Los Angeles Hockey: Anze Kopitar

We're down to the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers. So who will win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP? Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun weigh in while connecting for cross-country flights. Go!

BURNSIDE: Good day, my friend. I'm awaiting a flight westward in Chicago, and I must admit this whole Western Conference beauty remains a bit of a blur. Still can’t believe the Chicago Blackhawks couldn't close the deal after leading Game 7 by 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 counts, but that’s a credit to a Kings team that simply wouldn’t stay down on the mat. Not that they didn’t have their down moments against the defending Stanley Cup champs, blowing a 3-1 series lead with two straight losses that included blown third-period leads of their own. But here they are in the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three years, and they will have home-ice advantage against the surprising Rangers. I know you covered the Eastern Conference finals, and I know from your preview that you like the Kings’ chances at winning their second Cup over that same three-year period. But I don't think it's going to be as easy as some people think. The Kings left a lot on the table against Chicago. A lot. Dustin Brown called it the most emotional playoff series in which he has ever participated. Which leads us to the topic for our little tête-à-tête today, which is: Who is shaping up to be a legitimate Conn Smythe Trophy candidate? Let’s start with the favored Kings. I’ll toss out Jeff Carter’s name. He scored his ninth goal of the playoffs in Game 7 and led all players in the West finals with 11 points. He has been a force and a major factor in the surprising contributions of kids Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.

LEBRUN: I’m catching a flight from Toronto to LAX later today, my friend. See you soon! Yes, as you saw in my Cup finals preview, although I do like the Kings to win the Cup, I suggested the Rangers will push them to seven games. Despite the superiority gap the West has over the East in general, the fact that the Kings had to work so hard to finish off the Blackhawks gives the Rangers an edge, due to L.A.'s fatigue level entering this series. Not to mention, Henrik Lundqvist over an inconsistent Jonathan Quick is another factor. So I do not think it’s going to be easy, by any measure. The taxing reality of having to beat the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago over 21 grueling games has really tested what I think the Kings have left. As for the Conn Smythe, although I agree Carter has been terrific, I think it goes without saying that if we held the vote today, Drew Doughty would win in a landslide. The dude is simply the best defenseman in the NHL. He leads all Kings and Rangers in ice time in these playoffs at 27:50 a game. Offense, defense, special teams, leadership, physicality -- Doughty does it all. And let’s not forget the Conn Smythe is for the entire playoffs. I agree Carter was sensational in the Western finals, but Doughty has been out of this world since Day 1 in mid-April.

BURNSIDE: I agree with you on Doughty. He’s at the emotional core of the Kings, and in fact it was interesting to hear Brown, the Kings’ captain, talk about the need for his teammates to sometimes calm Doughty down and keep him focused the right way. "I guess the way to kind of explain it [is] Dewy gets pretty emotional out there, and sometimes it takes one or two guys to go over there and calm him down. Then, he’s great. He gets very emotional, which I love, but sometimes he lets it get the best of him. Once somebody calms him down, then he takes over the game. He can use that emotion the right way." Doughty leads all defensemen with 16 points and has logged more ice time in the playoffs than any other player -- by a country mile. If he keeps up his current level of play, he’s going to make everyone in the Eastern Conference forget about Montreal’s great P.K. Subban, and if that’s the case, he’ll make a compelling case for a playoff MVP award. But what about the Kings’ calming presence in the locker room and on the ice, Anze Kopitar? He leads all playoff performers with 24 points and has registered at least a point in 17 of 21 games. Amazing. He played head-to-head with Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews all series long, and I’m guessing he’ll see a lot of the Rangers’ top line in the finals as well. Definitely a worthy candidate.

LEBRUN: No question in my mind that Kopitar would be my next choice after Doughty. The Selke Trophy finalist has gone head-to-head with the likes of Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf and Toews in these playoffs and more than held his own, in some cases winning outright those key battles. No offense to the Rangers, but if Kopitar is matched up with Derek Stepan, that’s a bit of a step down from the previous centers he saw in these playoffs. Certainly, to me, it’s a 1-2 race of Doughty and Kopitar for Conn Smythe, and I agree Carter is a solid No. 3. What about the Rangers? As stated above, the Blueshirts have a better shot than we would have thought a week ago because of the Kings’ marathon Western finals. And if the Rangers do win the Cup, it’s because of Lundqvist. Although I suspect stud blueliner Ryan McDonagh also would garner some Conn Smythe traction if the Rangers win the Cup -- he’s been out of this world all postseason -- I still think that if New York pulls off the upset, it’s because King Henrik stumped the Kings. That, combined with his stellar play for most of the postseason, would get him a no-brainer Conn Smythe.

