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)

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Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.