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.

Varlamov injured, again, as questions arise about future in Colorado

Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, of Russia, takes a drink during a time out against the Arizona Coyotes in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, March 7, 2016, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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So, an interesting series of events for the Avs on Wednesday.

First, the club announced that No. 1 netminder Semyon Varlamov‘s troublesome groin — one that’s hampered him throughout the last two seasons — will sideline him for the next two weeks.

“We’re going to shut [Varlamov] down until after the All-Star break [Jan. 27-30],” coach Jared Bednar told the Avalanche website. “This is no longer a day-to-day thing.”

Varlamov, who turns 29 in April, has struggled with health and consistency since his banner ’13-14 campaign — the one in which he led the NHL with 41 wins, finished second in Vezina voting and fourth for the Hart Trophy.

He appeared in 57 games in each of the last two seasons, but his save percentage steadily dropped (from .921 to .914). This year, he’s only played 24 times, and he’s at an ugly .898.

Given he’s nearly 30 and trending in the wrong direction, it wasn’t entirely surprising to read this today, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

We’ve been focusing on defencemen as what the Avalanche will be acquiring for one of their cornerstone forwards.

But don’t be surprised if a goalie becomes a focal point of the conversation, too. I’m not sure Colorado is too secure in what they have.

Varlamov’s smack in the middle of a five-year, $29.5 million extension, one that carries a $5.9 million cap hit. That’s a big financial obligation. Outside of Varly, Colorado has a young ‘tender in Calvin Pickard — the 24-year-old in his first full year as Varlamov’s backup — but right now, it’s unclear if the Avs see him as a potential No. 1.

It’s also unclear what the organization thinks of Spencer Martin, the 63rd overall pick in ’13. Martin’s played reasonably well for AHL San Antonio this year, and is still just 21 years old.

Add it all up, and the goaltending situation is just another wrinkle in what’s become a very complex situation for Colorado.

Toffoli unlikely to join Kings on road trip

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Los Angeles Kings gets a shot on Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at Staples Center on December 5, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Kings will have to keep on keeping on without Tyler Toffoli.

Toffoli has not played since Dec. 20 due to a lower-body injury, and head coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t expect the sniper will join the Kings for their upcoming road trip.

“It was four weeks yesterday,” Sutter said, per LA Kings Insider. “We thought he’d be further ahead. Once we came back and had the doctor’s evaluation we were told a three-to-six week time frame, so yesterday was four weeks, so we thought he’d be a little further ahead, but at the same time, there’s a fine line between the healing and the training. I think Tyler’s pushing hard and we want him back. We were hoping to have him for sure on this next trip, so that doesn’t appear to be the case right now because he hasn’t had any skating or practicing.”

Toffoli did actually hit the ice for a skate this morning, but there remains no timetable for his return.

Without Toffoli, the Kings have been leaning heavily on Jeff Carter to score. Carter has a team-high 23 goals; Tanner Pearson is next with 13, followed by Toffoli with eight.

Read more: Kings still don’t have timetable for Toffoli’s return 

Los Angeles hosts San Jose tonight, then hits the road for five games starting Saturday in Brooklyn. A poor trip and the Kings — currently holding down the second wild-card spot, but only barely — could find themselves on the outside looking in.

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Goalie nods: Pavelec to make season debut for Jets

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Goalie Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during a break in the action as he defends the goal against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Jets 1-0 in an overtime shootout.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Well, it’s come to this for the Winnipeg Jets.

Undone all year by shaky netminding from Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson, the Jets finally saw enough this week and recalled veteran Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL.

Tonight, Pavelec makes his season debut when the Jets host the Coyotes at the MTS Centre.

Waived just prior to the start of the regular season, Pavelec — in the final year of a much-maligned five-year, $19.5 million contract — passed through unclaimed and was dispatched to Manitoba, where he’s performed reasonably well.

The 29-year-old posted a .917 save percentage in 18 games and, while that’s hardly the stuff of legend, his play was steadily improving prior to his recall. On Sunday, he stopped 42 of 43 shots in a win over Chicago.

The big question, of course, is if Pavelec can show some consistency, which he’s always lacked at the NHL level. He went 13-13-4 with a .904 save percentage last season, and his career save rate is just .907.

For the Coyotes, Mike Smith is in goal.

Elsewhere…

Matt Murray, fresh off allowing seven goals in a win over Washington, goes for the Pens in Montreal. He’ll be up against Carey Price, who’s struggled lately and has just an .886 save percentage in January.

Jared Coreau has two shutouts in his last four start for Detroit, so the Wings will go back to him tonight when they host the B’s. Tuukka Rask, hooked in Monday’s ugly loss to the Isles, goes for Boston.

Roberto Luongo gets the night off after Florida lost in Calgary last night, meaning James Reimer goes in Edmonton. The Oilers will go with Cam Talbot, who’s embracing his heavy workload this season.

— Speaking of heavy workloads, Martin Jones will be back in for the Sharks tonight, as they travel to Los Angeles. He’ll be up against Peter Budaj.

Don’t expect a full-scale rebuild in Detroit

Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
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Don’t expect the Detroit Red Wings to tear it down and start over. Even if they miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990 — which appears likely at this point — GM Ken Holland has no intention of changing course.

“We’re going to continue to try and be competitive, we’re going to continue to try and make the playoffs and our ultimate goal is to eventually be a Cup contender,” Holland said today, per MLive.

The long-time GM added that having veterans like Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson around to guide the younger players was key to maintaining the culture of the Red Wings.

The Wings aren’t the only team that’s opted for a rebuild-on-the-fly model. The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks are also attempting similar transitions.

“To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding,” said Holland.

And that’s simply not something the Wings are willing to risk. So they’ll keep at it their own way, just trying to win every game they can.

Related: Sedin says a ‘winning culture’ is important to maintain