had two five-game series and six that have gone six games.

Two of Detroit's top stars reached individual milestones. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom joined Hall of Famer Larry Robinson as the only players to take part in the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons when he stepped onto the ice for his first shift -- the Wings have never missed the playoffs since Lidstrom joined them in 1991. It was his 260th playoff game, six short of Chris Chelios' all-time record. Forward Henrik Zetterberg's second-period goal was his 50th in Stanley Cup play, as well as his 100th point; he's the 53rd player to score 50 playoff goals and the 80th to hit triple figures in points.

First time's the charm
-- Wednesday marked the start of the fifth playoff series between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks -- and for the first time, the Kings will go into Game 2 with a lead in the series.

Though the teams had split their first four series, the Canucks had won the opener in all four until late goals by Dustin Penner and Dustin Brown gave the Kings a 4-2 win at Rogers Arena on Wednesday.

It's hard to say which was more unusual, Los Angeles winning a series opener or Vancouver losing one.
For the Kings, it was the first Game 1 victory since they beat Colorado 4-3 in the opener of their second-round series in 2001. To find the last time the Kings won a series-opener in regulation, you have to go back to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, when they beat Montreal 4-1 at the Forum.

The Canucks, in contrast, had won their last eight series openers -- all four last year and a pair in both 2009 and 2010 (including their first-round series against L.A.). Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was 9-1 in series openers as a Canuck before the loss.

Vancouver hopes it can turn history on its head in Game 2 the way the Kings did in Game 1 -- while the Canucks had won the four previous series-openers against L.A., the Kings have won Game 2 in all four series against Vancouver.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 3:40 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Boucher philosophical about realignment

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- After having a chance to digest the realignment setup agreed to at the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Monday, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher was philosophical.

"I woke up and thought, 'Let's just build a practice rink in Vermont. That's a good solution,'" he said with a smile during a Tuesday media scrum.

Under the new setup, the Lightning and Florida Panthers are grouped with Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. The demise of the Southeast Division will mean fewer trips to Carolina and Washington and plenty of time in New England, Western New York and Eastern Canada.

"It's difficult to understand why Carolina, which is an hour away, is not in our conference," he said, "We've built a rivalry with Washington and they're gone too. 

"Let's not kid ourselves -- we're going to have more travel, and we're going to have to deal with it."

But Boucher also said he realizes that trying to juggle an alignment that would make all 30 teams happy was going to be impossible.

"I'm sure the League worked extremely hard trying to do something that makes sense -- and it's difficult to make sense of 'not enough teams for here and there,' and you're stuck," he said. "I can see how difficult it must have been for them to make something that made sense, to keep the rivalries.

"You look at Boston -- they're pretty close to the other teams and could have been in the other division, but they've got rivalries with Buffalo and Montreal, the old Adams Division. Do you want to separate Pittsburgh and Philly? I think it was very difficult for them to decide what to do."

One thing Boucher said is sure to continue is that his team will be a popular destination for teams to bring their fathers along on road trips.

"We'll see that all year long," he said. "Everyone's got their 'Father's Trip' in Tampa."

 
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 2:46 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bolts' scoring woes not for lack of chances

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning bring a four-game losing streak to the Nassau Coliseum for tonight's game against the New York Islanders. They've scored just seven goals in those games, including two each in 4-2 losses to the New York Rangers at home on Saturday and at Ottawa on Monday.

But coach Guy Boucher feels his team is doing a lot of things right -- except for putting the puck in the net.

"At the beginning of the year, on the road, we were horrible," Boucher said. "Plain and simple -- all over the place. The work ethic wasn't there. The relentlessness wasn't there, the physicality wasn't there. We were getting some chances, but not like now. Now, it's ridiculous -- our games could be 5-1 after two periods. That's frustrating -- to miss those goals.

“During the game, it's frustrating -- and when I look at the video it's really frustrating. You can't believe the goals that we've missed; it's unreal. We've had more scoring chances than even last year -- just ridiculous."

It's not that the Lightning lack firepower -- Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis are three of the best offensive players in the NHL. But for whatever reason, the pucks haven't been going in.

"I don't remember coaching a team that has misfired that much," Boucher said. "Look at Stammer -- he was wide-open, the puck on his stick, the goalie wasn't even there, but something happens and it trickles. That's just one of them.

"We're missing these goals, and that comes with swagger and swagger comes with results. It's a vicious circle. But one thing's for sure: We're playing great. If we keep at it and stick to it and continue working at the small details, we'll be a much better team, because once the (puck) goes in and we correct these little things … we can hope for good things."

The Lightning led 2-1 in the third period of the games against the Rangers and Senators, but allowed three goals each time and went home empty-handed -- dropping them to 11-13-2 and 13th place in the Eastern Conference.

"If we want to win games, we have to make sure we check in those moments," Boucher said. "Both those games -- one with three minutes left, one with four minutes left -- you go into overtime and lose, it's still a point and a point, like winning one of the two games, and those points are big."

After former Islander Dwayne Roloson played in Ottawa on Monday, Mathieu Garon will start in goal for the Lightning, who again will be without defenseman Pavel Kubina, out with a lower-body injury. Tampa Bay recalled Evan Oberg from the AHL Norfolk Admirals for the game -- they acquired Oberg just four days ago in a four-player swap with Florida.

Forward Adam Hall, a scratch in the last two games, is likely to dress -- "there's a big chance he plays," Boucher said. "Big, big chance."

 
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 11:36 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Moulson still savoring four-goal night

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Three days after the biggest game of his NHL career, New York Islanders forward Matt Moulson was still all smiles.

"It was a lot of fun -- one of those games where everything seemed to bounce my way," Moulson said after Tuesday's morning skate before the Islanders' game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. "My linemates obviously made some unbelievable plays as well."

Moulson became the first player this season to score four in a game when he did it Saturday night in Dallas, helping the Islanders beat the Stars 5-4. Linemates John Tavares and PA Parenteau each had three assists.

The 28-year-old said he had a sense after his second goal in the first period that Saturday could be a special night.

"After the second one -- I'm still trying to figure out how it bounced like it did, right to me for the open net," he said. "After that, I said 'maybe things are bouncing my way tonight.'"

The big night gave Moulson six goals in three games, earning him the NHL's First Star of the Week -- and giving him bragging rights over his brother-in-law, Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick, who earned the Third Star.

"I told him bronze is all right," Moulson said with a laugh.

On a more serious note, he said the honor was a testament to his linemates.

"They've been playing great," he said. "All the goals I got during the week were a result of some pretty great plays by them."

Said Tavares: "It's a pretty great honor. He deserves it. [In Dallas] Mollie was right in the right spots, finding those loose pucks -- and he's not going to miss those too often."

 

 

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 11:24 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Isles juggle combinations as injury bug bites

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Al Montoya will be back in goal for the New York Islanders on Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. But the injuries that came home with the Islanders along with three wins and a shootout loss on their four-game road trip will force some shuffling in front of him.

Forwards Michael Grabner (groin) and Nino Niederreiter (concussion), both of whom were injured in Saturday's 5-4 win at Dallas, are out tonight. So is defenseman Andrew MacDonald, whose injured leg kept him out of games at Chicago and Dallas and will sideline him for at least another two weeks.

Rookie goaltender Kevin Poulin is up from AHL Bridgeport to back up Montoya after Rick DiPietro left Saturday’s game after two periods with a groin injury. The Isles' third veteran goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov, is still recovering from a groin injury sustained on Nov. 17. He has resumed skating, and Isles coach Jack Capuano said the team will know more tomorrow.

"Andrew will be out an extended period, and Nino is still going through all the phases with the concussion," Capuano said after the optional morning skate. "Grabs is definitely out. He's day-to-day. He didn't skate this morning."

