Kings GM on Doughty: ‘He’s only going to get better’

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Few hockey players accomplish what Drew Doughty has in their entire careers, yet the two-time Stanley Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medalist is just 24 years old.

(Let that sink in for a minute, even if it stings for just about everyone who feels like an underachiever right now …)

Much like Anze Kopitar, Doughty hasn’t won a Conn Smythe in the Los Angeles Kings’ two Cup runs, yet you could make a strong argument for his work in each title victory. At this point, it seems like the individual honors will come rolling along with the medals and rings.

For Kings fans, this might be just the beginning; GM Dean Lombardi told LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen that the best is yet to come.

“I mean, he’s only going to get better. He’s not done,” Lombardi said. “He’s 24 years old. Ray Bourque didn’t hit his prime ‘til 27.”

/Cuts to the rest of the NHL’s GMs hyperventilating.

Of course, with two championships in three seasons (and also a Western Conference finals run in 2013), there’s the question of whether or not the Kings will rest on their laurels. Lombardi says that’s unlikely.

On paper, this Kings team could very well vie for the Stanley Cup for the foreseeable future. Slava Voynov has room for improvement at 24 himself. Dustin Brown (29), Anze Kopitar (26) and Jeff Carter (29) are still under 30 while Los Angeles enjoyed breakthrough performances from Tyler Toffoli, 22 and Tanner Pearson, 21. Jonathan Quick is a two-time Cup-winner at 28.

In other words, the NHL must deal with the frightening possibility that this Kings team will only become better for the next few years (if not longer). Yikes.

Escape Kings: L.A.’s brushes with elimination

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The Los Angeles Kings only lost four games in their astounding 2012 title run. In stark contrast, they were pushed to the brink of elimination in all but one of their series in winning a second Stanley Cup this year.

If you want to make an argument that some teams are best with their backs against the wall, the 2014 Kings might be your Exhibit A. Let’s look back at their sterling efforts when they faced elimination.

(Interestingly, the Kings struggled quite a bit more when they were trying to put another team away. But let’s leave that out to keep this post from being 15,000 words.)

Sharks series

In case you somehow forgot, the Sharks went up 3-0 in this series, only to …

Game 4 vs. San Jose: Kings win 6-3

Who knew how correct Darryl Sutter was in saying that the Kings wouldn’t go away quietly when they were down 3-0 to San Jose? The Kings saw 1-0 and 2-1 leads go away but never trailed in that Game 4, so they passed that early test without too many scares.

The Kings claimed they saw fear build in the Sharks’ eyes as the series got closer to being tied.

Game 5 vs. San Jose: Kings win 3-0

Tyler Toffoli scored the first goal 8:09 into the first period and the Kings didn’t really struggle in protecting a 2-0 first period lead. Jonathan Quick’s hot streak was really taking off at this point.

Game 6 vs. San Jose: Kings win 4-1

Justin Williams gave the Kings a 1-0 lead that they carried for a good chunk of this game, yet things were nervous in the second period. James Sheppard managed to tie things up 12:26 into that frame. Most interestingly, the Kings took three penalties in less than four minutes of game time, including an interference penalty from Robyn Regehr and a high-sticking infraction from Jarret Stoll just 23 seconds apart. You could argue that run of chances was San Jose’s best chance to finally put L.A. away.

Los Angeles pulled away in the third period with its season on the line as Williams and Anze Kopitar combined for three goals in less than three minutes. Things got very nasty at the end of Game 6, including an altercation between Joe Thornton and Quick.

Game 7 vs. San Jose: Kings win 5-1

After a scoreless first period, the Sharks finally scored the first goal of a game in which the Kings were facing elimination in this series as Matt Irwin made it 1-0 early in the second.

That didn’t matter for very long, however, as the Kings scored twice in the middle frame and rattled off five unanswered goals to become one of the few teams to come back from down 3-0 in a series. Quick only allowed two goals in the last three games, beginning a pattern of strong finishes by Los Angeles.

Ducks series

The Kings actually took a 2-0 series lead but eventually found themselves down 3-2 against Anaheim.

Game 6 vs. Anaheim: Kings win 2-1

Jake Muzzin opened the scoring in the first period while Trevor Lewis made it 2-0 with about six minutes left in the second period. Kyle Palmieri cut the lead in half to 2-1 about a minute and a half later, yet that’s as close as the Ducks would get on that night.

Game 7 vs. Anaheim: Kings win 6-2

The Kings made their 5-1 win in Game 7 against San Jose look heated compared to this anticlimactic contest. Williams, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards gave the Kings a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Kopitar and Marian Gaborik didn’t take long to beef that lead up to 5-0. While the Ducks’ goalie carousel continued, Quick continued to be a brick wall when Los Angeles needed him the most.

