Nicholas J. Cotsonika

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Nicholas J. Cotsonika is the NHL writer for Yahoo! Sports. He previously worked for the Detroit Free Press, where he covered the Red Wings, Lions and several other subjects. He has written three books, including "Hockey Gods: The Inside Story of the Red Wings' Hall of Fame Team."

  • Fun and games: Senators coach Paul MacLean takes light approach with young team

    The day before the Ottawa Senators opened their second-round playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, coach Paul MacLean gathered the players after practice. We want you to play hard, he told them. We want you to play the system, he said. But ultimately, he reminded them, let’s have some fun. The Pens had all the pressure as the top seed in the East. The Sens were just a pesky seventh seed. Have fun, he concluded, and make things happen.

    Senators coach Paul MacLean uses mistakes as teachable moments for his young team. (AP)“He uses the word ‘fun’ all the time,” said Senators rookie Cory Conacher, “and that’s important.”

    Havin’ fun yet?

    Thanks to a dramatic 2-1 victory in Game 3 – a shorthanded goal in the final minute of regulation, the winner in double-overtime – the Senators cut their deficit to 2-1. If they come back and win this series, it will add to an incredible story. If they don’t, it will still have been an incredible story, speaking well of coach, boding well for the team.

    The Senators were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the NHL last season, if

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  • Babcock keeps pushing Red Wings in perhaps his best coaching job ever

    Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn't suffer fools gladly. (AP Photo)DETROIT – Mike Babcock pushes. He always pushes. He was pushing at practice March 14 in  Edmonton, when the Detroit Red Wings were coming off a 5-2 loss in Calgary. Rookie defenseman Brendan Smith had struggled against the Flames, so the coach pulled him aside and told him he would be a healthy scratch the next night against the Oilers.

    “OK,” Smith said.

    “No, that’s not OK,” Babcock snapped.

    Smith collected himself. He told Babcock he agreed that it was not OK, that he just didn’t know what to say because he was “shocked and in awe.” They talked about what he needed to work on, and Smith went to sleep that night frustrated and upset.

    At the skate the next morning, Babcock told Smith he would be in the lineup after all.

    “I don’t know if it was playing with my mind or whatever it was, but I guess that’s a funny story that I have about Babs,” Smith said. “Maybe he wanted some fire out of me and maybe a higher competition level. I’m not sure what the whole thing was, but he wanted me to

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  • A Penguin's progress: Pascal Dupuis' tireless trek from playoff spare part to goal-scoring gamer

    PITTSBURGH — When the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, Pascal Dupuis celebrated. He soaked up his day with hockey’s holy grail. But he made a promise to his wife, Carole-Lyne – a promise to himself. He had been a spare part, appearing in 16 of the Pens’ 24 playoff games. Zero goals. Zero assists. Zero points. Minus-5.

    Pascal Dupuis is vying for the NHL playoff goal-scoring lead. (Reuters)“I was happy to win, but I was not one of the key guys that made the team win,” Dupuis said. “When the Cup showed up that summer, I told my wife that I’ll win it again, and I’ll be a big piece of the puzzle to get it again. Since that day, things have been going pretty well.”

    The Penguins are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year, if not the favorites. They held a 1-0 lead in their second-round series with the Ottawa Senators entering Game 2 on Friday night, and guess which member of their star-studded roster was tied for the NHL lead in playoff goals?

    Sidney Crosby, the best player in the world? Evgeni Malkin, the reigning winner of the

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  • NHL repeat offender Raffi Torres risks last chance with series-long suspension

    This is what it came down to: Raffi Torres was a repeat offender. He was just 44 games removed from one of the longest suspensions in NHL history. He delivered another illegal check to the head that caused another brain injury – the exact type of check and the exact type of injury the league has made a major effort to reduce for the last three years.

    San Jose's Raffi Torres is out for rest of the series against Los Angeles for his hit on Jarret Stoll. (Reuters)The incident happened Tuesday night in Game 1 of a second-round playoff series between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. The NHL did not know whether Stoll would miss the rest of the series. Concussions are difficult to predict. But the league looked at medical reports, and it did know that Stoll would not only miss Thursday night’s Game 2, but would stay away from Staples Center to avoid bright lights and loud noises.

    Officials from the department of player safety debated suspending Torres in the four- to six-game range. But ultimately NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan decided Torres had lost the privilege of playing the rest of

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  • Round 2 NHL Playoff Power Rankings: Blackhawks, Kings emerge as favorites

    In the end, there weren’t that many surprises in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Two underdogs gave us this-can’t-be-happening moments, but the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t pull off upsets. Two second and two third seeds lost, but in our initial NHL playoff power rankings, listing teams in order of their chances to win the Stanley Cup, none was in the top six.

    The Hawks' skill level and top-to-bottom depth makes them the No. 1 team heading into Round 2. (Reuters)It has been a weird year, with a 48-game regular season skewing the standings, and it was a fun first round, with a record 17 overtime games. But now that we’re in the second round, it’s big-boy hockey. The last five teams to win the Cup are still alive. So are the New York Rangers, who went to the Eastern Conference final last season, and the San Jose Sharks, who went to the Western Conference final in 2010 and ’11.

