Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Seven

How this Kings team compares to the 2012 championship squad

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On paper, this Los Angeles Kings team is very similar to the one that dominated the 2012 postseason on its way to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup victory. Even so, enough has changed that it’s interesting to study the similarities and differences:

What hasn’t changed

In the grand scheme of things, the Kings’ core players are largely the same. Drew Doughty is their go-to defenseman. Dustin Brown remains their agitating, versatile captain. Anze Kopitar is the outstanding two-way center who probably doesn’t get enough league-wide attention. Jeff Carter continues to surprise people with strong play even though he’s been doing this for years. Darryl Sutter is still a quality coach who produces borderline-comical press conferences.

Much like in 2011-12, the Kings were a strong puck possession team that didn’t score a whole lot of goals during the regular season, yet they seem awfully dangerous now … in part thanks to the addition of a dangerous sniper (Marian Gaborik now, Carter then).

The cast of characters should be mostly familiar, then, although one key player has a ways to go before regaining his previous form.

A different Quick?

Simply put, Jonathan Quick played out of his mind during the 2012 playoffs. His numbers were staggering: 16-4 record, .946 save percentage, 1.41 GAA and three shutouts. Quick provided one of the best postseason runs in recent memory and often made it look easy.

source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Depending upon how you look at it, Quick is either “turning it on” when the Kings need it the most this time around or is simply struggling while producing flashes of that 2012 brilliance.

More than a few people wonder if the 28-year-old is an average goalie who really just rode a hot streak or two.

There’s no denying that his overall playoff numbers are down significantly this year. Quick is 12-9 with a mediocre .906 save percentage. It’s easy to forget that the Kings faced the kind of competition that can make any goalie look vulnerable during this postseason, but the bottom line is that his doubters have been emboldened in 2013-14.

Considering the fact that Henrik Lundqvist will be in the Rangers’ net, many will give New York the goaltending edge either way.

Bumpy road

There were a lot of remarkable things about the Kings’ 2012 run, but the most surprising thing might be that the Kings didn’t face elimination a single time. In fact, they only lost four games in that entire postseason. That’s pretty astounding stuff for a team that was the eighth seed in the West.

Meanwhile, this Kings team might be as exhausted as the 2012 version was well-rested heading into the championship series.

They’ve played a maximum 21 games in three rounds. The most exhausting task arguably came when they made a remarkable comeback from down 0-3 in their first-round series against the San Jose Sharks, yet things didn’t slow down from there. After all, they beat the West’s top seed (Anaheim Ducks) and the defending champions (Chicago Blackhawks) in successive seven-game series.

It’s probably never fair to call a postseason run “easy” but the Kings might have set a new bar for degree of difficulty.

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The Kings will probably go into the Stanley Cup Final as favorites, yet this team could be considerably more vulnerable than the 2012 version. Of course, Alec Martinez would likely argue that they’re that much tougher to kill off …

 

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champions this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, three off his college career high set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, bumping the number of players from that program’s junior class to turn pro to four since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, a 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.

 

Video: Roussel opens the scoring for Dallas and Elliott wasn’t happy about it

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The Dallas Stars grabbed the all-important first goal in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Friday. And it was agitating forward Antoine Roussel who capitalized in the second period.

Roussel buried a rebound at the end of a pretty passing play from the Stars. Blues goalie Brian Elliott was furious, as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester slid into the crease in an attempt to block the shot.