No, this is not a repeat, but it is a case of seeing the same two teams facing off in the Western Conference Final.
For the second year in a row, the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings face off against each other for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final. Unlike last season, both teams come into the series at full health which means we might be treated to a tremendous series.
Just like last season, Chicago has home ice advantage and while playing on the road has never seemed to bother the Kings, having to deal with the raucous crowd at United Center more often than not doesn’t sound like a recipe for fun.
Game 1: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings (3:00 p.m. ET — NBC)
You know what you’re going to get when these teams square off, but there’s something a little different about L.A. this time around.
Yes, they still play the same stifling brand of hockey coach Darryl Sutter loves, but the Kings’ offense has been in high gear in the postseason. Anze Kopitar is the leading scorer in the postseason with 19 points. Marian Gaborik is the leading goal scorer with nine. Justin Williams’ 11 points equals him with the Blackhawks’ top offensive performers (Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook).
A Kings team that can defend tightly and score should sound terrifying, but for Chicago they’ve been getting tremendous goaltending from Corey Crawford.
Crawford leads all goalies in the playoffs in save percentage (.931) and goals-against average (1.97). When you’re topping the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, and Tuukka Rask you’re doing something very right. It’s always said that great goaltending wins championships and the ‘Hawks have to hope Crawford can shut down the, as of now, high-flying Kings offense.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.
Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.
It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.
His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:
These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”
Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.
Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.
Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.
It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.
Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.
It must be a helpless feeling to sit idly by while your team continues to flail, but such emotions are what opposing GMs love to prey on.
Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t been around through much of the suffering for this hapless franchise, yet that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the calls for improvement. To his credit, he’s not buckling under that pressure.
You can see and hear his full comments below:
If you don’t feel like playing the video, the message is simple enough.
Chiarelli isn’t happy with Edmonton’s record – he hasn’t “seen progression” in ways that he was expecting, but again … he doesn’t want to force moves.
Long story short, he can “sleep at night,” even if he’s disappointed.
Is he right to take a relaxed approach, though? Maybe it’s time to blow up a part of what isn’t working? Have some fun armchair GM’ing on this one.