Capuano isn't sure exactly who will play with whom.

"We're throwing it around a little bit," he said. "We'll probably move [Brian] Rolston up to start the game with Kyle [Okposo] and Frans [Nielsen]."

The Islanders called up forward Tim Wallace from Bridgeport. He'll dress along with center Michael Haley, a healthy scratch for the past three games. Defenseman Dylan Reese, called up to replace McDonald over the weekend, will also play.

The Islanders are back at the Nassau Coliseum after going 3-0-1 on a four-game trip that included wins in New Jersey, Buffalo and Dallas plus a shootout loss in Chicago.


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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 6:24 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Isles to dress Niederreiter, sit Okposo

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – 2010 first-round pick Nino Niederreiter will make his season debut Tuesday night for the New York Islanders. 2006 first-rounder Kyle Okposo will sit.

Niederreiter rejoined the team after his two-week conditioning stint with AHL Bridgeport ended following Sunday’s game. The 19-year-old from Switzerland looked good in preseason, mostly skating with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, but went down with a groin injury in the late stages of camp. He skated Tuesday morning and said he “felt great.”

Coach Jack Capuano hinted at the morning skate that Niederreiter, the fifth player taken in the 2010 NHL Draft, would dress, but made no commitment and didn’t hint who might sit in his stead. The odd man out turned out to be Okposo, who has no goals, three assists and a minus-7 rating in 14 games. Okposo, the seventh player chosen in 2006, started the season on the second line with Frans Nielsen in the middle and Michael Grabner on the left, but was dropped down to the third line when Capuano remodeled his lines 10 days ago.

The Islanders hope Niederreiter can provide them with a spark – they are 1-6-3 in their last 10 games since beating the Rangers 4-2 in their big-city rivals’ last visit to the Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 15. Since then. The Rangers are 9-2-1, including their current six-game winning streak.

Capuano will also make a change on defense, dressing Milan Jurcina and scratching Mark Eaton.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 12:40 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Tortorella delighted with Gaborik’s play

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- New York Rangers coach John Tortorella has had his ups and downs with high-scoring forward Marian Gaborik during their two-plus seasons together. As the Rangers head into tonight's visit to the Nassau Coliseum, they're definitely on the ups.

Not only is Gaborik leading the Rangers with 9 goals and 15 points, he has, in Tortorella's eyes, been the Rangers' most consistent player through the first six weeks of the season -- a stretch that includes New York's current six-game winning streak.

Scoring never has been a problem for Gaborik, a two-time 42-goal scorer – including 2009-10, his first season with the Rangers. It's been the other areas of the game that Tortorella says have seen the most improvement.

"Where I think he's made tremendous improvement is his play away from the puck -- the back pressure, being in the right position when he doesn't have the puck," Tortorella said after the morning skate at the Coliseum. "I think he's finding out that when we play better team defense, we have the puck more."

Gaborik took a lot of heat from Tortorella last season, when he slumped from 42 goals to 22. Now, he's on pace to surpass his career high in goals this season -- and his plus-8 rating is second on the team and tops among forwards.

"He's a proud man. He's a good man, and he did not like how it worked out last year," Tortorella said. "You could sense that he was going to have a really good year. He's certainly off to a very good start."

Tortorella said most of the coaching he and his staff do is team-oriented, rather than working with individual players, and gave Gaborik the credit for his improved play.

"It comes down to the player's willingness to do it and realizing it does work, as far as playing good defense to help out your offense," he said of Gaborik's improvement without the puck.

"He's a smart guy. Ever since I met him, and that was three years ago, he's asked questions. You can tell that he's engaged. I think there's a motivation there with Gabby, where he wants to help his team get to the next level. He knows he has the ability; it's just a matter of consistently doing it."
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 11:50 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Niederreiter's back, but will he play?

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Nino Niederreiter's two-week conditioning stint with the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers is over -- he scored goals in each of his last three games. The New York Islanders' top pick in the 2010 NHL Draft is back on Long Island, but coach Jack Capuano won't commit to playing him in Tuesday night's game against the New York Rangers.

In fact, Capuano wouldn't commit to what his lines would look like when his team takes the ice tonight, other than that Evgeni Nabokov will make his second straight start in goal, with Al Montoya as his backup.

"I think that he can bring an element of size and physicality to our lineup," Capuano said of the 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward, who looked good in training camp before suffering a groin injury. "What I'd like to see him do is like all the other guys -- play within the team structure but play loose and enjoy yourself."

There hasn't been much to enjoy on the Island lately. The Islanders are mired in a 1-6-3 slump that began after a 4-2 victory against the Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 15. That includes an 0-2-1 road trip that ended with a 4-1 loss at Vancouver on Sunday night.

"Some guys are squeezing their sticks right now," Capuano said. "As bad as the last couple of weeks (have been), we've had some chances; we’re just not scoring."

As for what he's looking for from Niederreiter, whether it's tonight or later in the week?

"I want him to play like he played at Bridgeport," Capuano said. "He worked hard and got himself back to where he needed to be.

"Obviously he's had some success in junior hockey; he scored some big goals. For us -- top nine, with some power-play time. He's got quick hands for a big guy. Hopefully we'll get some pucks to the net, he'll get to the net and good things will happen."

Niederreiter spent nine games with the Islanders last season before being returned to Portland of the Western Hockey League. The Islanders could send him back again, but he wants to make the kind of impression that will keep him on Long Island for good.

"I'm excited to be back here," he said. "If I get the chance tonight, hopefully I can score.

"I'm just trying to do the best I can every night to show (GM) Garth (Snow) that I can stay here and he can't send me down. This is definitely where I want to be."

 
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 2:06 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Tavares excited to play with Grabner

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – John Tavares knows he’d better get his legs going early tonight.
 
With the New York Islanders mired in a six-game losing streak and having scored a League-low 18 goals in 11 games, coach Jack Capuano reshuffled his lines for Saturday night against the Washington Capitals. For Tavares, who has scored seven of New York’s goals and assisted on four others, it means replacing right wing PA Parenteau with Michael Grabner.
 
Not only did Grabner score 34 goals as a rookie last season, but he also won the fastest skater competition at All-Star Weekend in January.
 
The third-year center is looking forward to playing with Grabner and regular linemate Matt Moulson in the reshuffled pairings.
 
“I think it will be good – a little bit of a different mindset,” Tavares said Saturday morning. “As much as we’ve been getting opportunities, we haven’t been getting results. Sometimes you just need a different look, a clean slate, a different mindset to breed some confidence and excitement into everybody.”
 
With the Isles having been blanked in two of their last three games and scoring just seven goals during the six-game slide, Tavares said the Islanders have to look at the shuffle in a positive light.
 
“You have to take it that way,” he said. “We’ve been playing pretty well – although it’s easy to say you’re playing well when you’re not winning. We’ve been creating a lot of opportunities; we just haven’t been able to find the net. Hopefully some new chemistry, some new looks will bring some of the success and results we’re looking for.”
 
Having Grabner instead of Parenteau will mean some changes for Tavares.
 
“It is a little bit [different],” he said. “You have guys who do things differently and play different styles. It’s not really going to change my game, but for sure it will be a little different.
 
“I’m looking forward to playing with [Grabner]. It should be fun.”
 
There hasn’t been a lot of fun on Long Island for the past three weeks – the Isles haven’t won since beating the Rangers 4-2 on Oct. 15. Tavares said the Islanders need to go back to what they were doing in the early stages of the season, which saw them win three in a row before the current slump.
 
“I think sometimes when you’re trying to make the perfect play or the perfect shot, that starts putting you in trouble,” he told NHL.com. “You’re not going to get those opportunities every night. A lot of the goals you see on the highlights come from just putting pucks on the net and maybe you get a loose rebound or it goes off a skate and in – and that can get you going.
 
