Los Angeles Hockey: Anton Volchenkov

Kings: Bounces going L.A.'s way heading into Game 3

June, 4, 2012
Stanley Cup final

Game 3 (Kings lead series 2-0)

Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Staples Center, 5 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Just win, baby: Safe to say, L.A. is fortunate to be leading this series. The Devils have been hard on the Kings, even beating them at their own game in some areas. If not for Mark Fayne missing a wide-open side of the net late in Game 1, or Ilya Kovalchuk ringing his wrister off the wrong side of the crossbar with seven seconds remaining in Game 2, the momentum could easily be pointing east rather than west. But hey, no team got more unlucky bounces than the Kings during the first three quarters of the regular season. Now the series heads to L.A., where the Kings have actually played an inferior brand of hockey for most of the last eight months. They need to make the right adjustments, or the Devils could easily turn this into the dogfight most everyone anticipated.

2. Full speed ahead: After strolling through the first 16 games at a snail’s pace, the postseason finally shifts into overdrive over the next three days. The Kings headed straight to the airport following Game 2 on Saturday night, getting home around 4:30 a.m. They’ll take the ice for Game 3 warm-ups approximately 36 hours later. Following another day off Tuesday, they’ll come right back for Game 4 at Staples Center on Wednesday evening. Thanks to their 2-0 series lead, the Kings had the luxury of skipping practice Sunday afternoon. Not the Devils. They were out at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, trying to figure ways to get the puck past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. In an interesting scheduling twist, New Jersey is outside the Eastern time zone for the first time since mid-January.

3. Rough around the edges: A few of L.A.’s big-bodied forwards were stymied by the Devils in Game 2. Dustin Brown did not record a shot on goal, Dustin Penner didn’t get one until overtime and Anze Kopitar’s only shot on net came from 171 feet away midway through the third period. New Jersey’s relentless forecheck seemed to be a big contributor to the trio’s struggles. Since that strategy seemed to work so well in Game 2, look for the Devils to turn up the heat in Game 3. It’s up to the Kings to find ways to get the puck out of their end more efficiently. They did a better job in Game 1 by quickly passing the puck into the middle of the ice, but that also left them vulnerable to costly turnovers in a high-percentage scoring area.

4. Sneaky Devils: While the four goals by the Kings in this series have been works of art, New Jersey’s have been as dirty as a junkyard dog. Anton Volchenkov’s shot from the point in Game 1 was saved by the stick of Quick, but then took an unfortunate bounce off the chest of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and caromed into the net. Marek Zidlicky took another point shot through traffic in Game 2 and that one was tipped in by New Jersey forward Ryan Carter, who was parked in the high slot. Not a bad idea by the Devils, considering Quick is stopping everything he sees. If the Devils are planning to set up camp in front of the net again, the Kings need to be there too. They did a better job of that in Game 2, blocking 19 shots, one of their highest totals of this postseason. The usual suspects, defensemen Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi, led the way with four each.

5. Paging Mr. Smythe: What more can be said about Quick? While in New Jersey, he managed to lower his minuscule goals-against average in the playoffs from 1.54 to 1.44., and his save percentage from to .946 to .947. He’s the reason the Kings have stolen five games in the postseason while scoring two goals or less, including the first two of this series. He’s been exceptionally good in Game 3s in this playoff run, allowing three goals in the three victories at Staples Center and stopping 86 of 89 shots (.966).

Rapid Reaction: Game 1: Kings 2, Devils 1 (OT)

May, 30, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals

Game 1

Los Angeles Kings 2, New Jersey Devils 1 (OT)

The good: The Kings won their ninth straight road game of these playoffs and 11thoverall, thanks to a heady play by three of their best players. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty chipped the puck up the wall to Justin Williams, who drew both defensemen for the Devils. Williams flicked a backhand pass to Anze Kopitar, who was left alone in the middle of the ice. He reached to gather in the pass, went straight at New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, stick handling the whole time. Brodeur bit hard, sprawling to the ice and leaving Kopitar room to drag the puck to his forehand and score his seventh goal of the postseason with 11:47 remaining in the overtime. … For the ninth time in this postseason, the Kings scored first, a good sign considering they won seven of the previous eight games when they drew first blood. The fourth line of Colin Fraser, Jordan Nolan and Brad Richardson was the best line all night for the Kings, and they came through midway through the first period. Richardson did most of the dirty work to keep the puck in the New Jersey end and Nolan picked it up from there, passing from behind the net to Fraser, who was camped in the slot. Fraser put the puck past Brodeur for a 1-0 lead and his first career playoff goal. The matchup of fourth liners was one of the keys to this series. The Devils came into the finals with nine goals from their fourth-line group, while the Kings had just two.

The bad: The Kings held the Devils without a shot on net for the first 14 minutes of the second period, giving them a huge window to add to their lead and really silent the Prudential Center crowd. Unfortunately, they’ve had a tendency to take their foot off the gas late in the second period in these playoffs, and New Jersey made them pay. The scoring play began with a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the point by New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made the stop, but the rebound hit Kings defenseman Slava Voynov as he battled to keep Patrik Elias from getting to the puck. The carom went straight into the goal with 1:12 left in the second period, tying the score, 1-1. Just before the play, Quick made his second sloppy turnover behind his own net, then laid on top of Devils forward Zach Parise before giving him an extra downward push and a taste of the ice. If Quick has any weaknesses in his game, it’s his puck-handling.

The in between: With 16:02 left in the third, a New Jersey goal was waived off by referee Dan O’Halloran after the puck had ricocheted through traffic to Parise on the opposite post. He had an open side of the net, but didn’t hit the puck cleanly, leading to a mad scramble. The puck didn’t appear to be completely secured by Quick, but the whistle had been blown before Parise tapped it across the goal line. … Kings forward Trevor Lewis took a hard lick in the second period and stumbled off the ice. He took a brief trip to the locker room for repairs, but was soon back on the third line. … Brodeur made the save of the game on Doughty with 7 minutes left in third. Mike Richards had room to work but decided to leave the puck for a trailing Doughty, who had time to take a couple strides closer to the net. Brodeur threw out a two-pad stack and stopped the shot.