Los Angeles Kings: 2013-14 Stanley Cup playoffs

Second line does everything but score

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Kings' second line was dominant in Game 4.

But when the final buzzer sounded, Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli had nothing to show for their efforts.

Carter, Pearson and Toffoli combined for 14 shots, but none of them found the back of the net, and the Kings failed to become the first team since 1998 to complete a Stanley Cup finals sweep, falling 2-1 to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

[+] EnlargeAnton Stralman
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesJeff Carter of the Kings couldn't quite get his stick on this puck that fluttered near the goal line during a Game 4 loss.
Game 5 is Friday night at Staples Center.

"I think [our line] created a lot tonight," said Pearson, who finished with a game-high eight shots in just 13 minutes, 15 seconds of ice-time.

"Unfortunately, things didn't go our way, but I mean, we've created a lot all playoffs. There were a couple close ones tonight, but I mean you can't really look at it, you just gotta move on to the next one."

Those close ones couldn't have come any closer. The Kings got a pair of pucks behind Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but Carter couldn't get his stick on either of them.

Midway through the first period, Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman swatted the puck off the goal line with his stick. Then, with just 1:11 left in the third, Pearson's deflection of Kings defenseman Alec Martinez's turnaround shot skidded under Lundqvist's pads. But the puck was stopped by a build-up of ice right in front of the goal line, and Rangers center Derek Stepan alertly gloved it out of harm's way without covering it, which would've resulted in a penalty shot.

"You put those in or tap those in, and it's a whole different hockey game," Pearson said.

Carter was robbed on a breakaway by the left pad of a sprawling Lundqvist late in the second, and Toffoli came up empty on the doorstep midway through the third.

"We had a lot of good opportunities," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "But you got to finish. You're only going to get a handful most nights against the New York Rangers. You've got to finish a couple of them."

They didn't. That's why they're flying back to Los Angeles without the Stanley Cup in hand. A championship parade will have to wait. The Kings still have to get one more win.

While everyone talks about L.A.'s dominant first line of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown, the troika of Carter (10-14-24), Pearson (4-8-12) and Toffoli (7-6-13) also has been quite potent. Not bad for a former 40-goal scorer and a couple of kids.

"Jeff Carter's a top player in the National Hockey League," Sutter said before the game. "Anytime you get to play with a top player, either you elevate your game or you don't play with them.”

Pearson is only 21 and Toffoli is 22. It's hard to tell.

"I think you just gotta keep your head in it and realize what's at stake," Pearson said. "There's so many veteran guys on our team that help you keep your head into it, so it wasn't that hard."

These Kings built for Cup grind

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6

LOS ANGELES -- The ads started popping up in local newspapers during the postseason, before the Los Angeles Kings had even advanced to their third consecutive Western Conference finals or were three wins away from claiming their second Stanley Cup in three years.

The pitch for premium seats at Staples Center featured a picture of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty beside a headline that read, “Be Part Of The Dynasty.”

There’s no doubt that our definition of a dynasty has changed over the years. No one will mistake the Kings’ current three-year run -- whose latest installment, Game 2 against the New York Rangers, is slated for Saturday night at Staples -- with the Edmonton Oilers winning five titles in seven years in the mid- to late 1980s, the New York Islanders winning four straight in the early '80s or the Montreal Canadiens winning 16 titles during the 1950s, '60s and '70s. But when you look at the NHL since 1990, the Kings’ current three-year run will hold up well if they go on to win the Stanley Cup.

[+] EnlargeDustin Brown
Dave Sandford/NHLI/Getty ImagesDustin Brown and the Kings go for a 2-0 lead on the Rangers on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Only the Pittsburgh Penguins (1991 and 1992) and the Detroit Red Wings (1997 and 1998) have won two Stanley Cups in three years, with both winning back-to-back titles. The Red Wings (2007-09) were the last team to play in three consecutive conference finals.

What makes the Kings’ run so unique, however, is that during the regular season, they look far from a team on the verge of a dynasty. The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 as a No. 8 seed, becoming the first 8-seed in North American professional sports to win a championship. In fact, they needed a win in the final game of the regular season just to secure the last seed before going on to become just the second team to eliminate the first, second and third seeds in the same postseason.

Last year, the Kings advanced to the conference finals as the fifth seed in the West after a lockout-shortened season. And this season, the Kings are back in the Stanley Cup finals as the sixth seed after becoming the first team to advance to the finals after winning three consecutive Game 7s, all on the road.

