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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013 – Day 32

Day-32 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

INKTIME  on RINKTIME Observations and Random thoughts by Chris Madsen:

DID YOU KNOW?  OK, I’m going to start off today’s column with a very “Cliff Clavin-esque” stat of the day…have you realized that the final four teams vying for Lord Stanley’s Cup represents the last four Stanley Cup winners?

Kings-2012

Bruins-2011

Blackhawks-2010

Penguins-2009

And for those of you too young to know who Cliff Clavin is, here is a brief education on the genius of the man:

I’m sorry, but I just never get tired of that clip!  BTW, the last time this quirk in the NHL Post-Season occurred was 68 years ago, in 1945.

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TRYING TO BUILD ON PERFECTION:  After going (4-0) in my Conference Semi-final selections, it is time to breakout my Conference Finals picks.

The first one to me is relatively easy.

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL:  PENGUINS V. BRUINS–Both of these teams have taken similar paths to get to where they are now.  Both the Bruins and Penguins got S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-D in their Opening Round series by unlikely sources–The B’s by the Leafs and the Pens by the Islanders.  Then both teams hit their stride in Round-2 with Boston bouncing the Rangers in 5 games and Pittsburgh needing just 5 games to dispatch of the Senators.

The problem for the Bruins though, is that the Penguins are well…the Penguins!  With the usual suspects, Crosby , Malkin, Kunitz, Neal, Iginla and Dupuis…not to mention that this club is so deep that Brenden Morrow–a former Captain in Dallas–is a third line winger on this team!

But more importantly, Coach Dan Bylsma did what HE HAD TO DO in Round-1 and remove struggling, sentimental favorite in goal–Marc Andre-Fleury–and replaced him with solid veteran Tomas Vokoun.  And the results have been notable.  Vokoun has not lost a game in Regulation since (6-1) and he sports a very stingy 1.85 Goals Against Average, to go along with a .941 Save Percentage.

My advice to Marc is to buy a good book and a box of Snickers bars and get comfortable on the bench, because barring injury it’s “gonna be awhile” before you see action again.  And you can book this:

MY INKTIME ON RINKTIME PREDICTION:  Pens in 6

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The second selection is a bit more complicated.  Way back when we started, I predicted that the Blackhawks would make it to the Stanley Cup Final.  However, trends could say otherwise.

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL:  KINGS V. BLACKHAWKS–Both of these teams are a lesson in stick-to-it-tiveness.

The Kings started off horribly with back-to-back-losses at St. Louis, including a Game-1 where Goalie Jonathan Quick literally handed the game over to the Blues in Overtime.  But to Quick’s credit, this adversity seemed to light a fire within and the Kings have been blazing an interesting trail ever since.  They went on to stymie St. Louis 4-games-to-2.  Then, like a a pair of Heavyweight Champs, went toe-to-toe with the sizzling Sharks, while prevailing in a 7 game Series.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks manhandled Minnesota in 5-games in the Opening Round, only to fall behind Detroit 3-games-to-1 in the Semi-Finals.  All but written-off, they finally got Captain Jonathan Toews off the goal-scoring schneid and with Patrick Sharp as sharp as ever, rode the hot-hand of Goaltender Corey Crawford to 3-straight victories and a dramatic Game-7 victory in Overtime.

But the Kings story remains the same as a season ago…and that story is Jonathan Quick.  In fact, this year–thus far–the storyline gets slightly better for the Kings.  In 2012, Quick’s Post-Season consisted of a .946 Save Percentage.  This year, he’s at .960.

Now if the Playoffs are a place where Heroes are made, then it is time for Corey Crawford to step forward.  His numbers, thus far, are note-worthy by any measure…(8W-4L-1OTL,  1.70 GAA,  .938 PCT.)…but in order for the Hawks to get past the Defending Stanley Cup Champions, Crawford MUST find another level.

Offensively, I give a slight edge in the skill department to the Blackhawks.

Defensively, I believe the Kings have the best defenseman overall going in Playoffs right now in Drew Doughty…but…Chicago has the more mobile core and they transition as well as anybody going.

Physically, it is no match…the Kings are bigger and stronger and they MUST find a way to inflict pain without penalty.

And, in goal, Quick is quick and presently, there is none better.

However, the one other item that isn’t getting much ink is the schedule.  And remember, the Kings had to travel 2,500 miles over two time zones and will be forced to play back-to-back in Chicago tomorrow and Sunday.  Furthermore, the road has not been kind to LA.  And IMHO, the first two games of this series are critical.

Add it all up and my INKTIME ON RINKTIME PREDICTION:  Blackhawks in 7.

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If you agree, disagree or just wish to chime in on all things RINKS.  Please do so in the COMMENTS box below.

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UNTIL THE NEXT TIME WE LACE ‘EM UP AND HIT THE ICE!–Chris Madsen

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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013 – Day 31

Day-31 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

INKTIME  on RINKTIME Observations and Random thoughts by Chris Madsen:

I HATE TO SAY “I TOLD YOU SO”…BUT, I TOLD YOU SO:  Every Wednesday night in South Orange County, California, I lace ‘em up with several of my long-standing friends for what has become a pretty competitive game of pick-up hockey.   But many times the banter inside the locker room gets even more competitive as we have guys that grew up in Original-6 hockey towns like Detroit, New York, Boston, Toronto, Montreal and Chicago.  You know, deep-rooted affinity for their respective clubs.   And considering that all six teams qualified for the Post-Season this year…well…you can imagine how “spirited” the conversations have been over the last 4-1/2 weeks!

