This year was the first time the Kings and Ducks made the playoffs in the same year. Unfortunately for fans of both SoCal teams, the Sharks and Predators knocked out the southern California teams in six games each. Before tonight’s game, I felt pretty strongly that if the Kings weren’t going to win a game in front of their fans and play well in a home game they should have had the decency to lose the series against the Sharks in San Jose. I have to say that after tonight’s performance by the Kings I think it’s good that the Kings gave their fans this game to remember. Their previous playoff games at home in 2011 were horrible performances. The Kings looked terrible in games 3 & 4 once the Sharks pulled Niemi when the Kings started with a 4-0 lead in game three. Tonight, the Kings didn’t win, so clearly their fans didn’t leave happy. However, the Kings played really well and fans were able to leave tonight knowing that their favorite team tried to win the game and closed out the post season playing pretty well.
The performance of the home team at Staples Center in the playoffs so far this year didn’t keep the Kings from selling out Staples Center tonight, but the game was only sold out to the normal capacity (18,118) with no standing room sales. The fans in attendance did see the best home playoff performance the Kings had this year, so it was definitely worth the expense.
Should the Kings have scored on their 5 minute power play? No question. However, the Kings scored two power play goals in the game, which definitely wasn’t common for them. Their power play needs work and it was terrible last year, too. If the Kings don’t think about reorganizing their special teams coaching during the off season, I’ll be pretty stunned. Their penalty kill remained great in the playoffs (perfect on the road and strong at home), but the Kings’ power play was horrible in the regular season and post season.
The Kings had chances to take over this series and beat the Sharks, but didn’t seize their opportunities to succeed. A lot of that is surely due to the mostly young team. They got more playoff experience this year and hopefully that and a reorganization of their power play will help them in 2012. Not capitalizing on the five minute power play is just one time the LA team passed on chances to survive this round of the playoffs. Not scoring on that power play definitely cost the Kings the game, but if they’d scored on many other chances or taken shots on many of their other opportunities, it may not have come down to an overtime situation. Drew Doughty explained that “No one in here wanted to lose today, obviously, and we fully believe we could have won it, that’s why we’re so disappointed.” That’s certainly the most frustrating thing for the Kings’ fans, too. They see the potential of the Kings and wish the team could get to the point where they reach it. Even without Kopitar in the lineup, the Kings matched up well against the Sharks. Maybe that’s a sign that they can really build on what they learned this year and make it farther in the 2012 playoffs. Time will tell… For now, the only California team moving to the next round is the northern California team – the San Jose Sharks.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, fans, Hockey, Kings, NHL, penalty kill, playoffs, potential, power play, sellout, Sharks, special teams, Staples Center
The Kings are now 9-2 in the shootout (and their #1 goalie, Jonathan Quick is 9-0) and 24-0-1 when leading after the 2nd period. They also scored two power play goals tonight (both by team captain, Dustin Brown), though their power play had been struggling lately. They’ve moved back into 5th place in the western conference and have 2 games in hand on the 4th place Coyotes, three points ahead of the Kings. The Kings also have back to back wins at home after playing horribly in their first game back after sweeping the recent four game road trip. Willie Mitchell scored a nice goal. Jarret Stoll scored his 7th straight shootout goal. All of this is very good news for the LA Kings fans.
The bad news is that the Kings gave up two leads against the Sharks (one with only 4.1 seconds to go), ended their penalty kill streak at 35, and lose the first tie breaker (wins not counting shootout wins) with everyone. The Kings are also only four points ahead of the 9th place Dallas Stars and being out of the playoffs. As much as the fans and players want to enjoy the playoffs at Staples Center again this year, only one team in the western conference has a guaranteed spot – the Vancouver Canucks have clinched the head of their division and are currently leading the NHL and the race for the President’s Trophy.
