Los Angeles Hockey: Dwight King

Third-period rally lifts Kings over Wings

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
10:37
PM PT


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.

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Kings announce qualifying offers

June, 20, 2012
6/20/12
4:02
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings sent qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents, including rookie left winger Dwight King, the team announced Wednesday.

The Kings brought up King from their AHL team in Manchester in early February, and he was a key to the team’s turnaround in the second half of the season and into the postseason. King moved from the second to the third line late in the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks and went on to contribute five goals and three assists in the final 13 playoff games.

In addition to King, the Kings sent qualifying offers to center Justin Azevedo, defenseman Andrew Campbell, defenseman Thomas Hickey, right winger Stefan Legein, left winger David Meckler and defenseman Jake Muzzin.

The Kings did not send a qualifying offer to left winger Ray Kaunisto, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Kings: 10 most defining moments of 2011-12 season

June, 12, 2012
6/12/12
10:46
PM PT
Los Angeles KingsJeff Gross/Getty ImagesThe Stanley Cup was the ultimate prize, but there were many defining moments in the Kings' season.

With the Stanley Cup securely in the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, now’s a good time to look back at the defining moments of last season, an eight-month journey that figures to be remembered for decades to come. In chronological order:

1. Home opener -- After starting the regular season with two games in Europe and two more on the East Coast, the Kings finally had a chance to play in front of their home crowd. Featuring a lineup that many believed could contend for a Pacific Division title, L.A. played just as well as advertised, cruising to a 5-0 victory against the St. Louis Blues. Kings left wing Simon Gagne, one of five players who joined L.A. in the offseason, had two goals and an assist in the victory.

2. Quick’s shutout streak -- The home opener against the Blues marked the beginning of a franchise-record three consecutive shutouts by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. After the St. Louis game, he followed up by blanking the Phoenix Coyotes (2-0) and Dallas Stars (1-0). In one of the more questionable moves of coach Terry Murray’s tenure, he decided to rest Quick for a game following the Dallas win and that seemed to take him out of his groove. He went winless in six of his next seven starts, giving up 21 goals in that span.

3. Murray fired/Sutter hired -- The above-mentioned skid was the first indication the Kings were more than capable of underachieving. After another four-game losing spell in early December, general manager Dean Lombardi made the difficult decision to fire Murray, a man who implemented his defense-first identity but was unable to get the players to feel accountable for their poor play. Lombardi placed a call to Darryl Sutter at his barn in Alberta and asked if he was interested in the reclamation project. The rest, as they say, is history.

4. King/Nolan recall -- Sutter didn’t press all the right buttons immediately. In fact, the Kings weren’t able to win more than two straight games his first two months behind the bench. In an effort to bring more youth and size to the wings, the Kings brought up rookies Dwight King and Jordan Nolan from their AHL team in Manchester in early February, and they fit into the lineup like a new pair of boxing gloves. In their second game with the Kings, they each scored in a 4-2 victory against the Stars. King moved from the second to the third line late in the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks and went on to contribute five goals and three assists in the final 13 playoff games.

5. Carter trade -- After winning just three of the first 11 games in February, eliminating their wiggle room inside the top eight in the Western Conference, management went for broke Feb. 23 and traded defenseman Jack Johnson to the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets for high-scoring right wing Jeff Carter. The move rounded out the top six forwards for the Kings and didn’t force them to subtract from their back end, as rookie Slava Voynov was ready to assume a full-time role in the NHL. Carter started slow with L.A. but caught fire in the second half of their playoff run, scoring seven goals in the final 10 games.

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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: Pressure builds as Stanley Cup finals begin

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
12:19
PM PT

Stanley Cup Finals

Game 1

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

Five storylines to track:

1. Not just another playoff game – If the moment hasn’t hit the Kings yet, it very well could some time today. L.A. breezed through the first three rounds of the playoffs like a sports car on the autobahn, barely noticing the competition as it sped by. With the realization that they’re now at the doorstep of the Holy Grail for only the second time in franchise history, will the Kings suddenly stiffen up and forget what got them here? The first period could be a clear indication. New Jersey has come out strong in these playoffs, scoring 23 of their 47 regulation goals in the first 20 minutes.

2. Big names, big games – Both sides have their share of stars on the roster, but who will step up on the biggest stage in hockey? It’s safe to say, based on the attention he received during Tuesday’s media session, that Kings second-line center Mike Richards is the most popular player on a North American scale. He’s Canadian, spent the first six years of his career playing on the East Coast for the Philadelphia Flyers, and now fits right into the Southern California fabric. Ilya Kovalchuk of the Devils may have something to say about stealing the limelight, however. He might be the most skilled player on the ice for both teams, though he’s not the media darling that Richards has become.

