Hot and not
Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks
Miller made 25 saves in a 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, but allowing four goals in a span of just over 11 minutes in the third period doomed him to his third loss in four starts since returning from injury.
Are the current Los Angeles Kings better than the team's recent Cup winners?
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Is this L.A. Kings team better than the ones that won Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014? Well, I woke up to a note from Kings PR telling me this year's team has reached the 30 wins in 48 games, the fastest the team has ever gotten to that total (the previous mark was 51 games, in 2005-06 and 1980-81). Sunday's 3-2 overtime road win over the San Jose Sharks improved the Kings to 30-15-3 and opened a comfortable nine-point gap ahead of the Sharks in the Pacific Division. The Ducks will eventually take up either the second- or third-place spot in the Pacific, but nobody is catching L.A. this season. And it's certainly a different script this time around for the contending Kings, who were the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference in 2012 and finished third in the Pacific in 2014 (but with 100 points). The question being, is this team deeper and more talented than those previous two?
@ESPN_Burnside: Well, I think we'd better hold off on the parade there, big fella. Still a lot this team has to prove, although being in the Pacific means you don't have to necessarily do your proving as early in the playoff tournament as the Central Division powers. I am with you, though, Pierre. This is an impressive team. Like Chicago, the Kings ended a brief two-game slide with a big win over a division foe on Sunday night (the Blackhawks blanked St. Louis 2-0), and that tells you this Kings team is chock full of character. It also allows us to dream of another thrilling L.A.-Chicago conference final like we saw in 2014. Tyler Toffoli, who set up Marian Gaborik for the overtime winner against the Sharks, has played himself right onto Team Canada next fall and Milan Lucic (suspended last night for a roughing incident) is a force. And how about Vincent Lecavalier with his fourth goal since coming over in a reclamation trade with Philadelphia? And Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick, and on and on. Yes, this is a really good team, but I still need to see what happens when they hit that first speed bump in the playoffs, because that's when Cup-winning teams displayed their true mettle.
@CraigCustance: Easy now, Pierre. You know I love the Kings, but let's take a look at the defense that won the Stanley Cup in 2014: Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Willie Mitchell, Slava Voynov, Matt Greene and Alec Martinez. That, to me, is the big difference. Heck, that team had Martin Jones as its backup goalie. I loved the centers on that team, too, even Mike Richards as the fourth-line center. If the 2014 Kings were playing this year's Kings in a seven-game series, I'm taking the 2014 version. The good news is that the 2016 Kings need only keep their distance against their Pacific rivals, and that shouldn't be a problem. If they can enter the playoffs rested and healthy, they certainly can have a finish that looks very similar to the 2014 version.
@ESPNJoeyMac: At this point of the season, Pierre, you would have to believe this version of the Kings is deeper than the previous two Cup teams. Plus, the Kings are more experienced than the teams in 2012 and 2014. From a bookkeeping standpoint, Anze Kopitar has his new contract, so he can focus on hockey. First-year King Lucic has fit in perfectly on the ice and in the dressing room for Los Angeles. It also helps that he won a Cup with the Bruins in 2011 and returned to the finals with Boston in 2013. It all comes down to goaltending, though, and Quick is 26-12-2, along with a 2.14 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. It's going to be interesting to see how this team competes once the puck drops in the postseason.
Around the league
The Canucks are gearing up for a playoff push, and feel they have figured out how to handle their lineup in 3-on-3 overtime situations.