Anyway, a week ago Wednesday, one Red Wing enthusiast peered over his shoulder at me while he was exiting the locker room and said, “A little nervous, are we?”…knowing full well that my fanaticism for the Blackhawks dates back to a time when I was just starting to walk–and his Wings were on the verge of taking what many would consider an insurmountable 3-games-to-1 series lead.

“Nervous? Why should I be nervous?” I replied.  “Besides, last I heard, it takes 4-games to win a series.”

Now you are probably wondering, “Would he be writing about this exchange if the Blachakws had lost in Overtime?”

Yes…but from a completely different angle.

But considering Detroit didn’t win, the moral of this long-winded story is that Playoff hockey is unpredictable…take nothing for granted, because nothing is over–till it’s over…and man, did my post-game plate of fried calamari taste extra sweet last night!

Oh, and pass the cocktail sauce, please!

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IT’S UP TO YOU…NEW YORK…NEEEEW  YOOOORK!

A topic we brought-up for conversation earlier this week has played out in New York.  With a year remaining on his contract,  John Tortorella was relieved of his duties by the Rangers.

Tortorella’s fate may have been sealed when star Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (who BTW is entering the final year of his contract and the Rangers wish to sign him long term) publicly said this about his club’s season: “It is a step back.  We were in the conference finals last year, we had high expectations on ourselves this year. It didn’t go our way, so yeah it is a step back. It’s tough to make it there, though. You can’t just expect it to happen.”

Tortorella saw things differently:  “I know the surrounding feeling here is that it was a negative season, a disappointing season. I don’t buy it and I won’t.  There are some good things that happened. I don’t think we took a step backward. I think
this is a sideways step in our lineup and how things worked out.”

So who’s available out there to coach one of the most beloved teams in professional sports, while under the bright lights and scrutiny of the top media market in the land?  Two names immediately come to mind…Lindy Ruff–who I believe has the resume’ and approach to get stars Rick Nash and Brad Richards (if, they are going to keep him around) back on the same page…or…Ron Wilson–who could certainly handled the media in NY, while connecting with players young and old.

But tell me–WHO DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE THE NEXT HEAD COACH OF THE RANGERS?  Share your thoughts in the COMMENTS box below.

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OH HONEY, PLEASE TELL ME WE DON’T HAVE ANYTHING PLANNED FOR SATURDAY NIGHT???!!!: Here are your Conference Finals days, times and outlets…ENJOY!  UNTIL THE NEXT TIME WE LACE ‘EM UP AND HIT THE ICE!

–Chris Madsen

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2013 EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
SERIES M TIME (ET) #1 vs. #4 Networks/Results
SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 2013 8 p.m. BOSTON AT PITTSBURGH NBC, CBC, RDS
MONDAY, JUNE 3, 2013 8 p.m. BOSTON AT PITTSBURGH NBCSN, CBC, RDS
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, 2013 8 p.m. PITTSBURGH at BOSTON NBCSN, CBC, RDS
FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2013 8 p.m. PITTSBURGH at BOSTON NBCSN, CBC, RDS
*SUNDAY, JUNE 9, 2013 8 p.m. BOSTON AT PITTSBURGH NBCSN, CBC, RDS
*TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2013 TBD PITTSBURGH at BOSTON NBCSN, CBC, RDS
*WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2013 TBD BOSTON AT PITTSBURGH NBCSN, CBC, RDS
2013 WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
SERIES N TIME (ET) #1 vs. #5 Networks/Results
SATURDAY, June 1, 2013 5 p.m. LOS ANGELES at Chicago NBCSN, TSN, RDS
SUNDAY, JUne 2, 2013 8 p.m. LOS ANGELES at Chicago NBCSN, TSN, RDS
TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2013 9 p.m. Chicago at LOS ANGELES NBCSN, TSN, RDS
THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 2013 9 p.m. Chicago at LOS ANGELES NBCSN, CBC, RDS
*SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2013 8 p.m. LOS ANGELES at Chicago NBC, CBC, RDS
*MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2013 9 p.m. Chicago at LOS ANGELES NBCSN, CBC, RDS
*WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2013 TBD LOS ANGELES at Chicago NBCSN, CBC, RDS
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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013 – Day 30

Day-30 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

INKTIME  on RINKTIME Observations and Random thoughts by Chris Madsen:

BREAKING NEWS:  John Tortorella is OUT as Coach of the NY Rangers.

THE KINGS OF HIGH DRAMA:  I must admit that the Kings and Sharks kept me glued to the TV set in their winner-moves-on Game-7.  But the mystery of who was going to go to the Western Conference Finals was solved for me when Jonathan Quick made this improbable stop on Joe Pavelski (who probably didn’t get much sleep last night) with just over 5-minutes to go in the game:

At that point, I got up from my favorite chair and walked out to the patio.  My wife asked, “Where are you going?  The game’s not over yet.”  To which I replied, “Oh, yes it is!”

