Los Angeles Kings: Joel Quenneville

Hawks battle back again to even series

May, 31, 2014
May 31
1:09
AM PT

 
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.”

W2W4: Blackhawks vs. Kings (Game 6)

May, 30, 2014
May 30
11:43
AM PT


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
12:55
AM PT

 
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.”

Blackhawks not finding offensive balance

May, 25, 2014
May 25
12:27
AM PT
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.”

W2W4: Blackhawks vs. Kings (Game 3)

May, 24, 2014
May 24
10:30
AM PT
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
11:50
PM PT


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.”

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