Friday Night Hockey Blog

May 23, 2009 | Ed Frankovic

Hershey Takes 2-1 Series Lead

The Hershey Bears trailed 3-0 in the second period and then 4-2 with 19 minutes to go in Providence tonight but rallied with four goals during the final period to beat the Bruins, 6-4, and take a two games to one lead in this best of seven series.

Graham Mink tipped home a shot for the game-winner with 6:02 to play in regulation and Alexandre Giroux scored twice for the Bears (number one star of the game), registering his team-leading seventh and eighth goals of the playoffs. Hershey also received tallies from Chris Bourque, Andrew Gordon, and Bryan Helmer. The Bears snapped an eight-game stretch in which they had not scored more than three goals in a contest.

Keith Aucoin and defenseman Patrick McNeill posted two assists apiece for the Bears, and goaltender Michal Neuvirth stopped 24 shots in the winning effort. Game 4 is Sunday night in Providence and Game 5 is Monday afternoon also at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Defenseman Karl Alzner is still out with an undisclosed (but believed to be a concussion) injury.

NHL Playoff Action and News

The Detroit Red Wings rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the second period tonight by going to the net but a Patrick Sharp goal, his 2nd of the night, won it for the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime. The Wings now lead this series two games to one. Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall (brother of Hershey’s Staffan) was kicked out of the game in the first period for a vicious hit on the Hawks Martin Havlat. Havlat appeared dazed and did not return to the game. His loss really hurts Chicago. I’ve watched this hit over and over and I still don’t see a penalty. Kronwall does not leave his feet until after delivering the blow, the puck is in Havlat’s feet, and Kronwall leads with the shoulder and the elbow comes up on the follow through. This is a case of Havlat having his head down and not being aware of his surroundings on the ice.

Cristobal Huet replaced an ill Nickolai Khabibulin after the second period and stopped six shots to get the win. This was Huet’s first playoff action since giving up the game winning goal to Joffrey Lupul of the Flyers as a Washington Capital in game seven of the opening round last season.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins go into Raleigh on Saturday night to attempt to take a commanding three games to none lead over the Carolina Hurricanes. Evgeni Malkin was outstanding in game two and his backhand goal to complete a hat trick was one of the best shots of the playoffs. Cam Ward has been subpar for the Hurricanes in goal. Sidney Crosby continues to be the front runner for the Conn Smythe trophy, at this point. I like the Penguins to win on Saturday night, they just are better than Carolina and they match up well with their speed.

The Minnesota Wild hired Penguins assistant GM, Chuck Fletcher, to be their GM today. Fletcher’s first order of business is finding a head coach and I spoke with one scout tonight who says the best potential bench boss who is currently not a head coach in the NHL is Calgary assistant Jim Playfair.

Speaking of Calgary, the Flames fired coach Mike Keenan today. This is no surprise given that this team underachieved despite all of the injuries they had going into the playoffs. Keenan yanked star goalie Mikka Kiprusoff around too much and defenseman Robyn Regehr was quoted today as saying this change needed to happen because Iron Mike still coaches like the game is in the 1980’s, OUCH! I  was never a fan of GM Darryl Sutter hiring Keenan but he and the 1994 Stanley Cup Winning Coach (NY Rangers) are close. There was talk of Sutter’s brother, Brent, possibly getting out of his contract with the New Jersey Devils to coach Calgary and be closer to his home in Alberta but that is just hearsay, at this point. Brent reportedly has three more years left on his deal with the Devils.

Great interview by Dmitry Chesnokov of Puck Daddy with Alexander Ovechkin from today (see,165376). Ovechkin talks about playing hurt in the playoffs and it is clear that he doesn’t really care about individual awards, he wants to win!

Memorial Cup

As predicted last week in this blog, the Memorial Cup has come down to the Windsor Spitfire and the Kelowna Rockets. Windsor became just the second team to win the tie-break game (Windsor beat Rimouski 6-4 on Wednesday night with four third period goals) and then advance to the final. Windsor knocked off the Drummondville Voltigeurs, 3-2, in overtime on Friday night. The game to decide it all is Sunday afternoon at 430pm on the NHL Network. I like Kelowna, although Bob Boughner seems to have gotten his Spitfire team to play like they did in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs after they started slowly by losing the first two round robin games in this Memorial Cup. Windsor did beat the Rockets, 2-1, on Tuesday night but the game didn’t mean a whole lot to Kelowna, who had already clinched a berth in the final.