Martin St. Louis, Trevor Lewis

Get your game notes: Kings at Rangers

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the New York Rangers hosting the Los Angeles Kings at 8 p.m. ET in the fourth game of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Tonight marks the 92nd game of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, tied for the most in NHL history in one playoff year (1991). With a win, the Kings would tie the record for most games needed to capture the Cup (25, held by the 2006 Hurricanes and 2011 Bruins). The Rangers will set a new franchise record by playing their 24th game of the postseason. (They played 23 games during their Cup-winning playoff run in 1994.)

• Since the Stanley Cup Final went to seven games in 1939, the team that took a 3-0 series lead won 25 of 26 series (96%). Twenty of those 26 series (77%) ended in sweeps (mostly recently in 1998, Detroit vs. Washington), three ended in five games, one in six games (2012, Los Angeles vs. New Jersey) and two in seven games. The only team to rebound from an 0-3 series deficit in a Cup Final was the 1942 Maple Leafs, who outscored Detroit 19-7 in Games 4-7 to win the Cup.

• The Kings are up 3-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series for the fifth time in franchise history. During their run to the Stanley Cup in 2012, they won the first three games in all four series. However, they won Game 4 only once, in the second round vs. St. Louis. The Rangers are down 3-0 for the 12th time all-time, and first time in the Stanley Cup Final. They are 5-6 in subsequent Game 4s (all at home) when trailing 3-0 in a playoff series. Only once, in the 1939 NHL Semifinals vs. Boston (which they lost in seven games), were they able to extend one of those series beyond five games.

• In Game 3, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made 32 saves in his first-career NHL start at Madison Square Garden and became only the second goalie ever to shut out the Rangers at MSG in a Stanley Cup Final game (Gerry Cheevers, BOS, 1972, Game 6 – 33 saves). Quick carries a 115:36 shutout streak into Game 4, the third-longest of his postseason career. Elias Sports Bureau

Jonathan Quick’s longest shutout streaks, postseason career
138:39 – 2012 Stanley Cup Final, Game 2-4 vs. New Jersey (June 2-6)
125:08 – 2013 1st round, Game 6 vs. St. Louis … 2nd round, Game 1-2 vs. San Jose (May 10-16)
115:36 – 2014 Stanley Cup Final, Game 2-3 vs. N.Y. Rangers (June 7-present)

• After going 0/6 on the power play in Game 3, the Rangers have failed on 36 straight power-play chances at Madison Square Garden since Martin St. Louis scored a PPG in Game 2 of the first-round series vs. Philadelphia. The Rangers’ nine-game home PPG drought is a Stanley Cup playoff record for any team at home in a single postseason. The previous NHL high was seven games by the 1939 Bruins. Elias Sports Bureau

• In Game 3, the Kings scored three or more goals for the ninth consecutive game, and 19th time in 24 games this postseason. That is tied with four Stanley Cup champions (1989 Flames, 1990 Oilers, 1991 Penguins, 1996 Avalanche) for the most games with 3+ goals in a playoff year. (With three or more goals in Game 4, L.A. will set a new NHL record.) They have 84 goals this postseason (3.50 goals/game). The last Stanley Cup champion to score that many goals in a playoff year was the 1991 Penguins (95 goals). To compare, the Kings scored 198 goals (2.42 goals/game) in the regular season, the 26th most in the NHL.

• The NHL’s leading scorers this postseason, Kings forwards Anze Kopitar (5-21—26), Jeff Carter (10-14—24) and Justin Williams (8-16—24) are among a group of nine players who have suited up in all 62 of the Kings’ games in the last three postseasons (2012-2014), with tonight marking game 63, tying an NHL record for most playoff games over a three-year span. (The others are Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, Quick and Slava Voynov.) Only two teams in NHL history have played 63 playoff games in a three-year span: Dallas (1998-2000 – four players played in all 63 games) and Detroit (2007-09 – four players played in all). Elias Sports Bureau

The Leafs need some wins, starting tonight against Minnesota

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5:  Mitchell Marner #16, Auston Matthews #34, and Nikita Soshnikov #26 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate a victory against the Vancouver Canucks in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on November 5, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Canucks 6-3. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs had a decent road trip to Western Canada. They beat the Oilers, lost to the Flames, then probably deserved better in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Canucks.

But if these Leafs (10-9-5) want to stay in the playoff hunt, they’ll need to take advantage of their upcoming schedule. Starting tonight against Minnesota, they play six of their next seven at home. Their only road game is Saturday in Boston.

Mike Babcock’s bunch entered the day six points back of Washington for the second wild-card spot. The coach liked how his charges played Saturday in Vancouver, where they outshot the Canucks, 40-24, but could get only get two pucks past Ryan Miller.

“I thought we played well,” said Babcock. “You’ve got to give Miller a lot of credit, I thought he did a real nice job for them and kind of held the fort there. I was pleased with our effort. You’d love to get the other point, sure, but that was a good game for our team. I thought we really pushed hard as the game went on.”

Tonight in Minnesota’s crease, the Leafs will see one of the hottest goalies in hockey. Devan Dubnyk is 10-6-3 with a .946 save percentage. He’s been the Wild’s MVP this season, and it’s not even a debate.

