2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Which team is feeling the pressure?

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Judging by some of the questions the players are being asked,
combined with the overall atmosphere that exists today around the
Wachovia Center, and you would think the Flyers were the ones with the
lead in this series. The Flyers have been able to keep winning on the
strength of their resiliency and ability to overcome adversity, yet
after a big win in Game 3 it seems as though we may be getting a bit
obsessed with just how resilient this team may be.

True, the
Flyers certainly seem to keep finding any and every way to win against
supposedly better teams, but the Blackhawks are still in complete
control of this series. So who is the pressure on? Is it the Flyers, as
they look to even up the series tonight at home or is it on the
Blackhawks, who have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead before
heading back to Chicago.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette says his team has been in this position
all season long, and one win won’t change that.

“The pressure, I think, is more for teams that are expected to win,
as the Blackhawks are, and everybody picked them before the Series,”
Laviolette said after this morning’s skate. “We don’t concede anything.
We feel like we’ve got a confident group that’s capable of winning
hockey games. But I don’t know if we feel the pressure as much. We’re
trying to keep it light. We’re trying to have a whole bunch of fun.”

As much as it’s possible to get a read on a locker room, you’d
certainly have to agree with Laviolette. The Flyers are just a supremely
confident team right now, saying all the right things and embracing the
role they’ve developed this postseason. They know the pressure is on to
win tonight, but they are still focused on just playing the game that
got them to this point. Kimmo Timonen says the Flyers have to embrace
the chance they have tonight.

“This will be the most important
game in our team and for most of these
players’ lives,” he said. “We got to go out there and do our job.
Obviously, it’s a big game but we have to be able to relax and not panic
and play our game and make sure we do our jobs. We know this is the key
game for us to hopefully tie up the series.”

The difference
between 2-2 and 3-1 is tremendous. A loss tonight, and the Flyers will
be right back to playing with their backs against the wall. Ian
Laperriere said today that this team was the most resilient he’s ever
been a part of in his career and that the Flyers are at their best when
they absolutely must win.

The Blackhawks might have something to
say about that, however. When asked about Laviolette’s comments, Patrick
Kane responded “..well, that’s just mind games” and shrugged off
questions about the pressure being on the Blackhawks.

“We don’t
feel any pressure. We feel we’re in the driver’s seat, up 2-1. We’re in a
great position, we win this one we can go back home and hopefully do
some special things in front of that crowd. I think we’re in a great
position.”

Despite the 2-1 series lead, there’s no doubting that
the Flyers have been the better team on the ice since the third period
of Game 2. They’ve controlled the flow of the play, and have even been
able to step up to the speed of the game that Chicago enjoys and beat
them at doing so. Patrick Sharp agrees that the Hawks certainly need to
get better.

“At times we’re playing the game we want, we’re having good
stretches but there’s certainly room for improvement. We have yet to
play our best game, but sometimes you have to give the other team
credit.”

A lot of the focus has been on “pressure” and which team
is feeling it more. Let’s just settle and say that both teams are in the
Stanley Cup finals, in a tightly contested series; there’s tremendous
pressure on both of these teams.

Yet talking to the players, and
the way the media is approaching tonight’s game, there’s no doubting the
feeling that the Flyers have the momentum in the series at the moment.
Does that mean that the pressure is squarely on the Hawks and that the
Flyers are just playing with house money at this point? Possibly, and it
certainly shows in each team’s demeanor.

No matter what is said,
however, the true measure will come tonight.

Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options,’ says his agent

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 21:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings checks his stick before a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 21, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Pavel Datsyuk‘s future with the Detroit Red Wings and in the National Hockey League has been up in the air for a while now, as he’s linked to rumors of a return to Russia and the KHL.

His agent, Dan Milstein, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press that Datsyuk’s future should become clear in mid-June after meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

As per General Fanager, Datsyuk has one more year left on his current deal, which comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million.

From the Detroit Free Press:

“He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein said. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.”

Wings general manager Ken Holland has said there are no loopholes. Because Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, his $7.5 million salary cap hit remains in tact even if Datsyuk departs. The Wings’ only option is to trade his contract to a team such as Arizona or Carolina that could use the hefty cap hit in order to be above the salary cap minimum.

At the age of 37, his career in the league started in 2001-02, and has spanned 953 regular season games in which he’s accrued 918 points.

He’s had a highly decorated career, with two Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings, three Selke and four Lady Byng trophies.

Allen or Elliott? Another goalie decision looms for Hitchcock

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal against Nick Spaling #16 of the San Jose Sharks during the third period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.

Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.

But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.

“I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.

“I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”

Feeding frenzy: Sharks send Blues to the brink of elimination in Western Conference Final

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The San Jose Sharks won a back-and-forth Game 5 to take back the lead in a back-and-forth Western Conference Final, moving one victory away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.

After scoring the tying goal late in the second period, Joe Pavelski notched his 12th of the playoffs to give San Jose the lead for good just 16 seconds into the third period.

The Sharks earned a 6-3 victory on the road, in a bounce-back effort from Saturday.

Twice, the Blues grabbed the lead. Troy Brouwer gave them the advantage in the first period, showing off his baseball skills by batting the puck into the net on a rebound. Robby Fabbri gave them another lead in the second period, making Roman Polak pay for snapping on Dmitrij Jaskin along the boards.

But the Blues couldn’t hold on. The Sharks scored twice on three power play opportunities and can now clinch the Western Conference on home ice in Wednesday’s Game 6.

As for the Blues, will Ken Hitchcock change up his starting goaltender again? It’s certainly an aspect of this series that will once again be up for debate leading up to Wednesday’s game.

After Brian Elliott had backstopped the Blues through the first two rounds and started the first three games of this series, Hitchcock decided to start Jake Allen in Game 4.

Allen recorded the win Saturday, and was called upon again in Game 5 as expected, but gave up four goals on 25 shots Monday.

Video: Sharks’ Polak snaps, Blues make him pay on the power play

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San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak took serious issue with St. Louis Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin during the second period, as the two eventually threw off the gloves off in a fight in the corner.

In the process, Polak let his emotions get the better of him — he snapped — by also taking a roughing minor to give the Blues a power play.

The Blues made him — and the Sharks — pay on a blast from Robby Fabbri, who was a game-time decision for Monday’s contest.

The Sharks tied the game at 3-3 before the end of the second period on Joe Pavelski‘s 11th of the playoffs. Pavelski struck again in the third period, giving San Jose the 4-3 lead.