Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Devils centers vs. Kings’ dynamic depth down the middle: The Kings have won the center battle throughout the playoffs against Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix, and it’s a big reason for their success. Kopitar and Richards are a dynamic 1-2 punch down the middle but don’t forget the veteran Stoll, who has provided clutch two-way hockey as the team’s No. 3 center. The Devils will counter with a group of lesser-known pivots but let’s not underestimate the work done by Travis Zajac this spring. He lost most of the regular season to injury but his seven goals are one off the playoff lead. He will center the Devils’ top line and could see a lot of Richards as a result. Adam Henrique, the overtime hero in Game 6 of the conference finals, might be the key to this matchup. A Calder Trophy nominee as rookie of the year, he played the last part of the conference finals with Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias, and DeBoer said the only time he has seen Henrique nervous was playing cards with Kovalchuk. And then there’s Josefson, whose return to the lineup in Game 4 of the conference finals coincided with a Devils revival. Speaking of centers, the Devils rank last of all 16 postseason teams in faceoff percentage.
read on as LeBrun and Burnside break down the series and make their predictions…
from John Horn of the LA Times,
Sheri Patko plans to visit her father’s grave in Costa Mesa and thank him for introducing her to the sport. Charles Kinninger aims to fly with his family from Guadalajara to Los Angeles to witness history. And Blake Kidder might get a tattoo memorializing the unprecedented event.
Los Angeles Kings fans have endured 45 seasons without ever winning a championship. While that futility can’t match the drought baseball’s Chicago Cubs have experienced, hockey supporters finally believe that the Kings’ turn has arrived. The prospects of a first-ever Stanley Cup now have the team’s longest-suffering fans struggling to come to terms with how redemptive, if not still incomprehensible, a championship could be.
Like North Korean rocket scientists who keep trying despite years of failed launches, wary Kings fans hope for success but fear that the object of their affection will go down in flames. In a city where the Lakers and the Dodgers are expected to triumph and often have, the Kings at best have shown occasional flashes of mediocrity. But hard-core fans remain hopelessly loyal.
“It feels like you’re in a dream, that you’re waiting to wake up, that somebody is playing a trick on you,” said Kidder, 34, who works in advertising and recently relocated to Boston from Los Angeles. She became a Kings fan when she was 12.
from Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun,
Congratulations, everybody! We have the worst Stanley Cup final in more than 20 years!
That’s only technically speaking, of course, as New Jersey and Los Angeles should be solid entertainment.
But when the Devils beat the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime on Friday night to set up a date with the Kings, it meant the ninth and 13th overall teams from the regular season will battle it out for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug.
New Jersey was ninth overall and the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Kings were 13th overall and eighth in the Western Conference. Their regular-season placings total 22. The only higher sum was in 1991, when the No. 7 Pittsburgh Penguins beat the No. 16 Minnesota North Stars.
In fact, not since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1980 has the better seed among the finalists been as low as No. 9 overall.
continue for some playoff notes…
Don Cherry discussed the Rangers’ defensive play, the Drew Doughty OT incident and Shane Doan.
“I was excited to come to the Kings because it put me in the thick of a playoff race. This is what every guy in the NHL plays for – to play in the playoffs and have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Coming to Los Angeles definitely gave me a big boost.”
“It was a long year for me in Columbus, but when you find out you are coming to a team like the Kings, it’s exciting. The games all felt like playoff games with the situation that we were in. When you are playing for a shot at the playoffs, in every game you are battling for your life and they are all must-win games.”
-Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings. Read more on Carter and the Kings from Doug Ward at the Kings’ website.
from Lisa Dillman of the LA Times,
Mitchell will be playing in his first Stanley Cup Final, which will open Wednesday with the Kings playing either the New York Rangers or the New Jersey Devils. If it’s the Devils, it will be a homecoming of sorts for Mitchell, because that team originally drafted him with its 12th choice (199th overall) in 1993. Nine years ago, in his second full NHL season with Minnesota, Mitchell advanced as far as the Western Conference finals, but the Wild was swept by the Ducks.
So when Kings teammate Dustin Penner scored the series-clinching goal in overtime in Game 5 against the Phoenix Coyotes, Mitchell said the feeling was “surreal.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said Thursday in El Segundo. “I was fortunate to be out on the ice when Big Pens scored. Some guys were jumping. I was just sitting there. I was like, ‘Is this happening?’ So I feel fortunate to get this chance and get the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup for real.”
Remember Willie, no parade planning until the final horn sounds…
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
So you were probably wondering, where was Wayne Gretzky during all this? After all, the NHL’s Western Conference final could have easily been played for the Wayne Gretzky trophy instead of the Clarence Campbell Bowl. It featured the Los Angeles Kings, the team Gretzky led to the 1993 Stanley Cup final and essentially put on the map, playing against the Phoenix Coyotes, the team he was associated with for close to a decade, first as the team’s managing partner and eventually as its head coach.
What was Gretzky thinking? Who was he cheering for? Did he take any satisfaction from seeing some of the young players that joined the Coyotes organization under his watch - the Martin Hanzals, the Mikkel Boedkers - show some glimmers of their potential?
Instead, Gretzky chose to stay silent, watching from afar, not taking sides, especially as the Coyotes’ ownership saga continues to percolate on, with no definitive end in sight.
But on the morning after the Kings dispatched the Coyotes in five games, Gretzky surfaced to talk about horse racing, about hockey in southern California and about the possibility of witnessing yet another series where his loyalties could be divided.
Would you have assessed 2 for unsportsmanlike conduct to Drew Doughty? The call was 2 for interference and don’t forget it was in OT.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
... Controversy aside, the reality is that the best team clearly won the series. There’s no denying that. And while you have to admire the incredible tenacity the Coyotes showed right to the end, playing a superb game Tuesday night in trying to stay alive, the deeper and more talented squad is representing the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup finals.
One could hear the hooting and hollering outside the Kings’ room before the media was allowed to enter. This was a special moment for a young team that barely made the playoffs. Now they’re playing the best hockey in the NHL.
“It’s crazy,” said Kings star blueliner Drew Doughty, who was Olympic-great Tuesday night. “I still don’t know what to say about it. We’re so happy about it. We’re in the Stanley Cup finals. That’s what we’ve dreamt of our whole lives.”
When presented with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Brown refused to touch it as many captains also do out of superstition. Wrong trophy.
“It’s called the Stanley Cup playoffs for a reason,” Brown said.
If you don’t mind a bunch of screaming and yelling, watch Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick discuss the Dustin Brown hit on Michal Rozsival.
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.
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