Through Two Games, Memorial Cup All Even

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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After two games in the CHL's Memorial Cup, the London Knights (OHL), Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL), Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL), and Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) all hold a 1-1 record.

The Oil Kings opened the tournament on Friday with a 4-3 win over the Cataractes, with London following up on Saturday with a 5-3 win over the defending champion Sea Dogs. The Cataractes responded on Sunday with a 6-2 thumping of the Knights, while the Sea Dogs topped Edmonton by a final of 5-2..

The Oil Kings finished the season with the most points in the CHL with 107, though they played four more games than the other two major junior leagues in Canada. London topped the OHL with 99 points and 49 wins.  The Sea Dogs finished the year atop the QMJHL with 50 wins and 103 points, six more points than second place Shawinigan.

Players to keep an eye on throughout the week include Edmonton defenseman Griffin Reinhart, ranked tenth among North American skaters by NHL's Cental Scouting Services for the upcoming draft, and London defenseman Olli Maatta, ranked eighth by Central Scouting.  Reihart has a goal through two games, while Maatta has been held scoreless through two. Both could move up the draft board with strong performances this week.

Brilliant through the first two games has been Shawinigan's Michael Chaput, a third-round pick of the Flyers in 2010 now a member of the Blue Jacket's organization, who has 3 goals and two assists in the first two games to lead all scorers.  Brandon Gormley, chosen thirteenth overall by the Coyotes in 2010, has two goals and two assists on the blueline for Shawinigan.

London faces Edmonton Tuesday night, while the Cataractes face the Sea Dogs on Wednesday.

Out of Gas, Out of Time; Rangers Are in Trouble

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Tell me again, Mr. Tortorella. Is there time to be tired now? Because your team seems to have found some.

The Devils evened the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece thanks to a thorough 4-1 whoopin' that lasted 60 New York minutes tonight at the Prudential Center.

This wasn't the first time New Jersey dominated the majority of the game in this series. But it certainly was the only time Henrik Lundqvist faltered enough to shed some light on the underlying story of this series: the black n' Blueshirts are fading fast.

New York Mets Getting in the Hockey Spirit

Written by Christian A. on .

With hockey in the spotlight in New York, the Mets got in the spirit by donning their favorite hockey jersey during their road trip to Toronto .

The themed trip was actually planned during Spring Training, but with two of the three local teams meeting for a chance to play for Lord Stanley's Cup, the trip was even more appropriate.

“In spring training we talked about taking themed trips,” Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters. “And one of the guys said, ‘hey let’s take a hockey trip when we go to Canada.’ So I told all the players they could pick a team and we went to the NHL store and got the jerseys.”

Jason Bay, a Canadian, chose to go with a throwback Hartford Whalers sweater, while the Met manager sported his hometown Detroit Red Wings jersey. As far the local teams, Met announcer Howie Rose was the lone person to wear and Islander Jersey and Andres Torres represented the Devils.

Several players sported the Ranger blue, but perhaps the best jersey of the bunch was David Wright's throwback movie from The Mighty Ducks:

Even before the Mets left for Toronto, Collins was in a hockey mood. During his post-game press conference he compared the quickness of it to a John Tortorella presser.

NY Baseball Writers Unaware of Rangers Playoff Run

Written by Christian A. on .

Apparently the baseball writers in New York don’t know the Rangers and Devils are playing game 2 tonight.

During a press conference to announce Citi Field as the host ballpark for the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a moment to give the New York hockey club a quick shout out.

During his remarks to the media Bloomberg said he expected a Stanley Cup for the city of New York, alluding to the Rangers Eastern Conference Finals game 2 tonight against the New Jersey Devils. What he got in return was silence and blank stares. The Mayor tried to recover by informing the room the Rangers were in fact in the playoffs and playing tonight in the conference finals.

He still got no response and quickly moved on.

Guess there are still people unaware of the Rangers success (or existence) in New York.

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Goaltending Battle Heating up in Rangers-Devils Series

Written by Christian A. on .

For a series that was expected to have some bad blood, the heavyweight bout wasn’t between two players throwing haymakers at each other. Instead it was between two world-class goaltenders.

The Rangers shut out the Devils, 3-0, to win game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Monday night, but for the game was not all New York. In fact for most of the game It was New Jersey who controlled most of the play, forcing Rangers’ netminder Henrik Lundqvist to be stellar for the first two periods.

Among several scoring chances for the Devils was a breakaway chance for Ilya Kovalchuck, as well as a chance by Zach Parise that saw him get straight shots on Lundqvist. “I saw him coming, I just tried to be aggressive and tried to stay on my knees. It worked out pretty good,” Lundqvist said after the game about Parise’s chance in the second period.

“You have to give Henrik (Lundqvist) a lot of credit there for keeping us in the game,” Ryan McDonagh told reporters after the game.

Lundqvist pushed aside 21 shots for the Rangers in the win and was happy to help in such a big way in the win.

“As a goalie you always want to step up when the team is not going so good, and they're having some tough moments,” Lundqvist said after the game. “It's fun to be there and try to make a difference when the team is going through a tough stretch.”

On the other end Martin Brodeur played well too, stopping 25 shots, but due to a breakdown by the Devils early in the third period the Rangers fired a shot into the net. Brodeur frustrated the Rangers making several big saves including a glove save in the third period to keep New York from going ahead pulling away.

Lundqvist called Brodeur one of the great players in the NHL, putting him up there with goaltending great Dominik Hasek.

“Every time you play against great players it’s exciting,” he said. “Growing up he was already a big guy over here, a big name. Of course it’s inspiring and exciting to play against top guys. It always is.”

