Anze Kopitar

Are the Capitals still just a ‘one-line team?’

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The Washington Capitals seem to face an all-too-familiar situation.

The good news is that Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are on a tear with Ovechkin leading the league in scoring (73 points) and Backstrom tied for second with 72. Capitals blog Japers Rink’ trots out some interesting new ways to express thoughts like “Yes, Ovechkin’s by far the best player in the NHL when it comes to scoring goals.”

There are great things to be said about Backstrom, too, but Japers’ Rink also provides a familiar “Yeah, but ..” in the fact that, after all these changes, the Capitals may rely on their dynamic duo too much.

Indeed, looking at the Capitals’ top forward scorers, the picture looks remarkably similar to 2013-14, aside from the fact that Ovechkin and Backstrom are producing at a better clip.

2014-15 scoring leaders:

Ovechkin – 73 points
Backstrom – 72 points
John Carlson, a defenseman – 47 points
Marcus Johansson and Mike Green – tied at 39 points

2013-14 scoring leaders:

Ovechkin and Backstrom – tied at 79 points
Joel Ward – 49 points
Johansson – 44 points

Look, in a salary cap league, it’s tough to put a team together that won’t see a drop-off from players at the level of Ovechkin and Backstrom. And yes, it at least helps that they’re enjoying contributions from an improved defense.

Still, when you look at some of the league’s most successful teams, they often enjoy strong depth and obvious one-two punches. When Jonathan Toews’ line was ailing, the Chicago Blackhawks could count on Patrick Kane to make magic happen (before he got injured, of course). The Los Angeles Kings saw Jeff Carter light up scoreboards alongside Anze Kopitar’s line.

The way Ovechkin and Backstrom’s playing, it seems like their line can create a goal or two per night. That said, if they make it to the playoffs and a team finds a way to slow them down, will Washington get the offense it needs from other forwards?

Sutter wants more from the ‘guys who haven’t scored in 10 or 11 or 12 or 13 or 14 or 15 games, whatever it is’

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The Los Angeles Kings have tweaked their lines ahead of tonight’s contest versus the Coyotes, with hopes of getting some goals from a few more of their forwards.

“We’ve got guys who haven’t scored in 10 or 11 or 12 or 13 or 14 or 15 games, whatever it is, and some of them have had zero scoring opportunities for the last five as individuals,” coach Darryl Sutter said, per LA Kings Insider.

Sutter didn’t name names, but winger Dustin Brown has gone without a goal in his last 11 games, while winger Dwight King has gone goalless in 13.

This morning, Brown was skating on the first line with Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar, while King was on the third line with Nick Shore and Justin Williams. The second line had Trevor Lewis, Jeff Carter, and Tyler Toffoli, with Kyle Clifford, Andy Andreoff, and Jordan Nolan comprising the fourth.

Related: Playoff watch — what the bubble teams need to do

Quick silences Canucks to push Kings into Wild Card spot

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The Los Angeles Kings had an opportunity to claim the second Wild Card seed after the Winnipeg Jets lost earlier tonight and they took full advantage of it by earning a 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

Quick recorded his fifth shutout of the season by turning aside 19 shots. He’s just one victory away from reaching the 30-win mark for the first time since 2011-2012.

Tyler Toffoli scored his 20th goal of the season and the sixth game-winner of his career late in the first period.

Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar, and Marian Gaborik accounted for Los Angeles’ other three markers.

The Kings have now won four of their last five games and are 12-3-1 over their last 15 contests, in keeping with their recurring theme in recent years of stepping up when the alternative is elimination. Los Angeles now controls the second Wild Card spot and is within striking distance of the third seed in the Pacific Division too, but the squad isn’t safe yet. With Winnipeg just one point behind Los Angeles, even a short losing streak could put the Kings back in a position where they’re forced to play catch up.

Meanwhile, Vancouver has been treading water lately with its 3-3-1 run. The Canucks control the second Pacific Division seed, but like the Kings their playoff spot is far from secure:

source:

Get your game notes: Kings at Avalanche

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Colorado Avalanche hosting the Los Angeles Kings at 9 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• Champs still on the outside: The Kings played well over the past month, posting a 10-3-1 record since February 7th, the date their season-high 8-game win streak began (but they are just 2-3-1 since the streak ended). However, LA is still outside the playoff picture because the 4 teams ahead of them in the race (VAN/CGY in the Pacific, and MIN/WPG in the Wild Card) have also performed well in that span of time:

• Since the 1967-68 expansion, only 3 teams have missed the playoffs the season
after winning the Cup, with Carolina in 2006-07 being the most recent to do so (also 1969-70 Canadiens, 1995-96 Devils).

• What does Vegas think? Entering the season, LA had 10-1 odds to repeat as Cup champions. Now, with 17 games remaining, LA isn’t even in the playoff picture, but the Kings’ odds to win the Stanley Cup remain unchanged at 10-1 (per Vegas Insider and Bovada).

• The Kings are familiar with having an uncertain playoff standing entering the stretch run. In each of the past 3 seasons, they have not clinched a playoff spot until the very end of the season.

• LA’s schedule: Though LA has many games remaining against the teams they are chasing (3 vs. VAN, 1 vs. CGY, 1 vs. MIN), its schedule is road-heavy to close the season (11 away/6 home, including tonight). The Kings have only won one-third of their road games this season (10-14-6 record).

• Semyon’s status: Avs starting goalie Semyon Varlamov is expected to participate in the morning skate today after exiting late in the 3rd period with a lower-body injury in the Avs’ 3-2 win over the Wild on Sunday. Coach Patrick Roy said he might have suffered from cramping. He is questionable for tonight’s game.