BURNSIDE: The discussion is pretty heavily weighted toward the Kings, and I think there’s ample reason for that. But, like you, I think this has the potential to be a long series, given the Kings’ heavy workload thus far and the extra rest the Rangers enjoyed after dispatching the Habs in six games. Everyone will point to Lundqvist as the Rangers’ prime Conn Smythe candidate, and it’s hard to argue with that. Except for a slight wobble in Game 5, he’s been pretty terrific since the Rangers fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the second round. If the Rangers push this to seven games, I could see a scenario in which Lundqvist earns MVP honors even if the Rangers can’t complete the dream run to a Cup championship. That said, the only other player I think has a chance to enter the discussion for the Rangers is Martin St. Louis. There’s the emotional aspect of what St. Louis has been through: losing his mother in the midst of the Pittsburgh series and continuing to play -- and play exceptionally well. And as the playoffs have gone on, he has become better and better. His overtime winner against the Habs in Game 4 was a series changer, as it gave the Rangers a 3-1 series lead that forced the Habs into full catch-up mode. You know he has the will and the skill to do more damage in the finals, and if the Rangers happen to effect the upset, I'm guessing St. Louis will have a hand in it and thus play a big role come voting time for the MVP honors.

LEBRUN: The emotion that has wrapped this Rangers team ever since Martin St. Louis’ mother passed away unexpectedly on May 8 has been incredible. The players have rallied around St. Louis, and he has responded through adversity by playing his best hockey of the season. It’s why there’s a sense of destiny around this team, even if they are the underdogs. I still think, though, that if the Rangers upset the Kings, that win nets Lundqvist the Conn Smythe.

Well, my friend, before the day is over, we’ll be drinking diet soda together. Safe travels. Hoping this is a terrific Cup finals.

Third-period rally lifts Kings over Wings

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
10:37
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LOS ANGELES -- Anze Kopitar scored the tiebreaking goal on a slick pass from Dwight King with 4:48 to play, and the Los Angeles Kings rallied from a third-period deficit for their fifth straight victory, 2-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

For the full story, click this link.

Kings beat Coyotes for first win of season

January, 26, 2013
1/26/13
9:02
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Kings got their top line going and their first win of the season.

Anze Kopitar scored two goals to spark Los Angeles' No. 1 line and the defending Stanley Cup champions beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 Saturday night.

For the full story, click this link.

Kings come out on top again after lockout

January, 6, 2013
1/06/13
3:25
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LOS ANGELES -- It took longer than anyone would have liked, but the NHL lockout is finally over.

Hockey will be back this month, and so will the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

It could be argued that no team benefited more from the players' staying firm to having a larger salary cap than the Kings, who will enter this season with their entire Stanley Cup-winning roster intact and the ability to keep that roster in place for the foreseeable future.

The NHL was hoping to get the salary cap down to $60 million, while the players were holding firm to $65 million. The owners moved up a little and the players moved down a little, and they finally met at a $64.3 million cap number next year, according to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun. For the first year, the salary cap is $60 million, but teams can spend up to $70.2 million in the transition period.

As ESPN.com’s Craig Custance notes, that’s no small win for the players -- and the Kings in particular.

According to CapGeek.com, the Kings’ current cap payroll is a little more than $62 million, with their actual salary payroll at just more than $64 million. Next season they have 13 players signed, with $50 million going to Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Dustin Brown, Colin Fraser, Dwight King, Kevin Westgarth, Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene and Jonathan Quick.

Under the proposed cap by the owners, it would have been virtually impossible for the Kings to keep their current roster intact after this season. They likely would have had to let go of free agents like Simon Gagne, Dustin Penner, Brad Richardson and Rob Scuderi. Under the cap they eventually agreed to, the Kings have a chance at keeping this roster in place and surrounding their stars with familiar role players -- something that might mean the difference between a championship and a first-round playoff exit.

And Kings fans don’t need to be reminded how instrumental Penner and Scuderi were in getting the Kings back to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in nearly two decades and helping them win it for the first time in franchise history.

If the NBA lockout last year is any indication, fans will quickly forget about the lockout, and teams with little turnover on their roster and the coaching staff usually have the most success in these condensed seasons that see a short training camp and few practices between games.

