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 …

 

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’