Rangers help Lundqvist by deflecting dozens of Flyers shots away from their goalie
By: The Canadian Press
Apr 23, 2014
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Henrik Lundqvist was busy while stopping 31 of 32 Philadelphia shots that got through to him in the New York Rangers' Game 3 playoff win over the Flyers.
Who knows how exhausted he would have been if not for the 28 drives that never penetrated the wall of defence that shielded him?
Lundqvist allowed just one first-period goal in New York's 4-1 victory in Philadelphia on Tuesday night that gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the first-round series between Metropolitan Division rivals.
"Shot blocking is a skill, but it takes a lot of will and courage. Our guys have that," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday during a conference call. "It has more to do with the willingness to find that lane and block that shot.
"You know it's coming and you know it's going to hurt. That's just part of winning hockey. Teams that usually have that in their repertoire are usually good teams. We had to make some great defensive plays."
New York took an early 2-0 edge in Game 3, yielded momentum back to the Flyers—just as the Rangers did in their Game 2 home loss Sunday—but managed to restore the two-goal lead in the second period and add an insurance goal in the third to reclaim home-ice advantage in the series.
In New York's series-opening 4-1 win, the Rangers yielded only 15 shots on goal and blocked 16 other attempts. The Flyers gave up 36 shots and blocked 22 drives by the Rangers.
Philadelphia again blocked 22 attempts in a 4-2 win in Game 2 and allowed 33 shots. The Flyers recorded 25 shots on Lundqvist and had 13 blocked.
"It's a big part in the playoffs," Lundqvist said. "That's huge when guys pay the price like that. It's tough mentally for the other team when you try to get going and guys are just throwing themselves in front of the puck and stop it.
"I think it brings a lot of energy to the group when you see a big block because every play matters right now. Even though it's a 3-1 game, if they score it can change everything."
Although the Flyers threatened often, the Rangers never let them catch up as Philadelphia has proven it could do all season.
This was defence the Flyers weren't used to, however. The most shots Philadelphia had blocked in any game this season was 30 against Toronto on March 8.
Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux chalked up the Rangers' blocking ability to "good timing, I guess."
"One thing we need to look at is make sure that the puck goes through," Giroux said. "Our defence did a good job blocking shots. When it's going to start going through, it'll start going in."
The Flyers, who had an additional 20 shot attempts that missed the net, got in front of 11 potential drives by the Rangers. But Ray Emery allowed four shots to go in before he was replaced in the third period by previously injured No. 1 goalie Steve Mason, who is the likely starter in Game 4 on Friday in Philadelphia.
If the Flyers can't get pucks past the shot-blockers and Lundqvist, whichever goalie Philadelphia has guarding its net won't matter much.
"We've got to move the puck quicker than we are," Flyers coach Craig Berube said of his club's power play that went 0 for 5 on Tuesday. "I think it's too predictable with what we're doing."
With a two-day break before Game 4, the Rangers returned home after their latest victory. They had the day off Wednesday, will practice on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, and then head back to Philadelphia.
Of the Rangers' 18 skaters on Tuesday, 15 were credited with at least one blocked shot. Seven players had at least two, and defenceman Dan Girardi had a team-high five.
"We just played a lot harder than we did in Game 2, and that shows through desperation," said Girardi, who also scored a key goal Tuesday. "They're not a team that's just going to give up and roll over."
The Flames appear to be a team on the rise. Will an increased possession game and improved goaltending be enough to get them into the playoffs?
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season. Today, the Calgary Flames.
THN's Prediction: 4th in Pacific
Stanley Cup odds: 30-1
Key additions: Troy Brouwer, RW; Brian Elliott, G; Alex Chiasson, RW; Matthew Tkachuk, LW; Linden Vey, RW; Chad Johnson, G
Key departures: Joe Colborne, RW; Jonas Hiller, G; Mason Raymond, LW; Josh Jooris, C; Niklas Backstrom, G
-Can new coach Glen Gulutzan get the Flames to play with possession? Deposed Calgary coach Bob Hartley was a big fan of the stretch pass to create offensive chances and stressed shot blocking to suppress the opposition. Both meant the puck was wayward rather than controlled. That type of old school thinking ran thin with GM Brad Treliving, and the coach of the year in 2014-15 was replaced.
Gulutzan is regarded as more progressive in his coaching style and is sure to find creative ways of keeping the puck on the sticks of his skilled young forwards and mobile defense corps.
-Who's the next young gun to step in and shine? In each of the past three seasons, Calgary has seen an unproven rookie blossom in an offensive role. From Sean Monahan to Johnny Gaudreau to Sam Bennett, the future is in good hands.
Expect to see two of the following win jobs. Winger Hunter Shinkaruk showed well in an eight-game trial last season, sixth-overall pick Matthew Tkachuk is a mature 18, Daniel Pribyl is big and skilled, and 2013 first-rounder Emile Poirier is quick with nice finish.
-Is Brian Elliott's stellar save percentage transferrable to Alberta? Was it the team system in St. Louis or just Elliott’s ability to stop shots at an elite level that led to an otherworldly .925 save percentage the past five seasons combined?
Chances are it was a combination of both. Elliott is unheralded, but then again, the defensive schemes of Ken Hitchcock leads to his goalies posting nice SPs. At 31, Elliott is in the final year of his contract at a modest $2.5 million. A good showing and he’ll double that number.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
Once you see the same thing happen a couple times it becomes less surprising. After Toronto in 2013-14 and Colorado in 2014-15, Calgary became the latest team to crash back down to Earth after a miracle season. This season should be different for the Flames and you may see them take some real steps toward being a playoff team.
The biggest change comes in net with the additions of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson who should be much better at keeping pucks out of the net. Last year’s team finished last in save percentage which was a big reason for their undoing. That shouldn’t be an issue this year.
What will likely be an issue is team depth. Top heavy is a word that gets undeservedly thrown around for good teams like the Penguins and Sharks that have great players and depth. The Flames have great players, but the bottom of the roster looks sketchy. They have an okay top six led by Johnny Gaudreau, but the bottom has four replacement level players. Their fourth line is the worst in the league and it’s a big reason why the team’s forward group is in the bottom five.
On defense, the divide is even crazier. The team has arguably three No. 1 D-men followed by three replacement level guys. No other team has a gap that severe, although it’s not as big of an issue here as the strength of the top three pushes the entire unit into the top 10.
Putting the two together, Calgary has one of the league’s biggest discrepancies between their top-end talent (top six forwards and top four defensemen) which ranks 15th and their depth (bottom six forwards and bottom pair d-men) which ranks 28th.
What you’ll notice here is that the best teams have good top end talent with the depth to match, while weaker teams are lacking in one area, although there are exceptions to both rules. Calgary is a team that’s likely on the playoff bubble this year and in order to take the next step they’ll need some bigger steps from top end guys like Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett and they need to solidify their depth because what they’re trotting out on the bottom lines isn’t good enough.
Team Europe will do anything to win – even lie to itself
By Matt Larkin
Sep 27, 2016
Europe could pack it in after its best effort couldn't trump Canada's weakest in Game 1 of the World Cup final. But Ralph Krueger's troops aren't quitting.
TORONTO – Is Team Europe the master of its own fate in the World Cup final? It's debatable.
On one hand, it's tough to dictate how you fare when you're up against the monolith that is Canada, a hockey power that, even by its lofty standards, may be in its most dominant stretch of all-time. Tuesday night's 3-1 victory marked Canada's 15th straight victory in best-on-best tournament play. In a way, Canada's uncharacteristically uneven effort is especially demoralizing for Europe given Canada seemed to flick a switch whenever it needed to. The Euros opened the game with an aggressive shift and a power play, and Canada countered with two goals off turnovers. The Euros peppered Carey Price with 23 shots in less than 30 minutes, then Canada didn't allow a shot for more than six minutes. It seemed Canada dictated how the game would go by deciding when it felt like playing.
On the other hand, Europe can look at Tuesday's result and say, sheesh, we were pretty close. We outplayed the Canucks for extended stretches. All three of their goals came off takeaways. Those are correctable mistakes. We had distinct territorial advantages for much of the game. Carey Price helped maintain Canada's lead. We weren't that far from forcing overtime.
Can you guess which stance Team Europe takes? Well, yeah, obviously.