3. Young gun vs. old guard – The goalie matchup figures to take center stage right from the opening drop. Kings netminder Jonathan Quick has been the better player all season, but Martin Brodeur of the Devils has been here before… a few times. Both have stepped up their games in the postseason, but Quick is still a half goal better in the all-important goals-against column. At 40 years of age, will Brodeur’s reflexes stand up against the pressure of the Kings? He has played only one period against L.A. this season and that was back in October. Quick, on the other hand, is overdue for an off night. He hasn’t allowed more than three goals in a playoff game this spring and has given up two consecutive goals only twice in 14 playoff games. Those just happen to be the only two games the Kings lost.

4. On the road again – The Kings are on virgin ground when it comes to road success in the NHL playoffs. They’re the first team to win eight straight playoff games on the road to start the postseason and the first to win 10 straight overall. The Kings have won the first two games away from Staples Center in each of the first three rounds, and they’re starting out on the road once again. Like any record-breaking streak, it has to end some time. The Kings just hope it’s not tonight.

5. Lagging behind – After benefiting greatly from secondary scoring early in the postseason, the third and fourth lines for the Kings are a bit overdue. Jarret Stoll hasn’t scored since his overtime series-clinching goal in Game 5 against the Vancouver Canucks, and Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson haven’t scored since the opening-round series either. Jordan Nolan also has just one goal in the postseason, and fourth-line center Colin Fraser is still looking for his first. Dwight King has been phenomenal in the last two rounds, scoring five goals, but the Kings can’t expect a rookie to carry all the weight of the bottom six.

Kings-Devils for Lord Stanley's precious Cup

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
12:18
PM PT


The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils are scheduled to kick off the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Here’s a breakdown of what to watch for as the series unwinds.

KINGS OFFENSE vs. DEVILS DEFENSE

The Kings managed just one goal in two meetings against the Devils this season, but those games were played back in October and this isn’t the same L.A. team. Dustin Brown continues to be the tip of the sword for the Kings, scoring at least five points in each of the first three rounds. Anze Kopitar has scored at least one point in 11 of 14 playoff games, and Justin Williams has hit the scoresheet in 10. The second line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner also figures to give the Devils problems. Brown, Kopitar, Penner and Carter should be especially effective using their size against New Jersey’s defense. Marek Zidlicky leads the Devils in total ice time, but he’s only listed at 5 feet 11, 188 pounds. Andy Green, who also logs heavy minutes on the blue line, is not much bigger at 5-11, 190, and Peter Harrold, who rarely cracked the lineup while playing for the Kings the last five seasons, stands 6-0, 190.

The Edge: Kings

LANJDEVILS OFFENSE vs. KINGS DEFENSE

The Devils have a triple threat up front in Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, each of whom has scored seven goals in the playoffs. What has made the Devils especially formidable in the postseason is the production from fourth liners Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. They’ve combined for nine goals and nine assists in 18 playoff games. By comparison, the five players who have rotated on the fourth line for L.A. have combined for two goals and one assist. The Kings are very aware of the top-to-bottom scoring potential on New Jersey, and they’ll counter with a blue-line group that features a nice balance of veteran stay-at-home defenders (Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene) and offensive-minded youngsters (Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez and Slava Voynov). Together, they’ve helped limit the opposition to 22 goals in 14 games, while scoring five of their own.

The Edge: Devils

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Kings have been brutal on the power play this postseason, converting on just 8.1 percent of their opportunities (6-for-74). If there’s a silver lining heading into Games 1 and 2 in New Jersey, they’ve been better on the road, coming through on 5 of 42 chances (11.9 percent). Even that number dwarfs their regular season average of 17 percent. The Devils have improved their power-play efficiency in the playoffs, coming in with an 18.2 percent success rate after finishing at 17.2 during the regular season. They’ve been even better at Prudential Center, cashing in on 8 of 32 man-advantage situations, good for a 25-percent clip. The tables are turned on the penalty kill. The Kings have allowed just five power-play goals and scored five shorthanded. Their 91.2 success rate is better than their 87-percent clip during the regular season and that mark was fourth best in the league. The Devils allowed just 27 power-play goals during the regular season, leaving them No. 1 in the league at 89.6 percent, but they’ve seen 16 power-play goals hit the back of their net in the postseason for a 74.2 percent kill rate.

The Edge: Devils

GOALIES

The series is quite even until you start comparing the men behind the mask. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has built on his Vezina-caliber regular season by elevating his game to another level in the playoffs. He has allowed more than two goals just twice in 14 games and brings a minuscule 1.54 goals-against average into the finals. As great as Tim Thomas was last season while leading the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup title, his GAA was just 1.98 in the postseason. Two years ago, Antti Niemi of the Chicago Blackhawks won a championship with a 2.63 average in the playoffs. The Devils will counter with 40-year-old Martin Brodeur, a three-time Cup winner and a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame when that time comes. Playoff opponents are averaging a half a goal more against Brodeur than Quick, however. He has allowed more than two goals five times in the playoffs, including three on nine shots in Game 3 of the opening-round series against the Florida Panthers, earning an early seat on the bench.

