Kings Blues

Series at a glance: St. Louis-Los Angeles playoff preview

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Schedule

All times Eastern; *if necessary

Game 1: Saturday, April 28 at St. Louis, 7:30 p.m (NBCSN, TSN)
Game 2: Monday, April 30 at St. Louis, 9 p.m. (CNBC, TSN)
Game 3: Thursday, May 3 at Los Angeles, 10 p.m. (NBCSN, TSN)
Game 4: Sunday, May 6 at Los Angeles, 3 p.m. (NBC, TSN)
Game 5: *Tuesday, May 8 at St. Louis, TBD
Game 6: *Thursday, May 10 at Los Angeles, TBD
Game 7: *Saturday, May 12 at St. Louis, TBD

Three storylines to follow

1. The goaltending. Based on what happened in Round 1, this series promises to be a low-scoring affair — Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick (a Vezina nominee) allowed just eight goals in a five-game romp over Vancouver and St. Louis’ Brian Elliott allowed five in four games against San Jose.

Both Quick and Elliott finished top-five in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts during the regular season, and both represented the Western Conference at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.

So yeah, pretty solid ‘tenders.

2. Striking similarities. The Blues and Kings are quite alike. Both underwent a in-season coaching change (Ken Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne, Darryl Sutter replaced Terry Murray), both are outstanding defensively (St. Louis led the NHL with 1.89 goals allowed per game; L.A. was second at 2.07) and both broke long playoff slumps in Round 1. The Kings won their first playoff series since 2001, the Blues their first since 2002.

3. Captains America. The series will feature an all-American battle between two of the league’s most physical forwards: Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown vs. St. Louis captain David Backes. Brown was the Kings’ driving force in Round 1, scoring four times (twice shorthanded) while averaging a point a game against. Backes was less of an offensive force — he only scored a single goal against the Sharks — but compensated by leading the team in takeaways and winning 58 percent of his faceoffs.

Records (reg. season)

No. 2 St. Louis: 49-22-11, 109 points (1st in Central) | No. 8 Los Angeles: 40-27-15, 95 points (3rd in Pacific)

Leading playoff scorers

St. Louis: Andy McDonald (4G-4A-8PTS) | Los Angeles: Dustin Brown (4G-1A-5PTS)

Starting goalies

St. Louis: Brian Elliott (3-0, 1.37 GAA)  | Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick (4-1, 1.59 GAA)

Head-to-head

Los Angeles won season series 3-1

Oct. 18: At Los Angeles 5, St. Louis 0
Nov. 22: Los Angeles 3, at St. Louis 2
Feb. 3: At St. Louis 1, Los Angeles 0
Mar. 22: At Los Angeles 1, St. Louis 0, SO

Playoff history

St. Louis leads 2-0
1969: St. Louis 4-0 (West Division Semifinals)
1998: St. Louis 4-0 (Western Conference Quarterfinals)

2012 playoffs

St. Louis: Def. San Jose 4-1 (WC quarters) | L.A.: Def. Vancouver 4-1 (WC quarters)

2011 playoffs

St. Louis: Did not qualify | L.A.: Def. Lost to San Jose 4-2 (WC quarters)

Stanley Cups

St. Louis: None | Los Angeles: None

Injuries

St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak (ankle) | Los Angeles: Scott Parse (hip), Kevin Westgarth (hand), Simon Gagne (concussion)

Poll

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Fleury suits up (but won’t start) and other Caps – Pens Game 3 notes

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been out of action with concussion symptoms, participates in a practice session for the NHL hockey playoffs against the New York Rangers, Monday, April 11, 2016, at their practice facility in Cranberry, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
AP
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The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.

Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:

That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)

Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.

Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:

Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.

Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.

PHT will make note if there are any swerves.

2016 Calder Trophy finalists: Gostisbehere, McDavid and Panarin

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid lines up for a faceoff against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
AP
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Ever since the NHL kept obstruction in check and thus placed a greater emphasis on speed and skill, we’ve seen some fascinating Calder Trophy debates. This 2015-16 season may present the toughest call in recent memory.

The league named the three finalists on Monday, and even that couldn’t have been easy. They are Edmonton Oilers wunderkind Connor McDavid, breakout Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and high-scoring Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin.

(The NHL made it official here.)

All three make for fantastic debates.

Do you go with McDavid, easily the youngest of the bunch, who produced gaudy per-game numbers but missed almost half of the season?

Perhaps you lean toward Gostisbehere, who also scored at an impressive clip per-game for a defenseman while playing a huge role in the Flyers’ surprising run to a playoff spot?

Or, do you go with Panarin, the guy who easily leads rookies in total points (77, 21 more than Jack Eichel‘s second-place finish) and was so effective that his bonuses will really put the Blackhawks in a bad way? Or do you penalize Panarin for being a little older and for the undeniable benefits he received from riding shotgun with Patrick Kane?

Then again, plenty will merely spend their time griping about “snubs,” as the likes of Jack Eichel and John Gibson were not in the final three despite outstanding work.

Yep, this should be fun … just be nice during your debates.

WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 3

Washington Capitals left wing Andre Burakovsky (65) fires a shot past Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) during the second period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP
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There’s only one game on the docket tonight, but it’s a marquee matchup.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals split their games in DC and now switch to Pittsburgh for Game 3. We’ve seen great work from the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom and maybe especially Braden Holtby so far … not to mention a considerable cast of supporting characters.

Which team will take a 2-1 lead in this captivating series?

We’ll find out on NBCSN. You can stream the game live via the link below as well:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE