Los Angeles Hockey: Tim Thomas

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: Final seven-game stretch begins in Vancouver

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
10:33
AM PT
Kings (37-26-12, 86 points) vs. Vancouver Canucks (45-21-9, 99 points) at Rogers Arena, 7 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Groundhog’s Day: Game No. 76 is on the clock and it doesn’t appear much different than Game No. 72, or 74, or probably even No. 82 for that matter. As coach Darryl Sutter said after a 4-2 loss Saturday night against the visiting Bruins, the Kings need to win them all, and they put themselves in this precarious position by not winning enough home games during the first half of the season. As they dangle on the edge of the eighth and final playoff spot, ninth-place San Jose and 10th-place Colorado have the same number of points and, wouldn’t you know it, play each other tonight.

2. Schedule factor: On the plus side for the Kings is the number of games they haven't played. Phoenix is a point ahead in seventh, but the Coyotes have played two more games than the Kings (Phoenix lost Sunday night against the Blues, much to the relief of L.A. and the handful of other Western Conference teams scrambling for the final three playoff spots). Colorado has also played two more games than the Kings. As for the Sharks, they've played the same amount of games, but the Kings have one more regulation victory, the next designated tiebreaker.

3. Turn the page: What’s much simpler is the Kings have no reason not to pick up where they left off before the Boston game. The entered that early evening affair riding a season-long, six-game winning streak and actually played as well as they had in any of their previous victories. They were just bottled up by one of the league’s best goalkeepers, Tim Thomas, who also happened to receive a few fortunate bounces. If rookie defenseman Slava Voynov doesn’t push a rebound into Thomas' pad, rather than the wide-open side of the net, then whiff as the puck skidded across the open goal line in front of his skates, the Kings take a 2-1 lead into the third period. It’s a whole different game in that scenario.

4. Short circuiting: Let’s face it: The Kings' power play has never hummed along this season. The unit has been stuck in the league's bottom third in that category since October. After showing signs of life during the first half of this month, the power play is back to dripping oil again. The Kings have one goal with the man-advantage in their last 18 opportunities, and that came during a stretch of three minor penalties in four minutes by San Jose. They even gave up their second short-handed goal of the season in the loss to Boston. The Kings also failed on all four man-advantage situations against the Bruins, the most power plays without cashing one in since Jan. 7.

5. State of the Cunucks: Vancouver clinched the Northwest Division title Saturday, but still has the No. 1 seed for the Western Conference playoffs within sight. The biggest concern in Vancouver is the health of leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin, who has missed the last three games with a concussion and doesn’t appear close to returning. To their credit, they’ve bounced back to win the last two games, which has indirectly helped the Kings. Their 2-1 victory Thursday against Dallas helped the Kings move atop the Pacific Division for a couple days, and their 3-2 overtime win Saturday against the Avalanche kept the Kings in eighth place. Don't expect the Kings to return any favors tonight.

Kings: Nothing to smile about after 4-2 loss to Bruins

March, 24, 2012
3/24/12
10:37
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Leave it to the defending Stanley Cup champions to rain on the Kings' parade.

After winning a season-best six consecutive games, including the first three of a wicked four-game home stand, there weren't any conciliatory back slaps Saturday night after the Kings lost to the Boston Bruins, 4-2, at Staples Center.

Asked if a 3-1 mark on the home stand against the Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks represented a positive sign for a team that has seen more valleys than peaks this season, Kings coach Darryl Sutter didn’t sound satisfied.

“The team dug a hole at home ice early in the year, and we tried to win every game since then, simple,” he said. “That’s a tough task and that’s a big chore.”

About the only shining light came later Saturday night, when the Vancouver Canucks came back from a two-goal deficit to beat the Colorado Avalanche, 3-2, and keep the Kings in eighth place in the Western Conference standings with seven games remaining.

The power play was the biggest culprit against Boston. Not only did the Kings fail to score on all four man-advantage situations, but they allowed a short-handed goal in the second period, just the second given up this season.

The play was set in motion when defenseman Drew Doughty, the highest-paid player on the Kings, turned the puck over in his defensive zone, leading to a second-chance goal by Patrice Bergeron after Jonathan Quick made a dazzling save on Brad Marchand.

“Drew has got to expect that pressure there,” Sutter said.

