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Quick Hits – May 31

May 31, 2012 2 comments

 

In other news around the league…

 

  • Career Red Wing defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired today at the age of 42. Lidstrom played 20 seasons, helped the Wings win four Stanley Cups and was a seven time winner of the Norris Trophy. Lidstrom is the current record holder for consecutive games played on one team with 1564 games. A four time Olympian, Lidstrom, who hails from Sweden, scored the Gold Medal winning goal for his country’s team in the 2006 games. In his career, he had 264 goals, 1142 points and a plus/minus rating of +450.

 

  • The Phoenix Coyotes (read:cry-babies) will not be disciplined for their post-game shenanigans after they lost in OT to the Kings in the Western Conference Finals. NHL executive VP Colin Campbell made the announcement prior to last nights Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals. Campbell laid out to the press what he said to each of the offending parties on the Coyotes roster and essentially said that, beyond a stern talking to, no discipline would be levied.

So, let’s review as I’m sure this won’t be the first or last time this happens in a playoff series ending game: Shane Doan and Keith Yandle go off, positively bonkers in their postgame commentary invoking conspiracy theories, calling out league ownership of the Coyotes, comparing the referees color scheme to the Kings colors and relating this to why the Kings won and they lost…no discipline. Mike Smith throws his stick to the ice in the direction of a ref…no discipline. Martin Hanzal skating aggresively and threateningly to and getting in the face of a ref to yell and scream (I’m quite certain dinner plans weren’t being discussed)…no discipline.

When this happens again, be it this season or next, we’ll see how the league responds.

 

  • The Calgary Flames have hired Bob Hartley as their new head coach after not renewing the contract of Brent Sutter at the end of this season. The former Colorado and Atlanta coach is 329-226-61 in the regular season and 49-35 in the post season, winning one Stanley Cup while he was with the Avs in 2000-01 season. Harley has not coached in the NHL since being fired by the Thrashers six games into the 2007-08 season.

 

 

Blowback

May 25, 2012 2 comments

As I’ve been telling my oldest daughter, all of 4 going on 14 years old, tantrums and talking back will get you absolutely nowhere in life. The NHL is looking to reinforce the same with the Phoenix Coyotes based on the following report from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com:

The NHL is further investigating the postgame actions and comments of some Phoenix Coyotes players after their season-ending, overtime loss in the Western Conference finals, league executive vice president Colin Campbell told ESPN.com on Thursday.

The league is not pleased with some of what happened after Dustin Penner‘s overtime winner Tuesday night for the Kings, including Coyotes center Martin Hanzal skating aggressively toward a referee and making a gesture, goalie Mike Smith throwing his stick and Keith Yandle‘s postgame comment in which he suggested it was no surprise the calls didn’t go his team’s way given the similar colors of the refs’ and Kings’ uniforms.

“Their actions were unprofessional and unacceptable,” Campbell told ESPN.com.

The Coyotes were upset and emotional after their season ended just moments after Kings winger Dustin Brown crushed Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival with a controversial, borderline hit. There was no penalty on the play.

The league may decide to do nothing, but also could fine some players $2,500 apiece, the maximum under the collective bargaining agreement.

I guess the Coyotes didn’t get the message about losing gracefully. Showing up your opponents and referee’s post game are similar to a petulant, say, 4 year old not getting their way. Of course, any actions that come from this will only fortify the Coyotes position near the top of the NHL’s most Whiningest teams for the year (See the back and forth between the NY Rangers and…well, just about any opponent they’ve faced in the playoffs this year).  As it is, the Coyotes get to deal with the embarassing report that came out the other day that “Dr. Doan” is a better hockey player than sports medicine physician and that his doomsday ‘prognosis’ about teammate Michal Rozsival’s’blown out knee’ was reclassified by Real Doctors as a bruise.

Grow up, learn to lose gracefully, and maybe you boys can do battle with the Kings next year in the playoffs. That is, if Rozsivals’ blown out knee is feeling better by then…

One, Two, Three Seeds, You’re Done!

May 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Apologies are due once again. Technical difficulties prevented me from posting this yesterday.

 

The L.A. Kings will await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Rangers and Devils after a hard fought Game Five victory Tuesday night in Phoenix. The Kings earned their first Stanley Cup Finals bid in 19 years in a thrilling game that ended 17:42 into OT on a Dustin Penner goal that squeezed between Coyotes Goalie Mike Smiths pads. The Kings maintained their road perfection and closed out the Western Conference Finals series 4-1

The Kings began the game looking almost as lethargic as they did at home Sunday in Game 4 where they were thoroughly worked over by a desperate Coyotes team. The first half of the 1st period of Game 5 was a carbon copy with the Coyotes fast skating, hard checking forecheck in full effect. As the game progressed, the Kings found their rhythm and their own forecheck which had featured prominently in Games 1 through 3. The Coyotes and Kings traded hits, shots and goals that culminated in a tense 3-3 tie to end regulation.