If the Kings win the Stanley Cup this season, the 2012 and 2014 teams would be the only Stanley Cup champions seeded lower than fifth to win the trophy and just the third team to win despite finishing lower than second in its division. The first was the 1993 Canadiens, who finished third in the Adams Division before going on to beat the Kings in the Cup finals.

As a franchise, the Kings have never won the Presidents' Trophy, awarded to the team with the most points in the regular season, and their only division title came in 1991, when they were eliminated in the second round. Each one of the Kings’ trips to the Stanley Cup finals has come after they finished third in their division or sixth or lower in their conference.

These Kings' style of hockey lends itself to classic underdog stories, storybook road victories and historic postseason success -- but not necessarily a lot of regular-season banners Kings players would just as soon do without.

“It's funny,” Brown said. “When you look at Staples, we don't have banners all the way across, but we have the banner we want. We're in the process or in search of that next banner.”

There have been championship teams in the past notorious for the ability to flip a switch from the regular season to the postseason, the same team that sleepwalked during stretches, becoming almost unrecognizable. But even those outfits find a way to finish in the top four or five in a conference going into the postseason. It’s almost as if being a low seed and an underdog is part of the Kings’ blueprint for success come playoff time.

It's funny. When you look at Staples, we don't have banners all the way across, but we have the banner we want. We're in the process or in search of that next banner.

-- Kings forward Dustin Brown
“Not necessarily a blueprint,” said Brown, a forward in his 10th season in Los Angeles. “But I think there's a mentality that goes with it. You know, do you want to be a division champion or a Stanley Cup champion? There's a mentality to that. The way we play the game, it's a tough game to play. There's teams that get far more points than us during the regular season. But when it comes to playoff time, our type of style, our type of game we play, the players that we have, we become a really hard team to beat four times in seven games.”

It’s not as if the Kings begin the season with aspirations of finishing third in their division or sixth or worse in the conference. That’s just how it plays out.

“Our goal is to win the division, but it didn’t happen,” forward Justin Williams said. “We’re built better for the playoffs. We’re a playoff-built team who's got another gear and [is] able to find that extra bit that you need come playoff time. It’s certainly not something you can just turn on and turn off. You slowly need to be playing better. The hardest part of the playoffs is getting in. It’s always hard. We’re able to find a little more every time we get in.”

This season, the Kings were ranked 26th in the NHL in goals per game. In 2011-12, they ranked 29th. That’s not just bad, it's bottom-five-in-the-league bad. On the flip side, the Kings allowed the fewest goals in the NHL this season and were second in 2011-12. It speaks to the defensive mindset the Kings have that works so well come playoff time, when you need to win 16 games, but doesn’t always equate over the course of an 82-game regular season, when it’s harder to grind out wins for six months.

“I think we understand as a group the way we need to play,” Brown said. “It’s not an easy thing to do for 82 games, but we understand it’s about the journey. We’re built for playoff hockey. Every trade deadline and every draft, they talk about how we need to get rid of this guy and that guy, but a big part of our success is that we’ve been together and we understand the type of team we are. It might not be 120-point-regular-season team, but we’ve been playing into June three years in a row, and I don’t think there’s any other team in the league that can say they’ve done that. It’s not easy, but when you want to win, you’ll do what it takes.”

The style of hockey Darryl Sutter coaches and the kind of players general manager Dean Lombardi acquires are geared toward a physical brand of hockey, predicated on puck possession and low-scoring games. It’s a style that obviously works well this time of year, but the Kings are almost resigned to the fact that it might not win them a Presidents' Trophy or even a Pacific Division title -- which is just fine with them if they are able to win another Stanley Cup.

[+] EnlargeKings
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Kings have won three Game 7s on the road in these playoffs, most recently in Chicago to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of pacing ourselves,” Brown said. “We play a hard, physical style, and at the end of the day, 82 games are a lot of games, and when you have to play a certain way to be successful, it’s not an easy thing. There’s going to be nights when you just don’t have it, collectively and individually. Whereas if we were a high-skilled, rush team with a lot of goal-scoring, you can find ways to win when one guy has a great game. I think that’s what maybe costs us a couple points here and there in the regular season. We might be tired collectively, and we don’t rely on one guy to climb us out of it. It’s also the strength this time of year, where we don’t have that one guy to lean on too heavily. We win with different guys stepping up at different times. That’s what a team’s about.”

The Kings began this historic postseason run with an historic comeback over the San Jose Sharks, becoming just the fourth NHL team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to eliminate their division rivals. After the Kings’ victory in Game 7, a pocket of Kings fans began chanting, “Where’s your banner?” at exiting Sharks fans. The Sharks actually have plenty of banners. They have won six division titles and one Presidents' Trophy since 2002, but they would surely trade them all for the banner the Kings raised in 2012 and the one they hope to raise later this year.

