Five Q’s: Blackhawks-Kings preview


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.


Five Q’s: Penguins-Bruins preview

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

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While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks