Nicholas J. Cotsonika

  • Crawford back in winning form as Blackhawks blank Wild in Game 3: 'He's a star against us'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 18 hrs ago

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — He is not Martin Brodeur. He is not Patrick Roy. Corey Crawford will not set NHL records or go down as one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time.

    But he has won the Stanley Cup. He could have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player. And Tuesday night – not long after he was benched despite all he had accomplished – he delivered a 30-save shutout to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 1-0 win and 3-0 lead in their second-round series with the Minnesota Wild.

    “He’s a star against us,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. “He’s Brodeur. He’s Roy. He’s everybody against us.”

    Credit Crawford for mental toughness. For years, he has been considered a weak link on a team with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and company. It has been easy to play the goat, hard to play the hero. He even faced questions two years ago, when he posted a .932 save percentage in the playoffs and the ’Hawks won the Cup. Kane won the Conn Smythe, but Crawford could have – and maybe should have.

    Easier said than done.

    Bottom line: If Crawford were the type to crumble, he would have crumbled long ago.

  • Lightning beat Canadiens in double overtime on Nikita Kucherov's controversial winner

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    MONTREAL — Only in the NHL. Nikita Kucherov put the puck in the net twice in overtime Friday night. One goal counted, giving the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 victory and 1-0 lead over the Montreal Canadiens in their second-round playoff series. But maybe the wrong goal counted, and maybe neither should have counted.

    The one that counted came 2:06 into the second overtime, when Tampa Bay entered the Montreal zone offside – barely, but clearly – and the linesmen missed it. The play continued, and Valtteri Filppula ended up flipping a backhand pass into the slot for Kucherov, who wired a shot past the outstretched stick of a defender, past the goaltender and into the net.

    “We were joking he might be the first guy to score two OT goals in one game,” said Tyler Johnson.

    The one that didn’t count came 2:56 into the first OT. Kucherov crashed the net and tried to jam the puck past Carey Price’s right pad. As he stopped, his momentum carried him into Price. His stick pushed Price’s right pad into the net, and Price’s blocker and stick shaft came backward and swept the puck into the net. Referee Eric Furlatt waved off the goal.

    Now this.

    The Bell Centre jeered.

    “BIIII-SHOP! BIIII-SHOP!”

  • Mike Babcock faces the paradox of choice

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    Mike Babcock spoke to his wife Thursday morning, after the Detroit Red Wings had lost in the first round of the playoffs and speculation had already started to swirl about his future.

    “Everyone thinks Ken Holland’s the boss?” Babcock said, referring to his general manager. “Actually, my wife’s the boss, and that conversation didn’t go very well. It didn’t last long.”

    Why?

    “Well, it just got heated up pretty quick,” Babcock said.

    What does that mean?

    Well, I hesitate to read Babcock’s mind, let alone his wife’s. Babcock has a habit of making comments like that, half-finished, teasing, and they become Rorschach tests. People look at the same inkblots and see different things.

    “Every time I speak right now, someone tries to read into what I said,” said Babcock on Friday after the Wings took their final team picture at Joe Louis Arena. “I wouldn’t read anything into it, because there’s nothing there. There’s nothing, because I don’t know myself. And if you think I’m trying to snow you or something, I’m not. I don’t have any idea. I’m going to go through it in a logical manner and make some decisions.”

    “Roots are important,” he said.

    “There’s no better job,” Babcock said.

    Here’s an inkblot:

  • The future of Mike Babcock: Did Wings coach drop hints after Game 7 loss?

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    TAMPA — Mike Babcock wants to win the Stanley Cup. He does not want to fight to make the playoffs, give a good effort as an underdog and bow out early. So now he needs to make a decision: Can the Detroit Red Wings contend again in the coming years? Or with his contract expiring and several coaching jobs available, is it time to go elsewhere?

    Only he knows what he’s thinking, and he declined to discuss his future Wednesday night after the Wings were eliminated with a 2-0 loss in Game 7 of their first-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But he might have dropped some hints.

    “Our team’s not as good as it was,” he said. “It’s very evident. We battled our butt off to get into the playoffs.”

    He pointed out how some had picked the Wings to miss the playoffs and many had picked them to lose in the first round. He said the Wings had given the Bolts “a real run for their money to say the least,” but the Bolts had been “bad here long enough that they were able to reload.” They drafted center Steven Stamkos first overall in 2008 and defenseman Victor Hedman second overall in 2009. Now Stamkos is 25, and Hedman is 24.