And so, for the moment, the Defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings are reduced to the role of most  mere mortals–spectators–as they await the outcome of tonight’s Game-7 in Chicago.  If the Blackhawks prevail (and I believe they will), my sources are telling me that the Western Conference Finals would begin in Chicago on Saturday at 5:00 EST.  But if the Red Wings complete the upset, the Kings would open at home on Friday night versus Detroit at 9:00 EST.

Stay tuned!

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AND SPEAKING OF THAT GAME-7 TONIGHT IN CHICAGO:  What a comeback it would be if the Blackhawks could completely overcome a 3-games-to-1 deficit to take this series tonight.  And this winner-take-all showdown between these two Original-6 franchises has been 48-years in the making.  This will be the third Game 7 all-time between these two teams and first since the Blackhawks won a semifinal matchup in 1965.

But history, let alone back-to-back victories by the Blackhawks to bring us to this point, means nothing right now.  This  upstart group of Red Wings–who, BTW eliminated the much heavier favored Ducks in 7 games–must keep Hawks Captain Jonathan Toews in check (he only has one goal this Post-Season), while Chicago must find a way to the disrupt the confidence of Wings netminder Jimmy Howard.

In preparation for the game, Toews suggested that he and his teammates should “embrace the opportunity”.  May I also suggest that we all embrace this opportunity to witness these two storied franchises clashing in the Playoffs one more time…because we may not see it for some time…as the Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference via realignment, while Chicago remains in the West.

And as for the pressure that is part and parcel of a Game-7, Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville shrugged his shoulders and put things in perspective: “I thought we just played two Game 7′s.  So we’re looking forward to the real Game 7. We’ve put ourselves in a good position and I’m excited about it.”

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UNTIL THE NEXT TIME WE LACE ‘EM UP AND HIT THE ICE!–Chris Madsen

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TONIGHT’S SCHEDULE:

Detroit at     Chicago     8:00 PM EST

 

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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013 – Day 29

Day-29 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

INKTIME  on RINKTIME Observations and Random thoughts by Chris Madsen:

INSIDE THE NUMBERS, PART 1:  With the series knotted at 3-games apiece, tonight the Kings play host to the Sharks with a trip to the Western Conference Finals on the line.  San Jose forced a Game-7 with a 2-1 victory at the Shark Tank on Saturday to maintain a common thread in this match-up–neither team has yet to win a game on the road.
But before you go crowning the Kings a winner before they even drop the puck, here are a few background notes that may sway your opinion.  What if I told you that the core guys in the Kings line-up–Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick–have NEVER experienced the heart-pumping, nerve frazzling, live-or-die-with-the-outcome finality.
If there was ever a time for Brown to lead by example, then tonight’s the night: “The worst thing going into a Game 7 is being uptight and stressed about it,” Brown said. “You should be excited to play in a game like (this). That’s where heroes are made.”
So will a guy like Anze Kopitar be that hero tonight?  “Everybody wants to be in these types of games, and you want to raise the level of play, and eventually you want to be the hero in these types of games.”
One thing is for certain…the numbers appear to be with the Kings.  Not only have they yet to lose at home to the Sharks in this series, but they have won 15 of the last 16 games between these two clubs that have been played at Staples Center.
And as for this So-Called Expert, I stand behind my original pick.  The Kings will prevail in this series…except in 7 games, as opposed to the 6 I called for.
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS, PART 2:  Talk about going from the Outhouse to the Penthouse!
Sharks veteran Center, Scott Gomez is about to play in the 10th Game 7 of his career…Can you believe that?  HIS 10TH!!!Ahhh…the benefits of playing with established franchises (New Jersey, Rangers, Canadiens).  But keep in mind that Montreal couldn’t banish Gomez fast enough–and yet, to his credit–Gomez sucked it up, suited up with Alaska of the ECHL and EARNED  a spot on the Sharks roster.

So, tonight, will Scott Gomez continue to reap the rewards?  “The main thing is that you can’t change your game,” Gomez said. “Do what got you here. Obviously, emotions are going to be running high. Family, friends, everyone — all eyes are on it. The team that can control (emotions) the most, and it sounds easier than it is, usually that’s the team that has success.”

Perhaps Coach Todd McLellan should just step aside and let Gomez reiterate those very words prior to the drop of the puck???!!!

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INSIDE THE NUMBERS, PART 3:  I want to thank many of my avid readers, friends and long-time NHL associates who contacted me to say how they were touched by yesterday’s MEMORIAL DAY TRIBUTE here on INKTIME ON RINKTIME. In keeping with the spirit of “leave no man behind”, I ask that you conisder supporting this wonderful cause, while encouraging the participation in the game that we all love:

For your consideration: http://www.defendingtheblueline.org/

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UNTIL THE NEXT TIME WE LACE ‘EM UP AND HIT THE ICE!–Chris Madsen

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TONIGHT’S SCHEDULE:

San Jose    at Los Angeles 9:00 PM EST