Blackhawks series

The shoe was on the other foot in this series. Los Angeles had a 3-1 lead after losing Game 1, yet the Blackhawks narrowly avoided elimination in Games 5 and 6 before setting up a fantastic finish.

Game 7 vs. Chicago: Kings win 5-4 in OT

After seeing the Blackhawks barely beat them in two heated games to stretch that classic Western Conference finals to the limit, the Kings managed their own late heroics. To start things off, the Kings survived an early onslaught from Chicago. The ‘Hawks generated 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 leads yet couldn’t put Los Angeles away. Most dramatically, Gaborik managed to send it to OT with a late third period goal. Alec Martinez’s shot bounced it past Corey Crawford and the Kings managed to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

***

One might argue that the Kings struggled mightily when the Blackhawks and New York Rangers faced elimination instead of the other way around. Los Angeles generally did things the hard way in this impressive 2014 run, yet they managed to get to the finish line nonetheless.

Sure, you could linger on how close they were to getting bounced … although aside from that Game 7 classic against Chicago, the Kings generally turned it up quite a few notches when their season was on the line.

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

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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.

Some pre-game reading for stats nerds

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Just finished reading this piece of statistical analysis on the Stanley Cup Final from the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle. It’s pretty revealing, so I thought I’d pass it along as the start of Game 5 approaches.

Not that it’s news that Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Dan Girardi aren’t having their best series, but the struggles of the high-priced New York veterans are especially pronounced in the possession stats.

Meanwhile, the Kings’ trio of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson — all three under the age of 30 — has been absolutely dominant up front for Los Angeles.

There’s more info in there, so give it a read.

Related: Brad Richards knows he hasn’t been good enough

Get your game notes: Rangers at Kings

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

• Tonight marks the 93rd game of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, the most games in NHL history in one playoff year. The Kings are playing in their 26th game, tying them with the 1987 Flyers and 2004 Flames (led by current L.A. head coach Darryl Sutter) for the most by one team in a playoff year. The Flyers and Flames both lost in Game 7s of the Stanley Cup Final. The most games that a Stanley Cup champion has played is 25, by the 2006 Hurricanes (with current L.A. winger Justin Williams) and 2011 Bruins.

• Earlier this series, the Kings became the 27th team to take a 3-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final since it went to best-of-seven in 1939. By winning Game 4, the Rangers became only the seventh of those 27 teams to avoid a four-game sweep. Tonight, they will try to become the fourth team to extend a series to a Game 6 after falling behind 3-0 (1942 Maple Leafs vs. DET – won in 7; 1945 Red Wings vs. TOR – lost in 7; 2012 Devils vs. LA – lost in 6).

• Kings forwards Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Dwight King, Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis and Justin Williams, defensemen Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov, and goaltender Jonathan Quick are expected to play in their 64th postseason games since the beginning of the 2012 playoffs. If they play, they will all set a new NHL record for the most playoff games played in a three-year span.

• Doughty, who leads the playoffs in total ice time (706:12) and shifts (867) this postseason, has amassed 1,732 minutes, 19 seconds of ice time in the last three postseasons (63 games), the most TOI by any player in a three-year span since it was first tracked by the NHL in the 1998-99 season. Elias Sports Bureau

• Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves as he and his teammates held the Kings to one goal (Dustin Brown) in Game 4. His 40 saves were the most in a regulation-time, elimination-avoiding victory in a Stanley Cup Final game since the NHL began officially tracking shots in the 1958-59 season. In five games when facing elimination this postseason, Lundqvist is 5-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .971 save%, while the Rangers skaters in front of him have scored a combined 14 goals. Elias Sports Bureau

• The Rangers were out-shot 41-19 in Game 4, including 15-1 in the third period. The -22 shots-on-goal margin was the largest in NHL history by any winning team in a Stanley Cup Final game that did not require overtime. The previous mark was actually set in Game 3 of this series, when the Kings were out-shot 32-15 (-17 margin), but won 3-0.

• In Game 4, the Kings were held below three goals for only the sixth time in 25 games this postseason (and the first time since they scored one goal in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final vs. Chicago). The Kings, who lead the playoffs in goals (85) and goals/game (3.40) and games with 3+ goals (19), could become the first team in NHL history to score 3+ goals in 20 games in one playoff year.

• The Rangers have been outscored 2-0 by the Kings in third periods this series. In the 54 previous Stanley Cup Final series that went five or more games since 1939, only two teams went the entire series without a goal in a certain regulation period: the 1939 Maple Leafs were outscored by a combined 3-0 in second periods of their five-game series loss to Boston, and the 2011 Canucks (coached by current coach Alain Vigneault) were outscored by a combined 10-0 in second periods of their seven-game series loss to Boston. Elias Sports Bureau