“Then everything comes more easily. You play more simple and you do the right thing. People say ‘you’re working too hard,’ but I feel it’s more like you’re trying to complicate things more than you should. You need to keep it simple and do the little things that will start to build your confidence and breed success.”
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 12:13 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Caps not taking Islanders for granted

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Washington Capitals have owned the New York Islanders in recent years. They swept the season series against the Isles in 2010-11 and have 11 wins and three overtime/shootout losses in the last 14 meetings.

The Caps are also 9-2-0 and averaging four goals a game after a 5-1 win Friday at Carolina. The Islanders have gone six games without a win and are last in the NHL with just 18 goals scored.
But don't try to tell coach Bruce Boudreau or his players that tonight's visit to the Nassau Coliseum will be easy -- after all, eight of the last 14 games between the teams have gone past regulation and 11, including all four last season, were decided by one goal.

"I never take these guys lightly," Boudreau said. "They are as tough a team as we play, no matter what they've gone through. You look at their lineup and you have a hard time believing that so many good players have not got very many goals. You watch the last three games -- they worked so hard, you just know they're going to break out. You just pray it's not against you."

Forward Mike Knuble warned that the Caps can't just take the Islanders' record at face value.

"That's a trap you fall into," he said. "You look at their record and you see they haven't scored a lot of goals and it's very easy to think you're going to have another night like last night. They show up and play hard against us. They can put you on your heels very quickly.

"They'll come out buzzing -- we know that. You can talk about it and know it's going to happen, but you have to be prepared for it."

In addition to solid goaltending, scheduling and a bit of luck, Boudreau said his team's depth offensively is a major reason for the fast start.

"We've had pretty good balance, where if some guys aren't going, other guys are going,” Boudreau said. “We haven't had a game as yet where we've had 15 guys just not going. That's been a positive thing."

For the Islanders to snap their slide, they'll have to beat a goaltender who has given them fits throughout his career. Tomas Vokoun is 7-1-0 in his first season with the Caps -- and 14-5-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average and four shutouts in his career against the Isles.

Here is the projected lineup for the Capitals:

Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromAlexander Semin
Troy BrouwerMarcus JohanssonCody Eakin/Mathieu Perreault
Jason ChimeraBrooks LaichJoel Ward
Matt HendricksJeff HalpernMike Knuble

Roman HamrlikJohn Carlson
Jeff SchultzKarl Alzner
John ErskineDennis Wideman

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Saturday, 11.05.2011 / 10:55 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

DiPietro to start again; Isles shake up lines

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Rick DiPietro will get his third straight start when the New York Islanders play host to the Washington Capitals tonight, but the cast in front of him has been rearranged. With his team mired in a six-game losing streak and stuck in an offensive slump, coach Jack Capuano has completely revamped his lines.

John Tavares, who has seven of the Isles' 18 goals, will center the top line with Matt Moulson on the right side and Michael Grabner moving up and playing on the left. Frans Nielsen, Grabner's usual center, will have PA Parenteau, Tavares' regular right wing, and Brian Rolston, who moves up from the third line, on the left.

Marty Reasoner moves from the fourth line to the third and will center Blake Comeau and Kyle Okposo -- who usually plays with Nielsen and Grabner. Josh Bailey, who hasn't had a point in 11 games this season, will center a fourth line with Jay Pandolfo and Matt Martin.

"Obviously we haven't been scoring many goals," Capuano said. "We've got to do something."

Capuano did not tell his players about the changes until this morning; Friday's practice was run using the pairings that the Isles had maintained through their first 11 games.

"It doesn't matter who you play with," he said. "You have to do the little things."

DiPietro will make his third straight start, with Al Montoya dressing as his backup. Evgeni Nabokov continues to recover from a lower-body injury; Capuano said he's close to being at full strength and will skate Sunday.

The Capitals, who come to Nassau Coliseum with a 9-2-0 record after winning 5-1 at Carolina on Saturday, probably wouldn't be Capuano's choice of opponent as his team goes for its first win in three weeks. The Caps won their first seven games, lost at Edmonton and Vancouver, then bounced back by beating Anaheim and Carolina this week. They are also 11-0-3 in their last 14 games against the Isles.

"They have some guys who are obviously very skilled. Time and space are something that we have to take away as much as we can," Capuano said when asked about slowing down an attack that includes Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. "We can't let their fourth man beat us up the ice. We have to be very disciplined in our own end."
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Islanders:
 
Michael GrabnerJohn TavaresMatt Moulson
Brian RolstonFrans NielsenPA Parenteau
Blake ComeauMarty ReasonerKyle Okposo
Matt MartinJosh BaileyJay Pandolfo

Mark StreitSteve Staios
Andrew MacDonaldTravis Hamonic
Mark EatonMilan Jurcina

Rick DiPietro
Al Montoya

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Posted On Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 8:07 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings give Quick the night off

The NHL's reigning Player of the Week will be wearing a baseball cap instead of a goalie's mask on Tuesday night.

Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said Jonathan Quick, who's riding a streak of three consecutive shutouts, will be the backup when the New Jersey Devils come to the Staples Center on Tuesday night.

Murray said at Tuesday's morning skate that he made the decision prior to Quick's 28-save, 1-0 victory against Dallas on Saturday night.

"He’s got to play. Quick can’t play 82 games," Murray told the media. "We’ve got 17 games here in front of us until the end of the month (of November). Fifteen are conference games. So what do you do? Am I going to wait until December, when we have five Eastern Conference games, and get him in then? He’s got to play. He’s a good goalie and he played great for us in the second half of the year last year. We’ve got a lot of big games right in front of us now, so it’s time to start putting him into some games.

"The decision was made Saturday morning. It’s not like it was after Quick’s third shutout. It was before, to give him a heads up. It was fair to give him an opportunity to think about it over the weekend, the day off on Sunday, and come in to work hard yesterday in practice. There’s no second-guessing this one for me. It’s just time for him to get playing again.”

Bernier said he's not feeling any extra pressure because of Quick's hot streak, which has seen the former UMass star keep opponents off the scoreboard for 188:10.

"First of all I was happy for him, but then I wasn’t sure if I was still going to be in net tonight,"  he told Rich Hammond of Kings Insider. "But I guess he [Murray] kept his word, and I’m happy to be back in.”

One player who won't be in the lineup is defenseman Drew Doughty, who's eligible to come off IR but isn't ready. He's been out since Oct. 15 with a shoulder injury.

Murray said Doughty was scheduled to see the doctor today and could be back by the end of the week.

“The opportunity will probably be tonight, to see the doctor at the rink," he said. "We plan on taking him with us on the road trip, kind of shooting for the end of the week here as a possibility.” The Kings hit the road after the game against the Devils -- they play at Dallas on Thursday, at Phoenix on Saturday and at Colorado on Sunday.



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Posted On Monday, 10.10.2011 / 12:15 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Montoya gets second start for Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Al Montoya will be in goal again for the New York Islanders when they host the Minnesota Wild on Monday afternoon.

Montoya, a midseason pickup in 2010-11 who played well in the final weeks of the season, allowed two goals on 29 shots in Saturday's season-opening 2-0 loss to Florida. He got the start ahead of veterans Rick DiPietro and Evgeni Nabokov in the opener and will do so again against the Wild.

"There's no statement (being made). Al got the start on Saturday and he played extremely well," coach Jack Capuano told the media before the game. "You can't win playing the way we played. We'll go with the same lineup and hope it works out. If not, there'll be changes, for sure."

Despite being out-played for most of the first two periods by the Panthers, the Isles plan no lineup changes against the Wild, who opened their season Saturday with a 4-2 victory at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 5:29 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Streit survives day one

SYOSSET, N.Y.Mark Streit was sweaty but smiling.

