Gauging Kings’ chances for a Cinderella run

14 Comments

The Los Angeles Kings are one win away from sweeping the Vancouver Canucks, which would make them the third team to do so to the Presidents’ Trophy winner. It’s not as if the Canucks are rolling over, either; they just haven’t had much luck cracking the Kings’ code. Even a 3-0 series lead isn’t a guarantee for future success, but it’s irresistible not to at least ponder Los Angeles’ chances of making a deep playoff run.

So, with that in mind, here are some big reasons why they can do it and one big reason why they might not.

No juggernaut

Looking up at the higher seeds, you can’t blame the Kings for not feeling too intimidated. The St. Louis Blues got back into their series with the San Jose Sharks, yet Los Angeles brings virtually the same strengths to the table as the Blues. It’s unlikely that Los Angeles would be all that intimidated by the thought of facing the Phoenix Coyotes in the semifinals, either; in fact, the biggest worries could come if they face either the Nashville Predators or the Detroit Red Wings.

Jonathan Quick

Depending upon whom you ask, Quick may just hold the trump card over every West goalie not named Pekka Rinne. As you’ve probably heard a lot of times in your hockey-loving life, a hot netminder can make all the difference.

Strong defense

The Predators, Blues and Coyotes could manage a strong counterargument, but the Kings have a defense that can stack up with any in the NHL. That’s especially true now that Drew Doughty is back to the form that made him the most promising young defenseman in ages. Beyond Doughty, Los Angeles has solid lesser-known offensive defensemen such as Slava Voynov and strong stay-at-home types like Willie Mitchell. There aren’t many soft spots in that lineup.

Improved offense

The Kings aren’t likely to blow many teams out, but the Jeff Carter trade gives their offense a respectable added dimension. It’s not just the Anze Kopitar line doing all the work now, as Carter, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown can pitch in. On paper, that offense probably edges out the defense-first groups like Phoenix, St. Louis and Nashville – though that doesn’t mean it actually will work out that way.

A Sutter edge

The Kings hold some interesting similarities to the Flames team that Darryl Sutter pushed to within one win of a Stanley Cup. There’s more talent in Los Angeles, but both squads fought their way into lower seeds and then combined timely scoring, tight defense and great goaltending to become an imposing upset force. Sutter the coach > Sutter the GM, as we’ve seen quite clearly.

The glass half-empty approach

Still, the Kings aren’t perfect. The No. 1 area of concern is still scoring. Los Angeles only seems to have a “grind it out” gear, which could bog them down in the long run. Fighting tooth-and-nail is fine in the playoffs, but every now and then, it’s nice to score some “easy” goals. Depending upon matchups, offense may still be the Kings’ fatal flaw.

***

Sure, it won’t be pretty, but it seems like the Kings might just have the makeup for a deep run. What do you think of their chances?

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

Getty
Leave a comment

It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Sutter won’t retire from coaching, willing to join a rebuild

Getty
6 Comments

Given he turns 59 this summer, has won a pair of Stanley Cups and coached over 1,000 NHL games, Darryl Sutter probably could’ve called it a career after getting fired by the Kings earlier this month, and done so comfortably.

But that’s not happening.

In speaking with TSN’s Gary Lawless, Sutter said he has no plans to retire from coaching. What’s more — and, perhaps more interesting — is that Sutter said he wouldn’t limit his next job solely to a contending team.

Currently, there are just two vacant coaching gigs in Buffalo and Florida. We wrote about the Panthers’ search earlier today (more on that here). The situation in Buffalo is more complex, as the Sabres need to hire a new general manager and coach. Logic suggests the GM will be hired first, then spearhead the new bench boss hire.

In that regard, Buffalo is pretty intriguing.

Though the Kings have yet to be contacted for an interview request, ex-GM Dean Lombardi has been tied to the Sabres gig. And Lombardi, of course, is forever tied to Sutter — he was the one that hired Sutter after a five-year coaching exodus to join the Kings, and the pair went on to achieve great success together.

That five-year coaching exodus does need to be mentioned, though.

History suggests that Sutter isn’t joking when he says he’ll be picky about the situation and won’t rush to find the right fit. After being dismissed in Calgary in 2006, he returned to work on the family farm in Viking, Alberta and seemed fairly content doing so.

That said, hockey always seems to draw him back.

“The game has given us everything,” Sutter told Lawless. “We still have lots to give.”

Coyotes fire assistant coach Newell Brown

Getty
3 Comments

The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with some personnel.

Assistant coach Newell Brown has been fired, along with Doug Soetaert, who was the general manager of their AHL affiliate in Tuscon.

Pro scouts David MacLean and Jim Roque won’t be back either. Their contracts will not be renewed.

“I’d like to thank Newell, Doug, David and Jim for their contributions to the club,” said GM John Chayka. “They are all good people but we believe these changes are necessary in order to improve our organization. We wish them the best in the future.”

A longtime NHL assistant coach, Brown is perhaps the most prominent of the four men. He joined the Coyotes in the summer of 2013 and received high praise for his work with their power play.

But Arizona’s power play slipped to 26th this past season, converting at a rate of just 16.2 percent.

As for Soetaert, he was only named GM of the Roadrunners last summer. The former NHL goalie had previously been a scout.

Plenty of seats available for tonight’s game in Ottawa

Getty
9 Comments

The Ottawa Senators say they’re still expecting a full house, but Ticketmaster’s website shows plenty of available seats for tonight’s second-round opener with the New York Rangers.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Many of the available tickets for Thursday’s game were in the corners of the upper bowl, seats that carry a $96 price tag.

The Senators sold out all three games in the opening round of the playoffs against Boston. Game 1 drew a crowd of 18,702, while 18,629 showed up for Game 2 and 19,209 were in the seats for Game 5.

Attendance has been an issue in Ottawa — or, more specifically, suburban Kanata — all season, to the point owner Eugene Melnyk expressed great frustration with the lack of sellouts at Canadian Tire Centre.

Poor attendance also led to friction behind the scenes. At least, it sure sounded that way in the lawsuit that was filed against the team by its former chief marketing officer.

Poor attendance is why the Sens are trying to get a new downtown arena built. They believe that a more central location is the key to bigger crowds.

But regardless of the arena’s location, it won’t be a good look if there are empty seats tonight. This is the playoffs, and the Senators are one of eight remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. The building should be full.

Related: Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run