“We definitely felt we had a chance out here tonight," center Frans Nielsen told reporters after the game. "It was a tough loss, but we can take a lot of good from it, too. Everyone in there really believes now that we can go out and win this next one and make it a one-game series.”
Anze Kopitar called Game 1 Europe's best game of the tournament. Nielsen said Canada's weakness, if it had one, was defensive play, and that Europe did a good job forcing Canada to defend. Coach Ralph Krueger suggested the opportunities were even "if you cut the goals out of the videos."
Wow. It sure feels like the Europeans are lying to themselves. But good on them. Faced with a seemingly unbeatable opponent, the choices are (a) accept that they have no hope and mail in their next effort or (b) choose to believe even if they have no business believing. Not only has Europe chosen the latter route, but the team is downright angry about Game 1, as if it deserved a victory as much as Canada did.
"We're proud of that effort, and the creation of it, but we're very frustrated, of course, with what and how we gave up the goals we did," Krueger said. "Just a little bit too much risk at the wrong times, and the power of Canada is that: to take opportunities and jam them into the net.
"What we can take out of this is a lot of courage that we played a strong game, that we had a lot of opportunity that we didn't make enough out of. We could have tested Price a lot more with the chances we had, and some of them just died on our own sticks."
Kopitar pointed out that Europe dictated the pace for much of Game 1, and even though that might've been just because Canada sat back, the statement is true. He, like Krueger, said Canada's goals were the result of Europe's mistakes.
See a theme here? Krueger's troops aren't bowing down to Canada in admiration. It's not "we couldn't stop them" or "they're such a great team." It's "we made mistakes" and "we dictated play." The Euros are taking ownership, implying they have the ability to dictate what happens in Game 2 and beyond. Even though that probably isn't true – uh, it's Canada, you guys – it's a sign of good coaching that the Euros speak with such conviction.
That's all well and good, but they still weren't nearly good enough to beat Canada. What must they specifically do besides believe in themselves if they want to force Game 3? When I asked Krueger about that second period lull after they opened with 23 shots, he said Europe got hemmed in with some tired defensemen on long shifts, so they have to try and manage their minutes better going forward. He was pleased with the fact his team had so many takeaways and thinks his forwards' dogged forechecking will continue to create transition opportunities. The offense comes from conscientious defense.
“Ralph said from day 1 that the team with the best defense usually comes out on top of these kinds of tournaments," Nielsen said. "We’ve been focusing on a lot of that, being a frustrating team to play against and feeding off turnovers. We’ve got so many good players on the team and we’ve got speed, so when we get those turnovers we’re good enough to make teams pay.”
Now it's time to back up the talk. Team Europe still believes it has the talent and work ethic to beat Canada, but it'll have to find a way to solve Price if it does continue creating chances in transition. Otherwise, it'll be a short series.
And let's be honest. That's what we expect. Canada still looks like a team that can do what it wants out there. But bless the Europeans for refusing to accept that and keeping things interesting. They've proven us wrong time and again, so maybe they have one last miracle to unleash.
Down Goes Brown: Five times a team avenged a round robin loss at the World Cup
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 21, 2016
The history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped, so don't worry just yet. Unless you're Team USA.
We're two games into the round robin portion of the World Cup, and we've already seen a handful of upsets, with favorites like Russia and the United States already tasting defeat, and in the case of the Americans, already being eliminated. With one game to go and some of the four playoff spots still up for grabs, fans around the world are no doubt panicking over the games their teams let get away.
But while the round robin is obviously important – you have to make the playoffs to win the whole thing – it's worth remembering that the results of individual games don't necessarily tell us much as much as we might think about what will happen in the playoff rounds.
In fact, the history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped down the line. So in an effort to calm some nerves, here are five times that overreacting to a round robin result would have steered you wrong once the eliminations games began.
1976: Czechoslovakia 1 – Canada 0
In the first ever round robin game in Canada Cup history, Canada made a statement by crushing Finland 11-2. They went on the beat Sweden and the U.S., and they closed out the round with a win over their arch-rivals from the Soviet Union, winning those three games by a combined score of 11-3.
But in between, they dropped a surprising decision to Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Dzurilla outduelled Rogie Vachon at the Montreal Forum, turning aside all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 win. The game was an instant classic, described at the time as one of the best ever played.