• Varlamov had been on a tear for COL, earning the NHL’s Second Star of the Week yesterday following his 3-0-0, 0.69 GAA, .981 SV% total in wins vs. PIT, at CBJ, and at MIN.

• He has also made 22 consecutive starts dating back to Jan. 15, the longest stretch of his career and the 2nd longest active streak in the NHL (Devan Dubnyk has made 24 straight starts for MIN).

• As a precaution, Calvin Pickard was recalled yesterday from Lake Erie (AHL), and would start should Varlamov not be fit to play. Pickard is coming off a 34-save shutout in the minors on Sunday, and set a club record with his 52nd career victory in a Lake Erie uniform.

• Pickard filled in earlier in the season when Varlamov was sidelined with a groin injury, going 6-6-3 with a 2.18 GAA and .936 SV% in his 15 games.

• Colorado staying alive: After a loss to the Rangers on Feb. 12, the Avs had dropped 4 straight in regulation and found themselves nearing playoff irrelevance. Roy set a goal for the team, saying: “We don’t have to look at the standings…it’s 95 [points]” (now would need 24 pts in the final 16 gms)

• The Avs have gone 8-3-0 since that losing streak, including 3 straight wins entering tonight, but are still 7 pts out of the 2nd Wild Card (WPG). They must also pass 3 teams if they want to play past early April.

KINGS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• LA has struggled to get consistent goal-scoring from key veteran forwards of late.

• Captain Dustin Brown has seen his goal production decline in every season since scoring 28 goals in 2010-11. He has just 10 in 65 games this season (on pace for his lowest total since his rookie season in 2003-04), including 8 straight without a goal. Brown has addressed the urgency of the Kings’ current position: “I mean, given the situation we’re in, we have to get better…This group over the years have proven when we need to play really well, we can. Unfortunately, we need to figure out a way to not put ourselves in these situations.”

• Conn Smythe-winner Justin Williams ranks 4th on the team with 16 goals, but he only has 1 goal and 3 points in his last 13 games.

• Anze Kopitar, who has led the Kings in scoring 7 years in a row, only has 2 goals in his last 20 games (though he does have 12 assists in that span).

• Trade deadline acquisition Andrej Sekera has played in 5 gms for LA. He has 0 pts while averaging 18:54 TOI.

• Alec Martinez (concussion) remains out indefinitely after taking a hard hit from Cedric Paquette on Feb. 7 in Tampa Bay. He has missed the last 13 games and has been skating in a no-contact jersey.

• Jonathan Quick ranks 3rd in the NHL with 55 starts this season. He was in net for the 1-0 OTL to PIT on Saturday, stopping 17 of 18 shots in the game.

• In the first Kings-Avs meeting this season (Feb. 18 at COL), Quick stopped 42 shots in a 4-1 LA win.

• Career vs. COL: Quick is 10-4-1 with a 2.43 GAA.

AVS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Captain Gabriel Landeskog has helped keep the Avs playoff hopes alive. After 2 points, including the game-winning goal, on Sunday vs. MIN, Landeskog now has 9 goals and 6 assists in his last 12 games, a significant improvement on his play before this stretch:

• He was the 2nd overall pick in 2011, and became the youngest captain in NHL history (19 years, 286 days) when the Avs gave him the “C” in the 2012 offseason.

• 23-year-old Tyson Barrie (2009 3rd-round pick by COL) leads the team in assists (33) and is 3rd on the team in points (43) – both are career-highs.

• Though he went without a point against MIN, Barrie still has 12 points (4G-8A) in his last 10 games.

• The oldest member of the Avalanche – 37-year-old Jarome Iginla – shares the team lead in scoring with Landeskog (46 pts) after a 2 assist game vs. MIN. That performance extended his point streak to 3 games (2G-2A).

• The Avs announced Friday that 2013 1st overall pick (and last season’s rookie of the year) Nathan MacKinnon had a fractured foot and would miss 6-8 weeks, making him out for at least the rest of the regular season.

• The Avs acquired Jordan Caron and a draft pick at the deadline for Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey. Caron was the 25th overall pick in 2009 by the B’s. The 24-year-old has 0 points in his 3 games with COL, playing on the 2nd line with Iginla and Matt Duchene.

Kings defeat Habs in shootout to tighten up West playoff race

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With less than a minute remaining in regulation, his team needing a win and down a goal, Marian Gaborik came through. And he did so again in the shootout, too.

Gaborik scored early in the period, and then the tying goal with 45 seconds remaining in the third period to send Thursday’s game between his L.A. Kings and the visiting Montreal Canadiens to overtime. In the shootout, Gaborik scored L.A.’s first goal and the Kings eventually prevailed over the Habs, with Dustin Tokarski in net, by a final score of 4-3.

After getting dominated through the opening 20 minutes — the Kings held a 13-2 advantage in shots on goal — the Habs got back into the game and took the lead in the third period.

That was before Gaborik’s heroics. Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar also scored in the shootout.

And that has only tightened up the playoff race in the Western Conference.

The Kings came back to win in a shootout.

The Minnesota Wild won in regulation.

The Calgary Flames won in a shootout.

The Vancouver Canucks lost in the shootout.

These are results that could eventually determine the post-season picture.

With a single point, the Canucks stayed second in the Pacific Division. But both the Flames and Kings are right on their heels, each sitting with 74 points, two back of Vancouver.

Each of those three teams have now played 64 games. Eventually, something has to give.