The Los Angeles Kings weren’t able to make the playoffs this season despite being the defending Stanley Cup champions, but their AHL squad has been very successful in their place.
The Manchester Monarchs earned a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack in Game 4 of Eastern Conference Final tonight. That completed Manchester’s sweep, setting the stage for the Monarchs to play either the Grand Rapids Griffins or Utica Comets in the Calder Cup Final.
This will be the Monarchs’ first appearance in the championship round. They led the AHL with a 50-17-6-3 record in the regular season.
Jordan Weal, 23, has been leading the charge for the Kings’ affiliate with 10 goals and 19 points in 14 playoff games. Michael Mersch, 22, isn’t far behind with 11 goals and 18 points.
Adrian Kempe accounted for the series-winning goal tonight. Nic Dowd and Brian O’Neill also scored for Manchester.
As anticipated, defenseman David Rundblad drew in for Chicago tonight in Game 6 against the Anaheim Ducks. That comes at the expense of 40-year-old Kimmo Timonen, who played in Chicago’s first 15 playoff games but was averaging just 9:25 minutes per contest.
Timonen had a 47.79% Corsi For in even strength situations, which was the third worst on the team among those that had participated in at least five playoff games.
Based on the pregame warmups though, the pairings are a bit different than expected. During the regular season, Rundblad would most often play with Duncan Keith and this afternoon it looked like he would skate alongside Kyle Cumiskey. Instead, Rundblad is projected to be paired with Johnny Oduya. Meanwhile Cumiskey will play with Brent Seabrook and Keith will join Niklas Hjalmarsson to form the top defensive unit.
Chicago has been leaning heavily on its top four defensemen throughout the playoffs and questions about its blueline depth only intensified after Michal Rozsival suffered an ankle injury. With these changes, we’ll have to see if the allocation of ice time is a little more balanced.
Roughly three weeks after Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov’s wife, Marta Varlamova, was warned by Judge Eric Taylor that if she refused to testify against her husband as he faces domestic violence charges she could be found in contempt, Varlamova has attended three therapy sessions, but hasn’t changed her mind.
“She is still overwhelmed by the idea of testifying and does not want to testify,” her attorney, Michael Walsh, told Taylor, per the Daily Breeze.
That being said, Varlamova is continuing to work with her counselor. Varlamova and Walsh have to report to Taylor on July 6 to update him on her position. The trial is set to start on July 8.
Varlamova has stated in court documents and through her lawyer that her hospitalization was due to an accident. However, Taylor has ruled that a police officer and two hospital workers will be allowed to testify about talks she had with them. In those discussions, Varlamova said that Voynov had hit her and added that this has happened before.
Voynov allegedly punched and kicked her and shoved her into a flatscreen television.
As good a team as the Anaheim Ducks are, the Chicago Blackhawks were the popular choice to win this series. Chicago was coming off of a sweep of Minnesota and possesses a squad with a proven track record of playoff success. After a wild Game 5 loss though, Chicago needs a win tonight just to stay alive. Meanwhile, Anaheim has an opportunity to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2007.
The contest will start at 8:00 p.m. ET, but the pregame coverage will begin at 7:00 p.m. on NBCSN and the NBC Sports Live Extra stream, which you can view via the link below:
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
In the meantime, here’s some pregame reading material:
Etem likely to draw back in tonight versus Chicago
Sounds like it’s Rundblad, not TVR, in for Chicago on defense
(Video) PHT Extra: Blackhawks one loss away from interesting summer
Boudreau isn’t worried about Andersen after Ducks ‘bailed him out’
PHT Morning Skate: Emilio Estevez supports Ducks as ‘Gordon Bombay’
Toews: We’re ready for this challenge
Ducks win crazy Game 5, push ‘Hawks to edge of elimination
Monday’s 5-4 overtime defeat has to be a tough one for Chicago to swallow. Nevermind that losing Game 5 pushed the Blackhawks’ to the brink of elimination; this is loss would have been frustrating at any point of the season. The Blackhawks start has be seen by them as simply unacceptable and their incredible late-game rally was spoiled by an early overtime error.
None of that seems to have soured Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews’ outlook though.
“We feel that we’re a tough team to get rid of,” Toews said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “And now obviously the next game’s a must-win for us. A lot of guys, most guys, if not everybody in this room, definitely believe that that’s when we play our best, when our backs are against the wall. So we’re ready for that challenge.”
Chicago certainly has the experience to fall back on. The Blackhawks know what it takes to win, especially in high pressure situations.
“We’ve been through that before,” Patrick Sharp said. “We won the Stanley Cup with two goals in 17 seconds. They don’t get much higher than that. It’s a good series. Good team over there, good team in here.”
Winning two in a row against Anaheim will not be a small task. The Ducks haven’t suffered back-to-back losses yet in the playoffs and haven’t even been beaten in regulation yet. Chicago certainly has the talent to beat any team under the right circumstances and even tonight Toews showed why they can never be counted out.
This has been nothing if not an eventful Western Conference Final. With these two teams, it wouldn’t be surprising if Game 6 is more of the same.