After the Kings tied the score later in the period on the second goal of the season by fourth-line center Colin Fraser, another poor decision by a defenseman led to the second goal by the Bruins. Milan Lucic carried the puck into the offensive zone, but Rob Scuderi backed off before Lucic released a shot from the faceoff circle that got through the pads of Quick for a 2-1 lead.

“I think Robby was playing goalie too there,” Sutter said. “He’s got to get his stick out and control the lane a little bit better.”

(Read full post)

Kings: Fast start fades toward end of scoreless first period

March, 24, 2012
3/24/12
7:10
PM PT
After the 1st period:

Kings 0, Boston Bruins 0

The good: Great pace and tempo by the Kings in the opening period, especially the first 17 minutes. The own a 15-11 edge in shot on goals, but the Bruins got the last five after going on the power play following a questionable roughing penalty on Justin Williams, who is playing in his 700thcareer game. The Kings survived the penalty, thanks to great goaltending by Jonathan Quick and a timely blocked shot by defenseman Willie Mitchell after a rebound came straight into the slot and onto the waiting stick of Jordan Caron. The Kings set the tone when Anze Kopitar sent a blast off the shoulder of Boston goalie Tim Thomas and into the netting just 19 seconds into the game. Jarret Stoll came back with a good scoring chance in front of the net about a minute later. Rob Scuderi broke up a 3-on-2 rush by speeding back on defense and poking the puck away from Milan Lucic. Kings forward Trevor Lewis dropped the gloves for the first time this year, taking a few rights from Chris Kelly before landing a big one of his own. Not a bad break for the Kings, as Lewis has three goals and seven points this season, while Kelly has 18 and 34.

The bad: One long delay with 3:17 remaining in the period seemed like more than enough time for the referees to check the clock, but then they needed a shorter one in the middle of the Boston power play, presumably to do the same thing. The league has been watching the clock at lot closer at Staples Center ever since it briefly stopped in the closing seconds against Columbus earlier this season, giving the Kings a chance to score the game winner just before the horn. Probably no coincidence that L.A.’s momentum screeched to a halt after the first delay, and Williams committed his penalty shortly after Dustin Brown hit the post from the right faceoff circle with 2:45 left.

The in between: The Dallas Stars have already knocked off the Calgary Flames, 4-1, earlier today. That leapfrogs Dallas back into the Pacific Division lead and third place in the Western Conference standings. The Kings fall back to seventh in the West, but a win would put them back atop the Pacific and into the No. 3 slot. With the Flames losing, that’s a big blow to their playoff hopes, as they’re still three points back of the final playoff spot. The other scores to watch later tonight are the Vancouver Canucks at the Colorado Avalanche, and the Phoenix Coyotes at the San Jose Sharks. Phoenix, Colorado and San Jose are each within two points of the Kings.

Kings: Team was due for a Quick turnaround

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
3:26
PM PT
EL SEGUNDO--A week after being relegated to back-up duty for two consecutive games, Jonathan Quick is back in a familiar role. Winning games as the clear-cut No. 1 goalie for the Kings.

Quick stopped 34 shots in a 2-0 victory Monday night against the visiting Bruins, his fifth shutout of the season and 13th of his career.

"I thought he was really good last night," said Kings coach Terry Murray. "I like Boston’s team. They come hard, their back end is up on the attack all the time...they’ll take it to the net and it required the goaltender to be very sharp last night."

Quick, who will start his fifth consecutive game Wednesday against visiting San Jose, said he didn’t have any extra incentive playing against All-Star goalie Tim Thomas of the Bruins, or a team he followed closely while growing up in Milford, Conn.

He just knows the Kings are desperate for wins.

"If you start bringing an outside incentive into the game, it all messes with you a little bit," he said. "I just try to take it for what it’s worth, two points."

Like most of the Kings, Quick’s numbers took a dip during the team's most recent slide, when they lost 10 of 12 games from Dec. 29 to Jan. 20. Quick made eight starts in that span, losing seven and posting a 3.125 goal-against average.

After a 3-1 loss at home to St. Louis on Jan. 13, season-long back-up Jonathan Bernier started in goal two nights later and the Kings won, 5-2. Murray decided to ride Bernier's success two days later in Dallas, but the Kings lost, 2-1.

(Read full post)

Kings: Quick outplays Thomas in 2-0 victory

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
10:17
PM PT
LOS ANGELES—Few goalkeepers have performed better this season when matched against Tim Thomas of Boston.