The Edge: Kings

COACHES

Both benches are backed by coaches who have been with their teams for less than a year, yet they've managed to squeeze the most from their talent after so-so regular seasons. After coming on board in mid-December, Kings coach Darryl Sutter gradually showed his players how to buy into each game both physically and emotionally. He maintained the defense-first system that previous coach Terry Murray had instilled, but made a few tweaks to the lineup that paid off in the playoffs. His most brilliant move was moving Penner on to the second line with Richards and Carter late in the first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks, and dropping rookie left wing Dwight King back to the third line, giving him more favorable matchups. Penner has responded with eight points in the last nine games and King scored five goals in that span. Devils coach Peter DeBoer wears his emotions on his chest much more louder than Sutter, something his players appreciate. DeBoer’s best move of the postseason was likely reinserting Harrold into the lineup following a Game 1 loss to the top-seeded New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals. Harrold provided the Devils a veteran presence on the back end, and New Jersey went on to win four of its next five games.

The Edge: Kings

KEY STATS

The Kings are 8-0 away from Staples Center in these playoffs, outscoring the hosts, 30-13, and netting all five of their shorthanded goals. They’ve swept the opening two games on the road in each of the first three rounds, putting their opponents on their heels before they had a chance to push back. The Kings are the first team in NHL playoff history to win their first eight games on the road, and their 10-game postseason road winning streak dating to last season is also an NHL record. The Devils are 5-2 on their home ice in the postseason, outscoring the visitors, 25-17. Another key area is the goals-against average for each team in the playoffs. The Kings are allowing an average of 1.6 goals on 29 shots a game, while New Jersey is giving up 2.3 goals on an average of 27.6 shots.

Prediction: Kings in six

Kings have a habit of not staying down for long

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
10:48
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Scoring one goal against the Los Angeles Kings has been tough enough in the postseason; getting two straight has been next to impossible.

The Kings have answered nearly every goal by the opposition with one of their own, and usually very quickly. They managed that again Thursday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Coyotes, tying the score just 2 minutes, 7 seconds after the Coyotes had taken their first lead of the series.

It turned out to be a key moment, as rookie right wing Dwight King later potted the game winner in the 2-1 victory at Staples Center, lifting the Kings to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with their 11th win in 12 playoff games.

“When we let it up, we’ve had a knack just to line up at center ice and get ready to go again,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “We’ve found ways to grind goals and those are huge momentum swings for us.”

The Coyotes had to feel good after Daymond Langkow found a seam in the normally tight L.A. defense and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot 1:03 into the second period, giving Phoenix a 1-0 lead. It was only the fourth time in 12 playoff games the Kings allowed the first goal.

But, once again, the Kings had a speedy answer. Justin Williams won a battle along the boards in his defensive zone, got the puck ahead to Anze Kopitar, who slid it to Brown in the middle of the ice. Kopitar raced ahead and Brown passed to him in stride. Kopitar did the rest, faking a forehand and then dragging the puck to his backhand, where he slid it through the legs of goalie Mike Smith to tie the score, 1-1.

“You’ve got to respond back, especially when you give up [a goal] that was a little uncharacteristic,” said defenseman Matt Greene. “It’s good to have a good rebound and see Kopi put a finish on a chance there. We didn’t have a lot of chances up to that point, so for him to get that was huge.”

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Kings set club record with seventh straight road playoff win

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
9:36
PM PT

Western Conference finals

Game 2

Kings 4, Phoenix Coyotes 0

(Kings lead the series 2-0)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: If the Los Angeles Kings didn’t have such a fervent fan base waiting for them back home, they might want to play all their postseason games on the road. The Kings won their franchise-record seventh consecutive game away from Staples Center in these playoffs, outplaying the Phoenix Coyotes for the second straight game at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

THE STAT: Two players who weren’t even on the Kings during the first four months of the season, who missed out on the December coaching change and most of the frustrating, low-scoring losses, gave L.A. all the points it would need Tuesday night. Jeff Carter broke out of his playoff slump with a hat trick against the Coyotes, and rookie Dwight King notched the other goal, giving him three goals in the first two games of this series. Carter’s hat trick was the first by an L.A. player in the postseason since Wayne Gretzky in 1993.

TURNING POINT: King gave the Kings a 1-0 lead on a deflection off a point shot from defenseman Drew Doughty about 13 minutes into the game, and that held up through the first period. The Coyotes came out with much more intensity in the second, but the Kings killed that momentum when Dustin Penner did some nice work down low to get the puck to Carter, who scored 4:47 into the period for a 2-0 lead. After that goal, you could almost hear the puck drop inside Jobing.com Arena.

HOT: Carter and King, who combined for two goals in the first nine playoff games, have scored six in the past two. Over the long haul, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick might have edged ahead of teammate Dustin Brown as the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Quick stopped 24 shots for his second shutout of the postseason. He has allowed 16 goals in 11 playoff games and stopped 309 of 325 shots for a sizzling .951 save percentage. He has allowed more than two goals in a game only once in the playoffs, a Game 4 loss against the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round, L.A.'s only playoff defeat of 2012.

