Jeff Carter is the engine driving the Kings this season

3 Comments

When you look at the 2016-17 Los Angeles Kings, one of the biggest individual performances has to belong to goaltender Peter Budaj, opening the season No. 3 on the depth chart, being thrown into the starting job due to injury and then putting together the best season of his career while filling in for Jonathan Quick. But for as great as that performance has been, the MVP for the Kings right now has to be forward Jeff Carter, because without him they probably wouldn’t have enough offense to stay in the playoff hunt no matter how well Budaj — or any other goaltender —  has performed for them in net.

After his overtime goal on Saturday to help lift the Kings to a 1-0 win in Philadelphia, Carter enters play on Sunday with 27 goals on the season is currently second in the league, three behind Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead, and two ahead of Alex Ovechkin, his opponent (and the other half of NBC’s Star Sunday feature) on Sunday.

As usual, the Kings are finding ways to win this season with defense.

They are limiting teams to less than 26 shots on goal per game, are once again in the top-five in goals against, and continue to play a brand of hockey that can render any opposing offense, no matter how good it is, completely useless. But that commitment to defense tends to limit things at the other end of the ice for them as well, and they enter play on Sunday with only 132 goals (23rd in the NHL). It is not exactly a potent group offensively.

The one exception to that this season has been Carter, and he has done his part to almost single handedly carry their offense this season.

Just consider…

  • Only one other player on the Kings has scored more than eight goals this season, while nobody else has more than 15 (Tanner Pearson has 15)
  • His 27 goals represent more than 20 percent of the Kings’ goal total this season, by far the largest percentage of any player in the NHL. The only players that have scored more than 16 percent of their teams goals this season are Sidney Crosby (16.4 percent of the Penguins’ goals) and Brad Marchand (16.1 percent of the Bruins’ goals)
  • His 47 points are 15 more than the second leading scorer on the team, and give him a hand in more than 30 percent of the team’s goals. They have earned points in the standings in four games this season where he was the only Kings player to score a goal.
  • His 165 shots on goal are 45 more than any other player on the team

In other words, pretty much everything about the Kings offense this season runs through Carter.

He has always been one of the NHL’s top goal scorers, and since entering the league in 2005-06 is seventh with 334 goals during that stretch (Ovechkin, by the way, is first with 550) and has three top-10 finishes, including two in the top-four.

But while he has played — and scored — at a high level before, his performance this season might be his best and most significant one to date just because of how much it means to this particular Kings team.

Video: Predators’ Fiddler ejected for knee-to-knee on Blues’ Parayko

2 Comments

Hey, remember when Vernon Fiddler was a feel-good story in scoring an unlikely, lucky goal to seal Game 1 for the Nashville Predators?

That feel-good story didn’t extend very far into Game 2 against the St. Louis Blues.

With about 90 seconds remaining in the first period, Fiddler delivered a knee-to-knee hit on the Blues’ rising star defenseman Colton Parayko, who left the ice after getting some help. The officials responded accordingly, handing Fiddler a game misconduct and five-minute major for kneeing.

Vladimir Tarasenko made the Predators pay with a 1-1 power-play goal as the opening frame was nearing an end, and being that it was a major penalty, the damage may continue. The Blues will begin the second with about 3:30 in man-advantage time.

You can see video of the hit above this post’s headline. PHT will monitor updates regarding Parayko’s condition.

All things considered, the Predators are probably lucky that Game 2 is currently locked up at 1-1.

Video: Did Ovechkin miss opportunity to land big hit on Crosby?

Leave a comment

There are a lot of ways to describe Alex Ovechkin‘s on-ice style. One that probably never comes up is “shy.”

He’s one of the most hard-hitting high-scorers in recent memory, but Keith Jones and Mike Milbury noticed a moment where he passed up a potentially huge hit on Sidney Crosby in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ eventual Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals.

Both Jones and Milbury admit that Ovechkin probably made the right choice in the moment, as he a) scored a goal soon after and b) would have been whistled for interference (at minimum?).