By that measure, it should put the Kings in good shape to be among the top contenders to win the Stanley Cup this season as they attempt to become the first back-to-back champs since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

There had been a general feeling in Los Angeles that the Kings may have squandered an opportunity to seize a piece of the market here after converting so many fans during their magical Stanley Cup title run. But die-hard fans are always going to be there and the fair-weather fans who came along for the ride during the playoffs may well be there again if the Kings are able to put together a similar run.

If anything, the Kings may be coming back at the perfect time: With Los Angeles sports fans looking for something to hang their hats on after the Dodgers and Angels missed the playoffs, after USC’s disappointing football season and with the Lakers below .500, a Kings championship banner raising and ring ceremony to start the season will give residents another chance to hop on the bandwagon.

These Kings are built for a long run

June, 19, 2012
6/19/12
5:36
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KingsJayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireThis Kings team seems to have a better chance at continued success when compared to the 1993 Cup finalist.

LOS ANGELES --When Luc Robitaille boarded a double-decker bus last week for the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory parade through Downtown L.A. he couldn’t help but think back to the 1993 team he was on that came within three wins, and some would still argue a Marty McSorley curved stick, from making the same victorious ride.

“I remember sitting on the team bus after the last game in Montreal thinking we’ll be back next year,” Robitaille said. “We all thought we’d be back.”

It took the Kings 19 years to return to the Stanley Cup finals, but the way Robitaille sees it now, it shouldn’t take the team nearly two decades to return to the finals again.

Not only do the Kings boast one of the youngest teams in the league, but unlike in 1993 when then-Kings owner Bruce McNall pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy and fraud and forced the Kings into bankruptcy, the team is now financially solid, backed by one of the richest men on the planet (Philip Anschutz) and fresh off signing a $250 million television rights deal, one of the richest in the NHL.

“The big problem after 1993 was the team went on a downfall for years afterwards,” said Robitaille, who is now the Kings’ president of business operations. “Unfortunately for Mr. McNall it was a hard situation for him but at the end of the day we weren’t able to keep our young players and other players got older.”

When the Kings hired Dean Lombardi as the team’s president and general manager in 2006, the plan wasn’t simply to make a quick fix or make one big signing or trade, it was to build a team that would be a consistent contender for years like the Detroit Red Wings. After the Kings made the playoffs the past two seasons after a seven-year postseason drought, the Kings are right where they had hoped they would be.

“We’ve all talked for the last five years as an organization that we want to build this team for the long run,” Robitaille said. “We intend to get better. We love this run, we love this championship and we’re always going to remember it but what we’re going to do now is get better for next year and the year after that. We’re going to try everything we can to keep this going. We want to be thought of with some of the great teams in this city.”

(Read full post)

Leiweke remembers those from the past

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
8:54
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LOS ANGELES -- Before the Los Angeles Kings are publicly recognized for winning the Stanley Cup with a downtown parade Thursday, the organization’s governor, Tim Leiweke, took time to recognize Terry Murray and Dave Taylor, two men who helped guide the organization to where it is today, but weren't around to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Murray coached the Kings for 3 1/2 seasons before he was fired in mid-December. Using the offensive and defensive systems Murray put in place, Darryl Sutter took over behind the bench and led L.A. to its first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.

“To me, we're not here without Terry,” Leiweke said Wednesday afternoon on the Mason & Ireland show on 710 ESPN radio. “He did a great job of teaching us a system that allowed us to win a Cup.”

Leiweke had similar praise for Taylor, the longest-tenured member of the Kings who served as general manager from 1997 to 2006. It was Taylor who drafted current Kings’ stars Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. After the Kings qualified for the playoffs only four times in that span, winning just one series, Leiweke decided it was time for a change and brought in Dean Lombardi.

“I hated that decision to this day,” Leiweke said. “I probably don't have a very good relationship with Dave, but I've sent him an e-mail and told him we wouldn't be here without you. You have as much to do with this as anybody.”

Leiweke said members of the Kings organization, including owner Philip Anschutz, have also reached out to Murray, who kept busy scouting potential Eastern Conference playoff opponents for the Kings. He said Murray will be awarded a championship ring and the team is lobbying to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

To hear the complete interview, click this link.
Anze Kopitar talks about the Kings up and down season and the unbelievable feeling of winning the Stanley Cup.


Rapid Reaction: Game 6: Kings 6, Devils 1

June, 11, 2012
6/11/12
7:54
PM PT

Stanley Cup finals

Game 6

Kings 6, New Jersey Devils 1

(Kings win the series, 4-2)

The good: Forty-five years of existence, six years of rebuilding and four minutes of pure elation merged together Monday night at Staples Center, combining to make hockey all the rage in L.A. once again.

After two missed opportunities, the Kings finally silenced the Devils for a fourth time in this series, clinching their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Better yet, they accomplished the ultimate goal in front of their loyal supporters. The turning point began just past the halfway point of the first period, when Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi was hit from behind by Steve Bernier as he played the puck near the end boards in his zone. Scuderi crumbled to the ice after he slammed face first into the boards and blood spilled from his mouth and nose. Bernier was given a five-minute major boarding penalty and a game misconduct. Since major penalties don’t end when a power-play goal is scored, the Kings took full advantage, scoring three consecutive goals with the man advantage.

Dustin Brown, mired in a slump during the finals, scored the first 53 seconds into the power play, deflecting a shot by defenseman Drew Doughty. Then it was Jeff Carter’s turn to get a piece of Brown’s shot from the slot and he tipped it past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur midway through the penalty. L.A. wasn’t satisfied, as rookie left wing Dwight King carried the puck down the left side and shoveled a short pass through the crease to Trevor Lewis, who flipped it past Brodeur for a 3-0 advantage with nine seconds still left on the major. This wasn’t a power play, this was a power trip. Even better, Scuderi returned at the start of the second period with a nasty gash on the bridge of his nose and his upper lip. Carter welcomed him back by taking a pass in the slot from Anze Kopitar and rifling it past Brodeur 1:30 into the second period for L.A.’s fourth goal on their 14th shot on net.

The bad: From the first game of these playoffs, the Kings had trouble closing out the second period. It happened again Monday night, as Adam Henrique beat three Kings to a loose rebound off a faceoff win and shoved it past the goal line with 1:15 left in the second period, cutting the deficit to 4-1. Dustin Penner then laid a check on New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador that looked like nothing more than a check along the boards, sending him to the penalty box with 17 seconds remaining in the period. The Kings killed that penalty, however, giving their fans a chance to breathe a sigh of relief.

The in-between: It was a rough night for a lot of folks. Not only did Scuderi leave a pool of blood on the ice, but Devils forward Stephen Gionta was struck in the face by a teammate’s slap shot late in the second period and linesman Pierre Racicot had to leave the game after he was knocked down on a rush by Brown during the second period, as well, slamming his head sharply on the ice.

Kings: Another opportunity to clinch arrives with Game 6

June, 11, 2012
6/11/12
8:34
AM PT
Stanley Cup finals

Game 6 (Kings lead series, 3-2)

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

Five storylines to track:

1. Clock is ticking – So close has been Lord Stanley’s Cup the past two games, the Kings could almost see it, nearly touch it and practically feel the tradition reverberating from its sterling silver. But the Devils didn’t roll over in Game 4, and then pushed back a little more in Game 5, leaving L.A. still one win from raising its first Cup. Despite the luxury of having two more chances to win one more game, this has to be considered a Game 7 for the Kings. They want no part of a seventh game Wednesday in Newark, no matter how well they’ve played on the road. If they hope to stem this rising New Jersey tide, the Kings need to play their best game of the series.

2. Added demands – Only two members of the current Devils team were on the organization’s 2003 team, the last to win the Stanley Cup: goalie Martin Brodeur and forward Patrik Elias. But the entire squad seems to have developed a been there, done that attitude. New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer poked fun at the Kings after practice Sunday, saying the Devils had noticed a stream of limousines parked outside Staples Center prior to Game 4, just waiting to whisk the Kings to an after-party once they completed the sweep. Earlier in the day, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty admitted there were some outside distractions prior to Game 4. “We were nervous, worried about other things," he said. "All of us in the room were kind of frustrated that we were thinking about things ahead of time.” Doughty said coach Darryl Sutter vowed to make sure that wouldn’t happen again. No word if he confiscated their cellphones.

3. Mission in action – If the Kings hope to wrap up the Cup, they must squeeze more production from their top six forwards. The only member of that group who has played better as the series has rolled along is right wing Justin Williams. He scored goals in two of the past three games and rang the post twice as well. Dustin Brown was so ineffective down the stretch of Game 5 that he sat out the last five minutes, and their leading scorer in the playoffs, Anze Kopitar, hasn’t recorded a shot on goal the past two games. The only thing the second line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner has generated the past two games is more length to their beards.

