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NHL Insider

Atlantic Division emerging as NHL's best

Friday, 04.27.2012 / 7:23 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

A quick scan of the NHL's final regular-season standings showed that two divisions clearly stood above the pack. Not only were the Atlantic and Central the only divisions to have four teams qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they were also the only divisions in modern history to boast four teams with more than 100 points.

But with the first round of the postseason now in the books and three of its teams having advanced, the Atlantic looks like the class of the League.

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McPhee reflects on Game 7 on 'NHL Hour'

Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 7:37 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

As George McPhee waited Thursday night to find out who his Washington Capitals would face in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the general manager reflected on "NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman" on a thrilling Game 7 overtime win over the Boston Bruins less than 24 hours earlier.

"I wasn't sure how our team was going to perform in this series," McPhee said. "And we got out there and I felt after the first two games, you know what, we're right there with this team. The guys who didn't really have great years for us in the regular season really were different players in this series. We had a lot of players -- I was really pleased to see it -- elevated their games so much from the regular season to the playoffs. The first couple of games in Boston I said, 'gee, if we can keep this up -- because I hadn't seen this most of the season -- but if we can keep this up, we're going to be in good shape.'"

McPhee's premonition proved to be correct, as the Capitals prevailed in what went down as the closest seven-game series in postseason history -- each game was decided by a single goal. The first two games and the final two games were decided in overtime, with Joel Ward's goal off a Mike Knuble rebound moving Washington into the conference semifinals.

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Blackhawks not ready for major overhaul

Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 7:07 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are still sifting through the parts of where things went wrong and still feeling the sting of a second straight early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

However, the Blackhawks do not sound like a team that feels it's far behind the rest of the League or one planning to do a major reworking of the roster. Despite losing to the Phoenix Coyotes in a six-game Western Conference Quarterfinal series, the Hawks' second such ouster in as many years, they aren't wasting time sulking.

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Pens could see changes after another early exit

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 8:50 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Dealing with the Pittsburgh Penguins' unexpectedly early playoff ouster is tough enough for general manager Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma. What follows could be tougher still – sorting out what went wrong while figuring out how to keep their core of stars together.

Shero said Tuesday this will be "a big summer" for the Penguins, who plan to go about business as usual even though a new collective bargaining agreement still must be worked out. And big probably translates into busy.

"We have a lot of things moving forward that we have to work on -- decisions we have to make. We're going to take the next two months probably to sort through this," Shero said.

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Sharks pick up the pieces after early elimination

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 8:03 PM / NHL Insider

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE – Three days after making the fastest playoff exit in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks continued the long and painful process of examining the wreckage and trying to fix what went wrong.

The Sharks reached the Western Conference Finals each of the past two seasons, but they lasted just five games this year in the conference quarterfinals against the St. Louis Blues and were outscored 14-8.

"We’re very disappointed," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Tuesday. "When you look at some of the other teams that are out, that was an opportunity for us to step up and get something done. Give St. Louis a lot of credit. They outplayed us all year and in the playoffs. They were a two seed and we were a seven seed, and that’s where we belonged."

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Red Wings head into summer with question marks

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 7:18 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- They might have bowed out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after winning just one game, but it's not sitting well with the Detroit Red Wings and they're not exactly bashful about the upcoming off-season.

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland did not meet with reporters at Joe Louis Arena during Monday's locker cleanout/team photo function, but the message couldn't have been any clearer from players and coach Mike Babcock -- Detroit is going to be a major player on July 1, when free agency starts.

"As I've watched these teams go on and I hear, 'Well, this team hasn't won a playoff series since '[2002] and this one just won their first one,' you know, it might seem a little selfish but I don't mind being selfish ... I think we should be there every year," Babcock said near the start of his talk with reporters. "We think with some ... tweaks and some good work in the off-season from our players and us as a management team, we can be way better."

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Pens trying to determine how playoffs 'unraveled'

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 7:09 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero will spend the next weeks trying to determine how, in his words, "188 days in the regular season went down and kind of unraveled for us in 10 days."

