KingsHawks

Five Q’s: Blackhawks-Kings preview

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How important is home ice?

In this series? It’s massive. The Kings are a perfect 7-0 at Staples in the playoffs and, dating back to the regular season, are riding a 14-game winning streak at home.

(Fun fact: L.A. hasn’t lost at Staples since Mar. 28.)

Chicago’s been nearly as good — 6-1 at the United Center in the playoffs, 18-3-3 during the regular season — and hold the all-important home ice advantage by finishing first in the Western Conference.

The question will be: Can L.A. get a result on the road?

The Kings are just 1-5 away from Staples in the playoffs and their lone win came in overtime in the opening around against St. Louis.

Will L.A. shadow Jonathan Toews?

Detroit showed that a good way to slow down Chicago is by slowing down the captain.

Henrik Zetterberg drew the majority of that assignment in Round 2, holding Toews goalless through the first four games, in which Detroit built a 3-1 series lead. Frustrated, Toews finished that four-game stretch with more penalties (three) than points (one).

When Toews finally broke out, Chicago’s fortunes turned — he had three points over the final three games of the series, all wins.

Los Angeles has two options for the Toews shadow. One is Anze Kopitar, who teammates championed as a legit shut-down guy and potential Selke candidate; the other is Mike Richards, a Selke finalist from 2009.

(And yes, Toews himself is a Selke candidate this year.)

How can Chicago beat Jonathan Quick?

With traffic, according to Joel Quenneville.

“Traffic is something we talked about,” the ‘Hawks head coach said on Friday. “Pucks at the net, second opportunities are the ones you’re going to beat them with.”

Easier said than done, though.

Quick has been as good as he was during last year’s Conn Smythe-winning performance, posting a 1.50 GAA and .948 save percentage thus far.

“There’s certain situations where you go to do special things to beat him because he’s so effective in certain areas,” Quenneville admitted. “He’s had a special couple years in the playoffs. He’s a different kind of goalie the way he moves so quick in the crease, or even above it.”

Will Jarret Stoll return to the lineup?

The veteran missed nearly the entire San Jose series — he played just 10:25 in Game 1 before getting KOed by Raffi Torres — but practiced Friday on the third line with Dwight King and Trevor Lewis.

If he gets back in, it’s a significant addition of the Kings. Stoll’s a playoff veteran (62 career games, two Stanley Cup finals) that’s one of the best third-line centers in the game.

He won draws at a 56 percent clip during the regular season and gives L.A. tremendous depth down the middle behind Kopitar and Richards — a big reason why Sutter has said his centers were “the strongest part of our team.”

Can the ‘Hawks keep killing penalties?

One of the less ballyhooed parts of Chicago’s run has been its penalty kill — just one goal allowed in 41 attempts, a league-best 97.6 percent PK.

(That’s actually five percentage points better than L.A.’s PK of last postseason, which they rode to the first-ever Stanley Cup in franchise history.)

Killing penalties will be important against a Kings power play that got hot in Round 2.

L.A. went 5-for-17 against San Jose — 29.4 percent — with almost everybody chipping in, as 12 different Kings recorded at least one power-play point in the series.

Related

Five Q’s: Penguins-Bruins preview

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) deflects a puck over the net during the first period of Game 3 against the Washington Capitals in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh, Monday, May 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

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)
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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.