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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013 – Day 37

Day-37 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

INKTIME  on RINKTIME Observations and Random thoughts by Chris Madsen:

QUICK STRIKE:  Nothing like scoring early to set the tone, pull in the fans and give the best goaltender in the game the mindset of, “OK,  this is all we need.”  And that is precisely what Justin Williams afforded Jonathan Quick and the rest of his teammates after the Kings sniper snapped-off a wicked low wrist shot past Chicago Goalie Corey Crawford, en route to 3-1 Game-3 victory in the Western Conference Final to trim the Blackhawks lead in the series to 2-games-to-1.

But there was a disturbing exchange in the 2nd Period between between the Kings Jeff Carter (who I thought was one of the best players on the ice last night) and Hawks star defenseman Duncan Keith (who, BTW, was -2 in this game).  Now granted, Carter isn’t completely innocent.  He initiated the exchange with a tap on Keith’s exposed hand with the HEEL of his stick.  But Keith’s reaction was both undisciplined and dangerous when he swung the TOE of his stick and opened-up a gash just below Carter’s mouth.  Checkout Exhibit “A”:

Duncan Keith claimed: “Yeah, it was accidental.  Obviously, I wanted to give him a tap, but not where I got him. I felt bad. I’m glad to see that he came back. It was just a scuffle. It was an accident.”

While Kings Coach Darryl Sutter saw things differently:  “I didn’t think it was a four-minute penalty.  I thought it was a wrong call. That’s three head injuries now in the playoffs for us. I don’t know how to answer it. It’s retaliation with a stick. It’s not a high stick. Whatever they want to call it, they’ll call it. Don’t even need video.”

The injuries that Sutter is referencing is Kings Center  Jarret Stoll who was out for for 6-games in the second round with an upper body injury (apparent concussion) after taking what was deemed an illegal hit by San Jose’s Raffi Torres.   Then Kings Center Mike Richards has sat out the last 2-games after getting plastered by the Blackhawk’s Dave Bolland in Game-1 of this series.

Which leads us to the Question of the Day…should the Hawks Duncan Keith face supplemental discipline?  Please COMMENT below.  Regardless, have you ever tried having a cut heal where you are growing a beard?…PAINFUL!

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SOME NEW THREADS:  I don’t know about you, but I have been collecting hockey jerseys since my first assigned “beat” (the Blackhawks) in 1981.  And over those 33 years, I have bought, sold or given away over 200 sweaters.

Two teams…the Carolina Hurricanes and the Dallas Stars unveiled their new uniforms for next season.  So please tell me if you think either one or both is/are worthy of consideration:

While down in Dallas:

BTW, the Stars on March 8, 2014, the Stars will officially retire Mike Modano’s No. 9.  How fitting that the Stars opponent that night will be the Minnesota Wild–representing the State where Modano started his career with the North Stars after the franchise selected him first in the 1988 NHL Draft.

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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:

Pittsburgh     at     Boston     8:00 PM EST
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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.”

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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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