The two teams finished at the top of round robin standings, setting up a best-of-three final. But there was no repeat of Dzurilla's heroics – Team Canada blitzed him for four goals in the first period of the opening game, sending him to the bench and paving the way for a lopsided 6-0 win. Game 2 was more entertaining, with Canada jumping out to a 2-0 lead just three minutes in before a Czechoslovakian comeback set the stage for Darryl Sittler's tournament winner in overtime.
1981: Canada 7 – Soviet Union 3
By 1981, the Soviet Union was coming off a relatively rough stretch of international play. They'd won their usual Olympic gold in 1972 and 1976, but been upset by Team USA's Miracle on Ice squad in 1980, lost the 1972 Summit Series, and failed to even make the final of the 1976 Canada Cup.
When they met Canada in 1981 in the final game of the round robin, both teams were undefeated and battling for first place. The game was tied at 2-2 heading into the third, but Canada erupted for five straight goals in what ended up being a 7-3 laugher. Even with star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak sitting out due to illness, the result was an embarrassing one for the Soviets.
Both teams won their semifinal game to advance to a one-game winner-take-all final in Montreal. With Tretiak back in goal, most fans expected a closer game. Instead, they got an even bigger blowout. But this time, it was the Soviets who ran up the score, earning an 8-1 win and handing Canada what still stands to this day as its most embarrassing international loss.
1984: Soviet Union 6 – Canada 3
Three years after their impressive win, the Soviets looked even more dominant through the round robin portion of the 1984 tournament. Heading into a final game showdown against a struggling Team Canada, they were sporting a 4-0-0 record and looking to wrap up the tournament's top seed. They went on to smother their rivals in an impressive 6-3 win, finishing the round robin with a perfect record and dropping Canada down to fourth place.
That set up another meeting between the two nations in the tournament semi-final, held just three days later in Calgary. After being held to just 17 shots in the round robin, Canada exploded for 41 in the rematch. But Soviet goaltender Vladimir Myshkin stood on his head, and had his team in position to win with a 2-1 lead late in regulation. It took a late goal by Doug Wilson to set up overtime, where Paul Coffey's lunging breakup of a Soviet 2-on-1 set the stage of Mike Bossy's sudden death winner.
Canada went on to sweep Sweden in the final to claim the tournament. It marked the third straight time that the eventual Canada Cup champion had avenged a round robin loss on the way to their title.
1987: Czechoslovakia 4 – Canada 4; Sweden 5 – Soviet Union 3
The 1987 Canada Cup marked the first time that the eventual champion went undefeated through the round robin. That would be Canada, who beat the Soviets in a three-game classic punctuated by Mario Lemieux's historic winner.
But while Canada didn't have any losses to avenge on their way to the title, they weren't perfect in the round robin. And the first blemish came in their opening game, when a rusty Canadian squad blew a third period lead on their way to a 4-4 tie with Czechoslovakia. That was a disappointing result against a team that had gone 0-4-1 in the previous tournament, and raised questions as to whether Canada could defend their crown. Meanwhile, the tournament's other favorite had a disappointing opening of their own, as the Soviets gave up three goals in the first eight minutes while dropping a 5-3 decisions to Sweden.
Both powerhouses recovered well, with each winning three straight before facing each other in the round robin finale and skating to a 3-3 draw. That set up a pair of semifinal rematches, with Canada facing Czechoslovakia and the Soviets drawing Sweden.
This time, the favorites took care of business. Canada started slowly but pumped home four straight goals to take a 5-3 final, while the Soviets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before eliminating Sweden by a 4-2 score. That set the stage for a final that still stands as perhaps the best international hockey series ever played.
As a side note, the Czechoslovakian goaltender for both of those games against Canada was a 22-year-old kid that most North Americans had never heard of. He eventually made it to the NHL three years later, and turned out to be pretty good. He even got some revenge against Canada at an international tournament over a decade later.
2004: Russia 3 – USA 1; Sweden 4 – Czech Republic 3
Canada didn't have to avenge any round robin losses on their way to the 1991 title, and the United States likewise was a perfect 3-0-0 under the new World Cup format before winning it all in 1996. Canada repeated that feat in 2004, making it four straight Canada/World Cups that have been won by a team that didn't suffer a loss during the round robin. Yes, that's right – it's now been 32 years and counting since a team lost a round robin game and still managed to win this tournament. Wait, this is supposed to be about giving teams that lost in the round robin hope. Forget everything I just mentioned.