    But the day of reckoning is coming.

  • Marek Vs. Wyshynski Podcast: Nick Cotsonika, Erik Erlendsson and a Game 7 preview

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 7 days ago

    LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

    It's a Wednesday edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:

    Special Guest Stars:  Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo Sports! and Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune!

    • The Stanley Cup Playoffs! 

    • Game 7! 

    • More coach and GM speculation! 

    • Hockey News and Views

    Question of the Day: Going Postal! Ask us anything! Email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or hit us on Twitter with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski or @jeffmarekClick here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above!

    ***

    BUY THE MvsW T-SHIRTS! SUPPORT HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER!

  • Niklas Kronwall disagrees with Game 7 suspension, but accepts it

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 7 days ago

    TAMPA – Niklas Kronwall stayed on the ice long after his teammates Wednesday morning.

    He knew he couldn’t play Wednesday night in Game 7 of the Detroit Red Wings’ first-round playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning because of his suspension for charging Nikita Kucherov. But he hoped they’d win without him, and he wanted to be ready to play Friday night in Game 1 of the second round against the Montreal Canadiens.

    “It’s hard to describe, really,” Kronwall said. “I still don’t really know how to feel, to be honest with you. I still haven’t really grasped it, I think. You know, the decision has been made, and I’ve got to live with it.”

    Kronwall obviously disagreed with the decision. He had been throwing similar hits for years – though not as often recently, because, he said, opponents were more aware and there were fewer opportunities. He had never been fined before, let alone suspended.

    Still, he didn’t feel this hit rose to the level of supplemental discipline. There was no penalty. He said he didn’t think he traveled far, didn’t think both feet left the ice before impact and didn’t think he launched himself into Kucherov.

    MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS

  • NHL makes tough, correct decision to suspend Kronwall for Game 7

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    TAMPA – Tough call. Right call.   The Detroit Red Wings will be without Niklas Kronwall – their best defenseman, an alternate captain – Wednesday night for Game 7 of their first-round playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.   The NHL department of player safety suspended Kronwall for one game for charging Nikita Kucherov on Monday night in Game 6.   The DPS could have taken the easy way out. It could have fined Kronwall, showing it wasn’t ignoring the hit and putting Kronwall on notice that he would be a repeat offender next time, while keeping him on the ice with the Wings facing elimination.   Instead, it did what it had to do.   “We disagree with the decision,” said Wings general manager Ken Holland via text message, declining further comment.   That’s understandable. Kronwall has thrown many similar hits in his 11-year NHL career, and he had never been fined, let alone suspended. Reasonable people can argue details of this hit. The Wings’ season is at stake.   But here is the bottom line: This hit differs from Kronwall’s previous work in important ways and fits the criteria the DPS has laid out for supplemental discipline. If it’s worth suspending, it’s worth suspending, period.   If this were the regular season, Kronwall would have received two games, because he had no history of supplemental discipline and Kucherov suffered no apparent injury. There is no magic formula for converting regular-season suspensions to playoff suspensions. Two does not necessarily equal one. But in this case, at this point in the series, it did.   Charging is one of the worst-written rules in the book. Many think you need to take three steps before the hit. Many think your skates need to leave the ice prior to contact. The rule doesn’t actually say that.   Rule 42.1 says a charging penalty shall be imposed on a player who “skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner. Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner.”   See that? It uses the word “charges” to define “charging.” It’s incredibly subjective.   In 2011, when the GMs were wrestling with the concussion issue, they went over the language sentence by sentence. One GM said: “Prior to today’s meeting, I had maybe read the rule before or maybe heard the rule before, but not specifically understood it.” That GM? Steve Yzerman, a Hall of Famer with the Wings, who now leads the Lightning.   But how the rule should be rewritten is a column for another day. The DPS was formed later that year, and eventually it outlined a clear standard for charging incidents that could incur fines or suspensions.   “If you launch on a check, you run the risk of a charging penalty,” said the DPS’ Patrick Burke in an educational video on the NHL’s website. “The greater the force – and depending on where the contact was made – the greater the penalty. Depending on the circumstances of the check, launching up and into the head of another player in a predatory fashion will likely result in some form of supplemental discipline.”   Kronwall has long lived on the edge without going over it, a master of technique and timing. His trademark has been to creep up the left-wing boards in the offensive zone and catch an opponent coming the other way with his head down.   If and when his skates left the ice, they did so because of the impact, not because he launched into the hit. If and when he hit the head, it was incidental because he turned his back into the hit and made full body contact.   He drilled opponents like Martin Havlat, Teemu Selanne and Jakub Voracek and never ran afoul of the league, even though Selanne called him “dangerous,” even though some suffered injuries, even though the DPS watched him closely.   But he always ran the risk that one day he would slip over the edge, and Monday night he did. His technique was off. So was his timing.   As he crept up the boards on approach, he appeared to try to turn his back into the hit, but he wasn’t on target. He launched and led with his left arm, striking Kucherov in the head. He didn’t make as much body contact as usual. Kucherov went flying backward. Joe Louis Arena gasped, then roared.   “I thought it was a good hit,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock.

