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."

  • No goal, no problem: Blackhawks shake off questionable call, Seabrook scores Game 7 winner in OT

    CHICAGO — The whistle blew, but few heard it.

    The 'Hawks were irate when they had a goal waved off late in the third period, but responded like champions. (AP)Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson had fired the puck into the net Wednesday night, and it looked like the Chicago Blackhawks had pulled ahead of the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1, with 1:47 left in the third period of Game 7. It looked like they were 107 seconds from the Western Conference final. “Chelsea Dagger” played. The fans celebrated. The United Center shook.

    Except the whistle blew, and after a moment, everyone realized it.

    Penalty call. No goal.

    Hjalmarsson said he “went blank” because he was “so mad.” Captain Jonathan Toews said there was “violent emotion” on the Blackhawks’ bench and he couldn’t repeat what came out of his mouth.

    “To be honest,” said defenseman Brent Seabrook, “we thought it should have been game over and series over.”

    Eventually, it was game over, series over. Seabrook ended up scoring 3:35 into overtime when his wicked wrist shot glanced off the shinpad of Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall and into the net. This time,

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  • Rangers fire bully bench boss John Tortorella for all the right reasons

    John Tortorella can be a jerk. Maybe he hugs kids and pets dogs and supports charities away from the rink, but that doesn’t make him misunderstood. Far too often he chooses to represent himself and his organization as curt, condescending and profane. He intimidates and embarrasses not just reporters, but players and officials and goodness knows who else. That makes him understood all too well.

    The Rangers took a step backwards this season, costing John Tortorella his job. (Getty)That is why so many people are piling on now that he has been fired as the coach of the New York Rangers. It’s like the bully on the playground just got his comeuppance, and suddenly the schoolkids are unafraid to express what they really feel as he sniffs and wipes the blood off his nose. It’s even sweeter that general manager Glen Sather said Tortorella was “a little bit shocked.” What a punch to the gut it must have been.

    But that is not why Tortorella was fired. He might be a bully, but he will be back as soon as another team decides it needs a bully – a bully with a Stanley Cup ring and a

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  • Red Wings blow chance to eliminate Blackhawks, so it's a Game 7 gamble back in Chicago

    DETROIT — It wasn’t the officiating. It wasn’t the heart or character of the Chicago Blackhawks. The difference Monday night was what it so often is in the NHL playoffs – a couple of mistakes, a fluky bounce.

    Just when it looked like the WIngs might oust the 'Hawks, Detroit was exposed in the third period. (AP)That’s why the Detroit Red Wings blew the lead, blew the game, blew the chance to eliminate the league’s top regular-season team and blew the opportunity to advance to the Western Conference final. The Wings did not blow the series with their come-from-ahead 4-3 loss, but if they fail to win Game 7 on Wednesday night in Chicago, they will look back on the first 10 minutes of the third period of Game 6.

    Then again, maybe not. They’d have to fish the tape out of the trash first.

    “We made some young mistakes in the third period,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, “and they ended up in our net.”

    Simple as that, really.

    The Wings entered the third with a 2-1 lead, thanks to a knuckleball shot by Joakim Andersson that eluded the glove of Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford. Babcock called

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  • Blackhawks respond to must-win playoff challenge with return to regular-season form

    CHICAGO — Out the open door of the Red Wings’ dressing room, the music blared into the hallway before Saturday night’s game. The song was “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, a Detroit artist. But the lyrics seemed to speak to Chicago. One shot … one opportunity … Would you capture it, or just let it slip?

    The Blackhawks showed plenty of battle in Game 5 to stay alive against the Red Wings. (AP)Facing a 3-1 deficit in this second-round playoff series, the Blackhawks knew one more loss would ruin everything – the record 24 straight games without a regulation loss to start the season, the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top regular-season team. He’s so mad, but he won’t give up that easy, no. He won’t have it. He knows his whole back’s to these ropes. It don’t matter …

    “We didn’t want a great season like this to end like this,” said Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw.

    And so they made sure it didn’t. The Blackhawks looked like the Blackhawks in a 4-1 victory, staving off elimination and setting up Game 6 on Monday night in Detroit. They hit. They skated. They cracked Wings goaltender Jimmy

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  • Red Wings' role reversal: Favorites-turned-underdogs have a hero in Jimmy Howard

    DETROIT — If you’re a fan of the Detroit Red Wings, you have seen this before.

    The Wings are leaning on their goaltending more than at any point in the past 25 years. (AP)You have seen a team stacked with stars roll through the regular season, then run into an underdog that just, will, not, go, away. You have seen shot after shot disappear into the gear of some hot goalie in some early round in the playoffs, and you have felt the frustration and the fear that your shot at the Stanley Cup might disappear, too.

    Except this time the team stacked with stars that rolled through the regular season is the Chicago Blackhawks. The underdog is the Wings. The hot goalie isn’t Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Miikka Kiprusoff or Dwayne Roloson ruining everything at the other end, but Jimmy Howard saving everything for Detroit.

    Somehow it is the seventh-seeded Wings who hold the 3-1 lead in this second-round series, and it will be Chicago and the United Center that will be tense Saturday night for Game 5 with the ’Hawks, the 2010 Stanley Cup champions, the 2013 winners of the Presidents’ Trophy

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  • Once unbeatable, the pressure is on Blackhawks to prove their playoff pedigree

    DETROIT — Back when the Chicago Blackhawks were unbeatable, it was easy to get caught up in the streak and the comparisons and the Stanley Cup dreams. They couldn’t lose, at least in regulation. They looked like a complete team, with top-end talent, depth and goaltending. They looked like they did in 2009-10, when they won it all.

    The Blackhawks have been knocked down by Detroit. Can Chicago get back up? (AP)But it was early in the regular season, and there was caution.

    “Is it the same team?” said San Jose Sharks forward Adam Burish, a member of the 2010 champions, the night the Blackhawks set an NHL record by earning points in their first 17 games. “You’ll have to wait till the playoffs start, and we’ll see.”

    We’ll see now.

    The Blackhawks face a 2-1 deficit in their second-round series with the Detroit Red Wings. They have lost two straight. They are being outplayed from their top-end talent to their depth to their goaltending. They lost their composure at the end of Game 3 in the sauna that was Joe Louis Arena.

    If they are like the 2010 team, this will be a

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  • 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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