4. Where’s Simon? – After missing nearly six months with a concussion, Simon Gagne has appeared in three straight games for the Kings. Sutter was hoping he would generate some offense in place of Brad Richardson, but so far he has recorded zero points. Even more telling for those who didn’t like the move in the first place, the Kings are 1-2 with Gagne in the lineup. He has the offensive skill of a top-six forward but is still limited to fourth-line minutes, Sutter said. Gagne took a few shifts with Kopitar and Williams late in Saturday night’s loss, but since stamina is still an issue, Sutter can only go with that look intermittently, leaving him to roll with three lines. It will be interesting to see how Sutter uses Gagne moving forward, if he uses him at all.

5. Quick response – The last time Jonathan Quick gave up a soft goal in the playoffs — a shot from the red line against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals — he came back with a shutout in Game 2. L.A. fans are hoping he responds with a similar effort after his mishap with the puck midway through the first period of Game 5 allowed the Devils to take a 1-0 lead in a game they eventually won 2-1. Quick has been phenomenal in these playoffs and will likely wrap up the Conn Smythe Trophy if he can put the Kings on his shoulders once more.

Rapid Reaction: Devils 2, Kings 1

June, 9, 2012
6/09/12
8:01
PM PT

Stanley Cup finals

Game 5

New Jersey Devils 2, Los Angeles Kings 1

(Kings lead the series, 3-2)

The good: So, the Kings have lost two straight for the first time in this postseason, and watched their 10-game road winning streak in these playoffs skid to a halt inside Prudential Center. But look at the bright side, they still lead the series heading back to L.A. Right from the opening drop, Kings right wing Justin Williams had an extra jump to his step and a little more zing on his shot. After drilling his second post in as many games 2:40 into the first period, he didn't let his second prime scoring chance go to waste. The play began with a run-of-the-mill clearing pass by defenseman Matt Greene. Williams collected the puck at his own blue line with Anze Kopitar in front of him. Williams smartly elected to keep the rubber, darting toward the high slot and forcing defenseman Mark Fayne to back off. Kings left wing Dustin Brown cut toward the goal, drawing Zach Parise with him. As Williams reached the high slot, he let go of another wrister that beat goalie Martin Brodeur cleanly, tying the score, 1-1, about 3 1/2 minutes into the second period.

The bad: Puck-handling has long been a glaring weakness in goalkeeper Jonathan Quick’s game and it reared its ugly head in the first period. After the Kings owned the first 11 minutes, defenseman Willie Mitchell went to the penalty box for interference in his offensive zone. The Devils nearly scored in the first minute of the power play when Travis Zajac’s shot from the slot trickled through Quick’s pads, but the puck rolled away from the goal line and Drew Doughty was able to step in and clear it from the crease. About a minute later, Quick came out of the crease to handle the puck with plenty of room to send it forward, but he elected to spin and bounce it off the end boards. He didn’t put enough on the attempt and the puck hit the boards and got hung up on the back of the net. Parise swooped in, beat Doughty to the puck and scored on a wraparound before Quick could get back into position. It was Parise’s first goal of the series, as well as New Jersey’s first power-play goal. Not a good omen considering the team that scored first won the previous four games.

About 5½ minutes after the Kings tied the score, New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador let go of a slap shot from just inside his blue line. L.A. defenseman Slava Voynov was battling with David Clarkson in front of the net and both attempted to get out of the way of the shot. The puck got a piece of Voynov, however, and was redirected to the left of Quick, giving the lead back to the Devils, 2-1. It was the second time in the series the puck has caromed off the rookie defenseman and into his own net. The score held up, sending the series back to L.A. for Game 6 on Monday night at Staples Center.

The in between: At least the Kings and Devils won’t have to compete with the NBA Finals or the Subway Series for viewership come Monday. The NHL will have the afternoon/evening time slot all to its self.

Kings discuss Game 5 following morning skate

June, 9, 2012
6/09/12
9:34
AM PT
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Los Angeles Kings had a good turnout for their optional morning skate Saturday at Prudential Center prior to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals against the New Jersey Devils. Here's what Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Simon Gagne and Rob Scuderi had to say.

Secret to good power play? There's no secret

June, 8, 2012
6/08/12
3:08
PM PT


NEWARK, N.J. -- Except for some better results, not much has changed on the power play the last two games.