NOT: Coming into the postseason, Phoenix forward Radim Vrbata was hotter than the 108-degree temperature outside the arena, owning five goals in the final five regular-season games to give him a career-high 35. He has been a no-show in the postseason, however, producing two goals in 13 playoff games.

GOOD MOVE: Some of Carter’s best plays of the postseason have come off his skates. Interesting, considering that coming into the playoffs, his foot injury was one of the main storylines. He used his skate to redirect a centering pass to Penner in Game 1 of the Vancouver series, and Penner scored the game winner in the 4-2 victory. His skate was in the right place at the right time Tuesday after Anze Kopitar walked the puck in on a 5-on-3 and took a close-range shot that banked off Carter’s laces and into the net for a 3-0 second-period lead.

BAD MOVE: Two of the best offensive players for the Coyotes, Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal, were ejected from the game for careless boarding penalties, and goalie Mike Smith likely will hear from the league as well after intentionally swinging his stick like a lumberjack and thwacking the back of Brown’s legs as he camped in front of the crease. Even more amazing, Brown was called for diving on the play. He was in so much pain, he could barely skate to the penalty box.

NOTABLE: The Kings have won nine consecutive road playoff games overall, tying the NHL record set by the New York Islanders in 1982-83. ... Kings fourth-line center Colin Fraser did not play because he was tending to a family matter. Kyle Clifford, out since Game 1 of the Vancouver series because of a concussion, replaced him in the lineup but had just 2:29 of ice time, long enough to earn a holding penalty on Doan. ... The Kings have not trailed in the playoffs since midway through first period of Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. ... The Kings have scored first in eight of 11 playoff games and won the other three. ... The Kings have outscored their opponents 13-5 in the first period of the playoffs. ... The Kings have killed 28 straight penalties and 44 of 47 overall in the playoffs.

UP NEXT: Game 3, Thursday at Staples Center, 6 p.m. PT.

Kings roll over Phoenix in West final opener

May, 13, 2012
5/13/12
8:43
PM PT
Western Conference finals

Game 1

Los Angeles Kings 4, Phoenix Coyotes 2

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The Kings jumped on the Coyotes from the first drop of the puck Sunday night, gave away a pair of one-goal leads at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., but then buckled down in the third period and scored two unanswered goals to win their sixth consecutive road game of these playoffs.

THE STAT: The Kings are just the fifth team in NHL playoff history to win their first six road games, one short of the NHL record for most consecutive road playoff wins in a single year. The Kings have won eight consecutive playoff games away from Staples Center overall, one shy of another NHL record set by the New York Islanders in 1982-83. The Kings are 9-1 in this postseason, the best 10-game stretch of the season.

TURNING POINT: After letting leads of 1-0 and 2-1 get away, Dustin Brown scored his seventh goal of the playoffs and third game winner. Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov got the play started, sliding a perfect outlet pass to Brown, who was racing past the red line. Brown was able to maintain his speed as he carried the puck into the offensive zone, keeping a stride ahead of the nearest Phoenix defender. Brown placed his shot perfectly under the right arm of goalkeeper Mike Smith for a 3-2 lead 2:11 into the final period.

HOT: The Kings were on fire from the start, outshooting the Coyotes, 17-4, in the opening 20 minutes. They finished with a 48-27 edge in shots on net, taking 90 shots in all. Phoenix managed to block 25, so the Coyotes will certainly have a few black-and-blue marks come Monday. Defensively, the Kings wiped out all five power plays by the Coyotes, giving them 24 straight kills in these playoffs.

NOT: Kings second-line right wing Jeff Carter continues to be one of the few under-performing members of the team. He managed just one shot on goal and was a minus-1 for the game. He had a golden opportunity to give the Kings a 2-0 lead in the first period, but he elected to corral the puck with an empty net in front of him, rather than take a swipe. By the time he gathered to shoot, Smith had closed the gap and got a glove on the puck. Carter, acquired at the trade deadline to give the Kings some extra offensive firepower down the stretch and into the postseason, has one goal in 10 playoff games. The foot injury that sidelined him the final five games of the regular season could still be a hindrance.

GOOD MOVE: With the score tied 1-1 about eight minutes into the second period, Voynov slid the puck out of the defensive zone to Trevor Lewis, who was waiting on the wall near the red line. Lewis redirected the puck into the middle of the ice, where Kings rookie forward Dwight King was all alone to start a 2-on-1 rush with Mike Richards. King passed the puck to Richards on his right and raced toward the opposite post. Richards showed his awareness and shot the puck at Smith’s right pad, leaving a plumb rebound for King to flip high into the open side of the net.

BAD MOVE: It was 10 years ago that Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings scored from center ice in Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round series against Vancouver, beating goalie Dan Cloutier to break a 1-1 tie in the eventual 3-1 victory. The eighth-seeded Canucks were up in the series, 2-0, heading into that game and went on to lose four straight games. Many saw the Lidstrom goal as the turning point of the series. In a near repeat, Derek Morris of the Coyotes scored from center ice against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, tying the score 1-1 at a time when L.A. was completely dominating the opening period. Fortunately for the Kings, that play did not come back to haunt them.

