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.

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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.

Report: NHL has already made adjustment on slashing, faceoff calls

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The NHL preseason began with the league trying to crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations.

The early results were a lot of confusion, a ton of penalties, and a lot of griping from players, former referees and media about the confusion and the number of penalties.

Former NHL referee Paul Stewart griped on Twitter that it was taking away from the officials ability to call a game by feel and hockey sense. The Winnipeg Jets brought in retired referee Paul Devorski to work with their players in an effort to help them gain an understanding of what the league was looking for and to cut down on penalties.

It was obvious that something was going to have to give.

Either the players would have to adjust to the new standard implemented by the league, or the league would make its own adjustment and scale things back a bit.

In most matters like this in the NHL, it usually tends to be the latter.

That also seems to be the case here as Sportsnet’s John Shannon Tweeted on Saturday morning that the league has already sent a note to its officials to “dial it back” a bit when it comes slashing and faceoff violation calls.

Well, that was fast.

The enforcement of the faceoff rule seemed like a minor thing that really wasn’t going to make much of a difference, but the emphasis on slashing is one that needs to be kept (and extended to interference, holding, hooking or any other sort of obstruction), especially given the way some of the league’s star players are defended where slashing down on their hands or stick seems to be the preferred way of playing them. Not only from a player safety standpoint to help reduce injuries (getting hit with a stick can break bones … or fingers) but because the drop in power plays over the past decade (the “let them play” mindset) has been one of the many factors in the continued decline in goal scoring across the league.

If the NHL is serious about changing this stuff the onus needs to be on the players to adjust, not the officials. Set the standard. Call it consistently. The players will figure out what they can and can not do.

Anything less than that basically just amounts to the league saying, “hey guys, we would really like you to cut down on the slashes” and hoping that the players listen. But as long as they can get away with it, they will not listen.

Capitals’ Tom Wilson has a discipline hearing today for interference

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The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Saturday morning that it has scheduled a disciplinary hearing with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson as a result of his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas on Friday night.

It will be the first hearing for the department under the direction of its new leader, George Parros.

This particular incident happened early in the third period of the Blues’ 4-0 win on Friday night.

Here is a look at the entire sequence, including the fight that Wilson found himself in with Dmitri Jaskin in response to the hit.

It is clear that Wilson delivered his hit long after Thomas was in possession of the puck.

Even though Wilson always seems to be getting attention for some of his hits and physical play he has never been suspended in his career. His only punishment from the league has been in the form of two fines — one for diving/embellishment, and another for kneeing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary during the 2015-16 playoffs.

The fact that he has a hearing for his hit would seem to indicate a suspension might be on the horizon. The only question is whether or not it will just end his preseason (the Capitals still have four more games) or if it will carry over into the regular season.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”