jonathanquickstartinggoalies

Kings cap off successful road trip with victory over rival Ducks

Things were not going well for the Los Angeles Kings a month ago. Coming off a 2-6 season-long homestand, they were staring a franchise-long 10 game road trip in the face. The road trip couldn’t have come at a worse time as they struggled at the beginning of the calendar year and were engaged in the tight Western Conference playoff race. Expectations were huge at the beginning of the season, yet this was a team trapped in 12th place in the race for the playoffs.

But just before the road trip, the team started showing signs that they were going to bounce back. A three-game winning streak, including wins against Boston and San Jose, gave fans a sense that the team would be able to compete. But it didn’t change the fact that the Kings were heading out on the road for almost a full month and had a poor road record.

Fast forward to tonight and things are looking much better for the Kings. With their win against the Ducks in Anaheim, LA wrapped up their North American trek with a 6-1-3 record. Taking it a bit further, the Kings have earned points in 12 of their last 13 games. In a tight race where every point counts, this stretch couldn’t have come at a better time for the Kings.

Just about every single game was a closely contested battle on the road trip. Three of the losses came in extra time (one loss in OT, two in shootouts), and two of their wins were in the shootout. Take away the five games that went to extra time, and the Kings had two additional 1-goal wins. Razor thin margins any way you cut it. The only game where the Kings were dominated was in Long Island last weekend as they were shutout 3-0. Who would have thought the only loss in regulation would have been to the Islanders?

Some of the pessimists will tell you the Kings are a flawed team that needs to score more. Over the road trip, they only averaged 2.1 goals per game. There’s no question that rate won’t translate to a successful record over time. But for a team built on defense, the more important number would be the 1.8 goals they’re allowing per game. Yes, they need to get a sniper for their top 6; but any time a team can hold their opponents to under 2 goals per game for an extended period of time, they’re going to continue to win.

Earning 15 out of a possible 20 points is easily the most important stat for the Kings after the road trip. Teams always want to dominate, but they’ve been winning the tight checking, low scoring games that we can expect in the playoffs. From that point of view, the road trip showed they could be a team to be reckoned with in April and May.

Unfortunately, there’s no rest for the weary in Southern California as the Kings face the Minnesota Wild on Thursday in another huge game with playoff implications. The teams are tied with 70 points and are currently holding the 5th and 6th places in the West. You’d think they’d deserve a little rest after such a long trip—but the rest will have to wait.

Scroll Down For:

    McKenzie on the trade deadline: Shattenkirk, Bishop still could go

    ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 18: Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues and Martin Hanzal #11 of the Phoenix Coyotes fight for control of a loose puck during the second period at the Scottrade Center on April 18, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    NHL insider Bob McKenzie beamed in some great trade deadline insight from Toronto (technology!) to NBCSN on Wednesday, so let’s take a look at what he had to say.

    Amusingly enough, you can separate his takes into one tasty, McDonald’s-sponsored video (the more exciting stuff about possible trades) and a set of updates that throws some cold water on our imaginations.

    Bobby Mac’s Big 3

    Heh.

    Anyway, in the video above, the fun stuff.

    Kevin Shattenkirk: McKenzie reports that the St. Louis Blues are “more likely than less likely” to move the sought-after defenseman. The reasoning is that GM Doug Armstrong seemingly believes that this season’s group isn’t as good as last year’s, so why not get value for Shattenkirk?

    (Now, there’s the argument that the West is inferior this season … but let’s move on.)

    Ben Bishop: The Tampa Bay Lightning are heating up, lending some credence to the idea of holding onto their big goalie. McKenzie believes that the Bolts are still leaning toward moving Bishop, however.

    Martin Hanzal: To little surprise, the Arizona Coyotes are “eager” to trade the hulking pivot. It should be intriguing to see what he might draw.

    Fun killing section

    OK, now the less fun side.

    Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog: The Colorado Avalanche aren’t necessarily closing down shop on their biggest names, but McKenzie believes that they’re more likely to get the right trade offer during the off-season instead of the deadline.

    Marc-Andre Fleury: The Pittsburgh Penguins’ preference is to hold onto “The Flower” and let the expansion draft chips fall where they may.

    Others, like Anaheim Ducks defensemen including Cam Fowler: If the team is going to clear up the logjam on the blueline, it might be for someone down the chain … maybe. This situation is cloudier, as McKenzie notes that GM Bob Murray is playing it close to the vest.

    ***

    It’s important to note that McKenzie isn’t speaking in absolutes here. Things can change, even in a week.

    Still, if you’re daydreaming about moves, maybe focus those thoughts more on Shattenkirk, Bishop and Hanzal than speedy Duchene.

    (Granted, they’re your daydreams …)

    Boudreau knows he can only do so much to avoid slump after bye week

    ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the game against Winnipeg Jets on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The remarkably slump-proof Minnesota Wild will have their season-long stability challenged next week.

    That’s when the Western Conference leaders come back from their bye, the five-day gap on every team’s schedule gained by the NHL Players Association as a concession for the new All-Star Game format.