The Los Angeles Kings combined for three goals on six man-advantage opportunities in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, as many as they scored in the previous 14 playoff games.

The Kings split the last two meetings with the New Jersey Devils at Staples Center, leaving them with a 3-games-to-1 series edge heading into Game 5 on Saturday night at Prudential Center. Another win and L.A. will clinch its first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.

Justin Williams, who scored a power-play goal late in Game 3, said a variety of factors have accounted for the unit’s recent surge in production.

“There’s no secret to a good power play,” he said. “Shots, screens, tips, rebounds. It’s all of those things. An extra effort on a goal, getting in front of the goalie, just out-battling the four guys with one of your five out there.”

The Kings didn’t have a power play in Game 3 until the third period, when they were protecting a 2-0 lead. That gave the coaching staff reason to tinker with their personnel, keeping the first and second lines together with two defensemen, rather than their normal set of a fourth forward stationed at the blue line alongside a single defenseman.

L.A. scored on both man-advantage situations to finish off the 4-0 victory.

Dustin Brown wasn’t sure if the change in personnel helped spur the power play in Game 3, but “you’re more comfortable playing with your line,” he said.


Kings coach Darryl Sutter said the decision to go with line combinations in Game 3, rather than his usual power-play combinations, was purely strategy and not a result of the team’s lack of production with the man advantage.

“It’s more time and score and those sorts of things,” he said.

(Read full post)

Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Dustin Penner discuss what the Kings need to do to improve on their Game 4 performance.

Rapid Reaction: Game 3: Kings 4, Devils 0

June, 4, 2012
6/04/12
7:48
PM PT
Stanley Cup Final

Game 3 (Kings lead the series, 3-0)

Los Angeles Kings 4, New Jersey Devils 0

The good: Barring a historic comeback in this series, the Kings are well on their way to their first Stanley Cup title. They reached this point with perhaps their best all-around performance of the playoffs, getting a superb effort from their penalty-kill unit, another strong game from goalie Jonathan Quick and a pair of goals in the second and third periods.

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez put the Kings on the board first for the third time in this series, pouncing on Dwight King’s leftovers to notch his first career playoff goal. King shot the puck at New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur from the right circle, hitting him in the chest. King was right there for the rebound, shooting it off Brodeur’s right pad and getting in a couple more whacks before Martinez raced into the play and shoved it across the goal line. Brodeur thought the play should have been called dead, but he had no clue where to find the puck during the scramble. Martinez is the 17th member of the Kings to score a goal in this postseason.

While the first goal was a result of persistence and hard work, the second was pure skill. Justin Williams collected a stretch pass that banked off the boards and left it for a trailing Dustin Brown. He looked to his left and spotted Anze Kopitar with a step on the defense and skipped a pass in his direction. Kopitar took a swipe at the airborne puck and put it high in the net for a 2-0 lead with 4:53 left in the second period. It was the first two-goal lead for the Kings since Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

After six straight power plays by the Devils, the Kings finally got one of their own and showed New Jersey how it’s done. Willie Mitchell took a page out of Quick’s book and snagged a clearing pass with his glove at the blue line, set it down and the Kings resumed their attack. Mike Richards took the puck down low and then passed it out to his good buddy and roommate Jeff Carter just to the right of Brodeur. He put the rubber up high in the net for a 3-0 lead 4:15 into the third.

Just more than a minute later, the Kings went back on the power play. This time it was Williams jumping on his own rebound and putting it past Brodeur for their fourth goal in 20 shots.

The penalty kill was again outstanding for the Kings. They snuffed out all six man-advantage situations for New Jersey, including a five-on-three situation that lasted 60 seconds late in the first period. Kings defenseman Matt Greene came through with two blocks on Ilya Kovalchuk and Quick made pinball-lever save with his right pad to rob Zach Parise, who had received a pass on the far post.

The bad: Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

The in between: Sidelined since Dec. 26 because of a concussion, Kings left wing Simon Gagne made his first appearance of the postseason, taking the fourth-line spot of Brad Richardson. He finished with 11 shifts, 6:39 of ice time and three shots on goal. The Kings were hoping Gagne would breathe some life into the power play, but the Kings spent most of the first two periods killing penalties. Still, the Kings played their best game of the series and possibly the playoffs with Gagne in the lineup, so look for coach Darryl Sutter to stick with that lineup in Game 4 on Wednesday.

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

June, 4, 2012
6/04/12
9:17
AM PT
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).

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