Nearly a year after his 2010-11 season was ended before it began because of a shoulder injury sustained during an intrasquad scrimmage, Mark Streit took the ice Saturday on the opening day of New York Islanders training camp. Not even a workout that forward Matt Mouston tweeted was "hardest training camp day in my 6 years of pro.... no messing around this year," could take the smile off Streit's face.

"It was a good short-but-hard first day. Everybody's in shape, and it was a good atmosphere out there," Streit said. "I can't wait to skate tomorrow and Monday."

The Isles' No. 1 defenseman said he's been skating for "five or six weeks" before camp and said he had "the same rust" that he usually does when starting out a new season.

"I'm in good shape and great spirits," he said. "As you can imagine, I'm very excited for training camp, for the first preseason game and for the first regular-season game."

He did admit he expected to have a few butterflies when he steps on the ice for his first game – the Islanders start their preseason schedule Friday night in Boston, then host New Jersey the next night.

"For sure," he said. "It's always special to play the first preseason game, and obviously the first regular-season game. For me, it's going to be even more than that because I didn't play for so long. It was painful – it was torture not to play and help out the guys.

"I worked really hard, so I'm really, really excited finally to practice with the guys, to be in the locker room, to play in training camp and then to start the new season."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 4:17 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Nabokov returns

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- Evgeni Nabokov looked at the tumult around him in the New York Islanders locker room and smiled.

Nabokov, the winningest goaltender in the history of the San Jose Sharks, is trying to re-start his NHL career at age 36 after a season that began in the KHL and ended with him signing with Detroit, being claimed on waivers by the Islanders and opting not to report.

The Islanders retained his rights for this season. Now he's one of six goaltenders – and easily the oldest – looking for a job. It's something he hasn't had to do for more than a decade, but he said the pressure to perform is nothing new.
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 2:30 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Tavares says its time to grow up

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- John Tavares has cast his lot with the Islanders, committing himself through the 2017-18 season after signing a six-year contract this week.

He's glad to have all the hubbub about his future out of the way.

"I'm excited about it," he said after the first day of training camp at Iceworks, "but it's kind of nice to put it all behind me and move on, get ready for the season. It was an emotional week; there was a lot going on. It's nice to kind of catch up on some rest and get ready for the season."

After four years of missing the playoffs, he also feels it's time for one of the NHL's youngest teams to start turning talent and promise into results.

"We have to approach it that way," he said when asked about the importance of moving ahead after back-to-back 13th-place finishes in the East. "There's only so long when you can gain experience and go things and feel like you can make mistakes and learn from them.

"Obviously it's still going to happen -- we're still growing in a lot of ways. But it's time to move on and really use training camp to get us ready for the season. We need to be more consistent and put it together for 82 games."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 2:13 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Whole new world for Rolston

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- At age 38, Brian Rolston is starting over -- and he's doing it with one of the NHL's youngest teams.

Rolston is one of the new faces on Long Island this fall after being acquired from New Jersey in an offseason deal. After one day of camp, he likes what he sees.

"There's so much talent here," he said. "It's a matter of guys taking that talent and taking a leadership role and moving forward. (Matt) Moulson, (John) Tavares -- you can go around the whole room. There are skilled young players. It's time to take that next step; really take control and be leaders on the ice.”

General manager Garth Snow brought Rolston to the Island partly to provide some veteran leadership -- Rolston's career includes a Stanley Cup with New Jersey and success internationally with Team USA.

"Guys have really embraces having me here," Roslton said.

But Rolston doesn't feel he's the only leader.

"We can all be leaders and move this franchise forward," he said. "We want to compete for the Stanley Cup, and we have to take that one game at a time. That should be our goal."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 2:09 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Capuano in no hurry to name goalies

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- With six goaltenders in camp, five of whom have NHL experience, Islanders coach Jack Capuano will have some decisions to make. For now, though, he's in no rush.

Capuano told the media after Saturday's initial practice at Iceworks that he hasn't even thought about how he'll divvy up playing time during the exhibition games.

"I get a lot of questions about the goaltending, but for me, it's the competition," he said. "You can't have anything better than that. That's the way it should be -- not just in goaltending, but on defense and at the forward positions as well."

The Isles have veteran Rick DiPietro, rookies Kevin Poulin, Mikko Koskinen and Anders Nilsson, as well as Al Montoya, who was impressive after being acquired late last season, and former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who was claimed on waivers last season but opted not to report.

Capuano is making no promises to anyone about playing time.

"The guys that perform and play to the level they need to will be in the lineup."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 1:22 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Okposo keeps up

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen form two-thirds of one of the fastest lines in the NHL. Kyle Okposo, the third member of the trio, knows he has to work hard to keep up.

"Today especially, with the skating tests and the laps we were doing at the end -- I was working on my skating all summer because I know how fast those guys are," Okposo said after Saturday's initial workout at Iceworks. "It was tough to keep up with them, but it's fun at the same time. We kind of push each other."

Nielsen said Okposo looks like he'll have no trouble keeping up.

"He looks good," the Danish center said. "You can see that he worked his butt off this summer. I can see that he's in great shape."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 12:22 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: It's Capuano’s show

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- Jack Capuano is no stranger to training camps as both a player and an assistant coach. But this year is different -- for the first time in the NHL, he's the boss.

Capuano took over as interim coach last November when the Islanders fired Scott Gordon. The team's strong second-half showing earned him a full crack at the job -- much to the delight of his players, who responded to his lower-key approach.

Kyle Okposo is among the Isles who's glad to have Capuano in charge on a full-time basis.

"Cappy's going to be great," Okposo said after Saturday's initial workout at Iceworks. "He really grew as a coach last year, and we're all looking forward to working with him again."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 12:08 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Rick's ready

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- It's been a tough few years for Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro, whose list of injuries could fill a couple of blog posts.

But he says he's healthy and ready to go.

"This is the first summer in quite a while where I didn't have to rehab from surgery," DiPietro said after Saturday's initial workout at Iceworks. "That's a positive, and I've done everything in my power physically to get healthy for camp and hopefully stay healthy.”

DiPietro played just 26 games last season, but that was still his highest total since 2007-08. He missed much of the Isles' second-half surge because of a broken jaw.

"I wasn't part of the team for a lot of it, but from the All-Star break on, we played fantastic," he said. "We had one of the best records in the League. As long as we can stay healthy -- that's the biggest thing for us."

DiPietro turns 30 on Monday, but he says he doesn't feel old -- even on one of the NHL's youngest teams.

"I wouldn't  consider myself old yet," he said. "I'm still in my late 20s; I've got a couple of more days."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 10:53 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Over before it began

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- One player who is not here at Iceworks is rookie defenseman Mark Katic, who's spent most of the last two seasons in the AHL at Bridgeport but played 11 games last season with the Isles. He dislocated his left shoulder in one of the rookie games against Boston earlier this week and reportedly is headed for surgery, leaving his season in doubt. The 22-year-old had surgery on the same shoulder two years ago.

Another player not here today is rookie forward Rhett Rakhshani, who sustained a concussion in Monday night's rookie game and is still not skating.

One oft-injured Islander who looks ready to go is goaltender Rick DiPietro, who's hoping for his first healthy season in three years. He's still wearing the old-style plain blue mask he donned after suffering a broken jaw in early February -- odd to see a goalie these days without an extensively decorated mask.
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 10:39 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Islanders Camp: Isles open camp; Staios on the way

SYOSSET, N.Y. -- The Islanders hit the ice for the first time this season when the first of two groups jumped on at 10 a.m. Former Isles captain Doug Weight, who retired during the summer, traded in his sweater and pads for a baseball cap and whistle, serving as an assistant coach as the drills began.

Coach Jack Capuano, running a camp as the boss for the first time after having the "interim" tag removed shortly after last season ended, wasted little time pushing his troops for more effort in skating drills.

