Book excerpt: Curtis Joseph on being the ‘factor’ vs. the Blackhawks

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This excerpt from Cujo: The Untold Story of My Life On and Off the Ice by Curtis Joseph with Kirstie McLellan Day is printed with the permission of Triumph Books.  For more information and to order a copy, please visit Barnes & Noble, Amazon,, or


I remember after one of the anthems, Chicago started a checking line, which meant they were going to dump it in and then run our defence. It set the tone right away. Jeff Brown came back to me and said, “Cujo, play the puck,” because he didn’t want to be plastered up against the glass. They had speed and size. Wingers like Jocelyn Lemieux or Jeremy Roenick would rocket in at a hundred miles an hour, ready to clobber anybody near the puck. The strategy was to flatten our D every chance they got, wear them down. The more we got hit, the more likely a turnover might happen, and in the playoffs, you only need one to turn a game around. It worked like a symphony. And they were very good at it.

When they dumped it in, I went after everything. This meant that, instead of turning around and skating back for it, our defenceman would put his stick out and hold up the offensive player for a second and a half, and then let him go. That second was all the time I had to skate around behind the net, stop the shoot-in and pass it off. If one of their forwards hit me, they’d get a penalty.

The first ten minutes of a game were crucial. We had to hold off the attack and the enormous energy they brought. It was “Okay, this is survival. I’ve got to play the puck around the glass and make sure my D doesn’t get hammered. And make sure we don’t get scored on early. They can’t keep up this intensity for sixty minutes. If we can weather the storm, we’re going to be okay.” That’s what it was like, playing those guys in that building at that time.

After we upset the Hawks 4–3 in Game One, we knew they were going to come after us harder than ever three nights later. It was rough out there. Most of the eleven penalties called in the game were for roughing, charging, high-sticking and even kneeing.

We were competitive because we had traded a lot of toughness for talent. We still had Kelly Chase and Garth Butcher, but mostly we were loaded. Hully would become the fourth-leading goal scorer in the history of the league. Shanahan is a Hall of Famer, and then there was Craig Janney.

Craig was one of the greatest centres ever. He had 106 points that year. He was so smooth, and so underrated, a brilliant hockey player and a super-compassionate man. His game was directly related to his off-ice personality. He was a giver. Terrific at finding the open man. He’d rather pass the puck than put one in. He was reminiscent of Adam Oates, for whom he’d been traded. Don’t get me wrong, he scored plenty, but he was generous to a fault. I loved Craig Janney. He’d sit there and smirk and smile and laugh. Always fun, happy and positive.

Bob Bassen was all heart, as were Richie and Ronnie Sutter and Dave Lowry. And then look at our D, led by Jeff Brown and Rick Zombo. Z was integral, but you never heard much about it. He always played against the best of the best. And yet, even at the pinnacle of his career, he was more or less unknown. Shutting down the opposition’s best line? That’s big. You have to be damn good. But he never got the accolades he deserved. He didn’t have points, and his plus/minus was average. That’s all a lot of sportswriters see. But as a goalie, I relied on him big time. Just one of a long line of amazing players we had through the early ’90s.

As for the Blackhawks, they definitely had talent. Chelios was good — at thirty-one he was so incredibly fit that he was still, effectively, a young player. He’d come down to my end every once in a while and start yelling at me. Oh man, the obscenities — the gist being “We’re coming for you! We’re coming for you and we’re going to kill you!” I was trying to maintain focus and he was trying to get me off balance. But I recognized it as a great compliment to me. I thought, “This is good. It means I’m a factor in this series.”

I remember Roenick running around crushing people. For a skilled guy, he could hit. But like I told you before, the one guy I had to really pay attention to was Steve Larmer. He was thirty-two and he hadn’t missed a game in eleven years. He was two years from retirement, but he was still dangerous. He seemed unfazed by anything that was happening in the building. He had great patience, great poise, and then, suddenly, he would just rocket that puck into the top corner. I had to know where he was at all times.

That entire week, it felt like I was in a bubble and I was riding a wave. I didn’t think about it too much. I just got up, went to the rink and followed my routine. No superstitions, no rituals. I made a conscious decision early on not to hang my game on rituals. I concentrated on one thing. Focus.

