Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun,
Maybe they're tired. Maybe their best players are whipped from the Olympics and the compressed schedule and too much hockey in too short a period.
Maybe they haven't got the bounces, while everything the other guys look at goes in the net.
Maybe they didn't think it was going to be this hard.
Or maybe the Los Angeles Kings are just the better team.
That last possibility is the one the Chicago Blackhawks won't be admitting until the final nail is in the proverbial coffin, which could happen as soon as Wednesday evening in the friendly confines of the Madhouse on Madison.
But it could be true. Because none of the other maybes add up.
Bounces? Not over a whole series.
"The thing that separates the Blackhawks from most teams in this league is the offensive difference-makers. You go back to the series against St. Louis, you go back to the series against the Minnesota Wild. We saw periods in those series, in those rounds that we saw in Game 2 (of Western Conference Final) in period three, we saw in period three in Game 3 in L.A. We saw those type of periods where the Blackhawks really struggled and had a tough time. The difference is the offensive difference-makers on L.A. They're a good team."
"Sometimes you've got to acknowledge and tip your helmet. These guys are big, they've got guys that can score. ... That to me is the difference in this series to this point is that when the Hawks have struggled, the Kings have capitalized, and there's something to that. They've been to the conference final three years in a row. There's something for that."
-Eddie Olczyk, TV color analyst for the Blackhawks and NBC Sports Group. More at CSNChicago.
Just over a minute long...
from Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times,
We know the Hawks are capable of coming back, but right now you have to wonder how they would do it. Maybe it will take Crawford to do the old stand-on-his-head routine.
‘‘It wasn’t easy last year,’’ said winger Patrick Kane, who hasn’t scored a goal in the series. ‘‘This one’s not going to be easy.’’
The Kings are fast, tough and skilled. So are the Hawks.
A lot of folks think they’re the two best teams in hockey. Between them, they have won three of the last four Stanley Cups. If the survivor of this series wins the Cup this season, you could say that team is a budding dynasty.
It was thought no franchise could remain dominant in the salary-cap era. The good players would ask for too much money and leave. Some teams would overspend on a star or two and be hamstrung for years.
But it hasn’t happened with the Hawks and Kings. General managers Stan Bowman and Dean Lombardi have plans, and they’ve stuck to them without bankrupting themselves.
The only thing to wonder about, after the blueprint, is desire. Injuries can derail anything, of course. But what we’ve got now are two healthy teams, so what’s up with the Hawks?
from Barry Rozner of the Chicago Daily-Herald,
There was the compact schedule after the lockout last year. The ferocious pace of the playoffs. The deep run. The Cup victory. The shortest summer of all time. The fast camp. Another compact schedule because of the Olympics. The Olympic tournament. The busy schedule to the finish. And now three more rounds of playoffs.
The amount of emotional energy necessary to continue this run is even tougher than the physical part, which is obviously brutal, and if the Hawks' tank is finally on empty, no one could blame them.
Asked if his team was tired, Joel Quenneville said Monday, "No, not at all. I think something like that we would feel it. You would see it. I'm not giving in to that one."
It's the right answer. A coach can never offer his team an excuse, but Quenneville is no fool. He knows his team is on fumes, and since the 18-minute mark of Period 2 in Game 2 the Hawks have been outscored 15-5, with the number of mental mistakes increasing with each passing game.
Can they muster one more comeback? They did play a strong third period Monday, but it might not be up to the Hawks.
They have played with fire the last two years, continually getting into dangerous spots, and they may have finally run into the team that burns them.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
“We are trying to win one game, whether we are up 3-1, down 3-1, 2-2, no matter what the series is, that doesn’t change what we are trying to do the next game,” said Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick, who outplayed his Blackhawks’ counterpart, Corey Crawford once again.
Ultimately, it was goaltending plus a decisive edge in the special teams’ game that won it for the Kings – along with a healthy dose of Drew Doughty. Doughty has a chance to clinch two important awards in these playoffs, one official, one not. His presence at both ends of the ice, so good defensively, so important offensively, makes Doughty the current Conn Smythe favorite as the most valuable player in the West.