Even so, they still wonder if it was really the right choice. Watch that interesting discussion in the video above.

And, in the clip below, something most can agree on: Crosby’s on a roll.

Game 2 is on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Predators admit Fiala ‘will be missed’ but must move on

Getty
Leave a comment

ST. LOUIS — The Nashville Predators faced the reality Thursday that they will have to play the rest of the playoffs without left winger Kevin Fiala, who sustained a broken left leg on Wednesday night in their series opener against the St. Louis Blues.

“Kev was playing so well for us,” Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis told NHL.com. “He became a dominant player on the ice, and it’s a big loss for our team. It hurts right now, hurts for Kev, too, but we have to move forward. He’s going to be missed for sure, but we have to find a way to get past it.”

The Predators will try to do that starting Friday night, when they take on the Blues in Game 2 of the Western Conference second-round series, trying to stay undefeated in this year’s postseason.

After sweeping the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, the eighth-seeded Predators won Game 1 against the Blues 4-3 on Wednesday. Nashville got a goal and two assists from P.K. Subban and the game-winning goal from Vernon Fiddler with 5:05 left in the third period.

Colin Wilson also scored for the Predators in his first game of the postseason, having missed the Chicago series because of a lower-body injury, and he likely must play a major role if the team is going to overcome the loss of Fiala.

Wilson led the Predators in playoff points a year ago, when they lost in the second round to the San Jose Sharks. They are trying to advance to the first Western Conference finals in franchise history.

“He’s awesome in the playoffs,” Ellis said of Wilson. “He’s been good for us all year, so he’s adapted to his role on the team, and he’s one of the guys we lean heavily on. Now losing Kev, we’re going to rely on him even more than ever.”

Wilson does not believe he will be able to carry the load alone.

“Throughout the year, I think we’re a little bit inconsistent, but when we played our game, we were always unstoppable,” Wilson told NHL.com. “We have a lot of talent, great D, great goaltending, all-around strong team with a lot of depth. Watching them was fun, but being a part of it is a lot better.”

The Blues saw ways they can be better after the Game 1 loss, primarily by avoiding penalties that helped put them in a 3-1 hole in the second period. Two of the Predators’ goals came on power plays.

“They put us on our heels, put us behind, created a lot of momentum,” St. Louis goalie Jake Allen said. “When we didn’t have to kill any penalties, it changed the game. I thought we played really well five-on-five.”

That performance did not result in a win, however, which is becoming a problem on home ice for the Blues. They are now 1-2 at home this season, compared to a 3-0 record on the road.

“We have to be better at home,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “We put ourselves in a tough position by not coming out and putting our best game in front of us (in Game 1). We have to be a little more focus and committed to playing a 60-minute game. For me, this time of year, you should definitely feel some momentum and energy from your crowd.

“There were some things (Wednesday) we can build off, things we certainly learned about their team and things we need to do to be successful.”

Stream Predators-Blues

Hurricanes get Scott Darling from Blackhawks for third-rounder

Getty Images
2 Comments

If you’re looking at that headline regarding the Carolina Hurricanes nabbing Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks in a state of awe, don’t feel too badly.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that even Darling’s representatives didn’t see it coming.

But it did indeed happen, as the Hurricanes sent a third-round pick in 2017 to Chicago for Darling. It sounds like the Blackhawks were going to part ways with Darling one way or another, so they get a decent pick for their trouble.

Darling is scheduled to be a UFA this summer, so the Hurricanes must believe that they can sign a goalie Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman described as “always reliable.”

The Hurricanes could have chosen to keep Darling in their organization, but apparently he didn’t make a huge first impression during this opportunity:

“Reliable” might honestly be selling Darling, 28, a little short. In 75 regular season games, he generated a fantastic .923 save percentage and even excelled when called upon in the playoffs.

With the Hurricanes’ mess in net in mind, you have to credit GM Ron Francis & Co. for being proactive … assuming they can sign Darling to a reasonable deal.

Carolina and Chicago seem comfortable as trade partners, as the two teams also made the Teuvo Teravainen/Bryan Bickell deal fairly recently.