In spite of scoring both the Kings’ power play goals and the winning goal in the shootout, Captain Dustin Brown was clearly concerned about the team blowing two leads at the end of regulation tonight, saying it was “definitely not the way we want to do it… blowing two leads really with less than three minutes left or four minutes left.” It may not be the way a team would want to win, but at least the Kings are winning. The game against the Sharks was an exciting one. Both teams even fought hard to try to win in overtime and had decent chances. The sold out crowd at Staples Center definitely found going out in the rain (something southern Californians seem to try to avoid at all costs) and the money spent worth it tonight. I may not be a fan of the shootout (and I can’t see my opinion of it ever changing), but the shootout ending with Dustin Brown scoring the deciding goal was definitely an exciting end to a very intense game in Los Angeles.
The playoff race is definitely going to remain intense until the end of the season. All NHL teams have nine games or less left in the regular season and only ten percent of the teams have secured their playoff spots. No teams are listed as mathematically eliminated on the NHL site yet, but Edmonton and Colorado have been mathematically eliminated in the west. If they won all of their games and no one above them won a single game remaining this season (which is impossible given the schedules and all the teams ahead of them that play each other), the Avalanche finish higher than 11th in the west. (For the record, no one has been mathematically eliminated in the eastern conference.)
Tags: Avalanche, blown lead, Canucks, Coyotes, Dustin Brown, Hockey, Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, Oilers, penalty kill, playoffs, power play, sellout, Sharks, shootout, standings, Staples Center, Stars, tie breaker, Willie Mitchell
Tonight’s shutout of the Bruins in LA was Jonathan Quick’s 5th of the season. It was also the first time he won two games in a row since the Kings’ four game streak at the end of last month (Quick won the first two and last of the four). Their special teams have also been struggling. Until scoring against the best goalie (in save percentage and goals against average), Tim Thomas, on the power play tonight, the Kings had a 0-22 streak on the power play. Perhaps their special teams have finally started to click again. Ryan Smyth (who scored the power play goal about half-way through the first period, which ended up being the game winning goal due to Quick’s shutout) mentioned that the Kings had “capitalized on special teams tonight, which we’ve been lacking as of late.” Not only did the Kings score on the first of their three power play opportunities, but they were perfect on the penalty kill. Smyth also said he thinks the Kings have been creeping up to the level of play they’re at now in their last few games. The main question is whether the Kings will be able to sustain their high level of play and confidence. They competed for a full sixty minutes tonight, which is something I hadn’t seen from them yet this calendar year. Though they beat the Coyotes in Phoenix on Saturday, the Kings gave up a three goal lead to scare their fans first.
Boston has been a consistently good team, but the Kings have won their last five games against them. Most Kings fans are probably wondering why their team has to play down to the worse teams if they’re capable of beating the best goalie in the NHL. While it’s true that any team in the NHL has the capability of beating any other team on a given night, Kings fans have seen their team barely show up for games against some of the worst teams in the league this season, which is very frustrating. Some of the worst teams in the league try harder than the Kings do consistently and aren’t capable of beating many of the teams they face. I think that’s easier to take than watching such a talented team choose not to compete at a high level sometimes. Maybe beating Thomas will help the Kings regain their confidence and continue to climb back up the standings. In spite of being in 11th place as of tonight’s win, the Kings are only 3 points behind the 8th place Colorado Avalanche. The western conference is very tight, so the Kings are really only one decent winning streak away from being back in the playoff picture.
The Bruins don’t play in SoCal often, which explains why tonight’s sellout crowd was closer to the announced 18,118 than I’d seen it in quite a while. There’s more energy in Staples Center when it’s pretty full, which definitely helps the Kings face an opponent. I’m sure they realize that if they win more there will be more fans in Staples Center, which will make it easier for them to win… It’s definitely a better cycle than the one where losing makes fewer fans show up, which makes it more difficult to play a full 60 minutes and win games.
Tags: Avalanche, Bruins, Coyotes, fans, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, penalty kill, playoffs, power play, Ryan Smyth, special teams, standings, Staples Center, Tim Thomas
I’m sure many Kings fans are wondering why they drove through LA traffic to get to Staples Center tonight. Though the announced sellout attendance (18,118) is definitely a stretch and was not all at Staples Center tonight, a lot of fans dealt with LA traffic to watch their team get shut out at home by the Coyotes tonight. I, personally, hadn’t been able to attend a Kings game in 2011 yet, since I was in Pittsburgh for the Winter Classic and then sick. I’m still fighting my cold, but thought I was healthy enough to head to LA tonight. Looking back on that decision, it’s too bad I bothered to drive from Orange County to LA tonight.
