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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final
(Page 1 of 6)
NHL.Countdown

E.J. Express: Assorted thoughts on Final Media Day

Wednesday, 05.30.2012 / 11:36 AM / NHL.Countdown

EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

The Los Angeles Kings have blown through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, needing just two more games than the minimum necessary to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. By any standard, that's pretty darn impressive.

In mowing down the top three seeds in the West, Darryl Sutter's hearty gang took a similar path. It opened each series with a pair of road victories to take a 2-0 lead. In all three instances, the guys in silver and black never looked back.

With a perfect 8-0 road record, the Kings will try to read from the same script in Newark.

That's why I feel Game 1 is absolutely vital for the Devils.

If Pete Deboer's team is going to knock the Kings off message, they'll need to do it in the opening game. The Devils have to bring a little adversity into the Kings' nearly perfect spring. They need to make them a little uncomfortable. They need to make them chase a series for a change.

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E.J. Express: Coyotes have bright future

Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 10:25 AM / NHL.Countdown

EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

When the emotions fade, the Coyotes will realize two things about their special spring run.

First, they'll regret not finding their game sooner in the Western Conference Finals against the Kings. The Coyotes fell into an 0-2 hole on home ice before reconnecting with their identity. By the time they figured out a way to combat the red-hot Kings, they had little room for error.

That tiny space evaporated in overtime in Game 5 when Dustin Penner (more on him a little later) shoveled a loose puck past brilliant goaltender Mike Smith to put the final dagger in Phoenix's season.

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Trending: Rupp's punch, Parise's play, Kings of road

Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 10:16 AM / NHL.Countdown

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Mike Rupp's punch to Martin Brodeur, Zach Parise's few days with the media, the Coyotes' brand of hockey, the Kings' success on the road, and the world champs are the five items that make up Trending this Week, a compilation of some of the biggest stories in the NHL's world that are generating some buzz in the Twitterverse:

#RuppPunch

New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur was pretty funny following Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday when he was talking about getting punched in the chest by the Rangers' Mike Rupp 6:18 into the third period of the Devils' 4-1 victory.

Brodeur said it was the first time he could recall getting punched like that after a whistle. He said there was no way he was going to punch back, and certainly he didn't expect it from Rupp because he's not going to talk trash to a guy who is 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds. Brodeur also chided a reporter who asked if he was hurt by saying, "I'm a tough guy." He said the blow stung him a bit, but added, "Now I know I can take a punch."

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E.J. Express: Was Canucks' loss to L.A. all that bad?

Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 2:02 PM / NHL.Countdown

EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

There was wide-ranging disappointment in Vancouver after the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks, last spring's Stanley Cup runner-up, were eliminated from this season's championship chase in just five first-round games by the upstart Kings.

After further review, however, the Canucks might have done well to stretch the Kings to one more game than the minimum in that opening-round series.

Since then, Los Angeles has swept the second-seeded Blues and grabbed a 2-0 series lead on the third-seeded Coyotes (who finished just two points ahead of L.A. in the regular-season standings), outscoring those teams by a combined 23-8.

By contrast, if you throw out an empty-net goal in Game 1, the Kings had three one-goal wins against the Canucks, who played without ace forward Daniel Sedin in the first three games.

And in the last three games of the series, the Kings and Canucks each scored four goals. L.A. eventually eliminated Vancouver on an overtime goal by Jarret Stoll.

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Trending: Hunter, U.S. captains, Henrik's perfection

Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 9:40 AM / NHL.Countdown

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Dale Hunter has stepped down as Capitals coach to focus more on his OHL team. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dale Hunter's not-so-surprising departure, Jackets' hiring of Todd Richards full time, a trio of American captains, the Hudson River Rivalry, Dave Tippett's response, the new perfect human, and the Kings' road success all make up this playoff edition of Trending this Week, a compilation of some of the biggest stories in the NHL that have or should be part of the conversation in the Twitterverse.

#DaleDeparts

Dale Hunter stepped down from his position as Capitals coach Monday so he can re-focus his energies back on the London Knights, the Ontario Hockey League club that means so much to him and really is part of his family. Hunter, who cited family reasons for his departure, deserves credit for being able to get the Capitals to buy in to his defensive system. They became Team Shot-Block and they did it as well as any team could have.

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E.J. Express: Chicago shake-up, Haviland gets axe

Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 3:27 PM / NHL.Countdown

EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

On Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago Blackhawks decided to fire assistant coach Mike Haviland, who'd been on their big league staff for the past four years, including the Stanley Cup-winning 2010 campaign. Prior to that, Haviland had done a strong job as the club's minor league head coach at both Norfolk (2005-07) and Rockford (2007-08), earning the promotion to Chicago.

