Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Rich Hammond of the Los Angeles Register,
How does a strength become a weakness, seemingly in a matter of days? That’s the riddle the Kings are trying to solve in this first-round series against San Jose, and they’re running out of time.
The Kings, who allowed the fewest number of goals in the NHL in the regular season, have given up 17 in this series, and face a 3-0 deficit going into Thursday night’s Game 4 at Staples Center.
“Anything is possible,” Kings center Mike Richards said Wednesday. “If you’re still playing hockey, you still have a chance. You just can’t look at the mountain and expect to do it all at once. … You can’t win four unless you win one.”
Can the Kings slow the Sharks? Consider that the Kings haven’t allowed more than 17 goals in any three-game span since early in the 2007-08 season, when they allowed 18. The Kings also allowed 17 goals in Games 4-6 of the 2010 first round against Vancouver and lost all three games and the series.
What’s the problem? Well, it’s more of a flood than a leaky faucet. Goalie Jonathan Quick has been OK, but not great. The defense has been flat-footed at times. The forwards have turned the puck over excessively.
LA Kings mascot takes down the Sharks mascot...
Bailey may be facing a fine/suspension!
from Helene Elliott of the LA Times,
This team has stayed largely intact for five or six years, led by a core that has grown up together and lifted the Stanley Cup together but now must consider the possibility it will be broken up in order to fix the weaknesses that led to this stunning playoff deficit.
General Manager Dean Lombardi carefully lifted this team out of the rubble of failure and away from the negative influences of a losing culture, nurturing a group he assembled by emphasizing scouting and deliberate player development. He was rewarded with a team that formed a strong bond and exhibited good, self-policing chemistry.
Key players Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty and Voynov were the product of drafting and development. So were role players Trevor Lewis, Dwight King, and, more recently, Jake Muzzin. Using draft picks and new assets, Lombardi traded for Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Later, he added Robyn Regehr. Willie Mitchell was a smart free-agent signing.
But while it's great that they get along and sacrifice for each other, their struggles against the Sharks suggest this mix needs some stirring and new ingredients.
from Rich Hammond of the Los Angeles Register,
Are the Kings finished, or merely setting up a blockbuster Hollywood sequel?
Losing consecutive playoff games by an aggregate score of 13-5 doesn’t lend itself to many positives, but there is one for the Kings: They were in this exact same hole 12 months ago, then leapt out of it.
Last year, the Kings returned from St. Louis down 2-0 in their first-round series, then won four consecutive games and advanced. Now, after two shockingly poor efforts, the Kings trail San Jose 2-0 in this first-round series, and face a veritable do-or-die Game 3 on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
“We’ll play better (in Game 3),” Coach Darryl Sutter said Monday afternoon, after fewer than half the Kings skated. “It’s not like there was a death in the family or something.”
from Katie Baker of Grantland,
Joe Louis Arena has its long history, TD Garden has its swagger, and the Bell Centre has that certain je ne sais quoi. But if I were compiling a list of favorite places to go to watch a hockey game, the Shark Tank in San Jose would be very close to the top. (Notice I call it the Shark Tank, and not the “SAP Center” — I’m still bitter that the place is no longer named after a personal computer introduced in 1995, which was just so perfectly Silicon Valley.)
The sport of hockey has long embraced the absurd — from the gap-toothed smiles to the playoff beards to the logic around letting players punch each other in the face — and few arenas gather all that kooky energy together better than the one in San Jose. Before you even enter the Shark Tank, you can sense it; there are few things funnier than watching a group of middle-aged men clad fully in aggressive shades of teal — a Hertl, a Ricci, and an Ozolinsh! — hopping off the commuter train and striding purposefully toward the arena like they’re about to pitch a VC firm. Actually, I lied: What’s funnier is watching them, later in the game, do “the chomp” with their arms while ominous Jaws music plays and an opposing player gets sent to the penalty box. Also, I forgot to mention that the players skate out of a giant shark head, complete with lit-up red eyes, at the start of every game. What’s not to love?
Of course, it helps that the on-ice product has been one of the NHL’s best over the past decade. The Sharks haven’t missed the playoffs since 2003, which gives them the NHL’s second-longest active postseason streak, after Detroit.
from Lisa Dillman of the LA Times,
"It obviously stinks sitting here talking after another lopsided loss, but they did what they set out to do," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "Now it is response time. Now we’re coming back to our rink. We won the first two in our arena last year and they came back and won the next two in theirs. We’re looking to repeat that but we have to start with one.
"Every playoff series run through the playoffs is different and has a different feel. We need to get back. We have one day in between to get ourselves together, regroup, refresh and put this one behind us and take a step in the right direction and have some push back."
The Sharks set a playoff record for most goals at home, and another for consecutive goals in a playoff game.
Those are the dry facts, which can't quite capture how dramatically the game turned and how the Sharks got the Kings to unravel in such rapid fashion, starting with their gritty fourth line as Mike Brown and Raffi Torres scored their first two goals.
I don't know what is more surprising, the great play of the Sharks or the poor play of the Kings.
It is no secret that 10 p.m. EST starts for games are the bane of the the east coast hockey fans existence - especially if their team is the one scheduled to play that late on the left coast.
Last night may have been a night to stay up to watch the battle of California though as the San Jose Sharks erupted with seven goals, putting 40 shots on goal, against the Kings.
You sort of get the feeling Sutter did not want to be at this post-game press conference.
The Sharks had a 5-0 lead after 2 peiods, Quick was pulled to start the 3rd period and then the Kings scored 3 goals to make it a game but did lose 6-3.
from Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News,
"I'm ready to name him," McLellan reiterated Monday. "I'm just not going to name him."
Niemi -- the Sharks' No. 1 goalie since he arrived in San Jose before the 2010-2011 season -- struggled down the stretch with three losses in five starts before Saturday, when he rebounded to make 30 saves to help lead the Sharks to a 3-2 win at Phoenix. Niemi has started all 34 playoff games since joining the Sharks, going 16-17.
Stalock has had an impressive season in spot duty, going 12-5-2 with a 1.87 goals against average. On Friday, he made 32 saves in the Sharks' 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Regarding the amount of consideration that went into the decision on who will start in net, McLellan said it's "the same amount that has gone into every other game that we've played in the playoffs and the regular season for the last six full seasons. That's the debate we have. We're a close staff. We include everybody, and we make decisions that we think are the best."
via Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea,
Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl could return to the Sharks’ lineup soon.
The 20-year-old forward is expected to be ready in time for the Sharks’ first playoff game next week against the Los Angeles Kings, according to a source, and pending medical approval.
Hertl, who has been skating with the team since Feb. 26, may even try to play in one of the Sharks’ final two regular season games, should be he cleared in time. The Sharks host Colorado on Friday and visit Phoenix on Saturday to conclude the 82-game slate.
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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