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.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.

Gibson (lower-body injury) will play again this regular season, says Carlyle

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The Anaheim Ducks have been without goalie John Gibson for almost two full weeks because of injury, but head coach Randy Carlyle provided reason for optimism on Thursday.

Per reports, Gibson took part in practice and Carlyle has said that his No. 1 netminder will play again during the regular season. Anaheim has nine games remaining on its schedule.

That’s good news for Anaheim heading into the post-season.

While Gibson has been out, Jonathan Bernier has stepped beyond his back-up role and provided solid goaltending for the Ducks during the stretch drive — which should also be a bonus for this club with the playoffs quickly approaching.

Bernier has wins in six of his last seven starts. In nine games this month, he has only twice allowed three goals or more.

The Ducks have fought their way back into contention for the Pacific Division with a recent surge that has coincided with San Jose’s current skid — only four wins in their last 10 games and four straight losses.

Related: Career back on track, Bernier hopes he can re-sign in Anaheim

Report: IIHF needs NHL’s Olympic decision by end of April

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The Winter Olympics are less than a year away and time is ticking on the NHL to make a decision — one way or another.

From TSN.ca:

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

For those hoping NHL players will compete in South Korea next year, the situation right now appears bleak, given the recent comments of commissioner Gary Bettman, who told Reuters that “…people should assume we are not going.”

Bettman has also argued the compressed schedule that accompanies the league’s participation in the Olympics is bad for the NHL.

Read more: Fehr: Players won’t negotiate with NHL over Olympics

Meanwhile, a number of players — Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Jakub Voracek and rising star Connor McDavid among them — have publicly lobbied for the opportunity to once again compete in the Olympics, adding that having the world’s best players there is a benefit to growing the game.

(In McDavid’s case, he has never played in the Olympics, but given his stature as arguably the league’s best player right now in only his second season, he’d be a shoe-in to make Team Canada if healthy.)

Voracek recently sounded off the matter, essentially calling the league’s position, “Absolutely ridiculous.”

Goalie nods: Vezina candidates clash as Bobrovsky faces Holtby

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Sergei Bobrovsky leads the NHL in GAA, at 2.04. Braden Holtby sits second, at 2.05.

Bobrovsky leads the NHL in wins, with 39. Holtby sits second, with 37.

Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts, with eight. Bobrovsky sits third, with six.

Perhaps you see where this is going.

Tonight, the two will square off in a much-anticipated game, as the Jackets travel to Washington to take on the Caps.

“It’s a great opponent,” Bobrovsky said, per NHL.com. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s one of the best teams in the League, so we’ll see. We’ll see who’s going to be better.”

Holtby is the reigning Vezina winner, while Bobrovsky captured the trophy three years prior. Both have already been unofficially shortlisted for this season’s award — along with Devan Dubnyk and, perhaps, Cam Talbot — but tonight’s game is about much, much more than goaltending.

The Caps head into the tilt two points up on Columbus for first spot in the NHL (and just one up on Pittsburgh). Columbus has made it clear it would love to capture the first Preisdents’ Trophy in franchise history, and a victory tonight would be a big step towards it. The Jackets, Penguins and Capitals all have 10 games left in their respective seasons, and Columbus will have one more shot at each this year.

Elsewhere…

— The Bolts begin a back-to-back set tonight, and will start Peter Budaj against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask will likely be in for the B’s, after allowing three goals on just 22 shots in a loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.

Keith Kinkaid, who’s seen more playing time that usual down the stretch, will get another start when the Devils take on the Leafs in New Jersey. Curtis McElhinney goes for the Leafs, after Frederik Andersen beat Columbus last night.

— It’s Matt Murray versus Mike Condon as the Penguins take on the Sens.

Eddie Lack, who’s played very well since being verbally lambasted by head coach Bill Peters, looks to start when the ‘Canes take on the Habs in Montreal. Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens.

— After Reto Berra’s first start in over a year on Tuesday, the Panthers will go back to James Reimer against Arizona. The visiting Coyotes will start Mike Smith.

Ryan Miller goes up against his old Blues teammates as the Canucks visit St. Louis. Jake Allen, who continues to be one of the better comeback stories this season, looks for his seventh win in his last eight starts.

Chad Johnson gives Brian Elliott a night off as Calgary takes on Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going back to Pekka Rinne, after he earned his third straight win over the Coyotes on Monday.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Devan Dubnyk as Philly travels to Minnesota.

Corey Crawford will look to bounce back after allowing four goals on 10 shots (and getting hooked) against Vancouver on Tuesday. The visiting Stars look like they’ll go with Kari Lehtonen.

— Some thought Cam Talbot, the NHL’s leader in starts, would get a rest tonight in Colorado after getting hooked against Anaheim last night. Nope. Talbot’s back in, going up against Jeremy Smith for the Avs.

— In the late game, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck gets back in goal after Michael Hutchinson scored a rare win on Tuesday. He’ll be in against Ben Bishop, who looks to keep the Kings’ faint playoff hopes alive.