Moreover, with his bold talk between games and his willingness to embrace the spotlight have also made Doughty the series MVT – most valuable talker. On the morning of the game, for example, when everyone else was tap dancing around what may or may not happen, Doughty boldly called Game 4 a “must win” for the Kings, on the grounds that if they lost, “it puts them right back in the series and gives them a bit of momentum. If we win, we’re going back to Chicago up 3-1 and that’s the place we want to be. If we want to win this series, I think we have to win this game.”
Call it a prophecy fulfilled or a mission accomplished.
The game starts just after 9:00pm ET and can be seen on NBCSN, TSN (their last national broadcast for the next 12 years) and RDS.
The Chicago Blackhawks, down 2-1 in the series need a win tonight more than the Los Angeles Kings do.
Expect the Blackhawks to find their game tonight an come away with the win.
Enjoy and feel free to comment too.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
It's a well-worn storyline but when one team gets rolling like the Kings are, the eyes are naturally drawn to the players who aren't performing on the other side of the equation. Patrick Kane has one goal and one assist in his past eight games. His play in the series reminds us a bit of the last part of the Olympic tournament, when the skilled winger was just a bit off. He had a great chance early in the second period in the slot of Game 3 and then had another chance off the rebound but couldn't find the back of the net. "I don't think I've played up to par for myself the first three games of the series. It would be nice to turn that around and play good in Game 4," Kane said Sunday....
The Blackhawks went 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 3 and are now a desultory 1-for-21 on the road in the playoffs. We might not know much about math, but we do know those stats stink and tell us the Blackhawks are the worst team in the playoffs on the road with the man advantage. And it's quite possibly the single element that is most critical for the Blackhawks to fix if they are going to even this series Monday. They have scored the first goal in all three games and have forced the Kings onto their heels early on, including forcing the Kings into minor penalties early in the game. ...
A year ago, when the Blackhawks dispatched the Kings in five games in the Western Conference finals, it was clear the Kings were not the Kings of 2012. They were banged up and worn down. Are we seeing a mirror image with the Blackhawks, who played a ton of hockey in winning the Cup last year during a lockout-shortened season that went to June 24? Throw in the compressed schedule of this past season and the fact that 10 Blackhawks played in Sochi at the Olympics, and is it not possible that this team is simply fatigued and that, conversely, the Kings are in a better spot than a year ago, even though they had to endure two seven-game series to get here?...
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
“I don’t think I’ve played up to par for myself the first three games of the series,” said Kane, following Blackhawks practice Sunday. “It would be nice to turn that around and play good in Game 4 – take it as a new game, wipe the slate clean, come out with a good attitude Monday and see what happens.”
According to Kings defenceman Drew Doughty, the game plan against Kane and Sharp thus far has worked to perfection.
“You want to frustrate them, give them no room and play them physically,” Doughty said. “We know that Kane likes to pick up the puck, kind of be fancy, have a lot of room and gain speed that way. So we’re just trying to limit the ice for him – and play him hard. It’s the same with Sharp. Even though they haven’t done much lately, we know they’re going to have their best game in Game 4. We got to be prepared for that.”
You have to think all the hockey the Blackhawks have played over the past two seasons – a deep run into June last year, when they won the Stanley Cup, followed by an early start to this season, followed by their Olympic participation, followed by another run to the third round – may be taking a collective physical toll on them.
from Mike Brophy of CBC,
Look out Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter is nipping at your heels.
With his fourth goal in two games (fifth in three), Carter has helped the Los Angeles Kings erase an early 1-0 deficit and take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference final.
Entering the series Kopitar was running away with the playoff scoring lead, but he has been mostly silent against the Chicago Blackhawks. He has one assist in three games and has been otherwise invisible.
Carter, on the other hand, has been electric. He had an assist in Game 1; three goals and four points in Game 2 and Saturday continued to rock with a goal and two assists. That leaves him with eight goals and 19 points in 17 games; one point behind Kopitar.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at email@example.com