  • Lightning keep it cool, learn from last year's playoff loss to force Game 7 with Red Wings

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    DETROIT — A year ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning were swept in the first round of the playoffs. Now here were the Bolts, after the best regular season in franchise history, facing elimination in the first round again. An octopus flew from the stands, a Detroit tradition. The fans roared, smelling an upset.

    But the Bolts didn’t buckle Monday night. They beat the Red Wings, 5-2, and forced a Game 7 – making plays, scoring goals, killing penalties, keeping their composure. They took a 3-0 lead. They didn’t lose it as they paraded to the box. They didn’t lose it after Nikita Kucherov took a nasty hit from Niklas Kronwall, which didn’t draw a whistle but could draw a hearing from the NHL’s department of player safety. They didn’t lose it when the Wings cut it to 3-2 early in the third period.

    “Do we play the way we did tonight last year?” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Probably not. You have to go through it. I’ve used this line a few times: You can take the driver’s exam, pass that. It doesn’t make you a good driver. You’ve still got to get behind the wheel. Last year’s experience I think really helped us tonight.”

    But the Wings should know this: the Bolts are looking forward to it, too.

  • Red Wings' secret weapon 'in a real groove' against the Lightning

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    The Detroit Red Wings lost Thursday night – and lost control of their first-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning – because of an injury to …

    Luke Glendening?

    That’s why Tyler Johnson came alive so suddenly? That’s why the Bolts stormed back with two goals in 77 seconds late in regulation and another in overtime, stealing a 3-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena and tying the series 2-2?

    Really?

    Well, it wasn’t the only reason. But it just goes to show you how critical matchups can be and how quickly things can turn in the playoffs, and you have to know the whole story, including how Glendening went up against Johnson in the Calder Cup final between these teams’ AHL affiliates two years ago.

    “I think when you’re having as much success as Detroit was having in that game and you lose a significant piece of that, certainly I’m sure it was a factor,” said Jeff Blashill, the coach of the Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. “Not to say that the guys who ended up on the ice against Johnson couldn’t keep him in check, because they’re great players. But obviously Luke was in a real groove.”

    “I didn’t think that was a very clean play,” Johnson said.

    Amazing how big an effect, isn’t it?

  • Sweep for Stanley: Ducks' playoff quest just beginning as Jets roar out

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    WINNIPEG — The puck skidded into the empty net Wednesday night, sealing the Anaheim Ducks’ 5-2 win, sealing the Winnipeg Jets’ fate, and the MTS Centre silenced for a moment, only for a moment. The fans cheered and chanted.

    “GO, JETS, GO!”

    They kept cheering through the final 27 seconds, kept cheering as the final horn sounded and kept cheering as the Ducks celebrated and the Jets commiserated, growing louder and louder and louder. As the players shook hands, they chanted again.

    “GO, JETS, GO!”

    Finally, as the Jets raised their sticks to salute them, they roared one last time.

    Yes, the fans gave the Jets a standing ovation for getting swept. They hadn’t seen the Stanley Cup playoffs since the original Jets left in 1996. This was only the fourth season of the new Jets. Maybe one day they will be upset by losing in the playoffs, not just happy to be here, but not now, not yet.

    For the Ducks it was different.

    “It’s one series,” said center Ryan Kesler. “We didn’t come here to win one series. We came here for …”

    Deep breath.

    “The whole thing,” Kesler continued. “It’s one step. We’ve got another step, and we’ve got three more to go. So we’ve got to focus on step two now.”

    How far can they go?