With lots of veteran free agents still looking for jobs, the Islanders offered a camp invite to 38-year-old defenseman Steve Staios, who played with Calgary last season and has 936 games on his NHL resume. The Isles say he's scheduled to arrive at camp on Sunday.
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Posted On Friday, 09.09.2011 / 12:35 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Phaneuf eager to get started

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of only two teams that haven't made the playoffs since the 2004-05 work stoppage. After a late-season run brought them close last spring, captain Dion Phaneuf is eager to get started and end the drought.

"That's why we play the game. You don't just play the game to be done in April. Everyone plays to win, to give yourself a chance to win, and you don't have a chance to win if you're not in the playoffs," he told NHL.com during the annual Player Media Tour. "That's where we want to get, and that's where we have to get. We were close last year; we weren't eliminated until there were two games left in the season. We had a good run. We played hard, but we couldn't make up the ground we lost at the start of the season."

With a revamped roster that includes former Calgary teammate Matthew Lombardi, Phaneuf says the Leafs need to get off to a good start -- but adds that they can't let up."

"Getting off to a good start is important," he said. "But you can't just get off to a good start and then fall off. You've got to keep it going -- you have to be consistent. You can't have these extreme highs and extreme lows -- win three and lose four. You've got to be consistent. That's what we've got to do this year to make the playoffs."

One good thing for Phaneuf is that he's completely recovered from the midseason leg injury that cost him 16 games and slowed him even after he returned.

"It was awful," he said of the first major injury of his NHL career. "It was something that I'd never experienced. I've been hurt at the end of years and had the summer to rehab and get ready for the next year. But having a major injury is something that was not a lot of fun to go through. It was a very serious injury, one that took a lot more out of me than I expected. I probably tried to come back too early. It was a major injury that took a lot of time to heal."

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Posted On Thursday, 09.08.2011 / 4:20 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Grabner a fan of Long Island

It's no secret that the Nassau Coliseum, one of the NHL's oldest facilities, is not exactly a selling point when the New York Islanders are trying to recruit free agents and keep their young talent. But forward Michael Grabner says Long Island has a lot going for it.

"It is," Grabner said when asked if the Island was nicer than he had expected. "A lot of guys probably see the Coliseum, but once you get to know Long Island, it's pretty good. There's a lot of beaches. You're 40 minutes from New York if you want to go there. I love living out there, and I think people would enjoy it if they lived there for a while. There's a lot to do -- there's not just the area around the Coliseum."

Grabner, who led all rookies last season with 34 goals, will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy Long Island -- he signed a five-year contract with the Isles this summer.

Asked if a lot of players get their sole impression of Long Island from the 40-year-old Coliseum and the hotel across the parking lot where most visiting teams stay, he said, "That's exactly what a lot of people think. But you go 15 to 20 minutes and you've got some beautiful areas -- lot of beaches, lot of parks. It's great to live out there."

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Posted On Thursday, 09.08.2011 / 11:48 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 2011 Player Media Tour

Grabner's speed came naturally

When it comes to skating, just call Michael Grabner "The Natural."

The New York Islanders forward won the Fastest Skater competition during the skills competition at All-Star Weekend in January and went on to lead all rookies with 34 goals, becoming a finalist for the Calder Trophy.

He said Thursday that his skating skills just came naturally.

"I've never trained for it," he said. "I did a lot of sprints -- track and field -- when I was in school. I always practiced with older guys when I was in school when I was younger, and I tried to keep up with them. I wanted to be the fastest. That probably helped me.

"But I didn't do any specific training or have any skating coaches or anything. I guess I got lucky."

Grabner is one of just three Austrian-born players in the NHL (Thomas Vanek and Andreas Nodl are the others). Hockey isn't the big sport in his homeland, and Grabner may owe his career on ice to a fortunate accident of geography.

"We lived across the street from the rink," he said. "My mom signed me up when I was 5 because my friends and a lot of people from school were playing. That's how I got into (hockey). I liked it and started to play roller hockey in the summers. After that, I would spend five or six hours a day at the rink. I loved it."

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.22.2011 / 8:18 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - NHL Awards Blog presented by GEICO

Laperriere wins Masterton Trophy

Ian Laperriere, who spent his season on the sidelines due to injuries, is this year's recipient of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."

Laperriere sustained a severe injury during the 2010 playoffs when he blocked a shot with his head during Philadelphia's first-round series against New Jersey, sustaining a concussion and a fractured orbital bone. He returned to play during the Final. Laperriere attempted to play during in training camp, but could not overcome his concussion-related symptoms and has been on the long-term injury list all season.

Nevertheless, he has served the Flyers in several capacities, particularly as a mentor for young players in the organization.
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Posted On Wednesday, 06.22.2011 / 8:03 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - NHL Awards Blog presented by GEICO

Gillis named top GM

For building the team that won the Presidents' Trophy, Vancouver's Mike Gillis was given the General Manager's Award.

Gillis built the most successful team in Canucks' history; this year's team finished with 117 points and became the first team in 33 years to lead the NHL in offense and defense.
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Posted On Wednesday, 06.22.2011 / 7:47 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - NHL Awards Blog presented by GEICO

Bylsma wins Jack Adams Award

He didn't lead his team to the Stanley Cup as he did two years earlier, but Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach.

The Penguins came in fourth in the East with 106 points, barely failing to overtake Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division title, despite not having Jordan Staal for most of the first half of the season and playing without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the second half.

Bylsma beat out Vancouver's Alain Vigneault, who led the Canucks to the Presidents' Trophy, and Nashville's Barry Trotz
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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 10:59 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Stanley Cup Final: Canucks vs. Bruins

2011 has most OT games since 2003

The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks ended Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final even at 2-2, producing the 22nd overtime of this year's playoffs.

It's the most overtime games in a single playoff year since 22 of the 89 games played in 2003 went into overtime, and is tied for the third-highest total in playoff history. The 22 OT games in 2003 included Games 3 and 4 of the Final, both of which were won by Anaheim at home against New Jersey.

The record for most overtime games in one playoff year is 28, set in 85 games in 1993. The 2001 playoffs are next with 26, in 86 games.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 9:37 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Desperation level grows

The Bruins have nursed their 1-0 lead past the midway point of the third period. Montreal has had a tough time generating consistent pressure – the Habs have just six shots on goal with 9 minutes left.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 9:20 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Bruins grab lead on "broken" play

When is a broken stick a good thing? How about when it winds up setting up the opening goal in a playoff game.

Boston's Patrice Bergeron snapped his stick like a piece of kindling as he tried to one-time a passout – but he wound up banking the misfire off the skate of Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban right to teammate Brad Marchand, who put it into a half-empty net at 4:33 for the game's first goal. Carey Price had no chance.

How big is the first goal? Consider that teams scoring first in the playoffs have won 31 of 37 games – although one of the six losses was Montreal's 5-4 OT loss in Game 4, a contest the Habs led 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 9:11 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Third period under way

The pace was frantic in the opening minutes of the third period, with each goaltender being tested.

After the Bruins had a good rush broken up, Montreal captain Brian Gionta snuck past the defense and got off a good backhander, only to be denied by Tim Thomas. Play came back the other way, and Carey Price had to make a good stop on a blast from the high slot by Boston captain Zdeno Chara.