In speaking about Haviland's departure on Tuesday night, head coach Joel Quenneville admitted there had been some "dysfunction" on his coaching staff. He'll now get to fill the vacancy.

Truth be told, Quenneville has wanted to hire his own assistant coaches since arriving behind the Hawks bench in Oct. 2008. Quenneville inherited Haviland when he replaced Denis Savard just four games into the 2008-09 season. Hawks insiders say Quenneville has never been completely comfortable with Haviland.

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Trending: Doan, Richards, Brown making headlines

Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 10:27 AM / NHL.Countdown

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Shane Doan and the Coyotes, Brad Richards and the Rangers, Claude Giroux and the Flyers, the Devils' not-so surprising style, Dustin Brown and the Kings, remembering the Blues' season, and The Great Fan himself is all compiled right here in Trending this Week:

#DoanDoneIt

As good as any hockey fan (outside of Nashville and Chicago, of course) should feel for the Coyotes, their long-suffering fan base, general manager Don Maloney, coach Dave Tippett and basically anyone else in the organization for making the Western Conference Finals for the first time, the feeling of respect, admiration, and elation for captain Shane Doan should be far greater.

Doan can finally sniff the prize. He's eight wins away. This isn't a better feel-good story in the NHL right now.

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EJ Express: Holmgren, Zajac, Bergeron deserve praise

Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 10:28 AM / NHL.Countdown

EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was not nominated as one of the three finalists for the General Manager of the Year Award, voted on by the League's general managers and a panel of five league executives and five media members.

He should have, though.

Holmgren had the guts to re-make the heart of his roster last June, moving Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on the same day, just prior to the 2011 NHL Draft. Let me tell you; that isn't something you do without a lot of nerve.

In those separate deals, Holmgren picked up Wayne Simmonds, Braydon Schenn and Jakub Voracek as well as using the first-round pick acquired from the Blue Jackets (in the Carter deal) to select Sean Couturier.

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Trending: Goalies take center stage in 2012 Playoffs

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 10:28 AM / NHL.Countdown

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

It's about goaltending in the third playoff edition of Trending this Week, with thoughts on Mike Smith, Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott, Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. The list of hot topics also includes Claude Giroux's new title, Chris Kreider's big moment, and Boston's heart-and-soul player.

#SmithSizzles

There have been some stellar goaltending performances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far, but Phoenix's Mike Smith authored the best one Monday to lift the Coyotes into the second round for the first time since the franchise moved to the desert in 1996.
 
Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
RECORD: 4-2-0
GAA: 1.81 | SVP: 0.950
Smith stole Game 6 with a 39-save shutout for a 4-0 win. He allowed two goals in Game 1, four on 50 shots in Game 2, and two each in Games 3, 4 and 5 before robbing the Blackhawks of an opportunity to push the series back to Phoenix for a Game 7 with a sterling performance in the clinching game.
 
The Coyotes goaltending situation looked grim after this past season because they knew Ilya Bryzgalov was leaving and there weren't too many gems available on the open market. General manager Don Maloney signed Smith to a two-year, $4 million contract that looked like a reach considering Smith had never played in more than 42 games and never won more than 14. He played in only 22 games the previous season for Tampa Bay.
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Hradek: Consistency must be part of suspension talk

Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 12:21 PM / NHL.Countdown

EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

Daniel Sedin suffered a concussion due to an elbow to the head by Chicago's Duncan Keith. (Photo: Bill Smith/NHLI)

Before we take a spin on the Express, a quick thought about suspensions.

Most owners, executives, coaches, players and fans would like to see longer suspensions for dangerous and reckless plays that fall outside of the rules ... as long as it's not someone on their team.

In the game between Chicago and Phoenix on Tuesday night, for example, the Hawks were rightfully outraged about Raffi Torres' hit on Marian Hossa, who was carried off the ice on a stretcher as a result of the blow. (In my opinion, Torres deserves a long stay in the press box.)

About a month ago, however, when Chicago D Duncan Keith delivered an elbow to the head of star Vancouver winger Daniel Sedin, there was little sense of moral indignation by the Blackhawks over the ugly hit. Instead, the Hawks circled the wagons around their star defenseman.

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Playing for my favorite team growing up, I've probably scored that goal a million times in my driveway. It feels good to actually do it in real life.

— Dale Weise, who grew up a Canadiens fan, on scoring the overtime winner in Montreal's 5-4 victory against Tampa Bay in Game 1