Jonathan Quick has been the exception.

Quick stopped 33 shots Monday night to lead the Kings to a 2-0 victory against the Bruins at Staples Center, their first two-game win streak since Dec. 26-27.

The shutout was the 13th of Quick’s career and the fifth this season, moving him into a tie for third for the league lead. Quick outplayed Thomas for the second time this season while improving his career record against Boston to 5-0.

Thomas came in leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.83) and save percentage (9.45), but owning an 0-0-4 career mark against the Kings. He was strong in the net, stopping 32 shots, but not strong enough.

Quick won a second consecutive start for the first time since late December. He was good from start to finish, putting the brakes on a 2-on-1 in the game’s first 75 seconds, then making a brilliant save on another odd-man rush early in the third period.

A couple minutes later, Anze Kopitar stole the puck in the neutral zone, passed ahead to Dustin Brown who fed a shot from a side angle at Thomas. The puck trickled through the crease, where rookie Andrei Loktionov was waiting on the other side to tap it in for a 2-0 lead with 16:30 remaining in the game.

Ryan Smyth scored the other goal on a first-period power play, ending an 0-for-22 skid for the Kings with the man advantage.

With the victory, the Kings moved within three points of Colorado for eighth in the Western Conference standings.

More to come from the locker room.

Kings: Quick still perfect after second period

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
9:44
PM PT
After the 2nd period:

Kings 1, Boston Bruins 0

The good: Two solid periods for the Kings, something they haven’t done in about a month. Jonathan Quick looks like the goalie we saw the first 10 games of the season, when he won nine of the starts. He has bundled up 20 shots by the Bruins thus far and helped kill two power plays. Kings captain Dustin Brown skated off the ice on one leg after chucking Johnny Boychuk against the boards during the first power play. It looked for a minute like Boychuk stepped on Brown's ankle as he tried to regain his balance following the hit, but Brown never went to the locker room and returned a few minutes later. He then laid a lick on Steven Kampfer, sending the young defenseman scurrying to the bench in search of a towel to apply to his face. Hard to tell which hole the blood was oozing from. Brown has five of the Kings’ 20 hits so far. The Kings have also cleaned up their face-off percentage. After winning just six of 19 face offs in the opening period, they won 17 of 24 in the second.

The bad: A 1-0 just doesn’t feel safe at this point. However, the Kings haven’t played well with multiple-goal leads lately, so maybe this will keep them bearing down. Alexei Ponikarovsky continues to be a liability for the Kings. His puck handling is sloppy, he took a two-minute holding penalty in his offensive zone and missed an open net after he deked Bruins goalie Tim Thomas out of position.

The in between: The last four meetings between these teams were tied at the end of regulation. That might not be such a bad thing, as the Kings will be guaranteed at least a point. Colorado won tonight to move into eighth place in the Western Conference with 56 points. The Kings are now five back with 51. The Kings have taken 25 shots thus far, good numbers but the Bruins allow the third-most shot attempts in the NHL and rely heavily on Thomas to make the stop. He’s 0-0-4 in his career against Los Angeles, so at least the Kings have that going for them.

Kings: Power play comes through for a 1-0 lead

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
8:36
PM PT
After the 1st period:

Kings 1, Boston Bruins 0

The good: The power-play slump is over after the Kings scored the only goal of the opening period with the man-advantage. Zdeno Chara went to the box after hooking Anze Kopitar with 9:44 left in the period and the Kings cashed in 34 seconds later when Jarret Stoll sent a blast at Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.83) and save percentage (.945). Ryan Smyth was in his usual position camped out in front of the crease and he got a piece of the puck, deflecting it off Thomas and into the air. Smyth missed on his first swipe at the puck while it was a about a foot in the air, but had time to knock it in once it fell to the ice. The goal ended an 0-for-22 stretch on the power play, covering the last seven games. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is 4-0 in his career against Boston and he has 11 saves so far, including a 2-on-1 stop just 75 seconds into the game.

The bad: The Kings are getting worked over in the face-off circle. They’ve won just six of 20 puck drops so far, including one-of-six chances for Stoll, they’re face-off extraordinaire. Kings rookie left wing Andrei Loktionov has been battling along the boards, but he has also been victimized by two giveaways. Kings veteran left wing Alexei Ponikarovsky has an average stat line so far, but is handling the puck like it's his mother's china.