Things calmed down slightly, and with 17 minutes remaining, we were still scoreless.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 9:04 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Ovi to the left, Ovi to the right

A couple of thoughts from the first two games as we wait for the drop of the puck to start the third period in Boston.
  • What could be scarier than Alex Ovechkin as a left wing? How about Ovi as a right wing? He spent most of Saturday's series-clincher playing on the starboard side, and as Corey Masisak notes, Ovechkin was playing on the right side when he scored the series-winner.
  • The best news for Tampa Bay in its 8-2 rout of Pittsburgh was the re-emergence of Steven Stamkos, who broke out of a scoring slump by getting a pair of goals and a primary assist. Alan Robinson notes that coach Guy Boucher feels Stamkos “figured it out” in Game 4. That may be, but for the first time in the series, he was a factor in Game 5.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 8:51 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

40 minutes, no goals

We're through two periods in Boston, with just as many goals on the scoreboard as there were at the opening faceoff – none.

The physical play is ratcheting up as the time goes on – think of jacks-or-better poker when no one can open for a few hands. Boston's Brad Marchand had a chance with just under a minute to play in the second when he slid past the defense but couldn't jam the puck under Carey Price's pads. The ensuing scrum featured the site of super-sized defenseman Hal Gill of Montreal exchanging shoves with munchkin-like forward Mark Recchi of Boston.

The Bruins outshot Montreal 9-6 in the second period and own a 21-16 margin through 40 minutes. But where it matters most, neither team has been able to get rid of the "0" next to its name.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 8:50 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Martin looks for more pressure

Midway through the second period and no score. The tempo is still high, but not as frantic as both teams become more cognizant of not making mistakes.

"The key for us try to get more pressure and spend more time in offensive zone," Montreal coach Jacques Martin told Versus' Darren Pang after a TV timeout.

Not more than a minute later, Tomas Plekanec had a great chance for the Habs when he snuck in from right wing. But Tim Thomas came across to meet him and wound up sliding halfway to the side boards with the puck under his pads. Thomas has 14 saves, while Montreal's Carey Price has 18.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 8:19 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Bruins' power outage

The Bruins got their second power play when Travis Moen was called for tackling Chris Kelly 1:53 into the second period. But Montreal nearly scored a shorthanded goal when Jeff Halpern poked the free from Tomas Kaberle to start a 2-on-1 break. However, Halpern opted to pass rather than shoot – only to have a sliding Zdeno Chara block the pass.

The Habs got a second 2-on-1 break during the same penalty, but Thomas broke up a pass and started a 3-on-2 the other way. Still, Montreal killed off the power play, leaving the Bruins 0-for-14 with the extra man through four-plus games.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 7:57 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

No scoring after 20 minutes

We're through one period in Boston, with neither team able to put the puck in the net.

But it wasn't for want of opportunities. Montreal had some excellent chances among its 10 shots, though the best one – a wide-open shot by Tomas Plekanec that was foiled by forward Michael Ryder – doesn't count in that figure. The Bruins had 12, including a great opportunity by slump-ridden Milan Lucic in the final minutes.

No player on either team had more than two shots as we saw the first scoreless opening period in the series.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 7:39 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Ryder saves the day

Michael Ryder won Game 4 by scoring the OT winner. If the Bruins win Game 5, it will be in part because he pinch-hit for goaltender Tim Thomas.

Michael Cammalleri outraced the defense, tried to deke Thomas, then saw teammate Tomas Plekanec all alone in the slot. He dished a perfect pass for what looked like a sure goal – only to have Ryder dive across and get it with his right glove ... a save any goaltender would have been proud of.

"That was a big save. Unbelievable," coach Claude Julien told Versus' Darren Pang coming out of the second TV timeout midway through the period.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 7:26 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Traffic jam

The Bruins got back in the series by generating traffic in front of Carey Price, and, well, why mess with a winning formula?

The B's had two good rushes in the early minutes that just missed – and both were marked by plenty of black sweaters flooding the Montreal zone. That’s the kind of game the Bruins want to play – as opposed to the Canadiens, who want to use their speed to counteract their lack of size.

We're up to the first TV timeout – with no score.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 7:09 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Welcome back

Hope you're all refreshed and ready for the evening portion of our big day of hockey, beginning with Game 5 between the Bruins and Canadiens from Boston.

TD Garden in Boston is packed with 17,565 fans – many of whom a week ago probably thought they'd be spending their Saturday night doing something else. A week ago, Montreal went home after sweeping the first two games in Boston. But the Bruins returned the favor by winning Games 3 and 4 in Montreal, pulling even by beating the Habs 5-4 in overtime.

So who wins – can the Habs continue the success road teams have had in this series (and the first round of the playoffs in general)? Or will the Bruins find a way to keep rolling?
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 6:03 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Intermission

OK, you can take a break.

Go get a bite to eat. A cold beverage. Take care of anything else that needs to be done.

The afternoon portion of our playoff quadruple-header is done, and we’re an hour or so away from the start of the evening session, beginning with the Canadiens and Bruins in Boston.

The final score for the two afternoon games: Southeast Division 2, Atlantic Division 0. Tampa Bay stunned a sellout crowd in Pittsburgh by routing the Penguins 8-2 to send that series to Game 6 in Tampa Bay on Monday. Faced with the same situation – win at home to advance – the Washington Capitals succeeded where the Penguins had failed, eliminating the New York Rangers with a 3-1 win in Game 5.

So for now, we’re at intermission. Come on back about 7 p.m. ET for the evening games.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 5:48 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Caps move on; Rangers go home

The Rangers pulled Henrik Lundqvist and got a goal with 31.5 seconds remaining when Wojtek Wolski tucked in a rebound. But all that did was enable the Rangers to avoid being shut out -- they hadn't scored since the second period of Game 4 -- nearly 138 minutes.

A post-goal scrum left the Rangers down a man, and the Caps missed the empty net a couple of time before mobbing Michal Neuvirth after their series-clinching 3-1 victory.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 5:42 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

That will put it away

With the Rangers pressing, the Caps broke out 2-on-1, and Marcus Johansson made a brilliant pass right onto Alexander Semin's stick as he cut to the net. Semin made no mistake, and it's now 3-0 with time running out on the Rangers' season.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 5:41 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Running out of time

It's an electric atmosphere at the Verizon Center. The 18,398 red-clad fans are ready to celebrate as the Caps continue to lead by two goals.

Michal Neuvirth is devouring what few shots the Rangers are able to get through his defense, but the Caps are being smart and not just sitting back -- third-period shots were 7-7 at the final TV timeout.

Barring a miracle, the Rangers are going to run out of time.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 5:24 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Desperate times for Rangers

The Rangers came out in the third period with the kind of desperation that would have helped them earlier in the game. But after having the Rangers control play for the first 60-90 seconds, the Caps answered by upping their own pace. Through the first 11 minutes, the Caps outshot the Rangers 3-2 -- New York isn't having any success finding time or space in the offensive zone.

With the defense pinching, the Caps wound up with a 2-on-1 midway through the period, only to see Game 4 hero Jason Chimera fire wide on what would have been the clincher.

Mike Green returned to the bench late in the second period after missing more than 20 minutes of playing time after taking a slapper in the helmet. But he has yet to play a shift since returning.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 4:56 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Rangers get some push

After more than 30 minutes of being dominated, the Rangers are starting to push back.

Beginning shortly after the halfway mark of the middle period, the Rangers began to pick up their tempo and get more pucks deep on Washington's defense, generating some heat on Michal Neuvirth.

But Neuvirth was up to the task, and his defense did a good job of funneling a lot of shots to the outside or getting in the way of them.

New York got its second power play when defenseman John Erskine was called for taking down Brandon Prust with 2:41 left. The Rangers were able to get some zone time and had a good chance on a tip by Brandon Dubinsky. But Neuvirth was able to see everything, and the Caps killed the penalty and the rest of the period, sending the teams to the dressing room after 40 minutes with Washington ahead 2-0 -- and the Rangers facing the prospect of seeing their season end in about an hour.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 4:46 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Green's back

Washington defenseman Mike Green returned to the bench with about 5:30 left in the second period. He missed just over a full period after taking a slap shot by Matt Gilroy in the helmet.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 4:31 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Caps extend their lead

Mike Green wasn't on the bench for the Caps at the start of the second period after taking a Matt Gilroy blast in the helmet with 6:11 left in the first. The team said the All-Star defenseman's return is questionable. Green would be missed -- he scored the first goal on Saturday and has points in all five games.