But we can still find a couple of revenge games in the 2004 round robin, thanks to that year's, um, interesting format. The tournament featured eight teams, and the playoff round featured… eight teams. Yes, everyone made the playoffs in 2004, with the round robin settling the seeding and nothing else.
That format actually gave us a few interesting moments, like top-seeded Finland needing a goal in the dying minutes to edge winless Germany 2-1. And it also set up a pair of interesting rematches. In the round robin, the defending champion Team USA had dropped its first two games, to Canada and Russia. In the latter game, they fell 3-1 while being outshot 45-21. The 0-2 start didn't hurt their playoff hopes, because of the whole "everyone makes it" thing, but it certainly put a dent in their confidence.
Meanwhile, the Czechs dropped their opener 4-0 to Finland, then fell behind by the same score to Sweden. They came back to at least make that game a respectable 4-3 final, but other than running up the score on Germany in the finale, they didn't come out of the round robin with much room for optimism.
But in the opening round, both teams got a chance at payback, and both took it. The Czechs looked like a different team, shelling Mikael Tellqvist and Team Sweden in a 6-1 win. The Russia/Team USA rematch was a closer affair, with both teams going back and forth, but the Americans held on for a 5-3 win.
Both teams went on to lose in the semifinal, although the U.S. blew a late lead against Finland and the Czechs took Canada to overtime. Canada beat Finland in the one-game final, the year-long NHL lockout began the next day, and the World Cup hasn't been seen since. Twelve years later, we're finally getting another look at the tournament, and another chance to see a tough round robin loss avenged in the playoffs.
At least, that's what teams like Russia, Finland and North America are hoping.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
World Cup showing helps Seidenberg land one-year deal with Islanders
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 28, 2016
Team Europe may be trailing the best-of-three World Cup final, but Dennis Seidenberg will be in good spirits after the Game 1 loss as he has signed a one-year, $1-million deal with the New York Islanders
Dennis Seidenberg had two goals for the World Cup of Hockey. The first was to help Team Europe to a title, and the other was to play well enough to land himself a contract.
“I just have to focus on playing my game,” Seidenberg told the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa of chasing a deal in the tournament. “There’s no magic to it. It’s playing a simple style of hockey. That’s basically it. I don’t have to try and do something I can’t do. That’s going to go the other way if you do that.”
And while falling behind 1-0 in the best-of-three final series to Team Canada isn’t going to help Seidenberg accomplish his first goal, he has done his part — playing his game, and doing so to the best of his ability — to take care of his contract status. The New York Islanders announced Wednesday that they have come to terms on a one-year, $1-million contract with Seidenberg.
The contract comes three months after Seidenberg was bought out by the Boston Bruins and amidst speculation that several teams were interested in bringing him aboard. It’s a good signing, too, especially for an Islanders team that was in need of some fresh faces to help on the back end after watching Brian Strait head to the Winnipeg Jets as a free agent. The best part about Seidenberg’s signing, though, is that it’s low risk and high reward for both parties.
For Seidenberg, the new role will likely be a bottom-pairing position with a team that already has enough top-end blueliners to fill out the roster. Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Calvin De Haan and Thomas Hickey are all more than capable, and the same goes for young blueliners Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. However, it can never hurt to have some added insurance, and the 35-year-old Seidenberg has the experience and ability to still chip in on the back end.
Though he’s coming off of a tough season, one in which he had a sub-20 minute average ice time for the first time since 2007-08, Seidenberg can still be a decent blueliner in his own end. The issue is mobility, but if he’s paired with someone who allows him to be a stay at home defender, Seidenberg could benefit. And as for his ice time, it’s not likely he’ll be asked to take on a much larger role than he did this past season.
The biggest concern about Seidenberg may be his health, though. He played in 61 games this past season and dealt with back and knee ailments, and he has been forced to miss significant amounts of time in two of the past three seasons. That said, on a one-year deal, there’s no risk for the Islanders. If Seidenberg goes down, they can bring up a fresh face to fill his place.
So, win or lose at the World Cup, Seidenberg’s tournament was a success.