Laviolette won't heap all responsibility on goalies

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Laviolette won't heap all responsibility on goalies

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Posted: 5 p.m.
By Tim Panaccio
CSNPhilly.com

Ryan Miller stole two games in the Buffalo series with 1-0 shutouts over the Flyers.

Two games into this Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Bruins, weve seen a blowout loss and Tim Thomas stealing a 3-2 overtime win on Monday night in Game 2 with 52 saves.

Fifty-two!

Flyer fans ask themselves, "Is Brian Boucher capable of doing what Thomas has done and steal a game?"

Anyone who thinks the Flyers, given their injuries, goaltending and power play right now, are capable of spotting the Bruins another victory in Game 3 when the series resumes Wednesday in Boston, needs a reminder these are not the same Bruins of a year ago.

Were gonna go into Boston and were gonna have some fun, coach Peter Laviolette said. We just put our comfortable slippers on. Its time to go in there.

The pressure gets alleviated a bit when youre down 0-3 last year and 0-2 this year. Technically, thats 0-5. Im not sure any team in the history of sports has come back from 0-5. Were just going in there to have fun.

Laviolette wants to spin the series that the pressure is now on Boston not to choke two years in succession.

Boston came back from an 0-2 hole against Montreal in the previous series. So they know anything is possible.

We do know from the way that we were able to come back last series, though, that a 2-0 lead in a series doesnt mean that the series is over, Thomas said. We still have a lot of work in front of us.

As long as we take the same approach one game at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time, I think thats the right approach. So thats the way we will approach it going forward.

Asked if the Flyers needed him to steal a game, Boucher answered in a round about way, while concealing his injured left hand (dislocated finger) in his pocket.

If we play the way we played in the third period and overtime, I think that will be enough to get a win, he said. The goalie always wants to do his part. You dont know when the moment is going to come when you have to do it.

Its not like, ok we need you to steal one tonight. Thats how it plays out in a game. Sometimes, the goalie is the difference maker. Sometimes he is not a factor. If I can do that I would love to do it.

Laviolette has won a Stanley Cup rotating goalies in Carolina and having Cam Ward steal him some games along the way.

Yet the Flyers coach insists he doesnt need his goalies to steal a game in this series. Unless privately, he feels his goalies cant and wont admit that.

Laviolette says the Flyers' makeup is such that no goalie should have to steal a game because of the supporting cast around him.

Theres no question goaltenders can steal games, Laviolette said. I think Ryan Miller stole two games for Buffalo in the first round. I liked our game better than theirs. If you are being objective, and Im usually pretty honest about it, Boston outplayed us in Game 1.

You go back to that Buffalo series, Ryan Miller played really well and our goaltender did, too. They were both 1-0 losses. But he didnt let it in ...

Certainly we need all of our players to play well. To put that much direction on one player, that is not how we are built. Were built as a team. We have been successful all year as the sum of all parts. To say we dont need good goaltending would not be true. We need good offense and defense and that is how we survive here. We dont do it by one person.

Its unfair to single out a guy and put that much on the goalie. That is not how were built. If it was how we were built, youd certainly think that.

It sounds like hes afraid to admit what most people feel they already know about the Flyers. Since the Flyers didnt get a shutout this season, theyre incapable of stealing games when the chips are down.

Truth is, both Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky each stole some wins this year, but this is the playoffs and the stakes are higher and nothing so far suggests the Flyers are going to steal a game.

I am not letting anyone off the hook here, including the goaltender, Laviolette said. The goaltender has to play well, as does our defense. There are certain things we can do better. Our power play needs to click. Our penalty kill has to do its job.

Michael Leighton gave the Flyers three shutouts against Montreal last year. None of the shutouts were close. Yet a shutout, frankly, is what the Flyers may need.

While the Flyers have scored 27 goals in the playoffs, they have just 18 on home ice in six games. A 3.0 goals per game average might work with Thomas in net at home, but it wont with the Flyers.