I know the Kings and their fans are upset about the call on the first Phoenix goal tonight on the power play. Was the puck above the cross bar when it got hit? Possibly. Did the puck hit Greene’s glove? I’d say definitely not. Could either of those been determined 100% from Toronto (or anywhere else) given the angles one has to review a goal? Sadly, probably not. The angles FSN had didn’t tell us the answer – even when I re-watched them in HD when I got home. Had the goal been called no goal on the ice, they wouldn’t have been able to overturn that, either. I know Dean Lombardi has already spoken out about the call in Toronto and I understand his frustration. However, referees make mistakes on the ice all the time. This situation is one reason I really think there needs to be some sort of device in a puck that can tell you where it is at any given time, including when it’s hit or covered by a goalie’s glove and hidden from view inside the net. In a regular season game like tonight’s in LA, a bad call isn’t a big issue. However, in the playoffs calls can really make a difference in a series and it would be nice to see the NHL address this issue. Puck calls are critical in close games and something needs to be done to ensure the proper ruling can be made.
Everyone can debate whether the 2nd Coyotes goal would have been scored without the potentially bad call on the 1st questionable goal all season. However, the hard fact is that the Kings needed to respond by stepping up their game, not coughing the puck up to allow an unassisted goal against them less than a minute after the call they clearly don’t think is fair. In the end, you can’t win without scoring a goal and the Kings had many power play opportunities they couldn’t convert. One goal against your team shouldn’t be the end of the world – especially less than halfway through a 60 minute game. Most fans know that when a team is winning, all the bounces seem to go their way. When they’re not, the bounces (and the calls) all seem to go against your team. Right now, that’s something the Kings fans are seeing the bad side of again. Sadly, they’ve seen the down side of that a lot the last few years.
Frustration is something all Kings and their fans know very well right now and tonight was definitely no exception. When I talked to Kopitar about the upcoming extended road trip (the Grammy’s are coming to LA, as always at this time of the year), he said looking back to last year it’s satisfying to know that they were able to pull off some wins on the road then and that this year, “There’s no other way, we’re gonna have to do it. If we want to get into a good playoff mix, we’re gonna have to do it on the road.” He went on to say the Kings “definitely have the character, the personnel, the talent” to do it and that they’ll break through eventually. Their fans are certainly hoping it’s soon, since the Kings are running out of time to turn things around this season and everyone knows it. They need to break out of this cycle now.
A side note about the standings and points for overtime losses… The Coyotes have lost 9 games in overtime or shootout situations this season. Until tonight’s game in LA, the Coyotes had actually lost one more game than they’d won (they’d won only 23 games and lost 24). Until they beat the Kings tonight, the Kings had more wins (24) than the Coyotes this season, yet the Coyotes were ranked 6th going into tonight’s game, while the Kings were sitting back in 12th. I’ve never agreed for giving points to a losing team. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with baseball as my main sport and there’s no such thing as getting a point for losing a baseball game – even if it goes to 22 innings. I don’t think one should get rewarded for losing and the difference in the standings between Phoenix and LA illustrate that perfectly.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Coyotes, Dean Lombardi, fans, frustration, FSN, HD, high stick, Hockey, Kings, Matt Greene, NHL, penalty kill, power play, referees, sellout, Staples Center
Before I get into the Penguins game tonight, I have to mention that the Penguins really did an amazing job when they built the CONSOL Energy Center. I enjoyed it as a fan when I was there for the first two games in October (in spite of the outcome) and can’t say enough about what they did with the press box. Though I know it’s a new arena, even Anaheim doesn’t have as many staff members who seem willing to show you the way and make sure you know where you’re going (and the Honda Center employees are BEYOND friendly, for those of you who haven’t been). They seem to have thought of everything – even a shelf behind the seats for your laptop case, camera equipment, whatever… One thing I hadn’t noticed the first couple times I visited CONSOL is that they have about double the recycling cans as they do trash cans, which I think is really great. I was surprised to see more recycling than trash, but it’s great, since most of the stuff one has there is recyclable.