Overtime became a back and forth, north/south affair as each side traded time of possession and shot efforts to no avail. At around the midpoint of the overtime period, I noted to my wife that it looked like two things were going on: One, both sides were getting tired as the tempo of the game began to slow appreciably. Two, the up the ice, down the ice action reminded me of watching 4 and 5 year olds playing “beehive” soccer – This is the kind of soccer where 20 kids (goalies included) are all swarming around the ball as it goes up and down the pitch and there’s no real structure to the match.

As the overtime period wound down and emotions started to rev up, the tempo started to pick up again and really went next level on a play that I’ll just call “The Hit”. With 2:30 left to play in OT, the Coyotes were attempting to move the puck into the Kings zone when a quick offside whistle was blown. A fraction of a second after the whistle, Kings Captain Dustin Brown collided with Michal Rozsival, sending Rozsival spinning down to the ice awkwardly, where he remained for a few minutes until assisted off the ice by Coyotes staff. Jobing.com arena showered Brown with their distaste for the shot and the officiating crew who did not call a penalty on the play.

After viewing replays for the three or four minutes Rozsival was down, both at regular speed and slow-mo (not to mention the 400 times it was replayed during the post game show), any claims of a designed knee to knee contact appear to be unwarranted in my opinion as Brown hit Rozsival with his entire body. As to the late hit controversy, Brown was already at full speed and was maybe a few feet from contact when the whistle blew. “The Hit” will be and already has been discussed as nauseum since it occurred. As far as I’m concerned, if the league deems it reviewable and punishable, then so be it. It doesn’t help the Phoenix fans ego also that less than 15 seconds after play resumed that the Kings won.

As of this writing at 8:30am PDT on Thursday, no word from the league office on whether “The Hit” will make an impact suspension-wise for the Kings Captain but this writer feels there’s nothing to review or penalize.

Last Team Standing

May 22, 2012 2 comments

This past weekend and last night were a bust for L.A. sports team fans in the throes of Playoff Fever. The Clippers were swept out of the second round of the NBA Playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs (Shocker!), the Lakers all but got swept, losing in 5 to take an early exit from the Playoffs courtesy of a wildly talented Oklahoma City Thunder team who, a few short years ago were the lackluster and floundering Seattle Supersonics.

And then, there was one. The L.A. Kings, who also stumbled Sunday on their path to the Stanley Cup Finals finally saw the Phoenix Coyotes team that the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks both got acquainted with before taking their skates and going home early in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  We knew they were gritty, we knew they were good, we knew Mike Smith was a surprising goalie having a breakout year. Apparently it took having their collective backs against a wall to play all out hockey. Phoenix fans could breathe a sigh of relief and their team gets another shot at drawing closer to evening the series tonight.

The task is daunting in the face of a Kings team that hasn’t lost on the road in the playoffs since their Vancouver series in the 2010-11 campaign. Ask Coach Tippett or any of the other Coyotes and they’ll probably tell you they’re not focused on that and that they’re just trying to win one game at a time until they get to their first ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Kings Defenseman Willie Mitchell was interviewed on ESPN Radio yesterday during the afternoon drive and echoed the sentiment of the locker room that they regretted that they couldn’t close out the series at home and “pop the roof off of Staples [Center].” One way or the other, the Kings are on a mission and will probably wear their loss at home on their sleeves, as a chip on the shoulder and pound the Coyotes into submission as they did in the first three games of the series. They looked flat Sunday and I can almost assure you that Coach Darryl Sutter won’t let that happen again for a second game.

See Also:

http://laforumdemontreal.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/stanley-fit-for-a-king/

http://kingshockeyforwomen.com/2012/05/22/game-preview-kings-vs-coyotes-game-5-errors-corrected/

Any Given Sunday – L.A. Kings Edition

May 18, 2012 1 comment

 

It’s almost hard to believe that the Los Angeles Kings are one game away from their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 19 years. Game 4 is Sunday, and, as in football, no one can predict what can happen on any given Sunday but the belief of any Kings fan polled on the street right now would be that the Kings will probably complete an improbable back to back sweep to gain their place in the Big Show. To put the 19 year gap in perspective, let’s travel back to the summer of 1993 when Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille led the Los Angeles Kings to their first ever Conference Title.

