Hawks focused on knocking Luongo off his game

Luongo1.jpgWith the Canucks taking on the Blackhawks for the second year in a
row in the playoffs, everyone became excited about the prospect of
seeing some more fireworks between the two teams after what went on last
year. These are two teams that are close to forming one of the more
abrasive rivalries in hockey, and at the nucleus of their hatred is the
constant battle between Roberto Luongo and anyone who comes close to the
Vancouver crease.

After Game 1, perhaps the Hawks should worry
less about how they’re ticking off Luongo and focus more on stopping the
Vancouver offense. Of course, that doesn’t seem to be their plan. Talking
with NHL.com,
Chicago forward Adam Burish makes it sound as if the
Hawks will be trying even harder to get Luongo off his game.

“Maybe it’s running him sometimes,” said Burish. “Maybe it’s spraying
snow in his face.”

“I think he was kind of in a zone,” Burish said of Luongo’s 36-save
performance in Game 1. “He made a couple early saves and he got in that
groove. But that’s the kind of guy he is. He gets in these grooves and
he gets feeling good and he’s awfully tough to beat. Sometimes you have
to find a way to get to him. You have to find a way to rattle him …
You got to try to find a way to get him out of that rhythm.”

Luongo
refused to the comments, obviously content to let his performance speak
for itself. While it’s certainly true that the Hawks need to do
whatever it takes to try and knock Luongo out of his comfort level in
net, I didn’t exactly walk away from Game 1 thinking that if only the
Hawks had run into Luongo a few more times they really might have had a
better chance.

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    What is wrong with the Sharks?

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    Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

    On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

    Their struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

    At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

    Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

    “When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

    This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

    The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

    Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

    The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

    Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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    Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

    It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

    The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

    Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

    The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

    However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.

    Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings

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    Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

    But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.

    Tempers flared late in the first period, with Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou getting involved in a spirited scrap — and Athanasiou unsuccessful in his attempt at the take-down.

    The bad blood continued in the second period with Greg McKegg and Anthony Mantha getting involved in a fight, and Mantha — given the instigator — landing a couple of shots with McKegg on the ice.

     

    NHL, MLB player unions support U.S. women hockey players’ boycott

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    Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.

    The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

    Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

    Read more: USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage, as dispute with women’s national team continues

    The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

    Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.