NOTABLE: King added an empty-netter with 47.7 seconds left in the game, becoming the first Kings rookie to score two goals in a playoff game in 30 years. The Coyotes have been outshot in 10 of their 12 postseason games.

UP NEXT: Game 2, Tuesday in Phoenix, 6 p.m. PT.

Kings: Breaking down the West final vs. Coyotes

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
12:58
PM PT


The Kings and Coyotes are scheduled to kick off their Western Conference final Sunday at 5 p.m. PT at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz. Here’s a breakdown of what to watch for as the series unwinds.

KINGS OFFENSE vs. COYOTES DEFENSE

KingsCoyotesThrow out what the Kings did against the Coyotes during the regular season. L.A. didn’t have Jeff Carter for any of those six games. Yea, Carter has been a bit of a disappointment in the playoffs so far, scoring just one goal in nine games, but his presence has earned the attention of the opposition, giving other forwards more room to work. Dustin Brown has been his team's most productive player in the playoffs, as well as against the Coyotes this season, accounting for three goals and two assists. The defensemen have also played a big role in the offense, producing four of the 13 goals against Phoenix this season and contributing 10 assists. The main player standing in the way will be Coyotes goalkeeper Mike Smith, who went 3-1-1 against the Kings this season withnine goals against and a .938 save percentage. He’s 8-2-1 in his career against L.A. with a 1.62 GAA and two shutouts. The Coyotes had the league's fifth-lowest GAA during the regular season (2.37). The Kings had the second-lowest goals-for average (2.29), though they averaged three goals a game over the final 21 games and into the playoffs.

The Edge: Kings.

COYOTES OFFENSE vs. KINGS DEFENSE

Only four players on the Coyotes scored goals against the Kings this season and one of them, defenseman Raffi Torres, is serving a 25-game suspension for a brutal hit in the opening-round of the playoffs. Radim Vrbata has been the biggest thorn in the side of L.A., scoring five goals and registering two assists. He has been especially good on the road, scoring 21 of his 35 goals away from Jobing.com Arena, tying for seventh in the league in road goals. Shane Doan has picked apart the Kings during his career, scoring 30 goals in 87 games, including two this season. The only other team he has scored 30 goals against is the Dallas Stars. The Kings will counter with goalie Jonathan Quick, who went 3-1-2 against the Coyotes this season with two shutouts, but has otherwise struggled against the Desert Dogs in his career. In 22 starts, the most he has made against any team in the NHL, he’s 10-9-3 with a 2.57 GAA. The Coyotes averaged 2.56 goals a game during the regular season, 18th best in the league. The Kings had the second-lowest GAA at 2.07 a game.

The Edge: Kings.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Kings were weak on the power play during the regular season and have gotten worse in the playoffs. On the other hand, they had one of the best penalty-kill units during the regular season and have become even stingier during the postseason. The Coyotes have slightly improved on both their power play and penalty kill rates in the playoffs, and were better than the Kings in both categories in their six head-to-head matchups during the regular season.

The Edge: Coyotes.

GOALIES

Among the goalies with at least four playoff appearances this postseason, Quick is No. 1 in goals-against average (1.55) and save percentage (.949), while Smith is third (1.77) and second (.948). The career numbers against the Kings listed above would favor Smith, who is in his first year as a No. 1 goalie, but Quick has been a lot better lately against the Coyotes. Quick has also played a big role in knocking off the top two seeded teams in the Western Conference this postseason, while Smith only had to deal with the sixth-seeded Blackhawks and fourth-seeded Predators.

The Edge: Kings.

COACHES

Both coaches seem to have squeezed the most out of their players this season. Dave Tippett guided a low-budget, league-owned Phoenix team to its first Pacific Division title in franchise history. Tippett, who replaced Wayne Gretzky as coach shortly before the start of the 2009-10 season and then went on to win the Jack Adams Award that year, has pushed all the right buttons this season, most notably giving Smith a shot to be the No. 1 goalie. Kings coach Darryl Sutter took over in mid-December and gradually put his fingerprints on the team. The Kings have inherited Sutter’s intensity and emotional bond to each game. He’s given players such as Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan and Dwight King important roles and they’ve responded with key contributions along the way.

The Edge: Coyotes.

KEY STATS

The Coyotes were the third-least penalized team during the regular season, averaging 9.2 penalty minutes per game. They’ve maintained a similar rate in the postseason, meaning the Kings probably won’t see a lot of power-play time in this series. As noted above, L.A. hasn’t done much with their man-advantage situations anyway, but they’ve been great on the penalty kill, wiping out 35 of 38 power plays and scoring four shorthanded goals. Both teams have also made a habit of scoring first in their playoff games. The Coyotes have scored the game’s first goal in seven of their 11 games, winning six. The Kings have scored the first goal in six of their nine games, winning five. Interestingly, the three games in which the Kings trailed first they came back to win.