Read more…

Halfway There – Road Warriors Edition

May 15, 2012 Leave a comment

 

  Drew Doughty #8 Of The Los Angeles Kings (2nd From R) Celebrates Getty Images

And what else is there to say, really? Still perfect on the road in the playoffs and tying the playoff road record with 9 straight dating back to last season and 7 of those this year. The Kings have been getting contributions from the usual suspects and some unexpected production as well. 2 goals from Dwight King in Game One, a Hat Trick (first for the Kings in the Playoffs since The Great One in ’93) from Jeff Carter, with two in the power play (and another goal from Dwight King) in Game Two, and a shutout performance from Quick in Game Two as well.

 

Every line; offense, defense and special teams were at their playoff best for the Kings.Yes, the Kings power play has finally caught fire and at just the right time. I’ve heard it thrown about in talk radio, NHL Network and a few unexpected outlets (EPSN Sportscenter?!? Now you care about hockey???!???) that the Kings are a team of destiny. Destiny is for gladhanded journalists. This writer recognizes the hard work these guys have put in, especially under new coach  Darryl Sutter.

 

It will be intersting to see what Brendan Shanahan and the league do, if anything, with the Coyotes Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal. Doan was bounced from the game near the end of the Second for Boarding Trevor Lewis who ended up coming away from that dustup with a bloodied nose bridge. Hanzal, same thing after he boarded King captain Dustin Brown midway through the Third. Brown was down for a few moments but appeared later in the game.  Even Coyotes goalie Mike Smith got into the mix, slashing Dustin Brown in the back of his leg. Somehow the zebras sent Brown to the penalty box for what they called diving after he took the hit.

 

The Coyotes started this game better than Game One but couldn’t maintain the intensity. It seemed that once the Kings scored their second goal early in the second, all bets were off and the Coyotes shifted to desperation mode. It was a bizarre transformation to watch in what had been, to that point, a very intense game that could have gone either way. Again, as in Game One, the Kings outshot the Coyotesand kept shot attempts by the Desert Dogs to a respectable minimum, barraging Mike Smith with 40 shots to the 24 that Quick had to deflect.

 

Clearly, the Coyotes lost their composure in this game and that will only help the Kings as they head home for Game Three on Thursday. Stay Tuned!

One Down, Three To Go?

May 14, 2012 Leave a comment

 

The Kings celebrate their victory over the Coyotes in Game One of the Western Conference Finals.

Until the end of the Western Conference Game One, the matchup between the Kings and Coyotes in Phoenix was as tightly played as most of us suspected. Unyielding defenses, opportunistic offenses and lockdown Penalty Kill units were on display for both teams. Save for a couple of uncharacteristic lapses in judgement on behalf of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, the order of the night was wide open action, heavy doses of hits and a full on assault by all Kings lines resulting in a 4-2 win by the Kings who continue to stun the Hockey world in the playoffs.

 

Dominating from the drop of the puck to open the game, the Kings looked for all intents and purposes to be in Blitz mode, firing shots from everywhere, harassing Coyotes goalie Mike Smith and outshooting the Coyotes 48-27 by the end of the game. Led by young winger Dwight King’s 2 goals, the Kings traded goals until the third period where it became all Kings, all the time. If the Kings were trying to dispel the notion that (deservedly is justified looking at their regular season numbers) they’re a defend first, shoot later squad, the Coyotes got a taste of a team that seemed to have entered the playoffs by a whisker and turned a corner, flipped a switch or whatever analogy you’d like to insert here. Who can argue when you look at a team that has done what no other #8 seed has ever done in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by upending both a #1 and #2 seed. Not to mention, these guys have turned into literal Road Warriors, not dropping a single road game in the playoffs to this point.

 

The Coyotes Derek Morris seemingly took advantage of Quick 13 minutes into the 1st period firing a shot from near center ice that snuck past his right pad to tie the game. To be fair, Quick hadn’t faced a lot of shots to that point in the first as the Coyotes spent the majority of their time in their own zone or center ice, getting a total of 4 shots on goal to the Kings 17. In the second period, the Coyotes took advantage of Quick being out of position when he tried to play a puck beside the net, got mired in traffic that was charging down the ice to play said puck and got beat by a smart play from Shane Doan getting the puck out from behind the net to a waiting and wide open Mikkel Boedker who buried the puck while Quick was still trying to get in position.

 

The two teams faced each other 6 times in the regular season and split the difference at 3 wins and losses a piece, and half of the games were decided in Overtime. Familiarity with each other? You bet, and it showed during the game as well as it didn’t take long for things to start getting chippy with scrums breaking out early and often throughout the evening. This writer thinks this is a sign of things to come as an exciting rivalry explodes in the deserts of Arizona and the streets of Los Angeles. Game Two is Tuesday night!