Pittsburgh's players already believe they know why a Stanley Cup Playoffs favorite fell apart during their six-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals loss to the Flyers, allowing 30 goals and not resembling the team that mounted a late-season 11-game winning streak.

Simply, they couldn't match the Flyers in any critical area: goaltending, star-power contributions, the penalty kill, the power play, responsible play in the defensive end, physicality or the intangibles. It wasn't one area that doomed the Penguins, it was every area.

Perhaps that's why, two days removed from a 5-1 loss in Game 5 in Philadelphia, both Shero and coach Dan Bylsma still had a "how-did-that-happen" look while addressing reporters Tuesday. This was the their second consecutive first-round playoff exit, but no one associated with the Penguins saw this one coming – not this early, not this way.

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Will Lidstrom retire or return? He won't say

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 6:30 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about whether Nicklas Lidstrom should come back for a 21st season or retire. The only guy who doesn't, at least publicly, is the legendary Detroit Red Wings captain himself.

"I try and push (it aside) during the regular season and even in the playoffs, but I get reminded by [the media] a lot," Lidstrom said Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena as the Red Wings cleared out their lockers and took the team photo. "You don't want that to become a distraction to the team or to myself. I push that aside."

Nicklas Lidstrom
Defense - DET
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 34
SOG: 148 | +/-: 21
He kept pushing it aside in his own mind, too, after Detroit made a quick exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by losing a Western Conference Quarterfinal series to Nashville in just five games. Lidstrom went through the traditional post-game handshake line like he's done many times before, both on the winning and losing sides.

"[I] never thought [in the last few seconds] that this was going to be my last game," said Lidstrom, who turns 42 on Saturday and has gone through this postseason process about retirement a couple of times before. "I didn't get into those thoughts at all."

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Chu: Excited for title game on home soil

Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 11:12 AM / NHL Insider

Julie Chu - Special to NHL.com

America's Julie Chu is blogging about the Women's World Championship for NHL.com. READ Julie's Second Blog
(Photo: Getty Images)

We spend a whole year training and preparing for the opportunity to play for a gold medal and [Saturday] we have that chance. So, it doesn't take a whole lot to get extra enthusiastic or excited for it. This is our time to be able to showcase the preparation that we've done all year long.

Canada is a great team and they've had some great games and done really well this tournament, also. We don't expect it to look the same as it did in our 9-2 win last Saturday. We're going to be prepared to come out and know that we are going to have to battle right from the start and play a solid 60 minutes of hockey if we want to be successful.

At the same time, I think our approach is really the same. They have great goaltending and they have a lot of skilled players so we want to make sure that we take the shifts one at a time, we have to get pucks to the net again with a lot of traffic in front of the goalies eyes. When we have an opportunity to capitalize, we have to make sure that we do, because I know on the other side if we give up too many opportunities they'll do the same. So, it should be a great battle and a great game. I think it's exactly what we want out of our championship, playing one of our biggest rivals at a sold out arena and hopefully getting a chance to come away with a gold medal.

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Cheveldayoff will 'explore all options' to improve Jets

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:33 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets wrapped up their first season in Manitoba this past weekend, but general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff's chores are only beginning.

The Winnipeg franchise has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for five consecutive seasons and owns only one visit to the postseason over its 12 seasons. The Jets finished 11th in the Eastern Conference this season in posting 84 points, their third-best finish in the organization's history.

But the League's fourth-worst road mark, a 26th-place finish in goals-against, and a bottom-third penalty kill doomed the Jets this season. An end to the season in which the Jets won only three of their final 10 games leaves Cheveldayoff with plenty of work this summer. Cheveldayoff did not provide specifics during his season-ending press conference Tuesday, but he repeatedly stressed the need for patience, including from himself.

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Quote of the Day

Obviously there's a lot of expectations around me but it's something I try not to focus on. I'm just trying to go out there, be myself on the ice every day, try to get better, be myself around the guys in the locker room. I think that's what's made me successful and the person that I am.

— Sabres forward Jack Eichel on transitioning from college hockey to the NHL