As everyone knows, Sidney Crosby has been on fire. Tonight, he extended his point streak to 25 games and his goal streak to 5 games. He’s leading the NHL in points by over ten and is in the goal lead, too. He’s even near the top of the +/- stats. Between his performance and Fleury’s bounce-back to above average in save percentage and goals against average, it’s no wonder the Pens are number one in the NHL at the moment. (They have played more games than many other teams in the NHL, but they’re clearly in a good position regardless of that fact.)
The Thrashers managed to score against the Penguins’ #1 penalty kill, though the Pens got a shorthanded goal later in the game. The Penguins’ fairly low (22) power play scored against the Thrashers. The Penguins and Thrashers didn’t have a major fight tonight, but other than that there’s not much tonight’s game in Pittsburgh was lacking. Penguins fans were happily cheering as they left the CONSOL Energy Center for their cars or the local bars.
Getting to watch Crosby in person really is a treat that most living in southern California get to have too rarely. Seeing the greatest players live is never something we should take for granted. The current NHL schedule has teams in the NHL playing every team at least once, but only some teams from the other conference at home and away each season. It’s a shame, since Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar of the LA Kings (who passed the puck OVER an opponent last night to set up Dustin Brown’s goal), and other super stars in the NHL aren’t seen often in cities of the other conference’s teams. We should all get to see these players every year – even if it means we have to watch our teams get roughed up a bit by some of the best in the league.
Since the weather was nothing like the forecast said it would be on Christmas Day in Pittsburgh, I’m still assuming that New Year’s Day will work out wonderfully for the Winter Classic. I remember that there were concerns last year for Boston’s Winter Classic and that went well in the end. I’m hoping all this worrying and preparation will be in vain, since the game will work well on New Year’s Day. Preparing for the worst can’t hurt, but I’m certainly hoping for the best. I’d hate for so many people to either have to miss the Winter Classic or spend a lot of money changing flights around, rearranging travel and hotel plans, etc. Especially when they still wouldn’t be positive the game would be played on the 2nd. I think even if there’s a delay the NHL has to somehow have the game on the 1st if it doesn’t rain non-stop. Moving the game by more than a few hours could be really bad for the league’s goal of trying to increase viewers and have one game every year outside on New Year’s Day. Of course, I personally believe that the Winter Classic could be the only NHL game played on New Year’s Day, but no one asked my opinion when they planned the schedule. Delaying the game could also have bad effects for where the game will be aired, since we know that NBC doesn’t have the NHL as a priority (we’ve seen that in the past with playoff hockey going into overtime and NBC airing pre-race information on horse racing instead of the end of the game). It’s also clear that many people in the US still don’t get Versus and if they do, many of them don’t know where they can find it or that they have it. It’s certainly a lot less likely that someone flipping by the channel will randomly stop on an outdoor NHL game, like friends I know who don’t watch hockey have in the past. *fingers crossed* that it works out for a 1pm game with decent weather for all the fans Saturday…
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar, CONSOL Energy Center, Hockey, Marc-Andre Fleury, NBC, New Year's Day, NHL, overtime, penalty kill, Penguins, playoffs, power play, Sidney Crosby, Thrashers, Versus, Winter Classic
The Kings definitely don’t feel lucky right now, but given the circumstances of tonight’s game, I think they’re lucky to get a point for the overtime loss to the Wild. Quick (who could have easily been given credit for assisting the two regulation goals by the Minnesota Wild) made a couple bad mistakes that cost the Kings easy goals. The referees made a lot of bad calls (the first goal the Kings scored being disallowed, interference being called later when the player was no where near the goalie, high sticking calls missed, etc.) tonight in LA. They made bad calls both ways, but it seemed the key bad calls went against the home team. Add that to the play by Quick, which would have caused many people to pull him from the game (or at least seriously consider it) and the Kings’ horrible power play and the Kings fans should be relieved that their team got something out of the last home game their team plays until December 23rd.