On the road, the Flyers always play better and averaged 3.0 goals a game against Buffalo. Their road average this year was slightly over 3.0.

What were saying here is the Flyers are going to need at least three goals on Thomas every night to have a chance to win.

I know we scored goals the entire season," Laviolette said. Im confident well go to Boston and score goals.

It took team captain Mike Richards eight shots in Game 1 to get his first goal of the playoffs. He had 10 shots in Game 2 and didnt score.

You go over things you want to do in your head, Richards explained. Certain plays that you want to do. I felt if I had another eight shots like I did in Game 1, I would score. I had 10 and didnt. Its frustrating. But if I keep throwing pucks toward the net get another 10 shots tomorrow, one of them will go in.

The first thing the Flyers need to do is shut down David Krejcis line which is piling up points in the series. They have eight points through two games with Krejci getting both game winners.

Theres things we can do better, Laviolette said. Defensively, we can tighten things down a bit. Our guys competed really hard and kept their foot on the gas the whole game. Thats the way it goes sometimes.

You get a bounce, you get a break or you dont thats the playoffs in general. Theres lot of positives to take from the game and move forward.

The Flyers didnt skate Tuesday, but watched some video. No one was happy about blowing a 2-0 lead in the first period, either.

Well thats playoff hockey, Kimmo Timonen said. The lead is never safe. It doesnt matter if its 2-0 or 1-0, thats playoff hockey. Weve seen it around the league, it happens, 3-0 leads and the team comes back.

Obviously, with a 2-0 lead we have to make sure we get the next goal. Obviously, they got a quick two goals and it was a new game. Overall, I thought we played pretty well. We created so many chances to score but couldnt put one in.

To their credit, the Flyers spirits dont seem dampened at this point. That could change if things dont improve in Game 3.

There is a 100 percent belief in here that we can go into Boston and win the next game, Laviolette said. I have no question. I dont think they do.

Theres a lot of guys who have battled through situations and been able to win games. I have no reason to doubt that tomorrow that would be any different.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

Related: Flyers notes: No answer for Krejcis line Greenberg: Flyers desperate for Pronger and Carter

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

PITTSBURGH -- To their credit, the Sharks regrouped after a miserable first period at Consol Energy Center in which it looked like they might get run out of the building.

It wasn’t enough, though, as Nick Bonino’s late third period goal pushed the Penguins to a 3-2 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

On the game-winner, Brent Burns lost his stick and couldn’t prevent Kris Letang from finding Bonino in front of the net with Paul Martin defending the slot. Bonino flipped it through Martin Jones at 17:27 of the final frame.

The Sharks went to the power play with 2:09 to go, but couldn’t tie it up.

Game 2 is in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The Penguins dominated the first period, only to have the Sharks completely turn the tables in the second, resulting in a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes.

The Penguins had the Sharks on their heels for virtually the entire opening frame, outshooting San Jose 15-4 and scoring a pair.

The first came at 12:46 of the first. On a rush, Justin Schultz’s shot from the high slot hit the glove of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and rookie Bryan Rust was there to smack in the loose puck.

Just one minute and two seconds later, the Penguins upped their cushion. Sidney Crosby tracked down a loose puck in the corner ahead of Justin Braun, calmly played the puck off his backhand and whipped a cross-ice pass to Conor Sheary. Another rookie, Sheary whizzed a wrist shot past Jones’ far shoulder.

It was evident early in the second, though, that San Jose had regrouped, as Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski both had good looks at the net. They broke through on an early power play courtesy of Tomas Hertl, who curled in a pass from down low off of Olli Maatta at 3:02.

Pittsburgh withstood a continual push from the Sharks for much of the period until Marleau’s late score. After Couture outworked Maatta deep in the offensive zone and pushed the puck to the point to Burns, Marleau secured Burns’ rebound and wrapped it around at 18:12.