Prediction: Kings in five.

Kings: Dwight King, Mike Richards score for 3-1 lead after two

May, 3, 2012
5/03/12
9:14
PM PT
Western Conference Semifinal

Game 3 (Kings lead the Series, 2-0)

After the 2nd period:

Kings 3, St. Louis Blues 1

The good: Forty seconds after the Blues tied the score, Kings defenseman Matt Greene made a nice bank pass off the boards to rookie right wing Dwight King, who sent a laser from the right faceoff circle over the right leg of goalie Brian Elliott and into the far side of the net for a 2-1 lead. It was a similar response as Game 2, when the Blues scored just after the first intermission to cut the deficit to 4-1, but the Kings answered less than a minute later. King has been a key figure in the series, from the shove he put on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo that knocked him out of Game 2 to his first career playoff point that could stand up as the game winner tonight. The Kings then ended an 0-for-30 drought on the power play when Mike Richards reached into his bag of tricks and took a shot from just above the goal line with the intention of banking it through Elliott’s legs. Richards used the same move in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Canucks, and Elliott must not have seen that tape because it was a carbon-copy goal for a 3-1 lead. Dustin Brown continues to get under the skin of the Blues. He drew the game’s first three penalties on the Blues, all retaliatory penalties that went unanswered by Brown.

The bad: The Kings gave up a goal early in the second period for the second straight game to put their fans on the edge of their seats, if only briefly. This time, the Kings got caught on a change and defenseman Roman Polak lit up Kings center Anze Kopitar to free the puck. Kris Russell recovered and fed right wing Chris Stewart, who beat three Kings to the net before shoveling a backhander by Jonathan Quick on the short side. Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov looked especially porous on the play.

The in between: The Kings out-shot the Blues, 10-6, in the period to take and 18-10 edge heading into the final period. Look for the Blues to try and get the Kings off their game with some after-the-whistle antics. It’s important the Kings remember what happened in Game 2. After all, they only have a two-goal lead heading into the third period, not four like they did in Game 2.

Kings: How they got from there to here

May, 2, 2012
5/02/12
11:28
PM PT
Dustin PennerRich Lam/Getty ImagesDustin Penner's resurgence has been one of many reasons the Kings find themselves where they are.

EL SEGUNDO -- Forget trying to put a finger on what turned this season around. You won't have enough hands.

One of the favorites to finish high in the Western Conference standings coming into the season, with a roster full of skill, youth and experience, the Los Angeles Kings were underachievers almost from the start.

Well, except for goalie Jonathan Quick.

They fired coach Terry Murray in mid-December, during a stretch in which they didn’t score more than two goals in any of 14 straight games, and brought in a more leathery figure in Darryl Sutter.

He got the Kings to stand up straight all right, but still couldn’t coax the players to put the puck in the net. Over the next two months, the offense continued to languish at the bottom of the league in scoring, averaging little more than two goals a game.

Just as the trade deadline came and went in late February, the Kings suddenly turned a corner, finishing 13-5-3 and averaging just over three goals a game to sneak into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. Not what many envisioned coming into the season, but part of the postseason, nonetheless.

They hit the reset button and came out motivated, healthy and ready for the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks, won the first two games in Vancouver and upset the President Trophy winners in five games.

(Read full post)

Kings: First-period barrage lifts L.A. to 2-0 series lead

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
9:11
PM PT
Western Conference Semifinals

Game 2

Kings 5, St. Louis Blues 2

(Kings lead the series, 2-0)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: All the unlucky bounces, miss-timed centering passes and clanks off the goal post during the first two-thirds of the season began to tilt L.A.'s way in late February. They never caught as many breaks as they did Monday night in St. Louis, however, and even managed to create a few of their own, leading to their second straight playoff victory at Scottrade Center and their seventh consecutive postseason road victory overall.

THE STAT: The Kings scored four goals in the opening period to put the Blues in a deep 4-0 hole. They had not produced a four-goal period in the postseason since 1993, when they scored five in the third period against the Vancouver Canucks. St. Louis, meanwhile, had not allowed four playoff goals in a period since 1996.

TURNING POINT: It didn’t take long. On the game’s first shift, Kings left wing Dustin Penner brought the puck down the left side and took a shot from the faceoff circle that sailed wide. Mike Richards blasted St. Louis center T.J. Oshie behind the net, and the puck squirted out to the right-wing boards. Penner then planted Kevin Shattenkirk into the glass and retrieved the puck. Penner managed to keep his body between Shattenkirk and the rubber as he skated toward the net along the icing line. He tried to shove the puck in the short side but it rebounded out to Richards, who scored from the slot for a 1-0 lead 31 seconds into the game. That seemed to break the seal, as the Kings scored three more unanswered goals in the opening period.