Standing in my crease in Game Two, I found myself in a calm spot in the middle of the hectic world around me. The game ended with my first playoff shutout, 2–0. I was in the zone. It starts with the eyes — specifically, the fovea, a small depression at the back of the retina where visual acuity is highest. The fovea only picks up a tiny bit of your field of vision, so if you’re looking at something large, you need to move your eyes to take it all in. A lot of adjustments are needed. That’s why you see goalies moving and twitching so much. The more experienced goalies get, the quicker we are to get into a “quiet eye” state, meaning we stop shifting our gaze around sooner. We know where to focus our eyes.

Game Three, in St. Louis, was another shutout. It was 3–0 this time. Game Three is always the big game. It’s the swing game. Again, I was in the zone, connected to the puck. I could feel it moving along the ice and knew exactly where it was going. Other times, it seemed to be the size of a beach ball and moving in slow motion. When you are a goalie and in the zone like that, the opposing team gets frustrated.

In Game Four, Chicago scored early in the second period, ending my shutout streak at 174 minutes, 18 seconds, during which I had stopped 105 Chicago shots. We were tied 3–3 at the end of regulation, but if you look at the overtime, the Blackhawks knew they were finished. We could smell blood, and that’s when we found our stride. We had one scoring chance after another. There was nothing they could do to turn the tide.

Finally, Brett Hull made this wonderful play. A shoot-in sent the puck into their end. Ed Belfour went behind his net to play it, but it bounced over his stick. While Eddie was trying to get back to his crease, Brett took a shortcut, chasing the puck, and Eddie, trying to get back to his crease, bumped into Brett. Meanwhile, Craig Janney, who was such a quick-thinking player, recognized what was happening and slipped a quick wrist shot from the boards towards the net. Eddie, in a panic, dived and took a stab at it but missed. The puck dribbled in. Our guys leaped over the boards to celebrate, and Eddie went nuts —screaming at the refs, whaling his goal stick at the goal- posts. He gave it three full Paul Bunyan swings, hard enough to bend the iron, but he couldn’t make that stick break.

That was the game, and that was the series.

Eddie was pissed and complained to the ref. Brett yelled at him, “You’re an idiot, Eddie! I wasn’t doing anything. You tried to hit me!” The horn blew and Eddie beat up the crossbar and pushed the net over, something I would’ve done myself. On the way to the dressing room, he knocked over a big coffee urn and a water jug. I will always respect him as a fiery, tremendous competitor. Any time you come out on the winning end as a goalie, after facing a Hall of Fame goalie at the other end, you feel like you’ve done a good job.

The fans in St. Louis were going absolutely crazy. We were always happy to stick around and sign a few autographs and sticks, but we couldn’t get to our cars for three hours after the game. We could not get through the mob who were still waiting and cheering after that Chicago series.

I remember feeling the complete opposite of the way I felt getting that haircut once every two years when I was a kid. I felt proud. I felt great about myself. I felt good about being a good teammate, contributing to the win. And honestly, I can’t remember any moment, in all the time I played hockey, that I was a factor like that. When I played at Notre Dame and we won, it wasn’t because I dominated in any of the games or anything like that. For the first time in my life, I was a big factor.

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    Dellandrea scores twice in 3rd, Stars stay alive with 4-2 victory over Golden Knights

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    LAS VEGAS — With Dallas’ season on the line, the Stars got two critical goals from a player who was a healthy scratch the first two games of the Western Conference Final.

    Ty Dellandrea‘s goals came within a 1:27 span midway through the third period, and the Stars beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Florida Panthers.

    “He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever played with,” said Stars goalie Jake Oettinger, who made 27 saves. “He deserves every opportunity he gets, and there’s no one happier for him than the guys in this room. It shows how special you are when you get taken out. He didn’t make it about him. He needed the opportunity to step up, and that’s what he did.”

    The Stars escaped elimination for the second game in a row and head to Dallas for Game 6 down 3-2. Dallas is attempting to become the fifth team in NHL history to win a series after being down 3-0.

    And look who’s back for the Stars? Captain Jamie Benn returns after a two-game suspension for his cross-check to the neck of Vegas captain Mark Stone in Game 3. That was the only game in this series that was decided early, and the Stars hadn’t even had a multigoal lead.

    “I know our group, and we weren’t happy about being in the hole we were in, and they decided to do something about it,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “And now we’re rolling.”

    The only problem for DeBoer was waiting two days to play Game 6.

    “Drop the puck,” he said.