On the bright side, the Kings got seven out of eight possible points so far in December. The down side is that the Kings head on a road trip starting in Detroit on Monday now. They’re hoping to bounce back from this overtime loss, be glad that they got a point, and move on to playing hard against Detroit.
Though Terry Murray admitted that the Kings’ power play and penalty killing didn’t do the job for his team tonight, he was fast to point out “those are not fluke plays… those are giveaways. That’s a puck on your stick, that’s concentration, that’s making the right play – the right decision with the puck” when asked about the regulation goals against Quick tonight. In spite of this, Murray answered with a very quick “No” when asked if he thought of pulling Quick. Clearly, he made a good decision there, since Quick buckled down after that and didn’t allow another goal until the Wild had a 4 on 3 power play in overtime.
This is the Kings’ first overtime loss this season. They won one game in overtime (against Detroit at home earlier this month) and three in shootouts (all on the road). Now that the Kings have lost in overtime, only one team remains who hasn’t lost once they get past regulation – the Florida Panthers.
It’s early to think of standings, but the Kings are still in good shape there, in spite of being how it looks at first glance (with the Kings in 10th). Though the Kings are 2 spots out of the playoff standings, They’re only one point behind the Coyotes, Predators, Avalanche, Sharks, & Ducks in 5-9 places and have 2-5 games in hand on those teams. Just one win in those extra games puts the Kings right in the playoff mix. The Pacific division is only separated by 3 points and has teams in 2, 5, 8, 9, & 10 right now. It’s clearly going to be a hard fought division title this season.
In other news, most Kings fans know about the deal the Kings made for Marco Sturm earlier today. Dean Lombardi was very clear about the deal being dependent on the physical, which is typical. In this case, Sturm’s physical on Monday will definitely focus on his knees a bit more than usual. The Kings have been burned before with injured players, though they seem to be doing something right in that area the last few years (*knock on wood*). Will Sturm be the piece the Kings are missing? Time will tell. Lombardi pointed out that the deal for Sturm leaves him room to possibly make a deal before the trade deadline if he thinks that’s necessary. It’s clear that he’ll be doing his best to make sure the Kings get far in the playoffs this season. Getting kicked out in the first round after six games is not going to be acceptable this season.
Tags: bad calls, Dean Lombardi, goaltender interference, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Marco Sturm, NHL, overtime, Panthers, penalties, penalty kill, power play, referees, Terry Murray, Wild
Clearly, the Los Angeles Kings couldn’t win all 41 home games this season. Kings fans know they have been spoiled in Staples Center so far this year, but I’m sure none of them were ready for that streak to end against the Columbus Blue Jackets (10th place in the west before today’s games). The Kings were bound to lose at home sooner or later, but the Kings hadn’t lost two games in a row yet this season either and didn’t look good in San Jose or against the Blue Jackets.
The fact that the Kings’ penalty kill is still perfect at home or that Justin Williams extended his career high point streak to 11 games is little consolation to the Kings team getting ready to head on the road for four games before Thanksgiving (including back to back games this Friday and Saturday in Buffalo and Boston).
Though he repeatedly said he couldn’t speak for the other guys on the team, Greene said “I can only speak for myself personally. I think it’s just mental lapses right now. I mean, I’ve been on the ice for five goals against in the last two games – that’s not a good stat if you want to win hockey games.” Clearly, the Kings are no happier than their fans that their home winning streak ended, though Anze Kopitar pointed out that obviously “It’s not a good feeling when you lose – doesn’t matter if it’s on the road or at home.” He also mentioned that they have to get back to their winning ways, which all Kings fans are looking forward to as their team heads to Buffalo to face the Sabres on Friday.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, back-to-back games, Blue Jackets, Hockey, Justin Williams, Kings, Matt Greene, NHL, penalty kill, point streak, Sabres, Staples Center, winning streak
It may be early and Terry Murray may not pay attention to the standings much, but the fans know that their Los Angeles Kings are #1 in the west and #2 in the NHL after their league leading 8th home win in a row to start the season. The Kings are also tied with the Ducks for the longest current NHL winning streak with six games. Their penalty kill is still perfect at home (and their overall pk is also #1 in the NHL). Their top line had points in 4 of their 5 goals including a goal on the first shot of the game and one on a beautiful penalty shot by Dustin Brown. As Kopi said, “it’s nice to see him get one of the nicer goals.” Brown said, “I had a plan at center and I switched about the blue line.” He mentioned that he has three moves that he does and two come off that move to the right. He said he just “pulled a Kopi and slid it five hole.” The penalty shot might not be as rare as it was in the past, but those goals are still special for the players and their fans.