HOT: The Kings took a 2-0 lead on their second shorthanded goal of this series and fourth of the playoffs. Once again, Dustin Brown was in the middle of the play. Brown was pressuring Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo in the St. Louis zone. Colaiacovo tried to clear the puck, but it appeared to hit the shaft of Brown’s stick and kick sideways. Brown collected the puck, paused as Anze Kopitar skated into the center of the ice and put the pass on his stick. Kopitar did the rest, putting a move on goalie Brian Elliott to get him to sprawl and then sliding a shot along the goal line. The puck hit Elliott’s left skate and caromed into the net with 5:44 remaining in the first period. Brown has two shorthanded goals and two assists in these playoffs, the most points since Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings also had four in 2008. Oh, and the Kings proceeded to kill the penalty for their 20th straight kill against St. Louis this season and are 26-for-26 overall against the Blues' power play this season.

NOT: Elliott can’t be completely blamed for the defensive meltdown, though he hardly looks like the goalie who led the league in save percentage during the regular season. No, the players in front of him probably deserve just as much credit for this troubling start. After a dismal Game 1 by Shattenkirk, he was on the ice for two of the first four goals by the Kings. He also committed a roughing penalty on Richards seven minutes into the game, keeping the Blues on their heels after they had fallen behind, 1-0. Barret Jackman also contributed a pair of roughing penalties and a minus-3 rating.

GOOD MOVE: The Blues played without their top defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo, who suffered an undisclosed injury when he was nudged into the boards by Kings rookie forward Dwight King in Game 1. B.J. Crombeen tried to incite King into fighting him in the final seconds of Game 1, but King didn’t oblige. King didn’t hesitate four minutes into Game 2, however, as Crombeen challenged him prior to a faceoff. King actually landed a few more blows than Crombeen and finished on top of him when both tumbled to the ice. Whether a veteran teammate on the Kings grabbed the rookie winger by the collar and reminded him to stand up for himself at some point is unknown, but the fact that King didn’t shy away from Crombeen’s second invitation should have drawn some inspiration on the bench. If the three goals the Kings scored during the remainder of the period was any indication, King won the momentum battle too.

BAD MOVE: It was probably unavoidable, given the large early deficit, but the Kings got caught up in the antics by St. Louis as the game worn on, creating a mule trail to the penalty box. The worst decision was Penner’s retaliation after taking a hard check from Oshie with about 12 minutes left in the game. Richards was in the process of fighting Oshie as a response to the hit, when Penner jumped into fray and put David Perron in a headlock. Good thing for the Kings it gave them another chance to score a shorthanded goal.

NOTABLE: Justin Williams and Jeff Carter scored their first goals of the playoffs, with Carter’s goal ending a 10-game playoff drought ... When on the penalty kill this postseason, the Kings have outscored their opponent, 4-3 ... The Blues are 1-16 in postseason history when falling behind 0-2. Their last comeback was in 1972.

UP NEXT: Game 3, Thursday at Staples Center, 7 p.m.

Kings: Boarding penalty wobbles foundation of the Blues

April, 29, 2012
4/29/12
9:07
PM PT
Western Conference semifinals

Game 2 (Kings lead series 1-0)

Kings vs. St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center, 6 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Series changer? -- Whether the contact made by Kings rookie forward Dwight King on Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in Game 1 was a “vicious hit,” as one member of the St. Louis media claimed, or “not even a hit,” as Kings coach Darryl Sutter saw the play, it stands as not just a key moment in the game, but possibly the entire series. The Kings scored a shorthanded goal on the ensuing power play to take the lead for good, Pietrangelo didn’t return in his team's 3-1 loss and he was kept out of practice Sunday as well, putting him in jeopardy of missing Game 2. Pietrangelo is not just one of the top defensemen in the league, but he leads the Blues in ice time and is a vital part of their special teams.

2. Penner makes a peep -- Don’t look now but Dustin Penner officially joined Twitter on Sunday, a day after the brawny left wing produced a goal and an assist in the Game 1 victory at Scottrade Center. Not a bad time to open up to the world. The question is, can he string together back-to-back strong performances? Penner’s contract runs out after this season and he hasn’t done much in the past 14 months to show he’s worth the $4.25 million he's making. But if he can once again show he’s a big-game player by producing key points in the playoffs, as he did with the Ducks in 2007, he might just convince the Kings, or another organization, to meet his price tag.

3. Cue Game 2 -- In the first round of these playoffs, the team that won the second game went on to win the series five out of eight times, continuing a trend since 1987 that saw the Game 2 winner capture the series 70 percent of the time, regardless of the Game 1 outcome. The Kings are on a bit of a roll when it comes to the second playoff game, winning their past three dating back to 2010. Only in this postseason’s first round did they win the series, however. The Kings are even more impressive in their recent road playoff games, winning their past six away from Staples Center. It’s safe to say another win in St. Louis would put the Kings in great position to advance.

4. Power-play standoff -- In four regular-season games against the Kings and one playoff meeting, the Blues are 0-for-17 on the power play. The Kings have one of the best penalty-kill units in the league, but they can’t be perfect forever. That means the Kings need to find a way to produce with the man advantage, as well. They went 0-for-5 in Game 1 to fall to 3-for-31 during the postseason, making their mediocre 16.9 percent success rate during the regular season look fabulous. To their credit, the Kings set up their power play effectively in Game 1, and held possession for long stretches in the offensive zone, so it seems more likely the Kings will get on track before the Blues.