    The league’s current cumulative post-bye record is a woeful 4-12-4 with 10 teams, including the Wild, yet to test their ability to avoid coming back rusty. Coaches and managers around the NHL have not hidden their disdain for the debut of the scheduling quirk amid the grind of an 82-game season where momentum is an intangible benefit.

    Wild coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t sound worried, even after losing Tuesday to the Chicago Blackhawks, the lead chaser in the race for the top seed in the playoffs.

    “I told them to, quite frankly, get some rest and enjoy this break but want to get home to play hockey,” Boudreau said. “For 4+ months now, you guys have done a tremendous job, and we’ve got something special going on, potentially. So it’s great to get away for a couple days, but the desire to play has got to be there. Not like, `Uh, I want to stay on vacation. I want to stay here.’ You’ve got to want to come back and play, and if we do that then I think we’ll be fine.”

    For the players on this team, the best in Wild history, letting body and mind melt away at a tropical beach with a significant postseason run in plain sight is a rather unfathomable scenario.

    “What kind of message can you really give `em?” Boudreau said. “I mean, they’re 39-14.”

    Including the six overtime or shootout losses, the Wild have 84 points to rank one behind the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals. They’ve played one fewer game than the Blackhawks and lead their playoffs nemesis by five points. The Wild need 21 points in their last 23 games to beat the 2006-07 franchise record.

    Boudreau inherited a team that qualified for the postseason in each of the last four years but endured wild swings in its quality of play during the five seasons in which Mike Yeo was the head coach. This time, the Wild are 14-3-2 following a loss, either regulation or extra time, to stop those long losing streaks in their tracks.

    “I think that’s due to our depth and our understanding of how we need to play and being able to get big plays from everybody,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said recently. “We believe we can win every game. We feel we should win every game. And so when we lose one, we get back to what we’ve been doing.”

    The next challenge comes Monday when the Los Angeles Kings visit Xcel Energy Center. Perhaps losing to the Blackhawks will prove to be good timing, particularly given the way the Wild overcame a sluggish second period to finish strong and nearly rally to tie the game before an empty-netter gave Jonathan Toews and Chicago a 5-3 victory.

    “We wanted to go into the break with a good feeling, so that one is going to hurt a little bit,” right wing Mikael Granlund said. “We know we have to make sure we recharge our batteries and come back stronger.”

    WATCH LIVE: Capitals at Flyers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals checks Brandon Manning #23 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    The latest edition of “Wednesday Night Rivalry” on NBCSN features the Washington Capitals visiting the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Both teams have been stumbling a bit here and there. The Flyers only have three wins since Jan. 31, though one of them came in their last game on Sunday. The Capitals lost both games since returning from their bye week.

    The cost of struggles are easier for Washington to stomach, naturally. They’d rather make their Metropolitan Division lead insurmountable, but even so, they’re at least three points ahead of everyone else and have played the same or fewer games as their divisional peers.

    The Flyers, on the other hand, are fighting for their playoff lives. Right now they’re on the outside looking in.

    So both teams want this one, but the desperation level is higher for Philly. We’ll see how that impacts the game on NBCSN tonight. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

    Click here for the livestream.

    Pre-game reading: NHLers sound off on poor ice conditions

    4 Comments

    — Up top, Danny Briere recalls that famous line brawl between the Flyers and Penguins in the 2012 playoffs. The two Pennsylvania rivals meet again Saturday, outdoors at Heinz Field.

    — It has not been a good year for NHL ice, and a number of players are starting to get fed up. For example, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who said, “It’s been awful. I don’t know what it is. Even in our building this year. I thought it was really good [when we came] back for World Cup and right after that for the first little bit. But the last little bit, it’s been so bad. The puck’s all over the place.” Guess we know how he’ll be filling out his survey. (ESPN)

    — The days leading up to the trade deadline can be pretty stressful for players who may get moved. And if they do get moved, the days after can be pretty tough, too. “I saw my daughters four days out of three months when I went to Pittsburgh,” said Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak, who’s been dealt three straight years at the deadline. “When I was traded to Winnipeg, I didn’t see my daughters for the two months or more I was there because of the schedule.” (The News & Observer)

    — On the 2017 NHL draft, which may not have the star power of the last two drafts, but will still have some pretty good players available. Especially centers. (USA Today)

    — San Jose’s Brent Burns is trying to become only the second defenseman in NHL history to win a scoring title. With 64 points, Burns is only three points back of Connor McDavid for the league lead, with Sidney Crosby in the mix as well. Bobby Orr won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the last time in 1974-75 when he piled up 135 points in 80 games for the Boston Bruins.  (Canadian Press)

    — Another Shark, Joe Thornton, is just two assists from 1,000 in the NHL. Only 12 players have accomplished that, with Wayne Gretzky’s 1,963 helpers leading the way. Joe Sakic’s 1,016 are the closest to Thornton’s 998. (The Mercury News)

    Enjoy the games!