“He has given us a chance every night, he has been spectacular, especially late in games,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau, per the Toronto Star. “We play so many close games he has to make saves to get us to overtime or to seal the game. I know we don’t get us much press as the people up here (in Canada), but he’s been as good as any goalie in the league.”

It’ll be up to Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and the rest of the Leafs to turn their solid puck-possession numbers into goals, while making sure not to give the Wild too many scoring chances the other way.

Defense has been an issue for Toronto this season. The running-and-gunning Buds have the third-worst goals-against average in the league (3.08), lower than only Dallas (3.22) and Arizona (3.16).

Following ‘disastrous’ effort, Stars lose Honka to injury

Lindy Ruff
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Dallas only surrendered two goals in last night’s loss to Calgary — not the markings of a terrible defensive night.

But in many ways, it was exactly that.

Head coach Lindy Ruff called the second period “disastrous.” The Morning-News wrote the number of high-quality chances Dallas surrendered was “almost shocking.” And Julius Honka, one of the club’s brightest young d-man prospects, suffered an upper-body injury that will force him to miss the next few games.

Tough times in Dallas.

The Honka injury will throw the defense into further arrears. Ruff has spent most of this season juggling the group, with mainstays like Dan Hamhuis and John Klingberg getting parked in the press box as healthy scratches. Stephen Johns has been in and out — which included a stint in the American League — while the likes of Esa Lindell, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak have been platooned as well.

The Stars were forced to finish last night’s game with just five blueliners, though Honka’s injury isn’t believed to be serious. Dallas plays next on Thursday night at home against Nashville, then heads out for a back-to-back road set — Saturday in Philly, and Sunday in Chicago.

Related: What has happened to the Dallas Stars?

 

 

After a slow start, the Preds have really turned it around

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban (76), center, celebrates with Filip Forsberg (9), of Sweden, Kevin Fiala (56), of Switzerland, and Mattias Ekholm (14), of Sweden, after Subban scored a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Nashville Predators are still outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference, but they’re very clearly putting a slow start behind them.

The Preds beat Colorado, 4-3, last night in Nashville. They are now 9-4-1 since beginning the season 3-5-3, and they are winning with the kind of puck-possession game that many expected from them.

Via Puck on Net, here are the top 10 teams in score-adjusted Corsi over the last 10 games:

preds

That is some excellent company the Preds are not only keeping, but leading. The Blue Jackets, right below them, are the hottest team in the NHL. The Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup champs. The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy last season. The Sharks won the Western Conference.

Though strong puck-possession numbers don’t always translate into wins — just ask the Carolina Hurricanes — they typically lead to good results over the long run. The one thing that can sink a strong possession team is poor goaltending, but Pekka Rinne (11-5-4, .926) has been mostly solid this season.

The Preds are also getting good production from their big offseason trade acquisition, defenseman P.K. Subban, who has 17 points, including seven goals, in 25 games.

“I just try to do my job and just keep it simple, try to put the puck on net,” Subban told The Tennessean. “Sometimes you’ve got to get some bounces, and you only get those bounces when you put pucks at the net.”

The Preds are averaging 31.6 shots per game, the sixth most in the NHL behind Pittsburgh, Boston, Toronto, Edmonton, and Philadelphia.

Next up for Nashville is a date with the Stars in Dallas tomorrow. That’s a huge game for both Central Division teams. The Stars lost again last night, falling 2-1 to the surging Flames.

standings

Report: Leafs win arbitration case with Cowen

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 21: Jared Cowen #2 of the Ottawa Senators prepares for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on January 21, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have won their arbitration case with Jared Cowen, who will remain bought out.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported the news today. It is a significant loss for Cowen, the 25-year-old defenseman who came to the Leafs in February as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade.

From Sportsnet’s story before the ruling:

At issue is whether Cowen was healthy enough to have the final year of his contract bought out by the Leafs last summer. A lengthy section of the CBA is devoted to “procedures for determining fitness to play,” and they include a player’s right to pursue a second medical opinion beyond what is provided by the team.

That information, plus witness testimony and other evidence, will be taken into account by the arbitrator while rendering a decision.

For Cowen, there is $3-million in salary at stake. That represents somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25 per cent of his career NHL earnings to date – a huge amount given his injury history and diminished future earning potential.

For the Leafs, it’s significant win. They’ll actually get a $650,000 cap credit this season. Next season, they’ll take a $750,000 hit, and after that their obligations are over.

If they’d lost, they would’ve lost the credit and assumed a $3.1-million cap hit this season, the final year of Cowen’s contract.

Sportsnet explains why the Leafs didn’t want to lose:

That’s a $3.75-million cap swing in total and would almost certainly result in the Leafs invoking long-term injury relief on one of three players – Nathan Horton, Stephane Robidas or Joffrey Lupul – to remain compliant.

Even though the LTI maneuver would offer immediate relief, it’s something the Leafs hope to avoid since it would increase the size of the cap overage penalty they’ll carry into next season because of performance bonuses expected to be earned by as many as five rookies in their current lineup.

Cowen had hip surgery after he was bought out. It’s been reported he may not be ready to play until February, assuming he can find a team. He played 37 games for the Senators last season, registering no goals and four assists.

Related: Lupul to start season on injured reserve, still aims to play again