“We go into buildings where there are a lot of banners for divisions and conferences and other things, but ultimately it comes down to one banner which is the most important,” Kopitar, in his eighth season with the Kings, said. “We’ve managed to come up once as an eighth seed. Our style of play is hard to maintain for 82 games, but it seems that every time the playoffs come around, we’re in full stride and ready to go -- and that’s really the most important thing anyway.”

Hawks battle back again to even series

May, 31, 2014
May 31

LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks just won’t go away.

The Los Angeles Kings have tried their best in two consecutive games to put an end to the Blackhawks once and for all. Twice the Kings held third-period leads on the Blackhawks, and twice the Blackhawks overcame them and fought back to win. And with that, the Kings’ 3-1 series lead is no more, and the series will be decided back in Chicago.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews took a moment after his team’s 4-3 victory in Game 6 on Friday to admire what the Blackhawks have had to do to get back into the series.

“I think we know what kind of character we have in this room, what kind of group,” Toews said of the defending Stanley Cup champions. “I think we’re showing it to each other now. It’s pretty amazing to see. We know our job’s not done yet.”

The Blackhawks have gotten to where they are now by handling a large amount of adversity tossed their way in the past two games.

In Game 5, it was the Kings rallying from a two-goal deficit to take a 4-3 lead. The Blackhawks were down a goal to begin the third period, and Ben Smith scored within the first two minutes to tie the game. After a chaotic overtime, the Blackhawks pulled out a winner in the second extra period.

[+] EnlargeBen Smith, Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonBen Smith's second goal in two games gave the Hawks a lead at the second intermission.
In Game 6, the drama continued. The Kings went up 1-0 in the first period. The Blackhawks responded and took a 2-1 lead after two. The Kings answered by scoring two goals in just over two minutes to go ahead 3-2 less than eight minutes into the third.

Panic from the Blackhawks’ fan base could be read all over Twitter, but the players themselves resisted that feeling.

“You've just got to find a way to kind of ride those highs and keep that momentum and when things go against you -- I’ve said this quite a few times -- you forget about those tough moments and just don’t let it affect you too much,” Toews said. “Go out that next shift and keep playing.”

That they did. Duncan Keith took a pass from Patrick Kane in the deep slot and tied the game 3-3. Kane played the role of hero again by scoring the winner with 3 minutes, 45 seconds remaining. Between and after those goals, Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford and his defense held strong to force Game 7 on Sunday night at the United Center.

“That’s the way the team has been all year,” Crawford said. “We don’t give up. We can definitely score goals. I don’t think anyone lost confidence or got down after those two goals they scored in the third. If anything, we kept pressing harder.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville never doubted his team’s resilience, but he was still impressed by it.

“Three lead changes in the third period, in a big game like that, it's pretty amazing,” Quenneville said. “But our guys, finding a way, it's a compliment to them. Well, top players. I mean, they want to win. They find ways. They challenge one another. You see certain guys competing like that every shift. I mean, you can't help but follow along and make your contribution.”

Kane clutch again for Blackhawks

May, 31, 2014
May 31
LOS ANGELES -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews can sense when moments in a game get too big for some players.

Toews will notice how someone will get rid of the puck more quickly than usual or play overly cautious because he doesn't want to be the one who costs his team the game.

On the flip side, there’s Patrick Kane. He seeks those moments.

With the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings tied 3-3 entering the final five minutes in the third period of Game 6 of the Western Conference finals Friday, Kane pursued the moment again. He got the puck in the right circle, skated to the bottom of the circle, surveyed the ice, carried it back toward the blue line, worked to the middle of the ice and saw an opening. He had the puck for nearly 10 seconds before he shot it. The puck bypassed all of the bodies in front of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, then Quick, and finally found the inside of the net with 3 minutes, 45 seconds remaining.

[+] EnlargeDuncan Keith, Patrick Kane
Harry How/Getty ImagesDuncan Keith and Patrick Kane scored in the final nine minutes after the Kings had taken a 3-2 lead.
The goal would end up being the difference as the Blackhawks won 4-3 and forced a Game 7 on Sunday back in Chicago.

Kane, 25, has delivered in such moments many times throughout his career. While his teammates have come to expect the forward to do it, they find that it never gets any less impressive when he does.

“It’s amazing how he turns it on in these big games,” Toews said. “I think a lot of guys are maybe making sure they don’t make mistakes with the puck and getting rid of the puck in certain areas, but he’s as calm as ever with it even if it’s late in the period and the ice is a little rough. He just keeps that puck flat, and he’s got his head up and he makes some amazing plays. For him to come up with those two plays with the tying goal and winning goal, there’s pretty much nothing you can say. It’s pretty amazing.”

