Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives May 14 2015, Page 42

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - May 14, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE D2 D2 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2015 winnipegfreepress. com NHL PLAYOFF REPORT TAMPA, Fla. — Carey Price won the Montreal Canadiens a division title and got them to the second round of the playoffs. Ultimately, he couldn’t save them from elimination. Minutes after the Canadiens’ season ended Tuesday night with a Game 6 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Price took responsibility for the playoff exit. “ I didn’t play well enough for us to win the series,” Price said. “ I think that’s basically more or less what it comes down to. We lost a lot of tight games. I just needed to make that one more save in all the games that we lost, and I didn’t do that.” Price’s numbers, a 2.53 goals- against average and .896 save percentage, were below his amazingly high bar from an MVP regular season. But that doesn’t tell the whole story of the series against the Lightning. The Habs scored just 13 goals, six of them coming in a Game 4 rout when on the brink of elimination. They had two or fewer in the other five games. Montreal carried the play and outshot Tampa Bay in a reversal of its season- long trend but didn’t capitalize and again put the pressure on Price to be almost perfect. The likely Hart and Vézina Trophy winner was disappointed he couldn’t be, but defenceman P. K. Subban wasn’t accepting Price taking the blame. “ I don’t care what Carey says, we need to be better around him and support him more,” Subban said. “ I think too many times this year he’s bailed us out, and that’s got to change moving forward if we want to be a successful team in the regular season and the post- season. “ If we expect him to play the way he’s played this year every year, it’s unfair. There’s going to be ups and downs, and it’s tough to be at that level every single game. He’s managed to do it this year, but we have to realize our job is to make his job easier, not to make it more difficult.” With his pointed comments Tuesday night, Subban got to the root of Montreal’s biggest problem: relying too much on Price. The 27- year- old led the NHL with a 1.96 GAA and .933 save percentage, and his brilliance masked the Habs’ deficiencies. They were one of only two teams to make the playoffs after being outshot on average over the course of 82 games, and they were 20th in goals per game. But with Price leading the way, the Habs allowed the fewest in the league. Price was brilliant in the first round against the Ottawa Senators, particularly in a 43- save shutout to close out the series. He gave up an overtime goal in Game 1 and one in the final seconds of regulation of Game 3 against the Lightning, which was enough to make the difference in the series but not enough to convince teammates it was Price’s fault. “ I do not agree,” forward Pierre- Alexandre Parenteau said in French. “ It’s a pretty hard statement. Carey was our best player all year and most valuable player this season. To me, he was very good in the playoffs.” But Price wasn’t good enough and neither were the Habs. Coach Michel Therrien called them a “ team in transition” that took big steps, but the ending came one round earlier than last year, when Price was injured. Subban said he wants players to be hard on themselves and “ take ownership” for the season ending. Between Subban, Price, Max Pacioretty, Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec — the Habs leadership group — he noted there was plenty of responsibility to go around. Price taking all of it, Subban said, is unfair. “ I don’t think there’s anyone in this room that can say they were at their best,” Subban said. “( Price) should enjoy his off- season; he’s played a lot of good hockey over the past two seasons and especially this season, and for all of us it’s going to be tough to continue to watch the playoffs knowing we could play and we’re not playing, but that’s the way it goes.” — The Canadian Press T AMPA, Fla. — So much for all those questions about what’s happened to Steven Stamkos in the NHL playoffs. The two- time Maurice Richard Trophy winner and the Tampa Bay Lightning are headed back to the Eastern Conference final for the first time in four years after Tuesday night’s 4- 1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens ended their second- round series in six games. Stamkos failed to score in Tampa Bay’s opening- round matchup against Detroit. He had three goals against the Canadiens, the last helping propel the Lightning after Montreal fought off elimination in Games 4 and 5. The Lightning move on to the conference finals, where they’ll face the New York Rangers, who won Game 7 of their series against the Washington Capitals Wednesday night. The Lightning are one stage away from the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 2011, when they lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games. Tampa Bay won its only Stanley Cup in 2004. “ It’s exciting. I’ve always talked about 2011 was the most fun I’ve ever had playing this game. We’re getting right on that ( again) right now,” said Stamkos. “ Obviously, I want a little better result this time. This group has been resilient all year. ... We’ve got to believe that anything’s possible here,” the captain added. “ We’re obviously going to be paying close attention to the game ( Wednesday night).” After watching Tampa Bay’s series lead shrink to 3- 2, Stamkos urged his teammates to not play “ scared” in trying to finish off the Canadiens and avoid a trip to Montreal for Game 7. The Lightning responded with their best game of the series, maybe the playoffs. “ We were talking about this game like it was Game 7,” Stamkos said. “ We clogged it up good in the third period. It was as good a defensive period as we’ve played.” Montreal’s loss means the last of five Canadian- based teams that reached the post- season is eliminated. A Canadianbased team hasn’t won the Cup since the Canadiens did it in 1993. Nikita Kucherov had two goals