    DeBoer said before the game if his team won, the pressure would shift to the Knights. Now it’s up to them to respond after twice being a period away from playing in the Stanley Cup Final and letting both opportunities slip away.

    “I don’t think we brought our best the last two games,” Stone said. “We were still in a good spot to win the game. We’ve got to bring a little bit better effort and start playing a little more desperate.”

    Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said “it’s a very good question” why his team didn’t play with more desperation, but he also wasn’t thrilled with the Knights’ execution.

    “We had 24 giveaways,” Cassidy said. “I’m not sure you’re beating the Arizona Coyotes in January with 24 giveaways. That’s no disrespect to Arizona, but it’s not the right way to play.”

    Dellandrea found the right way to play and put together the first multigoal playoff game of his career. Jason Robertson and Luke Glendening also scored, and Thomas Harley had two assists.

    Chandler Stephenson and Ivan Barbashev scored for the Knights, and Jonathan Marchessault had two assists to extend his points streak to four games. Adin Hill made 30 saves.

    Dellandrea scored from the right circle to put Dallas ahead, the puck deflecting off Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo with 9:25 left for a 3-2 lead. Then, Dellandrea scored from the slot with 7:58 remaining.

    Dellandrea said the older players kept him motivated when he was temporarily sidelined.

    “There’s no denying it’s hard,” he said. “I’m thankful for a good group of character guys, and you’ve just got to stay ready.”

    The teams traded goals in the first two periods.

    Jack Eichel battled two Stars players for the puck in Vegas’ offensive zone, and then Barbashev swooped in and made a fantastic move to glide past Oettinger and score with 6:24 left in the first period. The Stars wasted little time in answering when Glendening scored on a deflection less than two minutes later.

    Dallas was robbed of what looked like a sure goal when Hill snagged a point-blank shot from Roope Hintz, who then threw his back in disbelief.

    Like in the first period, the Knights had a goal in the second quickly answered by one from the Stars. Stephenson scored from the left circle at 16:40 of the period, and Robertson knocked his own rebounds 2:09 later to make it 2-2. Stephenson tied the Knights’ record with his eight playoff goal this year, and Robertson had his fifth of the series.

    Sabres sign Minnesota defenseman Ryan Johnston to 2-year rookie contract

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres ended a lengthy wait by signing Ryan Johnston to a two-year, entry level contract more than a month after the defenseman completed his senior college season at Minnesota.

    Johnston will report immediately to the Sabres’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, whose best-of-seven Eastern Conference final playoff series against Hershey is tied at 1.

    From Southern California, Johnston is listed at 6-feet and 170 pounds and was selected 31st in 2019 draft.

    His puck-moving skills fit Buffalo’s style of play, Johnston finished his college career with nine goals and 59 points in 143 career games, including four goals and 18 points in 40 games this year. He reached the NCAA’s Frozen Four in each of his final two seasons, with the Gophers losing in the semifinals last year, followed by a 3-2 overtime loss to Quinnipiac in the championship game last month.

    He also had a goal and three assists in seven games representing the U.S. team that won gold at the 2021 world junior championships.

    Johnston, who turns 22 in July, had the option to wait until August when he would’ve become an unrestricted free agent and eligible to sign with any team. Because Johnston was first-round pick, the Sabres would’ve been compensated with a 2024 second-round selection had he signed elsewhere.

    Both sides are banking on the player’s age and college experience to enable Johnston to make the jump to the NHL within the next two seasons. The Sabres will still control Johnston’s rights as a restricted free agent once his entry-level contract expires.

    Joe Pavelski scores on OT power play, Stars beat Golden Knights 3-2 to avoid West sweep

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    DALLAS — Joe Pavelski admits that he probably appreciates the big playoff goals more the later he gets in his career. But they all still feel just as good, and his latest kept the season alive for the Dallas Stars.

    “Just really living in the moment,” Pavelski said. “A tremendous feeling for sure, and glad we could play another game, and go from there and try to extend it.”

    The 38-year-old Pavelski scored on a power play at 3:18 of overtime – a one-timer from the middle of the left circle to the far post – and the Stars avoided a sweep in the Western Conference Final with a 3-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.

    Jason Robertson scored twice for his first career multigoal playoff game for Dallas, which played without suspended captain Jamie Benn.

