Los Angeles Hockey: Patrik Elias

Kings: Another opportunity to clinch arrives with Game 6

June, 11, 2012
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: 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.

Kings: Devils outside the door

October, 30, 2010
New Jersey Devils (3-7-1) vs. Kings (7-3-0) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Ilya who? – The Kings will never get back the two months they wasted trying to sign New Jersey sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, but they could rub more salt to the wounds with a victory. Kovalchuk opted to re-sign with the Devils for practically their entire salary cap, which rubbed many fans the wrong way. Neither is playing to expectations, as New Jersey is last in the Atlantic Division, and Kovalchuk has been scoreless in four of the last five games.

2. Trap game – Nothing like coming home from a long road trip, sleeping in your own bed and enjoying all the comforts of home again. Except at some point in history, it was determined hockey players don’t play as well under those circumstances. The Kings, however, have been a .500 team the game after returning from a lengthy road trip the last two seasons, so they seemed to be bucking that trend, just as they’ve been doing in the second game of back-to-backs.

3. Jack is back – Kings fans have a cyber-acronym for defenseman Jack Johnson, it’s 'JMFJ.' The Js represent his initials, we’ll let you figure out the rest. Anyway, it seems many fans thought JMFJ wasn’t living up to his reputation, and the careless turnovers in his own zone added fuel to the fire. But the absence of fellow blue-liner Drew Doughty to a concussion seems to have opened the door for Johnson to shine, and his six assists on the five-game road trip were a big reason the Kings finished 3-2-0.

(Read full post)