Yes, the winning goal was just the ribbon on the basket of goods Kane gave the Blackhawks on Friday. Prior to the winner, he had already provided Chicago with a power-play goal in the second period and set up Duncan Keith for the equalizer in the third.

Kane finished with two goals and one assist. Add in the four points he had in Game 5 and he has seven points over the past two games. He had one point over the first four games.

On the tying goal in the third period, Kane was skating with the puck away from the Kings’ net toward the blue line when he caught a glimpse of Keith moving up in the play. Kane sent a backhanded pass in the opposite direction he was headed and connected with Keith as he was progressing toward the net. Keith scored in the deep slot with 8:26 left in the period.

“It wasn't like the first time we've seen it with him,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Kane. “I don't think there's a player in the league that has a puck on his stick, time and possession in the course of a game, and he sees plays, makes plays. The bigger the stage, too, he likes that challenge.”

Kane was asked to explain why he excels where others fail in such key moments. He said he wasn't exactly sure.

“I don't know, you try to take it upon yourself to try and step up in big situations,” Kane said. “But we have a lot of guys that do that. I think with our team and the amount of great players that are on it, it seems like everyone has their time to step up and have the spotlight and be in that moment. There's been numerous guys that have done it. When it's your turn, it's always fun to contribute.”

Kane doesn't often let his turn slip past him, either.

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 4, Kings 3

May, 30, 2014
May 30

LOS ANGELES -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center on Friday:

How it happened: Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane broke a 3-3 tie and scored the winning goal at 16 minutes, 15 seconds of the third period. Chicago faced a 3-2 deficit earlier in the period when Kane found Duncan Keith in the slot for a goal 11:34. The Kings had gone ahead by scoring two goals within 2:06 of each other. Drew Doughty tied the game 2-2 with a shot in the deep slot at 5:32, and then set up Alec Martinez for a power-play goal at 7:38. The Blackhawks went to the second intermission up 2-1 on goals by Kane and Ben Smith in the second period. Dwight King scored the game’s first goal at 17:03 of the first period. The Blackhawks were 1-for-2 on the power play, as were the Kings. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford made 26 saves on 29 shots. Kings counterpart Jonathan Quick saved 21 of 25.

What it means: The Blackhawks evened the series at 3-3 after being down 3-1. Chicago has a chance to become the 25th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a series since the NHL expanded all rounds to best-of-seven series in 1987. The Blackhawks did so last season against the Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks improved to 12-0 in Games 5-7 over the past two seasons, including 6-0 in this season. They defeated the Kings at home for the first time in the series. The Kings also hadn’t lost in a Game 6 or 7 this season in the playoffs prior to Friday.

Player of the game: Kane got himself going in Game 5 and continued it in Game 6. He had two goals and one assist. He has seven points in the past two games.

Stat of the game: Kane played 27 shifts and 20:40 of ice time.

What’s next: The series returns to Chicago for Game 7 on Sunday. The Blackhawks are 8-1 at the United Center in the playoffs this season.

Versteeg out, Brookbank in for Game 6

May, 30, 2014
May 30
LOS ANGELES -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg was a healthy scratch and was replaced by Sheldon Brookbank against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on Friday.

Versteeg had played in Chicago's previous seven games; he was a healthy scratch in two previous games in these playoffs. He sat the final 50 minutes, 4 seconds of Game 5 after being on the ice for a Kings goal in the second period. He has one goal, two assists and is a minus-5 in 14 playoff games this season.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday he expected more out of Versteeg.

“It was a tough night, the one shift in particular," Quenneville said. “You just got to battle through it. It's a competitive game, not a lot of time, not a lot of space. You've got to do whatever you can to advance the puck and contribute.”

Brookbank, whose primary position is defenseman, has two assists and is a plus-4 in six playoff games this season. He last played against the Minnesota Wild on May 13 in the second round.

W2W4: Blackhawks vs. Kings (Game 6)

May, 30, 2014
May 30

LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings face off Friday in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center, with the Kings leading the series 3-2. Here's what to watch for:

• After pulling out a 5-4 double-overtime win in Game 5, the Blackhawks have to win again to keep their season alive. They haven't won in Los Angeles in the series.

*• The Kings haven’t lost in a Game 6 or 7 this season. They defeated the San Jose Sharks in Games 6 and 7 in the opening round and defeated the Anaheim Ducks in Games 6 and 7 in the second round.