    The only team left without a recent playoff pedigree is the Ottawa Senators, who just won a round for the first time since 2007, when they made the Cup final. But the way the Sens have

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  • Back from the brink: Bruins finish off furious Game 7 rally with OT win, crushing Leafs' playoff hopes

    BOSTON — It was over. Not just the game or the series, but maybe the run of these Boston Bruins. They had blown a 3-1 series lead and now faced a 4-1 deficit almost halfway through the third period Monday night, and they were going to lose a Game 7 in the first round for the second straight year after winning the Stanley Cup. People were starting to wonder whether coach Claude Julien would be fired and what other changes would be made, from cyberspace to the Bruins’ bench.

    The Bruins' Patrice Bergeron gets a bear hug by Zdeno Chara after scoring in Game 7 overtime against Leafs. (AP)“You start thinking to yourself, ‘Is this the end of this group here?’ ” said winger Milan Lucic. “Because it probably would have been if we didn’t win this game.”

    But the Bruins did win this game. Somehow they came back and tied the Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring twice with their goalie pulled in the final minute-and-a-half of regulation. Somehow they eked out a 5-4 victory when Patrice Bergeron scored on a rebound 6:05 into overtime, converting boos into cheers at TD Garden, cruelly dashing the raised hopes of Leafs

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  • From shutout to Game 7: No margin of error for Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist

    NEW YORK — “Enjoy the game.” That’s what Henrik Lundqvist had told himself. Embrace the situation, live in the moment, all that good psychological stuff.

    Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been too busy to bask in the playoff experience. (AP)Then the puck dropped Sunday. Everything Zen? I don’t think so. This was not a prayer garden. This was Madison Square Garden, and these were the New York Rangers, and they were facing elimination from the first round of the playoffs.

    When bodies are blocking your vision, pucks are whizzing at you and teammates leave you no margin for error, enjoying the game is easier said than done – at least until you make 27 saves, complete a 1-0 shutout of the Washington Capitals, force a Game 7 on Monday night in D.C., punch the air in celebration and finally calm down again.

    “After I said that, I started to think about it,” said Lundqvist after stripping off his gear, a satisfied smile on his face. “You say it. You want to enjoy it. But it’s …”

    Pause.

    “Uh …”

    Pause.

    “It’s intense, and there’s a lot of pressure. There’s moments. There’s moments

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  • Pavel Datsyuk & Henrik Zetterberg: Red Wings' best players leading by example

    DETROIT — Steve Yzerman became the captain of the Detroit Red Wings in 1986-87. He helped restore the Original Six franchise to glory, winning three Stanley Cups and earning a reputation as one of the game’s great leaders.

    The Wings' talent level isn't what it used to be, but they still have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. (AP)Nicklas Lidstrom succeeded Yzerman in 2006-07. He became the first European-born captain to win the Cup and cemented himself as the best defenseman – and one of the best players, period – of his generation.

    Henrik Zetterberg succeeded Lidstrom this season. Along with Pavel Datsyuk, he dragged the Wings into the playoffs as a seventh seed, and now he has dragged them into a seventh game in the first round against the Anaheim Ducks.

    If you think that doesn’t compare, you’re right.

    Zetterberg and Datsyuk don’t have the supporting cast Yzerman and Lidstrom had for so many years. They don’t have Chris Chelios and Kris Draper and Sergei Fedorov and Slava Fetisov and Tomas Holmstrom and Brett Hull and Igor Larionov and Darren McCarty and Kirk Maltby and Brian Rafalski and

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  • Overlooked and underappreciated: Meet David Krejci, the best-kept secret on the Bruins

    During the dark days of the NHL lockout, Milan Lucic passed the time by going back in time. NESN filled holes in its programming schedule by replaying the Boston Bruins’ march to the 2011 Stanley Cup. Lucic had lived it, but when he relived it, he saw it from a new perspective.

    David Krejci led the Bruins in scoring when they won the Stanley Cup in 2011. (AP)“You kind of forget some of the things that went on,” Lucic said.

    Some things are hard to forget: Tim Thomas’ goaltending, Nathan Horton’s Game 7 goals, Zdeno Chara’s looming presence, Patrice Bergeron’s two-way play, Brad Marchand’s beak. But because the Bruins were such a deep, balanced team, some things are a little lost, like Dennis Seidenberg’s defense and David Krejci’s offense.

    Especially David Krejci’s offense.

    Thomas deserved the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player for keeping the puck out of the net, but someone had to put the puck in the net, and Krejci led the league in goals (12) and points (23). Still, when Bruins coach Claude Julien said Wednesday that “he was obviously

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  • Playoff warhorse Jaromir Jagr embraces supporting role with Bruins – and another Stanley Cup chance

    TORONTO — Ryan O’Byrne thought he had time. His defense partner, Jake Gardiner, had reversed the puck to him off the end boards in the left-wing corner. He waited for a second. Then anoth …

    It's good to be Jaromir Jagr, a 41-year-old superstar looking to win another Stanley Cup. (USA Today)Before he knew what happened, Jaromir Jagr crept up behind him, poked the puck away, took two steps behind the net and made a quick pass out the other side. Rich Peverley slapped it home before goaltender James Reimer could react. Steal. Pass. Score. The Boston Bruins led, 2-0, on their way to a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

    “He’s a Hall of Famer,” O’Byrne said. “He’s a guy that you need to be aware of on the ice.”

    Lesson learned.

    “That’s what experience does,” O’Byrne said.

    This is what the Bruins hoped Jagr would do when they acquired him at the trade deadline. He’s 41. He’s slow. But he’s still strong and skilled and smart, and with more than 180 NHL playoff games on his resume, he’s savvy.

    Asked about what he had done to O’Byrne, who has 10 percent of his NHL

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Pagination

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