    “We’re looking for goals and that’s kind of my responsibility I put on myself,” Robertson said. “I know these playoffs have been tough. … I was able to get the bounces that we needed tonight.”

    Jake Oettinger had 37 saves, two nights after the 24-year-old Stars goalie was pulled 7:10 into Game 3 after allowing three goals on five shots.

    The Stars had the man advantage in overtime after Brayden McNabb‘s high-sticking penalty on Ty Dellandrea. Fifty seconds into the power play, Pavelski scored on a pass from Miro Heiskanen. They won for the first time in their five OT games this postseason – Vegas won the first two games of this series past regulation.

    It was only the second Vegas penalty of the game, both high-sticking calls against McNabb. His penalty on Pavelski late in the first period set up the power play when Robertson scored his first goal with some nifty stickwork.

    Pavelski, in his 15th NHL season and still looking for his first Stanley Cup, scored his ninth goal in 12 games this postseason, but his first in five games. He has 73 career postseason goals – the most for U.S.-born players and the most among all active players.

    “He’s ageless. … I’ve seen that movie over and over again. Never gets old,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “He lives for those moments and he wants to be in those situations. Always has, and delivers almost every time.”

    Benn was suspended two games by the NHL on Wednesday for his cross-check with his stick landing near the neck of Vegas captain Mark Stone in the first two minutes of Game 3 on Tuesday night. Benn also will miss Game 5 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

    William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault scored for Vegas. Adin Hill had his five-game winning streak snapped. He made 39 saves, including a game-saver with his extended left leg without about two minutes left in regulation on rookie Fredrik Olofsson’s swiping try in his first career playoff game.

    “Our effort wasn’t good enough. Closing a series is probably the hardest game in a series, right, so it just wasn’t good enough from our group,” Marchessault said. “It was still a one-goal game in overtime. It was right there for us.”

    Karlsson and Marchessault are among six of the original Vegas players still on the team from the inaugural 2017-18 season that ended with the Knights playing for the Stanley Cup, though they lost in five games to the Washington Capitals after winning the first game.

    Vegas missed a chance to complete a sweep, a night after the Florida Panthers finished off a sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.

    Vegas took a 2-1 lead midway through the second period when Marchessault, after whacking his stick on the back of Ryan Suter in front of the net, scored on a pass between the Stars defenseman’s legs from McNabb, another original Golden Knight.

    Robertson’s tying goal late in that period came on a ricochet off the back board just seconds after he had another shot hit the post. That was the fourth goal of this series, and sixth in the playoffs, after this regular season becoming the first Dallas player with a 100-point season.

    On his first goal late in the first that tied it 1-1, Robertson deflected Heiskanen’s shot from just inside the blue line up into the air. As Hill was trying to secure the puck into his glove, Robertson knocked it free and then reached around and swiped the puck into the net with his stick parallel to the ice.

    With former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and wrestling great Ric Flair both in the building wearing Stars jerseys Dallas was avoided being swept in the playoffs for the first time since 2001 against St. Louis in the second round. This was the Stars’ 21st playoff series since then.

    The Golden Knights scored first again – though not like those three quick goals in Game 3 that led to the earliest exit ever for Oettinger.

    Karlsson pushed the puck up and skated to the front of the net after passing to Nicolas Roy, whose pass through traffic went off a Dallas stick before Reilly Smith got it just inside the right circle and took a shot. Karlsson’s deflection past Oettinger only 4:17 into the game was his eighth goal this postseason.

    “There were a lot of rush chances,” said Smith, also with Vegas since the beginning. “I don’t think we did a good enough job of making it difficult on them. So we get another opportunity in two days.”

    Tkachuk sends Panthers to Stanley Cup Final, after topping Hurricanes 4-3 for sweep

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — Matthew Tkachuk delivered for Florida, again. Sergei Bobrovsky denied Carolina, again.

    The wait is over: After 27 years, the Florida Panthers – a hockey punchline no more – are again going to play for the game’s grandest prize.

    Tkachuk got his second goal of the game with 4.9 seconds left, lifting the Panthers past the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 and into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996 after sweeping the Eastern Conference final.

    The Panthers will play either Vegas or Dallas for the Stanley Cup starting sometime next week; Vegas currently leads the Western Conference title series 3-0.

    “This was pure joy,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.

    Bobrovsky stopped 36 shots to cap his stellar series – four games, four one-goal wins, three of them basically in sudden death, a .966 save percentage after stopping 174 of the 180 shots he faced. The first two wins were in overtime, and this one may as well have been.