• The Blackhawks have been unbeatable in Games 5-7 in playoff series over the last two seasons. They’re 12-0 in those situations, including 5-0 this season.

• The Blackhawks will be looking for goaltender Corey Crawford to pick up where he left off in Game 5. After allowing four goals on 20 shots, Crawford held the Kings goal-less on their last 24 shots.

• Special teams has been a factor in every game. The Blackhawks held the advantage in that area in Game 5. They scored a power-play goal and shut out the Kings on three power plays. For the series, the Blackhawks are 3-of-17 on the power play and the Kings are 5-of-15.

• The Blackhawks’ second line of Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane was dominant in Game 5. Saad had one goal and two assists, Shaw had two assists, and Kane has four assists. The Kings’ line of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson has given the Blackhawks fits throughout the series.

• Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wouldn’t reveal any lineup changes, but forward Kris Versteeg could sit out again. Versteeg didn’t play the final 50-plus minutes of Game 5 after being on the ice for a goal in the second period.

• Kings forward Marian Gaborik has scored in the last two games after being shut out in the first three games. He leads the NHL with 11 playoff goals this postseason. Teammate Anze Kopitar leads the league with 23 playoff points and has four points in this series.

• Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick's numbers have varied dramatically in wins and losses in the playoffs. He has made 314 saves on 332 shots for a .946 save percentage in 11 playoff wins. He has made 197 saves on 229 shots for .860 save percentage in eight losses.

Special teams deciding Hawks-Kings series

May, 27, 2014
May 27

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter was his usual self in the postgame news conference Monday after the Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

Sutter didn’t say much or elaborate on most of his answers, but he said all that needed to be said. That was particularly true when he was asked about special teams in the first period. The Kings scored two power-play goals, and the Blackhawks failed to score on two opportunities with the advantage.

“That’s clearly the difference in the game; first period is clearly special teams,” Sutter said. “I think there are four total, and that’s the difference.”

Special teams not only decided Game 4, they are also deciding the series. The Kings have won the past three games and taken a 3-1 series lead because of special teams. The Kings have scored five power-play goals on their past 10 power plays over the past three games -- a span during which the Blackhawks are 1-of-11. The Kings also scored a goal two seconds after a Chicago penalty expired in Game 3.

“How can it not be a [difference?]” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. “The stats, you can just take a lot from looking at the numbers.”

[+] EnlargeKings
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsJake Muzzin's power-play goal opened the Game 4 scoring and is one of five such tallies for the Kings in the past three games.
The Blackhawks’ power-play numbers are nothing out of the ordinary. They have struggled on the power play for much of the past two seasons. They have eight goals on 46 power-play chances in the playoffs this season.

The Blackhawks were hopeful they could change their success rate in Game 4. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville tinkered with his power-play units beforehand, and it was an area of focus during practice Sunday.

The Kings gave the Blackhawks two quick power plays to test it out Monday, getting whistled for two penalties within the game’s first seven minutes. The Blackhawks accumulated one shot on net on the first one, and the second one came to an end 40 seconds in when Marian Hossa was whistled for goaltender interference.

The Kings didn’t waste much time making the Blackhawks pay. With the puck on the wall, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty found Jake Muzzin free in the middle of the ice. Muzzin had plenty of time and space in the far slot, and he drilled the puck past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.

“We’re rolling pretty good,” Muzzin said. “Our penalty kill was really good tonight, and [Jonathan Quick] made some big saves. We were able to gain some momentum off that and carry that into our power play. We jumped on them and got a quick power-play goal, and that got the ball rolling.”

The Blackhawks were again put on the penalty kill when Patrick Sharp was called for roughing later in the period. Again, the Kings found a way to get the puck into the net. The Kings diced up the Chicago penalty kill with quick passes, and Dustin Brown scored in front of the net.

“Well, they’re shooting the puck, and a couple of plays there, I thought maybe the first one we could have gone out to that guy coming down the gut, kind of comparable to the last game,” Quenneville explained of his team’s penalty-kill woes. “But they’re shooting and they’re going in. The third goal of the game, their second power play, we’ve got to be better than that.”

If doesn’t turn around soon, the Blackhawks might be eliminated due to their special teams.

“Our special teams all year have been a strength of our team,” Quenneville said. “The first two series, penalty killing might have been the reason why we won either series. Right now, they’re going against us, so we have to shore up that area. And our power play, our production’s been off a little bit. I think we’ve got to make sure whether we’re scoring or not, we’ve got to sustain and gather momentum when the power play’s out there.”