The Caps nearly scored 45 seconds into the period on a beautiful three-way passing play -- a brilliant defensive play by Marc Staal kept Ovechkin from being able to put the puck into the net. Staal got a stick on a little touch pass from Nicklas Backstrom, who opted to pass instead of shoot.

Alexander Semin missed another chance a minute later -- Henrik Lundqvist was in the right place to stop his wide-open backhander.

But the Caps continued to dominate play and made it 2-0 at 7:04 when Alex Ovechkin took advantage of a long shift by the D-pair of Staal and Dan Girardi. He raced up the right wing, cut in on a weary Staal and tucked a backhander past Lundqvist, who was left to fend for himself.

It's all Caps at the first TV timeout -- they're up 2-0 and heading to their third power play.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 4:06 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

It could have been worse

The Caps took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but if you're a Rangers fan, you're probably happy to get out of the opening 20 minutes down only one goal.

After the Rangers' flurry in the first 30 seconds, the Caps dominated play. Washington won the races to loose pucks, had little trouble breaking out of its own zone and generally made life miserable for the visitors -- especially Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 12 of the 13 shots he faced. Michal Neuvirth had to stop just six shots.

More indicative of the play are the shot attempts, rather than the ones that got through: The Rangers had 12 attempts (6 on goal, 5 blocked, 1 missed the net); the Caps had 36 (13 on goal, 13 blocked, 10 that missed). After the first shift, in which the Rangers dominated, Lundqvist spent the rest of the period surrounded by red jerseys trying to get in his way.

The one good piece of news for the Rangers: Defenseman Dan Girardi was back before the end of the period.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 3:54 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Caps push the pace

The pace is frantic, with Washington pushing the tempo as the Caps sense a chance to grab a two-goal lead that might be more than the Rangers can overcome. Lundqvist has faced a dozen shots in the first 13 minutes; Michal Neuvirth has seen just four and is spending minutes at a time all by his lonesome in the Caps' zone.

But the 18,398 fans quieted as one with 6:11 remaining when Matt Gilroy took a blast from near the right circle that dropped Caps defenseman Mike Green. Play was stopped immediately, and Green was helped from the ice, though he was able to skate off.

The Rangers were also missing a key defenseman -- Dan Girardi wasn't on the bench as the clock ticked down past the 5:00 mark.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 3:38 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Caps get the jump

Talk about coming out flying!

The Rangers came out like they'd been shot out of a cannon, forcing Michal Neuvirth to make an excellent stop off a scramble before the game was 30 seconds old.

Then it was the Caps' turn. Alex Ovechkin came down right wing on a 2-on-1 but fired wide. Henrik Lundqvist also had to make a pair of fine glove stops. John Erskine, not known for his offensive skills, also tested Lundqvist twice.

After the initial flurry, the Caps are carrying the play, forcing the Rangers to defend rather than attack. They earned the first power play when Bryan McCabe got his stick between Marcus Johansson' legs and tripped the rookie center as he raced down the right wing.

The Caps wasted no time taking advantage. With the Rangers in full disarray, Mike Green took a rip from the slot that Lundqvist stopped. But the All-Star defenseman followed his shot and poked the puck off defenseman Dan Girardi and into the net at 5:59 for a 1-0 lead. It's only the second time in the five games that the Caps have scored first.

Even worse for the Rangers: They wound up with the extra penalty after a scrum behind the net when New York's bench was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. They nearly wound up with a second minor seconds later when a clearing attempt went out of play -- but NBC's Pierre McGuire knew before anyone that the puck hadn't gone over the glass ... because he caught it.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 3:18 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Ready to "Rock the Red"

The Verizon Center is a sea of red as the Washington Capitals try to do what the Penguins couldn't -- put away an opponent in Game 5.

It's an uphill battle for the Rangers, who saw a 3-0 third-period lead turn into a 4-3 double-overtime loss in Game 4 -- meaning that instead of going back to D.C. all even, the Rangers need to win just to stay alive.

One area in which the Rangers need to improve is the power play. They are 1-for-18 and went 0-for-7 in Game 4. Another day like that and the Rangers could be toast.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 2:52 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

It’s over

Much to the relief of the Penguins, the final horn went off at the Consol Energy Center, ending an 8-2 nightmare. Two goals (and 3 points) for Steven Stamkos, two for Simon Gagne, two for Pavel Kubina. Four power-play goals. A perfect effort by the Lightning's penalty-killers. All in all, a near-perfect day for the Bolts -- and a nightmare for the Penguins, who had hoped to close out the series in front of their home fans.

So it's back to the St. Pete Times Forum for Game 6 on Monday for the Pens and Bolts -- and on to the Rangers and Caps for Act II of our 12 Hours of Hockey.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 2:51 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

One for the road

The Penguins finally killed off a full power play, but they paid the price again for Max Talbot's unnecessary boarding call when Dominic Moore put the puck into a wide-open net with 4:25 left for an 8-2 lead and a 4-for-6 showing with the extra man.

Kris Letang took a boarding call on the play after flattening Nate Thompson (who took the hit to make the play), giving the Bolts yet another advantage -- that's five in the third period.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 2:31 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Playing for pride

Give the Penguins credit for not rolling over. They added a second goal with 11:38 left when Chris Connor scored after Dwayne Roloson lost his stick during some sloppy play in Tampa Bay's zone. Bolts coach Guy Boucher looked about as unhappy as a coach can look with a five-goal lead.

The second goal and subsequent pressure by the Penguins has finally gotten the crowd back into the game, at least briefly. The Penguins look alive -- although it's far too late to affect the outcome of this game, this does give them something to build on for Game 6.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 2:21 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Power’s on again

The Lightning's power play made it two goals in three tries (the one they missed was just 19 seconds) when Pavel Kubina teed up a slapper from just above the right faceoff dot and blew it past Brent Johnson at 2:54 for a 6-0 lead.

It became 3-for-4 on the PP when Kubina set up in front of the crease and tapped home a pass by Purcell at 5:45 for a 7-0 lead.

At least the Penguins spoiled Dwayne Roloson's shutout bid. Mike Rupp chipped in a rebound at 6:36 to get the Pens on the board.

The Lightning have outscored the Penguins 12-2 in the last five-plus periods in Pittsburgh after a 3-0 loss in Game 1. It's an amazing turnabout -- Pittsburgh won both regular-season meetings at home and outscored the Lightning 13-2.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 1:51 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

More PP struggles for Penguins

Pittsburgh got its fifth power play when Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was called for interference at 17:02.

This time, the Penguins generated some chances -- Mark Letestu had a golden opportunity on a rebound, but Dwayne Roloson was up to the task. It actually looked like Letestu might have scored -- the Pittsburgh announcers thought so -- but replay showed the black "thing" in the net was the tip of Chris Kunitz' stick.

The Lightning killed off the remainder of the penalty and headed for the second intermission enjoying a 5-0 lead. Pittsburgh had 20 shots on goal to 18 for the Lightning.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 1:35 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Five and counting

The Lightning got their first power play when Mike Rupp was called for boarding Ryan Malone at 6:52 -- and needed just eight seconds to make it 5-0 when Steven Stamkos fired home a shot from 10 feet for a 5-0 lead. Stamkos, who struggled in the final six weeks of the season and did nothing through the first four games, has 2 goals and looks like the player who had 21 goals in his first 22 games this season.

Pittsburgh got a fourth power play when Lecavalier was called for hooking at 9:20. But the advantage lasted just 19 seconds before Kris Letang was called for cross-checking.