Burns had two assists, and made a strong defensive play with about three minutes left in the first, backchecking hard and lifting up Carl Hagelin’s stick on a breakaway.

Special teams

The Sharks were 1-for-2 on the power play, on Hertl’s second man advantage goal of the playoffs. They are 18-for-65 in the postseason (27.6 percent).

Pittsburgh went 0-for-3, generating five shots on goal. The Pens are 15-for-67 overall (22.3 percent).

Marleau was whistled for an illegal check to the head of Rust in the third period, sending the 24-year-old to the dressing room for a brief stretch.

In goal

Jones and Murray were each making their first career starts in the Stanley Cup Final. Jones took the loss with 38 saves, while Murray stopped 24 San Jose shots.

Lineup

Sharks forward Matt Nieto remained out with an upper body injury.

Pavelski saw his seven-game point streak (5g, 5a) come to an end. Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz increased his point streak to six games (3g, 4a).

Up next

The Sharks are 5-11 all-time when losing Game 1 of a playoff series, but 1-0 this year as they came back to defeat the Blues in the Western Conference Final.

Teams that win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final have gone on to win the championship 78 percent of the time (59-18). The last team to win the Cup after losing Game 1 was the 2011 Bruins.

Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

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Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

PITTSBURGH -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered no clues on Monday during his annual Stanley Cup Final address as to the state of NHL expansion or the current odds that Las Vegas gets a franchise.
 
The league’s Board of Governors will meet on June 22 to make a decision on expansion. The earliest a team(s) could play would be 2017-18.
 
Quebec City is also in the running, but the value of the Canadian dollars weighs heavily against another team being added north of the border at the moment.
 
If a Vegas franchise is added, it would have a direct impact on Pacific Division clubs such as the Sharks, who take on the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
 
Bettman refused to “handicap” the situation but said he expected to know at least a week in advance as to what the committee’s recommendation will be.
 
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said there are “a lot of on-going” issues related to expansion and some involve input from third parties.
 
“We’ve made good progress ... it hasn’t been quick progress,” Daly said.
 
Asked about rumors of the NFL, specifically the Oakland Raiders, going to Vegas and what that impact would mean to hockey, Bettman said he hasn’t even broached the topic of having two pro sports there with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or even considered such.
 
“If the NFL comes to Vegas at some point, so be it,” Bettman said. “We’re judging the application we have before us on the merits of that application.”
 
Bettman said the thought the NFL moving to Vegas, in his opinion, wasn’t “anywhere close to a done deal.”
 
Daly added that even if there is movement by the NFL toward Vegas, it would not be seen as a “deterrent” to the NHL expanding there.
 
Snider not replaced
Bettman said that former Flyers chairman Ed Snider’s spot on the 10-person executive and competition committees has not been filled since Snider's death in April.
 
Snider was an original member of the league’s competition committee and the only owner on it.
 
“He was a great owner and is terribly missed,” Bettman said.

More Olympic issues  
IOC President Thomas Bach and IIHF President Rene Fasel have gone on record they want to end paying the out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players to attend the Olympics.
 
That’s a non-starter for the NHL if both organizations want participation of the NHL's players at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The practice of subsidy has been in effect for the past five Winter Olympics.
 
“If they are unable to resolve the issue, I have no doubt it will have an impact on our decision,” Bettman said, adding the NHL would have to take a hard look at continued Olympic participation since its member clubs aren’t interested in putting up the “many, many millions” it would take to make up the financial gap.
 
Whenever there is change in the IOC leadership, Bettman said, there are always discussions of whether some sports, such as hockey, should receive subsidies.

Stanley Cup Final: Sharks-Penguins set to battle in Game 1

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Stanley Cup Final: Sharks-Penguins set to battle in Game 1

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't supposed to take the San Jose Sharks this long to reach their first Stanley Cup Final. It wasn't supposed to take this long for Sidney Crosby to guide the Pittsburgh Penguins back to a destination many figured they'd become a fixture at after winning it all in 2009.

Not that either side is complaining.

