San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Three

Can the Kings rebound from their epic collapse?

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It probably isn’t a stretch to say that the Los Angeles Kings are the most haunted team in any sport right now. With all apologies to Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks, the Vancouver Canucks and any other losing team from Tuesday, no other team is losing more sleep than the Kings. For an in-depth recap of the biggest playoff comeback in 26 years, click here.

Obviously, the question is: can the Kings rebound from this stunning loss? To look at it in the most literal way, I checked to see how the three other teams who lost a playoff game after building at least a four goal lead fared in their series.

  • The Chicago Blackhawks recovered and beat the Minnesota North Stars 4-2 in their 1985 series.
  • The Edmonton Oilers lost that 5-0 game to the Los Angeles in OT and the Kings won that 1982 series 3-2.
  • The 1971  Montreal Canadiens came back to beat the Boston Bruins 7-5 and won that 1971 series 4-3. The Canadiens went on to win the Cup that year, while the Bruins used that tough loss as motivation to win the Cup in 1972.

While I will provide my own take, I asked Chris Kontos from the great Kings blog The Royal Half to answer the same questions. (Here’s his recap, too.)

Possible scapegoats and how they will react.

Honestly, I can’t really blame Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. Much like Ilya Bryzgalov against Detroit, Quick’s team hung him out to dry. To be honest, both Kontos and I think that Quick is the kind of goalie who can bounce back. (I mean, if the guy keeps rolling after allowing a half-ice goal, he isn’t easily shaken.)

Beyond blaming the entire team defense, though, someone will be labeled a goat by Kings fans. Kontos shares his choice: recently acquired winger Dustin Penner.

Even though he had an assist, Penner will be remembered for his half-hearted backcheck on Devin Setoguchi’s game winning goal. People only remember the last goal scored in a game like this, so Penner will be seen as a goat for some time.

How the young Kings will react and where they can find hope.

While Ryan Smyth, Willie Mitchell, Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll are playoff-tested, most of the Kings’ core young players played their first postseason series last season.

Jack Johnson can be a feast or famine guy for the Kings,  but Drew Doughty is a guy who needs to be a steady force. He’s been his all-world self again for much of this series, but will he bounce back like Danny Boyle did after his infamous own-goal? Kontos thinks Doughty will be fine.

I don’t think the comparison is similar to Boyle’s. Doughty didn’t fail by trying to do too much in this game tonight… he failed by doing too little. He put it into neutral after the four-goal lead and the rest of the defense followed his lead.

Trouble for coach Terry Murray?

For whatever reason, Murray strikes me as a “transitional” coach: a guy who excels at making a bad, young team into a playoff squad but cannot get over the hump. If the Kings fail in this series, I wonder if Murray might get fired. Would the outcome be different with a time out or lineup change?

Kontos provided his insight on Murray.

With Anze Kopitar being out and Justin Williams at 80 percent, I think that Coach Murray has done as well as he could. I don’t think any fault rests on him yet… but after the way Penner played Tuesday, if Coach Murray doesn’t scratch him in favor of Oscar Moller, Kings fans will want his head.

***

Many people will question the heart of this Kings team, but I think Los Angeles still have a chance to win the series. As cliched as this statement may be, they just need to treat this like any other game and win three of their next four.

Flames’ Jokipakka (hip) might not play for Finns at World Cup

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Jyrki Jokipakka #3 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.

“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”

Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.

Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).

So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.

Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.

‘Yep,’ Letang will play tonight

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.

Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.

He was asked if he was playing.

“Yep.”

So, no problems?

“Nope.”

And that was that.

No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.

“Very confident,” said Sullivan.

Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.

Former NHLer Bulis calls it a career

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23:  Center Jan Bulis #38 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the Washington Capitals on December 23, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Capitals won 4-2.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.

Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.

Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).

 

 

Report: Semin will stay in KHL for 2016-17

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 11:  Alexander Semin #13 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on October 11, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.

Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.

At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.

After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.

He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.