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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013 – Day 36

Day-36 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

INKTIME  on RINKTIME Observations and Random thoughts by Chris Madsen:

THESE B’s ARE BUZZIN':  I must admit that I NEVER saw the start to this Series coming.  But, then again, apparently Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma and his high profile players not only didn’t see it, they have proven over not one–but TWO games–that they do/did not have the ability to read and react…so, subsequently the Bruins are up 2-games-to-none with the Series set to shift to Boston.

In hockey, Coaches try to defend against what is known as a “quick-strike offense” and with names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Chris Kunitz, James Neal and Pascal Dupuis dotting their line-up, perhaps this phrase has been used most often this  season when referring to the Penguins.  But the Bruins put a “quick strike offense” to work less than a minute into Game-2 and added an exclamation point by responding with another goal just seconds after the Pens got on the board.

And to give you an example of just how ineffective  Crosby, Malkin, Iginla, Kunitz, Neal and Dupuis have been thus far in this series–COMBINED–they have amassed ZERO points, while also proving to be a liability on the defensive side of the puck with a CUMULATIVE   – 20,   +/- rating.

And on top of all this, Coach Bylsma has a decision to make for Game-3 at TD Garden…like, who gets the start in goal?   Tomas Vokoun  got the hook after surrendering 3 goals on 12 shots.  But in all honesty, Marc-Andre Fleury  never looked comfortable after filling in, and he a gave up 3 goals on 17 shots.

Meanwhile, all is sunny in Beantown.  Now, if we could only hear from all of those Claude Julien second-guessers???!!!

Winning has a way of silencing the critics.

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CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS Courtesy of nhl.com :

OFFENSIVE LEADERS

 

WOULD “THE GREAT ONE” BE A GOOD FIT?:  Rumors continue to swirl that Wayne Gretzky is interested in the Rangers Head Coaching job.  Then again, reportedly Gretz’s former teammate Mark Messier is reportedly interested too.  But would either guy fill the bill?

At least Gretzky has 4-years of coaching experience at the NHL on his resume’.  Wayne guided the rudderless Phoenix Coyotes for 4-seasons, and under the circumstances (and financial duress) compiled a record of 143-161-24–while never qualifying for the Playoffs.

Messier–who arguably is even more popular in the New York area than Gretzky after leading the Rangers to a Stanley Cup in 1994–only has coaching experience at the International level…and that was for one year in 2010.

The problem for both men is that although both were great as players, there are at least three guys I can think of off the top of my head that have far more coaching experience and post-season accomplishments to brag about.  And they are Lindy Ruff, Ron Wilson and Alain Vigneault.

Then again, if I’m Vigneault, I’d do my best to steer the interview conversation as far away from my Playoff record as possible.

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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:

Chicago     at     Los Angeles    9:00 EST
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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013 – Day 35

Day-35 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

INKTIME  on RINKTIME Observations and Random thoughts by Chris Madsen:

IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT?  Living and working (as a Sports Anchor, no less) in the LA/Orange County Sports market, as you can imagine I have taken my far share of criticism for picking the Blackhawks over the Kings in the Western Conference Finals.

So, I want to make something clear…if I wanted to make my picks on emotion, agenda, and proximity, of course I would love to see the Kings move on.  I have friends and colleagues who work in the Broadcasting Department and Front Office…heck, I’ve known Coach Darryl Sutter for 30 years!  But I wanted to clarify that when an entity, such as RINKTIME, asks for my “expert” analysis, all biases and connections over my 33 years of covering the NHL must be set aside and my instincts must be expressed unfettered and without external influence(s).

Now, that approach isn’t always accurate (I’m 9-3 through two Rounds), but even if the Kings come back to take this Series…even if the Bruins eliminate the Penguins…and even if I was to get the Stanley Cup Final pick wrong, I would finish at (9-6)…and tell me…how many teams and coaches would like to win 9-times out of every 15-times they take the ice?

And besides, folks, I’m doing this for “fun”! Nothing I write influences who is in the line-up…which pass goes where…who takes a shot…and what puck gets stopped or another that gets re-directed past a goaltender doing his absolute best.  In other words, regardless of who I pick–may the better team over the length of that particular series, prevail.

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OH, AND ANOTHER THING:  At least I know you are reading what I write, because many of my hockey friends called me out on this observation I made on Friday…

“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.”

—–

Several people thought that in this day and age of Chartered flights, sleep studies, nutrition, compacted schedules and technology that this was a bit of a stretch.

Well, did you see the opening Period of Saturday’s game in Chicago?  The Blackhawks had the first 9 shots of the game!  The Kings had no answer for more “stretch passes” than many of the their players had seen since their last shinny hockey game.  And the Hawks out shot the Defending Stanley Cup Champions 17-2 through the first 20 minutes.

Now some will counter that the Kings led 1-0 after those first 20-minutes (on a fluke goal by Justin Williams) , but even LA Coach Darryl Sutter admitted afterward that he felt “fortunate”.  In fact, the Kings really didn’t catch their stride until sometime during the 3rd Period.  And of course, Sunday the Kings just looked completely out of sorts.

But getting back to that Friday observation…Hockey players and organizations are programmed.  Take it from a former Play-by-play announcer who can still tell you specific times of the day without the need for a watch–even though I haven’t called an NHL game in 11 years.

The Kings “body clock” was thrown a huge curveball the moment the Blackhawks prevailed over the Red Wings in Game-7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Nobody out there can convince me that the Kings weren’t rooting for the Wings and hoping the game would go double or triple Overtime!  And why?  Because the Wings would not have gotten out of Chicago until the wee hours of Thursday morning–had to fly cross country–through three time zones different from their own body clock–and then play the Kings at Staples Center…where the Kings have not lost thus far this Post Season.

But as we all know, things didn’t turn out that way.  So already, mentally, the Kings had to adjust and physically their bodies would not even be given the chance to adjust to the Central Time Zone for Game-1, because the Opening face-off was set for 4:00 CENTRAL…which means, at a time when most West Coast team players are taking their game day nap–they are suiting-up to play!

Oh, and if you are still not convinced…need I remind you how the Red Wings fared in their Opening Game of the Semi-Finals in Chicago, after getting stretched to a 7th Game IN ANAHEIM?  They had to suit-up 3-days later–in Chicago– and still looked completely fatigued in a 4-1 loss.

And if you still don’t think rest and adjustment plays a huge role this time of year, then just listen to Darryl Sutter’s Post-Game comments following the Kings Game-2 loss around the 1:45 mark:

Gotta love the way the Coach is looking ahead,  “5-games,  in 10-days.”  Sounds like he thinks this Series could go 7-games, too!

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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:

Boston at     Pittsburgh     8:00 PM EST

 

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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