Certainly not the Sharks, whose nearly quarter-century wait to play on the NHL's biggest stage will finally end Monday night when the puck drops for Game 1. Certainly not Crosby, who raised the Cup after beating Detroit seven years ago but has spent a significant portion of the interim dealing with concussions that threatened to derail his career and fending off criticism as the thoughtful captain of a team whose explosiveness during the regular season too often failed to translate into regular mid-June parade through the heart of the city.

Maybe the Penguins should have returned to the Cup Final before now. The fact they didn't makes the bumpy path the franchise and its superstar captain took to get here seem worth it.

"I think I appreciated it prior to going through some of those things," Crosby said. "I think now having gone through those things I definitely appreciate it more. I think I realize how tough it is to get to this point."

It's a sentiment not lost on the Sharks, who became one of the NHL's most consistent winners shortly after coming into the league in 1991. Yet spring after spring, optimism would morph into disappointment. The nadir came in 2014, when a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles in the first round somehow turned into a 4-3 loss. The collapse sent the Sharks into a spiral that took a full year to recover from, one that in some ways sowed the seeds for a breakthrough more than two decades in the making.

General manager Doug Wilson tweaked the roster around fixtures Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who remained hopeful San Jose's window for success hadn't shut completely even as the postseason meltdowns piled up.

"I always believed that next year was going to be the year, I really did," Thornton said. "I always thought we were a couple pieces away. Even last year not making the playoffs, I honestly thought we were a couple pieces away, and here we are."

The Penguins, like the Sharks, are a study in near instant alchemy. General manager Jim Rutherford rebuilt the team on the fly after taking over in June, 2014 and with the team sleepwalking last December, fired respected-but-hardly-charismatic Mike Johnston and replaced him with the decidedly harder-edged Mike Sullivan. The results were nearly instantaneous.

Freed to play to its strengths instead of guarding against its weaknesses, Pittsburgh rocketed through the second half of the season and showed the resilience it has sometimes lacked during Crosby's tenure by rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals, dominating Games 6 and 7 to finally earn a shot at bookending the Cup that was supposed to give birth to a dynasty but instead led to years of frustration.

True catharsis for one side is four wins away. Some things to look for over the next two weeks of what promises to be an entertaining final.

Fresh faces
When the season began, Matt Murray was in the minor leagues. Now the 22-year-old who was supposed to be Pittsburgh's goalie of the future is now very much the goalie of the present. Pressed into action when veteran Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion on March 31, Murray held onto the job even after Fleury returned by playing with the steady hand of a guy in his 10th postseason, not his first. San Jose counterpart Martin Jones served as Jonathan Quick's backup when the Kings won it all in 2014 and has thrived while playing behind a defense that sometimes doesn't give him much to do. Jones has faced over 30 shots just four times during the playoffs.

'HBK' is H-O-T
Pittsburgh's best line during the playoffs isn't the one centered by Crosby or Malkin but Nick Bonino, who has teamed with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin to produce 17 goals and 28 assists in 18 games. Put together when Malkin missed six weeks with an elbow injury, the trio has given the Penguins the balance they desperately needed after years of being too reliant on their stars for production.

Powerful Sharks
San Jose's brilliant run to the Finals has been spearheaded by a power play that is converting on 27 percent (17 of 63) of its chances during the playoffs. The Sharks are 9-2 when they score with the man advantage and just 3-4 when it does not.

Old men and the C(up)
Both teams have relied heavily on players who began their NHL careers in another millennium. Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen, who turns 40 in November, has four goals during the playoffs. Thornton and Marleau, both 36, were taken with the top two picks in the 1997 draft that was held in Pittsburgh while 37-year-old Dainius Zubrus draws stares from younger teammates when he tells them he used to play against Hall of Famer (and current Penguins owner) Mario Lemieux.

"When I say 'Twenty years ago I was playing against Lemieux, they say 'I was 2-years-old,'" Zubrus said.