The in between: Kyle Clifford mixed it up with Shawn Thornton in a pretty evenly matched fight. Once again, Clifford had to take on a guy that’s old enough to be his uncle. Thornton is 33 and Clifford is 20, so Thornton pulled a few tricks out of his sleeve, including landing a few jabs with his grab hand. Clifford rocked him early with a couple good rights, however, so Thornton’s punches had little steam. The Kings did not dress heavyweight enforcer Kevin Westgarth tonight, so it’s up to Clifford to keep things in order against a big, physical lineup for Boston.

Kings: Hoping to hold a lead in Ottawa

November, 21, 2010
11/21/10
10:05
PM PT
Kings (13-6-0) vs. Ottawa Senators (9-10-1) at Scotiabank Place, 4:30 p.m. (PT)

Five story lines to track:

1. Coming from ahead -- The Kings continue to give away leads like Halloween candy. The one-goal advantages they squandered in losses last week to Columbus and Buffalo were tough to swallow, but the three-goal lead that evaporated Saturday night at Boston was enough to make someone gag. The saving grace was Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick, who stopped all six shots in the shootout, allowing the Kings to escape with a 4-3 victory.


2. Secondary scoring -- The Kings have received goals from their third and/or fourth lines in three consecutive games. Up until that stretch, the bottom six had scored in only seven of the previous 16 games. Brad Richardson has been bounced around more than a lottery ball in a hopper, but he looked comfortable back on the fourth line Saturday, scoring on his first shift. Michal Handzus may also be coming around, getting goals in two of the last three, as well as the winner in Saturday’s shootout.

3. Ottawa success -- Coming into the season, the Kings had the best record against Ottawa over the previous 10 games than any opponent in the NHL, owning an 8-1-1 mark in that span. They last lost to Ottawa on Dec. 2, 2005. Before that it was in January 2000. The Senators can only hope they continue their trend of beating the Kings every five years.

(Read full post)

Kings: Handzus, Quick prevent another letdown

November, 20, 2010
11/20/10
7:20
PM PT
Another wild one in Boston.

The Kings blew a three-goal lead Saturday night against the Bruins, only to win in a six-round shootout, 4-3.

After five Kings failed to get one past Boston goalie Tim Thomas during the shootout, Michal Handzus finally supplied the winner on a quick wrist shot. Handzus also scored in regulation.

It’s the third straight season the Kings have traveled to Boston and won in extra time. The only difference was the Kings came from behind in the last two during the third period.

The Kings (13-6-0) came into this game riding a three-game losing streak—having blown leads in the last two while surrendering three consecutive goals. They gave up three straight goals against the Bruins to lose a 3-0 lead they built early in the second period.

Thomas came into the game leading the league in save percentage at .959, but Jonathan Quick, who came in fifth (.936), got the better of the match up.

Quick stopped 38 of 41 shots in regulation and all six in the shootout, while Thomas saved 23 of 26 in regulation.

Now it’s on to Ottawa for a game Monday night against the Senators.

Kings: Hoping for better times in Boston

November, 20, 2010
11/20/10
1:19
AM PT
Kings (12-6-0) vs. Boston Bruins (11-5-1) at TD Garden, 4 p.m. (PT)

Five storylines to track:

1. Not so special – The Kings got beat by the Buffalo Sabres, 4-2, on Friday night, their third consecutive loss after six straight wins. The difference can be traced directly to the power play. The Kings couldn’t produce on their five man-advantage situations, the Sabres scored on two of their six power plays, including the tying and go-ahead goals in the second period. Coming into the game, the Kings were the best in the league on the penalty kill.


2. Protecting a lead – For the second consecutive game, the Kings gave up three straight goals and let a lead get away. In a 5-3 loss Wednesday against the Blue Jackets, the Kings let a one-goal lead dissolve early in the third period. They allowed three consecutive goals to Buffalo after taking a 2-1 lead early in the second on Wayne Simmonds’ fourth goal of the season.

3. Boston comebacks – The Kings have been faced with adversity in their last two games in Boston and have come back to win each time. Last January, the Kings trailed 2-1 to start the third period, but Anze Kopitar tied the score and the Kings went on to win in a shootout. In March 2009, the Kings rallied from a 2-0 deficit midway through the third period before Dustin Brown won the game with 35 seconds remaining in overtime.

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