Crown ’em again: Kings win second Stanley Cup in three years

64 Comments

LOS ANGELES — For the second time in three years, the Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup champions.

The Kings beat the New York Rangers, 3-2, tonight in a wildly entertaining, painfully tense Game 5 at Staples Center that went to double overtime and finally ended on an Alec Martinez goal after 94:43 of total action.

Martinez buried a rebound that Henrik Lundqvist put right on the defenseman’s stick off a Tyler Toffoli shot.

Unlike the 2012 Kings who romped to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history while losing just four times, it took the 2014 version 26 games to get it done, tying them with the 1987 Flyers and 2004 Flames for the most contests in one postseason. Along the way, the Kings erased a 3-0 series deficit versus the San Jose Sharks, took out their crosstown rivals from Anaheim after trailing 3-2, and eliminated the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in a memorable seven-game series that went to overtime in the decider.

Tonight’s game could’ve ended earlier, and it could’ve gone either way. In the first overtime, Ryan McDonagh hit the post squarely on a New York power play. Toffoli hit the cross bar a little later on. Chris Kreider had a breakaway that Jonathan Quick stopped. Justin Williams, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, had chances. So did Jeff Carter. And Rick Nash. And others.

In the second overtime, the Rangers hit the post again when Mats Zuccarello tipped a Dan Girardi point shot with Kyle Clifford in the box for boarding Derek Dorsett. Not long after, Nash was staring at an empty net, but his shot tipped off Slava Voynov’s stick.

Lundqvist was brilliant once again for the Rangers, stopping 48 shots. He entered tonight’s must-win with a 1.00 goals-against average and .971 save percentage in the five elimination contests the Rangers had played this postseason, allowing just one goal in each game. He was the major reason the Kings didn’t end things in Game 4. But he couldn’t rescue his team again tonight.

The Kings got the start they’d been looking for, as Williams opened the scoring at 6:04 of the first period, before the Rangers had even managed their first shot on goal. Williams, renowned for scoring big goals in the playoffs, slid a loose puck past Lundqvist on a play that started with a Willie Mitchell point shot. Dwight King and Jarret Stoll also had rebound chances in front, drawing three Rangers to two Kings, before Williams, left open, pounced.

The Rangers may not have started well, but they fought back valiantly in the second period, scoring two late goals that left the crowd in a temporary state of shock.

First came Kreider on the power play, one-timing a flawless pass from McDonagh to tie it at 15:37. The goal was just the second power-play marker of the series for the Rangers, who had gone 1-for-19 with the man advantage before Kreider scored.

Then, with the Kings on the power play, speedy forward Carl Hagelin beat Voynov to a loose puck along the boards in the neutral zone. Hagelin got it to big Brian Boyle, who beat a weary Drew Doughty wide, before firing a perfect shot over Quick’s left shoulder to put the Rangers up 2-1 with 30 seconds left in the middle frame.

All of a sudden, a trip back to Madison Square Garden for Game 6 became a very real possibility.

The Kings started the third period uncertainly; however, a controversial tripping penalty to Zuccarello came at 7:39, opening the door for Marian Gaborik to poke a rebound between Lundqvist’s legs at 7:56, after the Rangers’ star goalie failed to control a point shot from Doughty.

Los Angeles nearly scored again late in the third – Carter ripped one high from the slot with five minutes left, and Jake Muzzin had a one-timer go wide with mere seconds remaining – but regulation time expired with the score tied, bringing on overtime for the third time in the series.

The Kings once again hoisted the Cup at home, just as they did in 2012. The five other championships won in the last seven years were clinched by road teams.

For the Rangers, there’s bitter disappointment after coming so very close to forcing Game 6 Monday at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers would have had a chance to force an anything-can-happen Game 7 back in Los Angeles.

Alfredsson left front office job with Sens to be ‘stay-at-home dad for a while’

Getty
Leave a comment

Many people were surprised to see Daniel Alfredsson leave his role as senior advisor of hockey operations with the Ottawa Senators.

The reason for his departure was unclear at the time (he walked away in July), but he finally spoke to the Ottawa Sun during a golf tournament on Monday.

“I have a couple of projects on the go, but nothing major,” said Alfredsson, who added that he wants to be a “stay-at-home dad for a while.”

“Once school starts, it’s full on with activities with the kids. We’re moving into a new house here in the fall, so we have a lot of planning to do with that. So, it’s going to be a quiet year for me, overall.”

The 44-year-old, who has four boys, is moving into a new house in Ottawa, and says the family will live there for the foreseeable future.

Despite stepping away from the NHL for now, he also admitted that he wouldn’t mind jumping back into a team’s front office if the right opportunity presented itself.

“If that opportunity would come back again, I would look at it very hard. It’s what I know best. It’s what I love, as well. I can see that in the future at some point. But when, I don’t know.”

Alfredsson spent all but one of his 17 seasons playing for the Sens. He put up 444 goals and 1157 points in 1246 contests with Ottawa and Detroit.

Poll: Will the Blue Jackets get past the first round of the playoffs?

Getty
Leave a comment

This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

The Columbus Blue Jackets have made the playoffs three times in their franchise’s history, but they’ve never been able to make it out of the first round.

In 2009, when they were still in the Western Conference, the Blue Jackets were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. They scored one goal or less in three of four games.