Rapid Reaction: Kings 5, Blackhawks 2

May, 26, 2014
May 26

LOS ANGELES -- Here’s a quick look at the Los Angeles Kings' 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center on Monday:

How it happened: The Kings jumped on the Blackhawks with three goals in the first period and built a 4-0 lead before Chicago was able to score. Jake Muzzin opened the Kings’ scoring with a power-play goal at the 9-minute mark of the first period. Two minutes, 13 seconds later, Marian Gaborik finished a pass from Anze Kopitar and the Kings went ahead 2-0. Dustin Brown scored another power-play goal for the Kings at 15:56 of the first period. Drew Doughty gave the Kings a 4-0 lead with a second-period goal. Brandon Saad put the Blackhawks on the board at 14:03 of the second. Bryan Bickell pulled the Blackhawks within two goals at 9:27 of the third before Los Angeles scored an empty-net goal with 1:02 to play. The Kings were 2-for-3 on the power play and shut out the Blackhawks on three opportunities of their own. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made 22 saves on 24 shots. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 16 of 20 shots. Kings forward Jarret Stoll won 16 of 24 faceoffs.

What it means: The Kings won their third consecutive game and took a 3-1 lead in the series. A team has fought back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series 24 times since the NHL expanded all rounds to best-of-seven in 1987. The Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in the second round last season. The Kings have scored 14 goals in the past three games. The Kings took advantage of special teams again. Gaborik scored his 10th goal of the playoff and his first against the Blackhawks.

Player of the game: Doughty had a goal and an assist. He led the Kings in ice time and was one of the reasons why the Blackhawks were held to two goals.

Stat of the game: The Kings scored on two power plays. They have scored five power-play goals in the past three games. The Blackhawks had allowed four power-play goals in their previous 13 playoff games this season.

What’s next: The series returns to Chicago for Wednesday night's Game 5. The Blackhawks are 7-1 at home in the playoffs this season; the Kings handed them their lone loss in Game 2.

By the numbers: Hawks-Kings (Game 3)

May, 25, 2014
May 25
LOS ANGELES -- Here’s a look by the numbers at the Los Angeles Kings’ 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals:

* Kings forward Jeff Carter had a goal and two assists. He has eight points in the series.

* Jonathan Toews scored two goals. He has three of the Blackhawks’ eight goals in the series.

* The Kings scored a power-play goal to give them a total of three power-play goals over the last two games. The Blackhawks allowed a total of four power-play goals over their first 13 playoff games.

* The Kings outshot the Blackhawks 18-7 on net in the third period. The Blackhawks outshot the Kings 10-4 on net in the second period. They tied 10-10 in the first period.

* The Kings had five players with a Corsi (shot differential) percentage better than 50 percent, according to extraskater.com. Kyle Clifford (63.6 percent), Willie Mitchell (61.5), Slava Voynov (54.5), Tanner Pearson (54.5) and Jarret Stoll (53.8) led the Kings. Alec Martinez had a team-low 36.4 percentage.

* The Blackhawks had nine players with a Corsi percentage better than 50 percent. Marian Hossa (76.0), Bryan Bickell (72.7), Toews (62.1) and Brandon Saad (61.1) led the team. Michal Handzus had a team-low 29.4 percentage.

(Read full post)

Iconic donut converted into hockey puck

May, 25, 2014
May 25
INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The ever-growing Los Angeles Kings bandwagon added one of California's most famous landmarks this weekend.

The iconic donut on top of Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood was converted into a hockey puck Saturday night and will remain that way for the remainder of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on Saturday to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals with Game 4 on Monday in Los Angeles.

"The donut and the L.A. Kings are both extremely recognizable in our community," said Luc Robitaille, the Kings' President of Business Operations. "We believe it is a great match and our fans will have fun with it during this exciting time."

On Tuesday, the Kings will host a special fan giveaway at Randy’s Donuts from 7-8 a.m. with the Kings and Randy’s giving out a free glazed donut to all Kings fans who come by Randy’s during this time. Members of the Kings Ice Crew and the team's mascot, Bailey, will be there.

"Randy’s Donuts is honored and excited to partner with the Kings and to transform our iconic donut into a special Kings hockey puck in support of this historic run toward the Stanley Cup," said Larry Weintraub, co-owner of Randy’s Donuts. "The hope is our sign stays a puck throughout the playoffs, culminating with another Stanley Cup victory for the L.A. Kings."

Blackhawks not finding offensive balance

May, 25, 2014
May 25
Jonathan Quick, Marian HossaJeff Gross/Getty ImagesMarian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, right, haven't gotten much help after their line departs.

LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks have often leaned on their offensive depth to get them past opponents, particularly in the playoffs.

The Blackhawks have relied upon everyone from their stars to their role players, and from their first to their fourth lines to give them production in the past.

The Blackhawks aren’t getting that across-the-board help through three games against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference finals, and that is part of the reason why they’re facing a 2-1 series deficit.

“We have four lines that can score and we’ve got to show it,” Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus said after Saturday’s 4-3 loss in Game 3.

Chicago's top line has done its job: Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have been solid offensively and defensively. They have kept Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown in check, and they’ve been creating offensive chances for themselves.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Kruger, Alec Martinez, Tanner Pearson
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonMarcus Kruger and his mates on the fourth line took a beating in the Hawks' Game 3 loss.
The possession numbers indicate that the Blackhawks’ top line has had the puck much more than the Kings' in the series. Bickell has a 64.1 Corsi percentage; the Blackhawks have had 41 shots for and 23 shots against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations in the series, according to extraskater.com. Hossa has had a 61.6 Corsi percentage (45 shots for, 28 against) and Toews has had a 60 Corsi percentage (48 shots for, 32 against.)

Chicago has scored eight goals in the series. Two have come on the power play, one short-handed, one with the goalie pulled and four at even strength. Chicago's top line has accounted for two of the four even-strength goals.

The Blackhawks’ other lines haven’t been keeping up. Ben Smith on the fourth line scored a goal in Game 2, and defenseman Duncan Keith scored with the second line on the ice in Game 1. The three other lines’ possession numbers have fluctuated as well.

Chicago's second line of Patrick Sharp, Handzus and Patrick Kane struggled the most in Game 3. Handzus had a team-worst 27.7 Corsi percentage (five shots for, 12 against), followed by Sharp at 30.4 percent (7 for, 16 against) and Kane at 30.8 percent (8 for, 18 against). For the series, Handzus has a 36 Corsi percentage (18 for, 32 against), Sharp a 30.9 (21 shots for, 47 against) and Kane has a 43.5 (30 shots for, 39 against).

The Blackhawks’ third line did fare better with Andrew Shaw in the lineup Saturday; it had been among the team's worst possession lines during the first two games. When together, the fourth line of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Smith turned in a Corsi below 50 percent in Game 3.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he would reexamine his lines after Saturday’s loss, but he wasn’t sure whether they needed much fine-tuning.

“We'll look at our lines,” Quenneville said. “We look at basically nine periods there, seven of them pretty good, pretty effective as far as what we've been doing, as far as chances, generating what we're looking to do. They've had two big third periods on us. That's the difference in being down 2-1.

“We can look at the lines. I don't know if we got to shake them up too much.”

Keith: Hawks must stay out of penalty box

May, 24, 2014
May 24

LOS ANGELES -- Penalties are beginning to haunt the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time in the playoffs, and Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith has already seen enough of it.

The Blackhawks took three penalties Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, and two of them were costly. The Kings scored a power-play goal off the first penalty in the first period and scored two seconds after a penalty expired in the third period. Los Angeles would win Game 3 by a 4-3 score to take a 2-1 series advantage.

[+] EnlargeSlava Voynov
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesSlava Voynov cashed in a power-play chance for the Kings' first goal in Game 3.
“I think it is [a discipline issue],” Keith said. “There’s no other way to put it, really. We have to stay out of the box, and it’s frustrating. We’ve talked about it. They’re just penalties we can’t take. I know sometimes there’s penalties we have to take. Sometimes it’s an accident or not. They seem to be scoring on the power play. They got a lot of good players out there -- [Marian] Gaborik, [Anze] Kopitar, [Mike] Richards, [Jeff] Carter, [Drew] Doughty. We've just got to stay out of the box.”

The Blackhawks’ three penalties Saturday were on Michal Handzus, for closing his hand on the puck after falling to the ice in the first period; Nick Leddy, for hooking early in the third period; and Michal Rozsival for high-sticking later in the final period after he struck the Kings’ Kyle Clifford in the face with his stick.

The Blackhawks were getting away with being called for such penalties through 13 playoff games. Through their first two series, against the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild, and the first game against the Kings, Chicago had allowed an average of 3.5 power plays per game. Despite allowing 46 power plays during that span, the Blackhawks gave up just four power-play goals.

The Kings have halted the Blackhawks’ penalty-kill success the past two games. Los Angeles scored twice on four power-play chances in Game 2 and added a third one by going 1-for-3 in Game 3.

Keith didn’t put the blame on the penalty kill.

“It seems like all playoffs we’ve been taking too many penalties,” Keith said. “Penalty kill did a good job. Without a penalty kill, we wouldn’t even be this far.”