Justin Williams tied his career high point streak of 9 games with his goal against the Islanders. Jonathan Quick has consistently been one of the leading goaltenders in the league (and had a save percentage of almost 95% tonight). The Kings even scored on the power play (not the Kings’ strong suit this season) against the Islanders. What more could LA Kings fans ask of their team? It really doesn’t get much better than this as a fan. It’s good to be the Kings and their fans this season.
A couple years ago, the Kings would have started slow against the last place team in the NHL. They didn’t do that against the last place New York Islanders. Instead, the Kings came out strong and extended the Islanders’ league leading losing streak to ten games.
Southern California is not the place to visit if you’re on any other team in the NHL this season. The SoCal home teams have lost only 2 games this season and gone without a point in a game only once.
Possibly one of the best signs for Kings fans is that it’s getting better all the time. The last few games, the Kings’ top line seems to have clicked. Kopi has 7 points in the last three games, Brown has 5, & Parse has 3. Kopitar scored his 300th career NHL point with his second goal of the game against the Islanders (and the 301st with his assist in the last Kings goal). When asked about what changed for his line, Kopitar said he thought they’d been making good plays without getting any results, “but now we get a few bounces here and there and we score a couple goals and then the confidence gets high and everything seems a lot easier.” That’s really how things have been going for the Kings all season. Many players have talked about how everything seems to go your way when you’re winning. When things are going well for your team, all the bounces seem to go your way. The Kings are continuing to work hard in every game and not phoning it in – ever. The team clearly enjoys being on the top of the standings and having other teams have to come into Staples Center to play up to the Kings’ level of play and not the other way around. Teams coming to LA know they’re going to have a tough time and play harder as a result.
This year’s Kings remind me a lot of the Penguins of 2008, though they have a better record. They were knocked out of the playoffs (many of the players’ first in their NHL career) early last season and they’re clearly determined to do better this season. Before the season started, I said I thought the Kings would be in the conference finals and perhaps even the Stanley Cup Finals. The more I see of this team, the more I believe they’ve got the right mindset and skill set to go deep into the playoffs.
The Kings travel to San Jose to face the Sharks Monday night. That’s always a tough building and the team knows they have to take their A game with them to San Jose. Clearly, the team hopes to continue their winning streak there.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Hockey, Islanders, Jonathan Quick, Justin Williams, Kings, losing streak, NHL, penalty kill, penalty shot, playoffs, power play, Scott Parse, Sharks, Stanley Cup Finals, Staples Center, Terry Murray, winning streak
The Los Angeles Kings are now the only team in the NHL who hasn’t lost a game at home. They’re also the only team with a perfect record on the penalty kill at home. In spite of not playing a game since last Saturday’s win over the Nashville Predators and seeming a bit out of sorts during the first period, the Kings kept their perfect record at home in a very physical game against the Dallas Stars.
Tonight’s game in LA had 91 penalty minutes in 24 penalties almost evenly divided between the Stars (49) and Kings (42). Team captain Dustin Brown said they’re getting “no team that’s coming in here not expecting to have a hard game” and that they’re not going to catch anyone by surprise this year.