During the 2014 postseason, they were tied 2-2 in their best-of-seven series against the Penguins, but they dropped Games 5 and 6, and they were eliminated.

Last spring, again, they went up against the Penguins. After a solid regular season, the Jackets dropped the first three games of the series before being knocked out in five.

Despite picking up 108 points during the regular season, Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen made some major changes in the off-season. They bought out Scott Hartnell, and they traded Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg and a draft pick for Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte and a draft pick.

There’s no doubt that Panarin adds another dynamic to the Jackets’ attack.

“Artemi Panarin was the best rookie in the NHL two years ago, a second team All-Star this past season and is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NHL,” Kekalainen told the team’s website. “There is a cost to adding a player like Artemi, as well as a very good NHL prospect in Tyler Motte, but we believe this is a very good move for our team.”

Panarin struggled to produce during the playoffs, but the entire ‘Hawks team seemed to be lacking in the scoring department. He finished the postseason with one assist and a minus-4 rating in four games.

The previous year, he managed to score seven points in seven playoff games, but the Blackhawks were still knocked out in the first round.

The 25-year-old will be surrounded by some other quality forwards on his new team. Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson and Alexander Wennberg are all expected to be back.

On defense, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, David Savard and Jack Johnson provide the Jackets with a solid top-4.

The biggest difference-maker is between the pipes, as Sergei Bobrovsky will look to win his second consecutive Vezina Trophy. Bobrovsky was outstanding throughout 2016-17, and if he can do it all over again, his team will be better for it.

With the Penguins and Capitals still strong options to win the division, any first-round matchup will be tough. Have the Blue Jackets done enough to make a run next spring?

It’s your turn to have your say. Vote in our poll and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.

It’s Columbus Blue Jackets day at PHT

Getty
Leave a comment

The Columbus Blue Jackets made franchise history last season, reaching 50 wins and 108 points in a highly competitive Metropolitan Division.

Their campaign included a winning streak of 16 games and putting up 10 goals against the Montreal Canadiens. Consider last season a sizable step forward for this young group and a bounce-back year for goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, the Vezina Trophy winner.

Not only was their goalie recognized, but coach John Tortorella won the Jack Adams Award — several months after oddsmakers stated he’d be the first coach fired last season.

Despite a terrific regular season, the Blue Jackets were bested in the opening round by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who would eventually move on to win the Stanley Cup.

Following their playoff defeat, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen pulled off a blockbuster deal with Chicago GM Stan Bowman, as Columbus acquired 2016 rookie of the year Artemi Panarin, forward Tyler Motte and a draft pick in exchange for Brandon Saad, goalie Anton Forsberg and a draft pick next year.

In Panarin, the Blue Jackets get a 25-year-old forward that has reached the 30-goal mark in each of his first two NHL seasons while getting to play on a line with Patrick Kane in Chicago. He also has two more years remaining on his current contract, which carries an annual $6 million cap hit, per CapFriendly.

Columbus also acquired Jordan Schroeder from the Wild and signed him to a two-year contract extension, and bought out veteran forward Scott Hartnell. On Monday, the Blue Jackets signed college free agent defender Doyle Somerby.

Right now, the Blue Jackets still have two restricted free agents in Josh Anderson and Alexander Wennberg to get signed.

Today at PHT, we’ll discuss the key storylines facing the Blue Jackets as training camp approaches.

 

Weight hopes Eberle can re-discover ‘eye of the tiger’ with Islanders

AP
Leave a comment

This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

Jordan Eberle had a difficult season at times in 2016-17.

Yet he still managed to score 20 goals, hitting that mark for a fourth consecutive season and fifth time in six years. (He put up 34 goals in 2011-12.)

You can understand why having a skilled winger to perhaps play alongside center John Tavares — at least that’s the expectation prior to training camp — would be intriguing for head coach Doug Weight as the new season approaches.

“Jordan, to me, is really, really exciting,” Weight recently told the NHL Network.

Eberle’s first foray into playoff hockey was a struggle, as he recorded only two assists in 13 post-season games and the Oilers made it to the second round.

And that is where Weight’s extended comments get interesting, because it sounds like the 27-year-old forward’s confidence took a bit of a hit during his final campaign in Edmonton and, in particular, during the playoffs, when his offensive production wasn’t there and the public scrutiny intensified.

Several weeks later, Eberle was traded to the Islanders.

“I want him to come in with that eye of the tiger; that fire back that sometimes gets lost,” Weight continued. “It’s tough. You can get cemented in certain roles, you can have some tough times. But Jordan still produced. He’s a helluva talent and I’m excited to get that confidence back in him and excited for him to get here.”

It didn’t take long after the trade for discussions about a possible Eberle-Tavares reunion to begin. Playing for Team Canada, they combined for a thrilling tying goal against Russia in the dying seconds of the 2009 World Juniors semifinal.

One of the Islanders’ top priorities is to get Tavares secured to a new contract, as he enters the final year of his current deal.

Adding a proven scoring winger to Tavares’ line may also help the team’s captain rebound from a season in which his bottom-line production dropped as well, which would certainly boost the Islanders’ chances of getting back to the playoffs.

“[Eberle’s] bringing a right-handed shot as a forward that can obviously shoot and score from anywhere,” Islanders forward Anders Lee recently told NHL.com.

“He’s a playmaker out on the ice and sees the ice extremely well. He can add some extra threats for us on the power play that can really help elevate us.”