    The Panthers scored 10 goals in the series, and Bobrovsky ensured those were all they needed. They were the No. 8 seed, the last team in, the longest of long shots – which is consistent with their history, after not winning a single playoff series in 26 years, a drought that ended last season.

    And now, beasts of the East. Tkachuk arrived last summer saying he wanted to bring Florida a Cup. He’s four wins away.

    “It’s amazing,” Bobrovsky said. “We showed the resilience … and we’re lucky to have Chucky on our side. He knows how to score big goals.”

    NHL Senior Vice President Brian Jennings was the one tasked with presenting the Prince of Wales Trophy. After some photos, Aleksander Barkov – the captain who had two assists, one of them on the game-winner – grabbed it, and skated it away. Some teams touch it. Some don’t. A few of the Panthers did, but Barkov didn’t pass it around.

    That’ll wait for the big prize.

    “It’s hard to explain right now. Everything just happened so quick,” Barkov said. “It means a lot. It definitely does. … It hasn’t been easy and nobody said it’s going to be easy.”

    Added Tkachuk: “We earned that thing, and definitely didn’t do it the easy way. We earned it.”

    Ryan Lomberg and Anthony Duclair had the other goals for Florida, which swept a series for the first time in franchise history.

    Jordan Staal – his brothers Eric and Marc play for the Panthers – took a tripping penalty with 57 seconds left in regulation, setting up the power-play that Tkachuk finished off after getting into the slot and beating Frederik Andersen to set off a wild celebration.

    “Eastern Conference champions,” Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “It’s really cool. No doubt about it. But you know, at the end of the day, we have our eyes on something different.”

    Toy rats – the Panthers’ tradition, a nod to the unwanted locker room guests from Florida’s old arena in 1996 – sailed down from the stands, and the goal needed to survive an official review. But the rats were picked up, the goal was deemed good, and 27 years of waiting was officially over 4.9 seconds later.

    Jesper Fast seemed like he might have saved the season for Carolina, getting a tying goal with 3:22 left in regulation. Paul Stastny and Teuvo Teravainen had the first two goals of the night for the Hurricanes, while Brady Skjei and Jordan Martinook each had two assists. Andersen stopped 21 shots.

    “Everyone’s going to say, ‘You got swept.’ That’s not what happened,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I watched the game. I’m there. I’m cutting the games. We’re in the game. We didn’t lose four games. We got beat, but we were right there. This could have went the other way. It could have been four games the other way.”

    That wasn’t sour grapes. He was right. A bounce here, a bounce there, a Bobrovsky not here, a Bobrovsky not there, and this series could have gone much differently.

    But Bob was his best. Tkachuk was clutch, over and over. And Florida is as close to a Cup as it has ever been; the Panthers were swept by Colorado in the 1996 final.

    Towels waved, strobe lights flashed, and the fans wasted no time letting the Panthers know that they were ready to a clincher.

    Tkachuk made it 2-0 on the power play midway through the first. Carolina – a 113-point, division-championship-winning team in the regular season – made it 2-1 later in the first on Stastny’s goal, and Teravainen tied it early in the second.

    Lomberg’s goal midway through the second gave Florida the lead again. It stayed that way until Fast got the equalizer with 3:22 left, and then Tkachuk finished it off – getting the Panthers to the title round in his first season.

    “It’s been unbelievable since July since I got here,” Tkachuk said. “And hopefully we can cap off this amazing year.”


    Panthers general manager Bill Zito was announced earlier Wednesday as a finalist for NHL GM of the year. … Tkachuk’s two goals gave him 21 points in the playoffs – extending his Florida single-season postseason record, which was 17 by Dave Lowry in 1996. … Slavin was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game after Bennett’s hit, with what the Hurricanes said was “an upper-body injury.” Slavin wobbled as he tried to get to his feet. … Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel – who has also been a regular at Miami Heat games during their playoff run this spring – banged the drum before the game. When done, without a mic to drop, he simply dropped the mallet instead.


    Tkachuk’s goal midway through the opening period put Florida up 2-0 – and marked the first time, in nearly 14 periods of play to that point, that a team had a two-goal lead in this series. Every bit of action came with the score tied or someone up by one in the first 272 minutes (including all the overtimes) of the series.