Author: NBC Sports

Don Maloney named NHL GM of the Year


To the surprise of absolutely no one, Don Maloney has been named the NHL General Manager of the Year. Here’s the press release:

PHILADELPHIA (June 2, 2010) — Don Maloney of the Phoenix Coyotes is the 2009-10 winner of the NHL General Manager of the Year Award, the National Hockey League announced today. Maloney accepted the award in front of his peers at the NHL General Managers meeting held annually during the Stanley Cup Final.

Voting for this new award was conducted among the 30 Club General Managers and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media at the conclusion of the regular season. Maloney, George McPhee of the Washington Capitals and David Poile of the Nashville Predators were identified as the three finalists for the trophy last month.

Maloney steered the Coyotes through an uncertain and turbulent off-season, charting the course for the most successful regular season in franchise history. His biggest move was hiring head coach Dave Tippett, who guided the Coyotes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002 by posting a 50-27-5 record for 107 points and setting franchise records for wins and points in a season.

Maloney added several players to the Coyotes roster over the summer, acquiring RW Radim Vrbata, D Sami Lepisto, LW Lauri Korpikoski and D Jim Vandermeer through trades and signing veteran free agent D Adrian Aucoin, C Vernon Fiddler, G Jason LaBarbera, LW Taylor Pyatt and C Robert Lang. Those players joined a veteran core that already included LW Shane Doan, D Ed Jovanovski, D Zbynek Michalek and G Ilya Bryzgalov.

With the Coyotes already enjoying a breakout season, the acquisitions of RW Lee Stempniak, LW Wojtek Wolski and C Petteri Nokelainen plus defensemen Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider at the Mar. 3 trade deadline propelled the club to even greater heights as Phoenix won nine consecutive games immediately following the deadline to tie a club record. Stempniak was named the NHL’s First Star for the Month of March after leading the League with 13 goals in 14 games while Wolski recorded 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 18 games with his new club.

Maloney, 51, completed his third season in Phoenix. He joined the Coyotes in May 2007 following 10 years in the front office of the New York Rangers.

Maloney will be available to media at the conclusion of the General Managers meeting (Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia, approximately 4 p.m., ET).

2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Video – Carcillo's rocky return

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The Flyers put Dan Carcillo into the lineup to try and give the team a bit of a different edge, some attitude and some energy after the Flyers got away from what they do best in Game 1. After coming out of the gates with his hockey pants on fire, Carcillo spent most of the game not making much of a difference after all.

Carcillo stated before the game that he was ready to come out, be energetic and basically cause problems for the Blackhawks and that’s exactly what he set out to do. Unfortunately, he ended up taking things a bit too far. While trying to lay out a bone-crunching hit on Tomas Kopecky, he accidentally took out his own teammate. Observe:

Carcillo finished with 11:04 of ice time, three shots on goal and just two registered hits. He certainly made the Blackhawks focus on him in the first period, but was ultimately not the big difference maker some thought he might be before the game started.

All of the focus before the game was what kind of impact Carcillo would have now that he was back on ice, and aside from just throwing his body around for a couple of raucous shifts in the first period he was largely invisible for most of the game.

Carcillo certainly didn’t have a bad game, but perhaps the hype leading up to his return was a bit overblown. Still, without Carcillo’s return we wouldn’t have gotten the great play we see above.

2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Blackhawks and Flyers still not at their best



This has been a very entertaining series to watch so far, especially
considering some of the bad blood that is developing between these two

Still, it’s sad to see both teams fail to play their best two games
in a row.

The Chicago Blackhawks are still waiting for some kind of production
from Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien. Granted, Byfuglien
finally got a point in the game, yet the Flyers have done one hell of a
job negating the top line of the Blackhawks. Conversely, the Hawks have
shut down Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, with Simon Gagne finally
getting a goal in the third period.

The difference in this series has been the scoring depth of the
Blackhawks, something the Flyers have no way of matching game after
game. Both games have been just one-goal losses, so it’s impossible to
say that the Flyers have been grossly outplayed. Yet in a seven-game
series, if you take away the top lines for both teams there’s no
doubting which one of the Flyers and the Blackhawks will have the
advantage night after night.

The Flyers were able to score five goals on Saturday night behind
some timely goals by role players, despite their top forwards failing to
register a point. For the second game in a row, Mike Richards and Jeff
Carter struggled and it showed as the Flyers struggled to put together
an offensive attack in the first two periods. The Flyers finally found
their groove in the third period, yet the Flyers top players still
failed to get on the board.

Once again, the Flyers walked away feeling like they played well and
just needed to improve. After the game coach Peter Laviolette said his
team definitely finished better than they started.

“I think we could have started a little bit better tonight. I’m not
sure we should be frustrated,” said Laviolette. “I don’t think we got
outplayed. I think when you’re at the end of the night you’re going to
look at it again, probably outshot him, outchanced him a little bit and
didn’t get the results we were looking for.”