5. Quick, Quicker, Quickest -- After two failed attempts at leading his team through the first round, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is not only playing as advertised this postseason, he’s the main reason the Kings have won five out of six playoff games. Quick, one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL's top goalie during the regular season, has allowed just nine goals and saved 95.5 percent of the shots he has faced. Opponents must feel like they need to be perfect with their shots, and that’s probably why Scott Nichol shot wide of an open net early in the second period when Quick was caught out of position following a deflected puck in the slot.

Kings: Jonathan Quick, Dustin Penner lead way in Game 1 victory

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
8:20
PM PT

Western Conference Semifinals

Game 1

Kings 3, St. Louis Blues 1

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Home ice doesn’t belong to the St. Louis Blues any longer, just as it was stolen from the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings took care of that Saturday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis behind two rare playoff goals by the defense, a bank-shot empty-netter by Dustin Penner in the closing seconds and another stellar performance by goalie Jonathan Quick.

THE STAT: The Kings have won six consecutive playoff games on the road and are 8-2 away from Staples Center over the past three postseasons. This is the fourth consecutive playoff series in which they've taken away home-ice advantage in the first two games.

TURNING POINT: With 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining in the second period and the score tied at 1, Kings rookie winger Dwight King checked St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the back, and Pietrangelo went forehead-first into the boards behind the Blues' net. Pietrangelo appeared to be bleeding, but King was given only a two-minute boarding penalty, rather than a five-minute major and game misconduct. On the ensuing faceoff, St. Louis forward David Backes won the draw, but his pass backward went off his skate, just enough to throw off defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. That allowed Kings forward Dustin Brown to take off a stride ahead of Shattenkirk. Brown’s shot attempt was stopped by goalie Brian Elliott, but Brown appeared to clip Elliott’s right pad as he skated by, knocking the netminder off balance while the puck lay in the crease. Kings defenseman Matt Greene came up from behind the play with no one defending him and shoved the puck past Elliott before he could recover for a 2-1 lead. It was Greene's first career playoff goal in his 36th game. The goal also was just the second short-handed goal by a Kings defenseman in franchise history. The other belonged to Rob Blake in 1993. To make matters worse, Pietrangelo, the team’s best defenseman and leader in ice time during the regular season and playoffs, did not return to the game.

HOT: Quick turned aside 28 shots for his fifth playoff victory in six games this postseason. No save was better than the three straight he kicked aside off the stick of Blues forward Andy McDonald when the game was still scoreless in the opening minute. Quick has allowed just nine goals in the six playoff games and has stopped 192 of 201 shots for a lofty save percentage of .955.

NOT: The Kings scored their third short-handed goal of the postseason, the same number they’ve produced on the power play. They went 0-for-5 in Game 1 against the Blues, including one stretch during the second half of the game in which they had the man advantage for eight minutes out of 8:47. They now are 3-for-31 on the power play during their playoff run. As for the Blues, Shattenkirk had a night to forget. Not only was he burned on the Greene short-hander, but he committed a delay of game penalty in the third period, just after the Blues had killed a four-minute power play. He was on the ice for all three goals, resulting in a minus-3 rating.

GOOD MOVE: Penner was given a promotion from the third to the second line late in Game 5 (the series-clinching victory) against the Canucks, and coach Darryl Sutter stayed with that lineup against the Blues. Penner obliged by setting up the first goal, holding the puck as he weaved below the goal line and then passing out front to rookie defenseman Slava Voynov, who hit the open side for his first career playoff goal and the first postseason goal by a first-year Kings defenseman since Alexei Zhitnik in 1993. Penner’s bank-shot empty-netter looked straight out of a billiards match, as he shot the puck from deep in his own end, off the wall near the red line and straight into the middle of the net with 14 seconds left in the game.

BAD MOVE: About two minutes before Greene’s goal, the Blues had a golden opportunity to break the 1-all tie when David Perron drove at the Kings' net. As he made his move, the puck went off the shin of L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty and was left in the slot with Quick out of position as he followed Perron across the crease. Scott Nichol skated in all alone but tried to be too fine with his shot and sent the puck just wide of the open side of the net.

NOTABLE: For the third consecutive year, the goalies with the top two goals-against averages in the regular season went head to head in the playoffs. ... The Kings had 44 goals by their defensemen during the regular season, the most by any team in the NHL except the Nashville Predators. ... When the Blues scored first during the regular season, they finished 34-8-3 for the sixth-best winning percentage in the NHL. The Kings were 9-23-7 when allowing the first goal, the third-worst winning percentage. ... St. Louis tied the Detroit Red Wings for the best home record during the regular season.

UP NEXT: Game 2, Monday in St. Louis, 6 p.m. PT.

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