Nicholas J. Cotsonika

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

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 17 hrs 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 4 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 5 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?

  • No lead is safe against the comeback Ducks: 'You know it's going to happen'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    In all three games of this first-round playoff series, the Ducks have trailed by a goal entering the third period. In all three games, they have won. The last two times, they did it in dramatic fashion. Jakob Silfverberg scored the winner with 21 seconds left in Game 2. Ryan Kesler tied it with 2:41 left in regulation and Rickard Rakell scored the winner in overtime in Game 3.

    The Ducks have become the first NHL team to win three games in a row in one series when trailing entering the third, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Only one other team has ever won three such games in one series: the 1943 Boston Bruins, who came back to beat the Montreal Canadiens in Games 1, 3 and 5 of the semifinals, all in OT.

    Needless to say, this is a rarity, not a strategy.

    “Believe me,” said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, whose team has led for 11:21 of the series and trailed for 67:19, “if I could get them to flip the switch earlier, I would.”

    (Note: The Ducks went 12-23-0 when trailing after two periods in the regular season, so they haven’t done it all the time, either.)

  • The good, the bad & the Byfuglien: 'He's not perfect, he makes mistakes'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    “As long as we stick together as a team,” he said, “we’ll be all right.”

    That, or something close to it, was his answer to every question – from what happened with the Anaheim Ducks’ Corey Perry on Monday night to whether playing defense was different from playing forward in the playoffs. Like Lynch at the Super Bowl, he was just there so he wouldn’t get fined.

    We base our perceptions on what we see and hear, and in that sense, Byfuglien has only himself to blame if the public thinks he has a lack of discipline, maturity and accountability.

    Just look at recent history: He took a career-high 124 penalty minutes in the regular season. He received a four-game suspension with five games to go and the Jets fighting for their first playoff berth since moving to Winnipeg in 2011, after he cross-checked the New York Rangers’ J.T. Miller in the back of the neck. He was lucky Miller wasn’t injured and he didn’t get more – it was dangerous, as he came down on Miller viciously with all of his 260 pounds – and he was lucky the Jets made the playoffs, anyway.

    “The penalty, he can’t take,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice.

    By being upset at himself. By talking to the coach. By saying he screwed up.

  • Terrific night, tough loss as NHL playoff hockey returns to Winnipeg after 19 years

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    WINNIPEG — Silence. The puck came out to the point, Francois Beauchemin fired it and Rickard Rakell deflected it into the net 5:12 into overtime Monday night. Just like that, the MTS Centre went from one of the loudest arenas of all-time to one of the quietest.

    As the Anaheim Ducks celebrated their 5-4 victory and 3-0 first-round series lead over the Winnipeg Jets, you could hear their whoops and hollers all the way up to the rafters. Fans started filing out. After maybe a minute, some chanted, “Go, Jets, go!” But soon they faded, and there was no sound again. Hundreds stayed in their seats, stunned.

    Nineteen years they had waited for this. Nineteen years they had waited to see an NHL playoff game in Winnipeg. Now they had to process a bittersweet mix of emotions – pride, excitement, frustration, disappointment.

    “That’s one you’ll always remember,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. “Just too bad it wasn’t a more fond memory.”

    There were roars like you’ve never heard before. They didn’t just cheer Winnipeg goals. They cheered Anaheim icings.

    * * * * *

    Fans wept. Even players wept. The problem wasn’t a lack of passion for the team or the game. The problem was economics and politics.

  • No NHL Las Vegas team yet, but expansion process could start in June

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 7 days ago

    WINNIPEG – The NHL will not announce the awarding of an expansion franchise to Las Vegas when the board of governors meets there in June. But the league could announce the start of a formal expansion process if the board decides to proceed. It is unclear how long that process would take.

    Potential Las Vegas owner Bill Foley has been running a season-ticket drive to gauge the viability of the market since Feb. 10. His stated goal has been to gather 10,000 commitments from everyday people and land a franchise that would begin playing in 2016-17 after a new arena is completed on the Strip.