The Flyers certainly improved in Game 2, yet despite the coach
feeling they shouldn’t be frustrated are now down 2-0 headed back to
Philly. For the Flyers to have any chance of pulling off a comeback,
they’ll need to get much more from their top players.

The Blackhawks are facing a similar issue, still waiting for their
best game to show up. Thankfully, the Flyers were more concerned with
physicality and antagonizing the Blackhawks in the first period to worry
about putting together a full 60 minute effort. Once again, the
Blackhawks have relied a bit too much on the play of Niemi for their
success, something the coach Joel Quenneville hopes will change in

“We certainly didn’t want to spend that much time in our own end, and
the quality that they’re getting, we had to be better,” said
Quenneville after the game. “They’re coming, they’re pressing, and
they’ve got a lot of guys that can make plays.

“I think that’s,
you know, that was one of those games where we’d like to spend some time
in their end. We’d like to have some more puck-possession game, we
started the game the way we’d liked. Second period we might have been
fortunate coming out with some very timely goals.”

If the Hawks and the Flyers both continue to have struggles with
their best players producing, there’s no doubt the series favorites the
Blackhawks. With a 2-0 series lead now, Chicago also has a significant
advantage. Yet it’s been some timely saves by Antti Niemi and some bad
bounces for the Flyers to keep this series from being more in the favor
of Philadelphia, something the Blackhawks know must change moving

Once this series gets back to Philly, the Flyers will become a much,
much different team.

2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2: Once again, Niemi the difference for Hawks


Niemi7.jpgBefore the postseason started, there were many early favorites for
who would be the recipient of the Conn Smythe at the end of the Stanley
Cup Playoffs. Of course, these would be dependent on the rest of their
team as well, but I doubt that anyone had Antti Niemi at the top of
their pool before the playoffs started.

Yet with the Chicago
Blackhawks two wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup over their heads
Niemi has been the consistent difference maker for his team, coming up
gigantic at the most crucial moment in games and always making the big
save when his team needed it most.

In Game 1, Niemi allowed five
goals in the first two periods as his team struggled
uncharacteristically on defense and he fought with his own confidence in
net. He didn’t resemble the consistent goaltender who played so great
against the Sharks, perhaps needing 40 minutes or so to get back in the
flow of the game after having some time off after the Conference finals.
Whatever reason it was, Niemi turned it around in the third period and
while he wasn’t tested a lot he made several big saves to preserve the
win for the Hawks.

Tonight, he looked very much like himself once
more. He was compact in his stance and playing forward in his crease,
challenging the shooters and tracking the puck through traffic much
better than in Game 1. He wasn’t truly tested until the second period,
when the Flyers started to really put the pressure on but it was in the
third period that Niemi truly shined.

The Flyers, facing a 2-0
deficit heading into the third, came alive and used their relentless
forecheck to knock the Blackhawks back on their heels. The pulled within
one goal when Simon Gagne’s slapshot hit a stick down low and knuckled
over the shoulder of Niemi and in. After that, Niemi was perfect as he
turned away shot after shot from the Flyers including several prime
scoring chances in the final minutes of the game.

He was calm and
collected in net, and with the Blackhawks once again struggling with the
offensive pressure of the Flyers he proved to be the difference maker.
He would finish with 32 saves on 33 shots, and ensured that the Flyers
would need to complete yet another miraculous comeback if they hoped to
win the Stanley Cup.

Before the series started, Jonathan Toews was
clearly the favorite for the MVP. With Toews completely shutdown so far
against the Flyers, and despite allowing five goals in Game 1, there
should be no doubt who the new leader is for the Conn Smythe. He hasn’t
always been perfect, but he has made the big saves and had the great
game when his team needed him most.

After the game, several of the
Flyers players stated that they didn’t feel they really tested Niemi
and they didn’t give him all they had. It’s tough to argue with that
statement, even when you consider the 15 shots on net they put up in the
third period.

Forget the amount of shots or the actual pressure
the Flyers were producing. Focus on the actual types of shots they were
putting on net. One thing the San Jose Sharks proved in the Western
Conference finals was that Antti Niemi is at his best when the puck is
shot low. He’s a traditional butterfly goaltender, and is nearly
unbeatable when he is on and the pucks are shot at his pads.

you think the Flyers would see that, and think that perhaps the best
way to beat Niemi is up high? He doesn’t have the best upper-body
reflexes, not that great a glove hand. Yet in Game 2, the Flyers
consistently fired the pucks low, and Niemi turned them all aside. Now,
the Blackhawks defense has something to do with this as well but I can’t
explain my frustration while watching puck after puck being shot
directly into Niemi’s pads.

Niemi had a great game no doubt, but
the Flyers certainly helped.2