NEWARK, NJ Here are 15 thoughts from the Stanley Cup Finals with the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils tied at a 1-1 score and headed to overtime at the Prudential Center in Game 1 of the Finals.
FIRST PERIOD1) Very passive period of hockey from the New Jersey Devils where they looked a little tentative and very nervous. Too much passing in the offensive zone with nobody looking to take their shot and then David Clarkson zinged a shot high and wide when he had a golden scoring chance on Jonathan Quick.2) Colin Fraser, on the other hand, buried the one-timer from the slot for the Kings at the other end of the ice, and became the 16th Kings player to score a goal during the playoffs. It was a meaningful goal for Fraser, who has to feel a healthy Simon Gagne breathing at his neck to replace him in the lineup if hes not producing.3) Ten total shots on goal for both teams in the period. Not exactly VancouverBoston with up and down chances and Alex Burrows taking a bit out of Patrice Bergeron at the very end of the first period in Game 1.4) The Kings won 12 out of 17 face-offs in the first period and looked like the better team in just about every aspect. Pretty amazing considering that Los Angeles was coming off a seven day layoff following their Game 5 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.5) Two good chances for David Clarkson. Hit a post and missed wide. The Devils need to bury those if theyre hoping to take down the Kings.
1) The Devils didnt have a shot on goal in the first 10 minutes of the second period, and then completely caught fire in the second half of the period. It looked like they finally shook off the Cup Finals nerves and started playing aggressively. Zach Parise crashed the net and got tangled up with Jonathan Quick in a move that stirred the crowd and the emotional pace, and minutes later New Jersey had tied things up.2) Five hits for Dainius Zubrus through two periods. He looks like a bowling ball on the ice smashing into everything around. While many of his teammates were slow starters Zubrus was off the hop from the games beginning.3) Los Angeles Kings could have been winning much bigger after dominating the large portion of the second period. They may come to regret being unable to put New Jersey away before they snapped out of it.4) A couple of interesting numbers: Anze Kopitar leads both teams with three shots on goal and Jarret Stoll has won six out of seven face-offs.5) The Los Angeles Kings power play is making me have flashbacks of the Boston Bruins power play last year. Its that brutal. They were having trouble simply setting up and keeping the puck in their own zone. Not a recipe for success even if the Bruins won it all last year.
1) Martin Brodeur with an amazing double-stacked pad save on Drew Doughty with less than 10 minutes to go in a tied game in the third period. Yeah, this guy has been here before.2) Dainius Zubrus is flopping, hitting and getting involved all over the ice physically for the Devils in the first game against the Kings. Hell need to take a nibble out of somebodys finger to truly go over into the dark side of Stanley Cup Finals villains, however. A game-high seven hits for Zubrus in Game 1.3) Mark Fayne fanned on a wide open rebound attempt midway through the third period that could have iced the game for Jersey. Fayne grew up in the New England area. Its a cinch Fayne would understand why the name Glen Wesley comes to mind when he couldnt bury the bouncing puck.4) Ilya Kovalchuk has been a non-factor in his first Stanley Cup Finals game. No shots on goal, no hits and really no involvement for the New Jersey Devils in any productive way.5) Of course Game 1 is headed to overtime. This is the season of overtime after all. Loved the Kings willingness to stick with their system despite what was going on around them, and was impressed by the emotion and intensity New Jersey picked up midway through the game.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend.
*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City.
*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together.
*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility.
*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy.
*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment.
*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators.
*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot.
*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season.
*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want.
It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals.
The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse.
Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL.
This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience.
Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason.
On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.
The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.