When asked about their successful penalty kill (perfect at home and close to it, 92%, overall), Brown said, “I think pk’s really not about x’s and o’s, it’s about an attitude and we kind of have that attitude on the pk… it’s an attitude out there and that’s really what pk’s all about.” The Kings’ new attitude seems to be working, since the only power play goals scored in Staples Center this season have been by the Kings, who managed to score two tonight in spite of their struggling power play. Coach Murray said the two goals the Kings scored on the power play were “good for a lot of reasons.” He said it’s “good for our confidence” and talked about the traffic in front of the net for Justin Williams’ and Jack Johnson’s goals. Traffic in front of the net is something the Kings have struggled to keep up. It may have backfired a little tonight when they had a goal disallowed because of Williams falling into the crease, but it’s definitely something the Kings need in order to score against the top goaltenders in the league.
The Kings are the number one team in the west, in spite of playing fewer games than some of the other teams in the conference. They’re also second in the NHL to the Washington Capitals, who have played two more games than the Kings. The New York Islanders, who extended their league leading losing streak to 9 games tonight in the shootout tonight in San Jose, will be Staples Center to face the Kings Saturday night as the Kings try to extend their home winning streak to eight games and their current winning streak to six games.
Tags: Capitals, Dustin Brown, Hockey, Jack Johnson, Justin Williams, Kings, NHL, penalty kill, penalty minutes, power play, Predators, Stars, Terry Murray
I was 100% right for the winners of the last round, but was drastically off for the number of games it would take each team. I thought the Blackhawks (who swept the Sharks) would need 6 games to eliminate the Sharks. I thought the Flyers/Habs series would go to 7 after the road the Flyers and Canadiens had taken to get to that point, but the Flyers (who shut out the Canadiens in 3/5 of their games) figured out how to effectively shut down the Habs and eliminated them in 5 games.
In spite of the fact that the Flyers were ranked 7th in the east and tied in points to the Canadiens as the team with the lowest points to make it to the playoffs and the Blackhawks were only third in the NHL (2nd in the west), I think this year’s Finals will be very interesting. It was hard for me to pick a team to win this one. Though I’m picking the Blackhawks, a lot of this series might depend on which team ends up having the hottest goalie and Michael Leighton of the Flyers, ranked 1st in playoff goaltending save percentage among goalies that have played more than one game and having the most shutouts of the playoffs (3, all in the last round against the Canadiens) is definitely the hottest goalie coming into the Finals. I think the Blackhawks’ scoring will make enough of a difference to neutralize the Flyers’ momentum coming into the Finals.
My prediction is… Blackhawks in 6. The Flyers may have the hottest goalie, but Antti Niemi is still doing very well in goal. The Blackhawks also have the number one scorer in the playoffs (by points and by points per game) and two in the top 10 in points per game. The Flyers’ top scorer is 11th in points per game. The Flyers have the top penalty takers remaining in the competition and with a 22.6% success rate, the Blackhawks have the best power play left (ranked 5th out of the 16 teams in the playoffs). The Flyers (87%) and Blackhawks (86.6%) both have great penalty kills (ranked 2nd & 3rd overall in the playoffs) and defenses, so the Finals this year should be very intense.
The Flyers haven’t been to the Finals since they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 (the first year of Detroit’s last back-to-back Stanley Cup wins). The Blackhawks lost to the Penguins in 1992 (in their second year of their only back-to-back Stanley Cup wins).
No matter which team wins this year’s Finals, it will be a team that hasn’t won the Cup in quite a while. It will also definitely go to a team who lost the last five times they were in the Finals. Philadelphia last won the Stanley Cup in 1975 – they won back-to-back Cups in 74 & 75. Chicago, who last won the Cup in 1961 is actually the team in the NHL with the longest period without winning the Cup. It’s been almost 40 years and I think it’s time. The Blackhawks and Flyers have each been in the Finals five times since their last wins 49 & 35 years ago.
Both teams have a lot of drive and both have good stories about not having won the Stanley Cup in a long time. Versus and NBC must be thrilled. This year’s Finals includes two teams that have been around for a long time. The Blackhawks are one of the original six teams of the NHL and the Flyers are part of the next six. Both teams have fans all over the country, so this year’s Finals should do well in the United States.
Tags: Antti Niemi, Blackhawks, Canadiens, Flyers, Hockey, Michael Leighton, NBC, NHL, original six, penalties, penalty kill, Penguins, power play, Red Wings, Sharks, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Finals, Versus