Prior to game 1, Brodeur acknowledged Lundqvist’s status as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.

"Well, I mean, he's a Vezina candidate," Brodeur said. "I don't know, he's unbelievable lately. He's kind of the top goalie in the NHL right now.

“I just expect it to be a big war out there,” Lundqvist said after the game. And while the series may be a war, the biggest battle will take place between the pipes.

Kings Becoming the Cinderella Story in the West

Written by Christian A. on .

It was a royal flush for the Los Angeles Kings.

The Kings, who haven’t reached the conference finals since 1993, are now headed to face the winner of the Coyotes/Predators series for a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. An impressive feat for a team that was not expected to beat the heavily-favored Vancouver Canucks or St. Louis Blues.

And now, they’re looking like the favorite to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. no comments

Predators Unable to Capitalize on Opportunities; Shutout by Coyotes

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

Just over 16 minutes ticked away off the clock in the second period, before the Phoenix Coyotes were able to muster up their first real, quality offensive shift. While clinging to a one-goal lead, the Coyotes and Mike Smith dodged a plethora of bullets thrown their way by the Predators' offense in the second.

Literally, dodged.

The Predators, while dominating the play for the majority of the second period, were their own worst enemy. Quality chance after quality chance was wasted away by the Predators from their inability to simply put the puck on net.

Maybe the Preds figured since they can't put a puck past Smith when the shot is actually on net, maybe shooting over the four-by-six cage would create some sort of parallel-universe alternate reality, where you score goals by missing the net.

Whatever the case, Nashville now finds themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 series, ultimately fighting for their playoff lives when play continues, Monday night in Glendale.

Where Have You Gone, Claude Giroux?

Written by Mike Salerno on .

13 days ago, Claude Giroux sent a statement to the hockey world in Game 6 of the Flyers' opening round series with their hated in-state rivals from Pittsburgh.

Giroux, who asked head coach Peter Laviolette to start the game and then told Danny Briere to "watch this" moments before faceoff, laid out Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby and fired a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury just 27 seconds into the contest. The game was over before it really started. Because Giroux said it was.

After the game, he was praised. Flyers fans rejoiced, for their savior had arrived.

Everyone was convinced he had dethroned Sid the Kid as "the best player in the world," whatever that means. You know, because Peter Laviolette said so.

Fast forward two weeks later. The Flyers are in a 2-1 hole to their other proximity-based rivals, the New Jersey Devils, thanks to an all-world performance by Ilya Kovalchuk in Game 3, where he returned from an injury by scoring a point on every Devils goal.

After a 14-point performance in round 1 that had everyone in Philadelphia proclaiming the Conn Smythe race over, Giroux has gone pointless in three games at even strength. He's also a -3.

Best player in the world indeed.

Kovalchuk's Return Plays Crucial Role in Devils' OT Victory

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

"You're adding our leading scorer, one of the top five scorers in the League, so I think it can't do anything but help."

Boy, Devils head coach Peter DeBoer was pretty spot on with his assessment at Thursday morning's media session of the return of Ilya Kovalchuk, wasn't he?

Kovalchuk was reportedly hindered by a herniated disc in his lower back since midway through New Jersey's first-round series with Florida. He sat out Game 2 of the Devils' second-round series with the Philadelphia Flyers with what the team described as a "lower-body injury."

Tonight though, he returned for his team's third tilt in front of the home crowd in Newark with a bang.

Rangers' Gaborik the OT Hero, Just In Time to Not Be the Goat

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Midnight had come and gone. The Rangers and Capitals, deadlocked at a goal a piece for over 54 minutes of game time, were frantically searching for someone, anyone, to write their own Cinderella story as the late hours of Wednesday night spilled over into the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Washington goaltender Braden Holtby had done everything outside of score the winner himself, turning aside 47 Rangers shots through five and a half periods of hockey. New York's pair of heralded rookies, Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin, had generated chance after chance, looking to add another chapter to their storybook seasons.

But in the end, it was a slumping superstar that became the hero, instead of being labeled the goat.

Marian Gaborik's shot off a Brad Richards feed beat Holtby through the five-hole at 14:41 of the third overtime and the Blueshirts raucously celebrated a marathon victory at the Verizon Center just minutes into Thursday morning:

For Gaborik, the marker couldn't have come at a more opportune time. After beating Holtby but hitting iron earlier in the third overtime, that $7.5 million salary loomed larger and larger as play continued. You see, New York's highest paid player (and 41-goal scorer in 2011-12) had hit a dry spell of epic proportions in these playoffs. He was scoreless in eight games, as the collective angst of New York sports fans started to reach A-Rodian levels.

But Gaborik has been no ugly stepsister this postseason, despite his goal-scoring drought. The Slovakian sniper now has seven points in 10 playoff games in 2012. While the Rangers well-documented scoring woes will always get blamed on him first, that's really not all that bad.

The argument, of course, is that he's being paid to score the goals. But if he's still creating them, who gives a damn? As a fan base that adores Ryan Callahan, the king of the ugly goal, and his "put it in off my teeth if you have to" attitude, it's amusing to watch Rangers fans sit back and gnaw at one of their own sometimes.

Let's play the hypothetical game. Had Gaborik not buried Richards' pass and the Capitals later found a way past Henrik Lundqvist last night, the firestorm that the media and fans would've conjured up may have been enough to start derailing this Rangers team. Mounting pressure, along with John Tortorella's quick trigger with line combinations may very well have landed Gaborik next to John Mitchell and Brandon Prust to start game 4, for all we know.

For his sake, and for theirs, Gaborik notched a goal many Blueshirts fans will never forget. And that, in itself, is close enough to a Cinderella story for any of them.


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