With 8:02 left in the period and a five-goal deficit, Consol Energy Center was as quiet as a church.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 1:23 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Fleury gets the hook

The Bolts gave Pittsburgh another power-play chance when they were called for having too many men on the ice just 80 seconds after Vinny Lecavalier's goal. But the Penguins again generated almost nothing -- dropping them to 1-for-21 in the series. The boobirds are beginning to make themselves heard.

They got a little louder when the Lightning struck again 5:31 into the period. Steve Downie, who served the penalty, grabbed a loose puck at center ice and led a rush that ended up with Simon Gagne putting a rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury for a 4-0 lead. That was the end of the day for Fleury, who was replaced by Brent Johnson.

As we hit the first TV break in the second period, the Lightning led 4-0 -- and the 18,000-plus at the Consol Energy Center were silent. Barring a miracle, the series appears to be headed back to Tampa for a game on Monday night.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 1:16 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Another Lightning strike

The Penguins started the second period with a power play, but again couldn't find a way to solve the Lightning's penalty-killers. They're now 0-for-15 at home.

Stamkos then made the play that led to a third Lightning goal at 1:55. Coach Guy Boucher loaded up his big guns -- Stamkos, Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis -- after the penalty kill (he did the same thing after Pavel Kubina's first-period penalty expired) and it paid off. Stamkos dug the puck out of the corner and found Lecavalier coming down the slot for a putaway past Marc-Andre Fleury, as Tyler Kennedy was unable to get back in time.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 12:54 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Lightning strikes

The Penguins spent the first 16-plus minutes doing everything but score. The Penguins outshot (11-4), outhit, outplayed -- out-everythinged the Lightning ... but couldn't beat Dwayne Roloson.

They might pay for the inability to put the puck in the net, because the Lightning had no such trouble at 16:57. After a passing play worthy of the Harlem Globetrotters, Simon Gagne fired the carom of Vincent Lecavalier's shot off the post into a wide-open net for his first of the series.

Just 46 seconds later, Steven Stamkos found the net for the first time in the series. He went to the net for a deflection of Steve Downie's shot that Marc-Andre Fleury was able to stop, but swatted home the rebound. Talk about a stunned crowd!
 
The Penguins got their second power play when Vincent Lecavalier was called for roughing with 32.6 seconds left in the period and nearly had a goal just before the final horn. But the period ended with the Lightning ahead 2-0 despite being outshot 13-8 (24-12 in shot attempts).
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 12:40 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Where’s Geno

Versus, which is picking up the Penguins' local telecast on Root Sports, showed footage of Evgeni Malkin skating as he works to come back from knee surgery in February. Malkin's absence has flown underneath the radar -- all the attention has gone to Sidney Crosby's absence due to a concussion, but the Pens have missed Malkin as well. Remember, it was Malkin, not Sid, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy two years ago when the Penguins took home the Stanley Cup.

The Penguins have had the better of the play, but Dwayne Roloson has been up to the task so far -- with a little help from his left post, which stopped Brooks Orpik's blast from the left point with just under seven minutes left in the opening period.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 12:30 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

Searching for Stamkos

It's been a tough postseason so far for Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay's big gun. The No. 1 pick in the 2008 Entry Draft is taking part in his first playoff series -- and so far, he's been struggling.

Stamkos has just 1 assist in the first four games and didn't have a shot on goal in 30:38 of ice time in Game 4. That doesn't mean he wasn't trying -- he took 11 shots, but six were blocked and the other five missed the target.

Stamkos looked energized on his first shift. The Lightning need him to produce if they want to have a chance to extend the series.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 12:16 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - 12 Hours of Hockey - Live Blog

12 Hours of Hockey

Are you ready for some hockey?

We hope so, because there's plenty of it coming today.

Eight teams (Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh; New York Rangers-Washington; Montreal-Boston and Los Angeles-San Jose) will square off in one of the great days of playoff hockey -- 12-plus hours of competition that could see as many as three teams sent packing by the end of the day.

The action starts momentarily in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins come back home in hopes of closing out the Lightning after a pair of wins at Tampa Bay (Noon ET; Versus, CBC). Then it's the Rangers at Washington -- will New York be able to recover after Wednesday's shocking 4-3 double-OT loss that saw the Blueshirts blow a 3-0 third-period lead at home (3 p.m. ET; NBC, RDS, TSN).

What could say hockey more than the third game -- Montreal at Boston (7 p.m. ET; Versus, CBC, RDS, the most-played pairing in playoff history? The road team has won the first four games. If that's not enough, the action moves to the West Coast, where the San Jose Sharks host Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET; Versus, TSN, RDS) after sweeping a pair of games in Los Angeles -- including a historic comeback victory in Game 3.

And if you haven't seen it, check out the video of the goal scored by Anaheim's Bobby Ryan on Friday night -- it's the most spectacular individual effort of the playoffs so far. The bad part for the Ducks -- they lost to Nashville 4-3 in overtime, allowing a tying goal by Shea Weber with 35.3 seconds left in regulation and the winner by Jerred Smithson 1:57 into OT.

So settle in and relax. It's going to be a busy day.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.17.2011 / 2:50 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Ducks send Mara back to Habs

Anaheim had too many healthy defenseman; Montreal didn't have enough -- which makes Wednesday's  deal that send Paul Mara back to Montreal a good fit.

Mara had a goal and an assist for Anaheim but hadn't played since Jan. 18 and was the eighth or ninth defenseman on the roster. He goes back to a team he knows well -- Mara signed with the Ducks last summer after spending 2009-10 with the Canadiens, although he didn't play after late January due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.

With a shortage on the blue line due to injuries (Hall Gill and Jaroslav Spacek have been out with injuries, forcing the Habs to raid their AHL team in Hamilton), adding Mara at the cost of a fifth-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft should provide help on the blue line for the Canadiens while giving the Ducks the flexibility to add a forward as they head on a weekend trip to Minnesota and St. Louis.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.08.2011 / 1:09 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Goring deal still the gold standard

Butch Goring shakes his head when he's reminded that it's been 31 years since he was involved in the best trade deadline deal of all time.

The New York Islanders had struggled for most of 1979-80 after finishing first overall the previous season. GM Bill Torrey refrained from making any moves until the trade deadline, when he swapped a pair of productive long-time Islanders -- forward Billy Harris and defenseman Dave Lewis -- to Los Angeles for Goring, a speedy center.

The rest is history. With Goring anchoring a second scoring line, the Isles went 8-0-4 for the rest of the season, won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and then went on to win the next three, as well.

Goring said he was surprised -- and not at all pleased -- when the deal went down.

"I had signed a six-year deal with the Kings -- I think I was in the second year -- so I really wasn't expecting to go anywhere. At least I was hoping not to go anywhere," he told NHL.com. "My initial reaction was one of anger and disappointment."

Once he took a look at the team he was going to, he says he felt better.

"I got here and I realized I was going to an awfully good hockey club," he said. "That made it a lot easier to handle. This was a team that had a chance to win a Stanley Cup. Once I was able to get the emotions out of it, I realized it was a tremendous opportunity. In L.A., we were pretty much a .500 hockey club."

The Goring deal has become the gold standard of deadline deals because it led to four Cups, not just one.

"As we now know, you can say it was a pretty good trade," he said with a laugh. "It's because we didn't just win one; we started a dynasty of some sort. I'm not saying that trade was the reason we won four (Cups), but the fact of the matter is that they made a trade and they ended up winning four. That's why it's been such a much talked-about trade, and I'm happy to enjoy the moment every year."
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Quote of the Day

I came into a team that had 65 points, that was at the bottom of the basement, a team that everybody wrote off as never going to be good. My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top.

— Forward Brandon Dubinsky on signing a six-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets