Kopitar Richards

Sutter on Kings’ center depth: “The strongest part of our team”


In a postseason where the most valuable Kings could be G Jonathan Quick, D Drew Doughty and RW Dustin Brown, it was interesting to hear Darryl Sutter discuss the importance of his centers.

“I said when I came here, I thought it was the strongest part of our team,” Sutter told LA Kings Insider. “Last year, [Anze] Kopitar never played in the playoffs. Richie [Mike Richards] wasn’t here. Jarret Stoll was suspended one game. Fraze [Colin Fraser] was not here.

“If you look at it, it’s a total shift in that position. You know how important that position is.’’

The Kopitar-Richards-Stoll-Fraser quartet has been impressive this postseason.

Offensively, it’s combined for 9G-14A-23PTS and a plus-14 rating.

Defensively, it’s been a great shutdown unit. Opposing centers have had a helluva time trying to break loose — Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler was harassed into a miserable opening round series (no goals, minus-1); in Round 2, St. Louis’ Patrik Berglund went scoreless in four games (after scoring seven points in five against San Jose.)

In Game 1 against Phoenix, the Kings were at it again. The Coyotes centers — Martin Hanzal, Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon and Daymond Langkow — were hammered in the faceoff circle (Gordon went 8-for-17, Hanzal 5-for-13, Langkow 2-for-8) and went a combined minus-2.

LA’s centers, meanwhile, combined for three points and 11 shots on goal.

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett recognized the battle down the middle will be key in this series.

“We recognized that L.A. played a strong game, but I think we can be much better than we were,” he explained. “Center ice is obviously very important in that. Our whole group can be a lot better.’’

Columbus collapse: Rangers spoil Blue Jackets’ opener

Jarret Stoll, Mats Zuccarello
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For a little more than a minute, Brandon Saad was going to be the story of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ opener. Instead, his power-play goal merely got the ball rolling on a flabbergasting finish.

The New York Rangers scored three goals in 1:17 of game time to manage a 4-2 win.

They’ve now spoiled home openers for the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets to begin their 2015-16 season.

It might be easiest just to show you when the goals were scored, noting that the third period began with a 1-1 tie.

Brandon Saad power-play goal: 16:10 into third period (2-1 Columbus)
Oscar Lindberg: 17:24 (2-2 tie)
Kevin Hayes: 17:41 (3-2 Rangers)
Mats Zuccarello: 18:41 (4-2 Rangers)

Yikes. Zuccarello scored two of the Rangers’ goals, while a beauty by Cam Atkinson is likely long forgotten.

This post will be updated if there’s video of that staggering sequence.

Welcome back, Babs: Red Wings chase Bernier

Mike Babcock
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Mike Babcock admitted that there might be a painful transformation as he tries to fix the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His old friends made that abundantly, painfully clear on Friday.

As of this writing, the Detroit Red Wings are up 4-0 on the Buds. Justin Abdelkader just completed a hat trick with James Reimer in net, so the subplot isn’t just about Jonathan Bernier having another tough start.

The big story might just be Detroit’s varied new line of Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin (who scored his first career goal) and Henrik Zetterberg. At the moment, they’ve combined for seven points.

This post will be updated if Detroit’s tribute video to Babcock surfaces.

Really, though, this beating has been about as ugly as this blanket so far.

Here’s video of Abdelkader’s hat trick: