What went wrong: Los Angeles Kings

Last night the Kings went down in six game and while the end result wasn’t too shocking, the series was a lot closer than scanning the scores would indicate. Getting beaten badly in just one game while hanging in there or folding up the tents in historical fashion in the others the Kings proved they were a more than formidable opponent. Still, things didn’t go their way. So what went wrong? Let us count the ways.

1. Overtime failure
While it could be a sign of pride and proof that the Kings gave the Sharks all they could handle, the cold hard facts were that when the game went to overtime, L.A. was going to lose. Three times in this series the game went to overtime and three times the Kings lost. After being outshot in virtually every game and forcing Jon Quick to have to stand on his head, playing with fire like that will get you burned.

Sadly enough for Kings fans, this wasn’t the first time they’ve lost three overtimes in a playoff series. The last time it happened? 1993 during the Stanley Cup final against Montreal. Ouch.

2. Faceoff problems
Not winning faceoffs means not winning games Winning faceoffs is an underrated aspect of the game. In Los Angeles it was a completely unknown part of the game. The Kings as a team won just 44.5% of their faceoffs against San Jose, by far the worst in the playoffs. Their lone bright spot in the circle was Jarret Stoll who won 54.8% of his draws. The other three main guys that took them? Awful.

Michal Handzus took the most faceoffs in the series and won just 41.8% of them. Brad Richardson was 42.9% from the circle and Trevor Lewis was the worst of them all at 40%. If you’re not winning faceoffs, you’re not controlling the game or getting the puck back in the offensive zone. If you’re wondering if Anze Kopitar would’ve helped out here… Not so much. He won 49.9% of his faceoffs during the regular season, third best on the team.

3. Jon Quick had to do way too much
Making your starting goalie have to work too much and stop too many shots is a recipe for disaster. The Kings made Jon Quick earn his paycheck and thensome in the playoffs. While Quick was able to get a shutout in Game 2 and stop 51 shots in Game 5 to help the Kings win there, every game was like being in a shooting gallery for him. On average Quick faced 38.2 shots per game in the series with San Jose. His shots faced in each game? 45, 34, 36, 27, 52, 35.

The scary part of all this? The Kings blocked 117 shots, the most in the playoffs. When you’re getting beaten like this it makes life hard on everyone to stand tall, especially when you’re laying out to block shots. It’s tough to win games when you’re being outshot on average by ten shots a game (L.A. averaged 28.2 shots per game). It’s crazy to think Quick could’ve been a lot busier through those six games.

4. Carelessness
Care to guess which team in the playoffs gave up the puck like it was covered in Ebola? Yup, it was the Kings. The Kings had 79 giveaways through six games. Not keeping a hold on the puck is obviously a major issue especially when the other team is spending the majority of the game in your zone peppering your defense and goalie with shots. While both teams were good about giving up the puck (Sharks had 71 giveaways) with the Kings being in the position they were in throughout most of the series, giving away the puck did them no favors.

***

The Kings show a lot of promise. They’ll have to find ways to hang with the better teams (San Jose was certainly one of those) and Dean Lombardi is in a great position heading into next season. The Kings are loaded with talent and they’ve got a goalie tandem that can keep themselves fresh heading into the postseason next year.

With Kopitar coming back, Brayden Schenn getting a real chance to shine, and the Kings delving into the free agency waters to find a legitimate second center to be a playmaker for them (imagine a Kopitar and Brad Richards one-two punch up the middle) they’ll be just fine.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

Leave a comment

As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

Getty
Leave a comment

For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2.

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

Getty
3 Comments

For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

3 Comments

Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?