Playoffs Tonight: Kings look for ‘killer instinct’ against Sharks

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After losing defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski to retirement in back-to-back summers, the big question for the Detroit Red Wings entering this season was if their over two decade long playoff streak would come to an end.

That wasn’t an unfair question to ask and in fact they were barely able to squeeze into the playoffs. At the same time, Detroit has demonstrated once again that what makes them a truly special organization can’t be summed up in the presence of individual superstars.

The Red Wings are more than holding their own in the second round and are doing so with a blend of veterans and youngsters that are doing an admirable job taking the torch.

You can read more about Detroit’s win yesterday here, but let’s turn our attention to tonight’s actions.

Please keep in mind that both games can be watched online in addition to what’s listed below.

New York Rangers host Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Boston leads series 2-0

The Rangers managed to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the Washington Capitals in the first round, but Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will need to lead the charge in order for them to do that again.

That might be a problem as Lundqvist’s left shoulder is an area of concern after he was stung by a Daniel Paille shot. He later said that the situation was “under control” and he’s expected to play, but it’s not clear if he’s truly 100%.

After allowing five goals on 32 shots in the latest Rangers loss, Lundqvist said that he needed to be better, but he would also need the guys in front of him to step up.

The Rangers have averaged just 2.22 goals per game in the playoffs. They have skilled forwards capable of stepping up, but they haven’t been reliable. Brad Richards in particular has been a disappointment and has logged 12:57 minutes or less in each of the Rangers’ last four games.

On top of that, New York still has a horrid 5.6% power-play success rate. With all that in mind, it seems unlikely that the Rangers will be able to keep up with the Bruins if Game 3 becomes a high-scoring contest.

San Jose Sharks host Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Los Angeles leads 2-1

Sharks forward Logan Couture came back from an injury to score the overtime game-winner on Saturday and keep San Jose in this series, but as Sharks coach Todd McLellan said, “We haven’t accomplished anything.” Not yet at least.

“If our intensity or urgency drops because we’ve won a single game, I would be disappointed in our group,” McLellan told ESPN.

Meanwhile Kings captain Dustin Brown pointed out that over the last two years, the Kings have both been down in a series 2-0 only to come back and have taken a 2-0 lead in series before.

“We know what they’re thinking,” Brown said. He added, “It’s a matter of having the killer instinct.”

There’s a lot of very talented players on both of these squads and both have a nice blend of young stars and veteran leadership. Couture was the hero in Game 3, but there’s a long list of players capable of stepping up and making the difference tonight.

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.