and an assist for Tampa Bay on Tuesday, finishing with six goals in the series. Ondrej Palat also had a goal and an assist in the clincher, while Ben Bishop stopped 18 shots to outperform Montreal goaltender Carey Price. “ Our goalie continues to step up in big situations,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “ The longer the series goes, Ben just gets better and better.” The Lightning finished the Canadiens despite playing without forward Ryan Callahan, who had an emergency appendectomy on Monday night. Cooper has not ruled out getting Callahan back in the playoffs. “ Cally’s been a warrior for us since he’s been here,” Stamkos said. “ We miss him out there for sure, but we had his name up on the board before the game as a little inspiration, and guys stepped up.” Tampa Bay is headed to the conference finals just a year after being swept by Montreal in the opening round. “ Last year, we were a young group. I think half the team didn’t play a playoff game,” before facing the Canadiens, Kucherov said. “ This year we are more mature, and we have more confidence.” Bishop, who had no previous NHL playoff experience before beating the Red Wings in the first round, sat out the 2014 post- season with an injury. Losing a player such as Callahan in a key situation also might have doomed Tampa Bay in the past. This is a different team, though. “ We’ve had tons of depth on this team all season,” Stamkos said, applauding the job Jonathan Marchessault did filling in Tuesday night. “ I thought everyone had a great game, and that’s why we got that result.” — The Associated Press By Stephen Whyno Price takes blame but Habs disagree CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks had a few days away from the ice after advancing to the Western Conference final. Winger Bryan Bickell made the most of it. He found time to go bass fishing. He took his eight- month- old daughter for some walks. “ She’s growing like a weed,” Bickell said. “ She’s crawling and she’s climbing things. That’s what it’s all about.” The Blackhawks hope to keep climbing toward another championship. They completed a sweep against Minnesota in their conference semifinal series last Thursday, then had two days off to rest. They returned to practice Sunday and found out they will meet Anaheim in a conference final that matches the league’s hottest and most battle- tested teams. The question is: When will they play? The NHL won’t start the next round until all the conference semifinals are complete, and that means the Blackhawks and Ducks probably won’t play until late this week at the earliest. That gives Chicago plenty of time to relax and heal whatever bumps and bruises were brought on by the playoff grind. As long as they maintain their edge, that’s not a bad thing. “ Over the course of a playoff run, you have some highs and lows, and getting a break is definitely advantageous,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “ You have to use it the right way and get excited when you come back on the ice.” Chicago, seeking its third championship since 2010, might need every ounce of energy if it’s going to advance to the Stanley Cup final. “ Late in the season we did a pretty good job of practising hard and getting intense in practice,” goalie Corey Crawford said. “ That makes a big difference. It’s easy to carry it over when practice is really intense.” The Ducks boast one of the deepest lineups in the league. The three- time Pacific Division champions are 8- 1 in the post- season after rolling past Winnipeg and Calgary and advancing past the second round for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 2007. They have more goals ( 35) than any other team in these playoffs, with Corey Perry boasting a league- leading 15 points. But they’re going up against one of the league’s model franchises, one with five trips to the conference final in seven years. The Blackhawks this post- season knocked out Nashville in six games and swept Minnesota. “ It feels good to sweep and get that rest,” Hawks forward Brandon Saad said. “ It’s definitely a waiting game. I think it’s good for the body to get away from the game a little bit and rest and re- energize for the next series.” Bickell found time for his family and a chance to cast a line in the water. He caught some largemouth and smallmouth bass. “ I think this rest is good. It gave me more time to hang out with the family and just not think about hockey for a couple days,” he said. “ I feel good. I don’t feel any bumps or bruises after the last round. I’m looking to go have a good round in this round.” — The Associated Press By Andrew Seligman Blackhawks make most of extended waiting game after sweep Has key goals in eliminating Canadiens By Fred Goodall Stamkos’s emergence key DIRK SHADD / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Tampa Bay Lightning right- winger Nikita Kucherov celebrates his first goal against the Canadiens Tuesday. RYAN REMIORZ / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steven Stamkos ( left) finally found the net against Montreal after going without a goal in the first round against Detroit. KELOWNA, B. C. — The Kelowna Rockets have advanced to the Memorial Cup. Jackson Whistle stopped all 19 shots he faced as the Rockets blanked the Brandon Wheat Kings 3- 0 on Wednesday to claim the Western Hockey League’s Ed Chynoweth Cup with a four- game sweep. Rourke Chartier and Leon Draisaitl opened the scoring with short- handed goals 19 seconds apart in the third period. Nick Merkley rounded out the Kelowna attack 13 minutes later. Jordan Papirny stopped 27 shots for Brandon. It was the Rockets’ second sweep this post- season. They beat the Tri- City Americans in four straight games in the first round. Kelowna is the first team to qualify for the 2015 Memorial Cup by winning their league title. The Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League already qualified as the hosts of the tournament, which starts May 21. — The Canadian Press Wheaties fall in four D_ 02_ May- 14- 15_ FP_ 01. indd D2 5/ 13/ 15 11: 47: 47 PM

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