    Foley announced March 16 he had reached 9,000 commitments. He hasn’t announced anything since, but ESPN.com reported March 30 he had gathered more than 10,000 commitments and now was reaching out to large corporations, including casinos. 

    Asked directly if Foley had reached 10,000 commitments, Bettman said: “I’m not commenting on the count. Ultimately that will be for him at the appropriate time, but he’s doing well – very well.”

    There is no indication Foley or the NHL has lost interest in Las Vegas.

  • Habs' PK Subban steps up in Game 2 in front of Elise Beliveau: 'I want to be better for her'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

    MONTREAL — It was the second intermission of the playoff opener Wednesday night, and P.K. Subban was standing outside the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing room. He had slashed the Ottawa Senators’ Mark Stone and received a major penalty and a game misconduct. He was in a suit, not his uniform.

    Elise Beliveau, the widow of the late Jean Beliveau, came by as she often does. She sits in the family seats three rows behind the bench in Section 101 and retreats to a lounge underneath the stands at the Bell Centre.

    “I know you’ll be better next game,” she told him.

    Subban said he was worked up for Game 2 on Friday night and got even more worked up when he saw Mrs. Beliveau behind the glass. She rarely wears jerseys, and she stood up to show him she was wearing a jersey this time.

    His jersey.

    “I want to be better for her,” he said.

    And so Subban played his best. He was the first star of a 3-2 overtime victory that gave the Canadiens a 2-0 series lead. He logged 29:06 of ice time. He attempted 13 shots. He scored a goal with a slapshot so wicked, it made the goaltender duck.

    Elise Beliveau sat next to an empty seat afterward.

    Jean Beliveau was known for class even more than his talent.

    Pause.

  • Slash aftermath: Subban, Stone and the hack heard 'round the hockey world

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    MONTREAL — Well, it all worked out for P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens, didn’t it?

    Subban slashed the Ottawa Senators’ Mark Stone in the playoff opener Wednesday night. He received a major penalty and a game misconduct. But the Canadiens survived without their best defenseman for half the game – when they were already without their best forward, Max Pacioretty – and won, 4-3.

    Now Subban has not been suspended, and Pacioretty might play in Game 2 on Friday night.

    Meanwhile, Stone – one of the best players in the NHL down the stretch, a main reason the Sens rallied to make the playoffs – is “very questionable for the series” with a microfracture and ligament damage in his right wrist, according to general manager Bryan Murray. Even if he can return, how well will he be able to perform? His biggest strength might be his release. He kind of needs his wrists.

    “It’s a huge loss to our hockey team,” Murray said.

    There is no debate about that. There is debate about almost everything else, though, and we need to take a deep breath, be objective and cut through all the spin, BS and gamesmanship on both sides one step at a time:

    “Even if they do,” he said, “whatever.”

  • Instant playoff drama for Canadiens, Senators after 'vicious slash' by Subban

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    MONTREAL — It was the opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The late Jean Beliveau had held the torch on the video screens. The iconic Ginette Reno had sung “O Canada” like only she could. The Montreal Canadiens had scored two goals in a 15-second span to take the lead over the Ottawa Senators, and they had just gone on the penalty kill.

    P.K. Subban lives for these moments. Often they bring out the best in him. But this time he lifted his stick high with two hands and brought it down on the right wrist of Mark Stone, the 22-year-old rookie who put up 14 goals and 35 points in the last 31 games of the regular season as the Senators went on an incredible run to make the playoffs. Stone immediately recoiled, dropped and yelped.

    Subban held out his arms and hopped up and down as referee Steve Kozari put up his right arm, then gave Kozari a look as if to say, “You’re calling that?” Kozari emphatically signaled it was slashing and pointed Subban off the ice.

    If one of their best players get slashed …

    “Obviously it was a pretty big whack,” Stone said. “It looked like he wanted to hurt me.”

    Does Subban deserve a suspension?

    “Of course,” Stone said. “There was some intent there.”