Keith believed the issue was fixable, but he and his teammates needed to follow through with it.

“We know better,” Keith said. “Just do the job. Stay out of the box ... everybody, me too. I’ve taken penalties throughout these playoffs. That’s what it is right now. We just got to stay out of the box.”

W2W4: Blackhawks vs. Kings (Game 3)

May, 24, 2014
May 24
LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings face off in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals at the Staples Center on Saturday. The series is tied 1-1. Here's what to watch for:

* The Kings stole home-ice advantage away from the Blackhawks by rallying from a 2-0 deficit and scoring six unanswered goals in Game 2 in Chicago on Wednesday. The Kings are 3-3 in their own building in the playoffs this season.

* Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw is expected to play after missing the last seven games with a lower-body injury. He’ll likely replace Peter Regin as the third-line center.

* Kings forward Jeff Carter is coming off a hat trick and four points in Game 2. He has two career playoff hat tricks.

* The Blackhawks allowed a total of two power-play goals in each of their first two series. The Kings scored two power-play goals in Game 2. The Kings made the Blackhawks pay for consecutive penalties in the first six minutes of the third period Wednesday.

(Read full post)

Kings get wish, hold Hawks under 3 goals

May, 21, 2014
May 21

CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter set a limit of two goals for the Chicago Blackhawks entering the Western Conference finals.

If the Kings could keep the Blackhawks under three scores in a given game, Sutter liked his team’s chances against the defending Stanley Cup champs. More than two, he didn’t like the Kings’ odds.

Sutter has been dead on so far. The Blackhawks scored three goals in Game 1 and won. The Blackhawks scored two goals in Game 2 and lost 6-2 Wednesday night.

“We probably played better [in Game 1],” Sutter said. “The only difference between tonight and [Sunday] was not goals for, it was goals against. Give up three against them, you're in trouble.”

[+] EnlargeNick Leddy and Blackhawks
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks were stoked after dominating early. But they failed on several strong chances to extend a two-goal lead to three, and the Kings pounced after that.
The absence of that third goal Wednesday will have the Blackhawks shaking their heads for a few days. The chances were there for the third goal to put the Kings away.

The Blackhawks placed themselves in a comfortable position by going ahead 2-0, when Ben Smith scored 1:40 into the second period. But they didn’t back off. They kept pushing for another goal, and the Kings weren’t putting up much of a fight to stop them.

After their second goal, Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa nearly scored on a shot from the slot after receiving a stretch pass to get him open with 13:23 remaining in the second period.

Michal Handzus had a wraparound backhanded shot with 6:19 left that gave Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick a problem.

Off an odd-man rush shortly later, Hossa left the puck for Duncan Keith at the blue line, and Keith fired a shot that Quick blocked. But the Kings were fortunate the Blackhawks couldn’t capitalize on the rebound.

Of all the missed opportunities, the one that will bother the Blackhawks the most was a 2-on-1 rush. Kris Versteeg had the puck on the left wing, and Brent Seabrook was to his right. After Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell committed to Versteeg, he pushed the puck over to Seabrook, who fired it on net. Quick shifted quickly from left to right, filled the open space and denied the puck entry.

Quick kept the Kings in it, and they took advantage, as Justin Williams scored with less than two minutes remaining in the second period to cut the lead to one. From there, the game changed.

“That's what we need Quickie to do. He does it all the time, makes those big saves when we need him, and that's just a prime example of him being himself,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “That's a huge save for us, and from that point we got pucks to the net, put one in, and came in here down only 2-1, which is what we wanted.”

The Kings scored five more goals, all in the third period, and the Blackhawks didn’t score again.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville thought the Kings’ one goal in the second period may have been more deadly than the lack of a third Blackhawks goal.

Quenneville described his team’s first 38 minutes of the game as perfect.

“Couple real nice looks there,” Quenneville said. “[Seabrook] coming down the pipe and it’s still 2-0 and we’re fine at 2-0. You get in after two [periods] and you’re up 2-0, it’s a different game maybe, but certainly it didn’t look ... The way it turned on a dime like that, I don’t know if we’ve seen a game like that all year, where we’re doing everything right and then all of a sudden it was a disaster.”

The Blackhawks struggled to comprehend how a game they were dominating for nearly all of the first 40 minutes went against them. It's something they'll look to fix in Game 3 on Saturday.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “We got off to a good start through 40 minutes. We were skating well and drew a few penalties, and then obviously things unraveled during the third.

“We’re not happy and we’re looking forward to getting on the plane and making up for it in Game 3.”