MIAMI -- The Oklahoma City Thunder may yet play in 10 NBA Finals and win six championships and lure NFL, NHL and MLB teams to Oklahoma City, but in the meantime, these guys are so young that when they cross the street somebody ought to hold their hand. Otherwise, Russell Westbrook will sprint into a parked car, and Kevin Durant will knock over a crossing guard, and Kendrick Perkins will just stand there and shake his head in disgust.
Yet again, our swarthy men of virtue drop the gloves and face off on top stories from around the NHL.
After much deliberation and conversation with scouts and NHL personnel people, here's how I see the first round shaping up the draft on Friday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. You can watch it live on Versus in the U.S., and on TSN and RDS in Canada, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.
Television viewers have long relied on broadcasters to provide analysis and explanations about the often-questionable decisions made by NBA referees.
LOS ANGELES -- At 7:48 PDT as dusk gathered over the City of Angels, the Stanley Cup finally had its Hollywood ending.
Fans celebrate in the streets after the Los Angeles Kings take home the Stanley Cup.
LOS ANGELES -- On a night when his team scored six goals, enjoyed the advantage of an opponent that managed just 18 shots and earned frequent visitor status to the penalty box, Jonathan Quick was in mid-coronation, an apt place for an exalted King to be.
On the first page of the little blue book of hockey clichés, the Stanley Cup is referred to as a marathon and not a sprint, which is why the Los Angeles Kings' apparent 10K fun run to the first championship in their star-crossed history was as unseemly as it was improbable.
LOS ANGELES -- As they returned to Tinseltown for Game 6, the Devils desperately needed starring roles from Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, their ace forwards who combined for 68 goals during the regular season. Whether Kovalchuk has been hobbled by the bad back he downplays and Parise has been distracted by the impending free agency he won't discuss, the pair has been largely AWOL in losses and vital in victories.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Only two teams that trailed 0-3 in a Stanley Cup Final have ever pushed the series to six games: the Detroit Red Wings in 1945 and the famed '42 Toronto Maple Leafs, who won the championship with four straight wins. Now the 2012 New Jersey Devils can be added to that short list after defeating the Los Angeles Kings, 2-1, at the Prudential Center on Saturday night.
The New Jersey Devils fended off the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, winning 2-1 to extend the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup championship series another game.
Join Adrian Dater and Allan Muir as they blog all the action from tonight's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersery Devils.
NEWARK, N.J. -- In all sports, the 0-3 series hole might as well be the equivalent of an open grave. The number of times that teams have overcome such a deep deficit can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And yet, the Devils haven't made their beds in the soil quite yet.
Yet again, our intrepid scribes set aside their quills to chew on the week's top news from around the NHL.
LOS ANGELES -- On the road again. It's a ballad better suited for a team in a country and western city. It could work in Dallas or Nashville, but the L.A. Kings will at least feel comfortable breaking it out for Game 5. With a chance to clinch before the local glitterati, the Kings instead are licking their wounds after a 3-1 loss to the Devils and will head for the gritty confines of New Jersey, a place where they have already won twice.
LOS ANGELES -- The Stanley Cup playoffs are supposed to be a marathon, but for the Los Angeles Kings, the spring of 2012 had pretty much been a 10K fun run where the organizers pass out sponsored T-shirts. The Kings had just loped along past the water stations known as the Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes and then put on a finishing kick that looked like it was going to sweep them past the New Jersey Devils and through the tape, ending the most soporific Cup final since the franchise entered the NHL 45 years ago.
The Los Angeles Kings will have to wait until at least Saturday to see whether the Cinderella skates fit.
LOS ANGELES -- In the 2012 Stanley Cup highlight film in a city that loves its movies, Game 3 will be a remake of the 1985 Bond opus, "A View to a Kill."
After two nail-biting periods, the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings remained tied 0-0 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday.
The math is bad in New Jersey. No, it has nothing to do with the environment, the tax rates or delays in the ferryboats across the river. Even the Path trains are running on time. But the 3-0 deficit the team faces in the Stanley Cup finals against the Los Angeles Kings seems much bigger than the numbers themselves.
LOS ANGELES -- Honestly, do the 2012 Los Angeles Kings make any sense to you?
LOS ANGELES -- Dustin Penner, whose observations of the world are sharply drawn, is not the lunatic fringe of the Kings' magnificent run to the cusp of the Stanley Cup.
LOS ANGELES -- You're the New Jersey Devils, looking for answers as you stare into the abyss of failed power plays, a goalie you can't beat, changing forward combinations that aren't generating goals and a 3-0 deficit against the Los Angeles Kings.
In a series that at times has had the necessary offensive antidotes -- strong goaltending, neutral-zone clutter and bad ice -- the Kings used bursts of offensive brilliance for a second straight game to topple the Devils in overtime. After Jeff Carter's goal at 13:42 of OT gave them a 2-1 win, the Kings now head back to Los Angeles with a perfect 10-0 record on the road and perfectly positioned to win their first Stanley Cup.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Two years can sometimes go by like a flash. For Jeff Carter, who scored the overtime goal Saturday night that gave the Los Angeles Kings a 2-0 series lead over the New Jersey Devils, two years might as well have been another lifetime.
Join the conversation as Adrian Dater and Allan Muir blog Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals ...
GM: Dean Lombardi -- Hired 4/21/06; Former scout with Flyers (2003-06), GM of Sharks (1996-2003)
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils met their enemies in their opening-game loss to Kings on Wednesday night and they were right in the mirror. After superb effort that allowed them to survive a seventh-game overtime against Florida, outskate hot Philadelphia and thwart the rival Rangers, New Jersey must now rebound from a well-earned defeat in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. "Honestly we didn't deserve to win," veteran Devils forward Patrik Elias said after his team's 2-1 overtime loss. "You need to have all 20 guys going in the Stanley Cup finals and we just didn't have that."
NEWARK, N.J. -- Before the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings could walk the walk in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, the suits around the league had to talk the talk. So, with the general managers meeting in New York City Wednesday and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr addressing the media (separately, naturally), here are the bits of news from around the league:
The NHL's lion in winter is back in the spring.
On his way out of the room at Media Day at the Stanley Cup finals, Alexei Ponikarovsky looked at the familiar silver trophy decorating the NHL Network set and blurted to no one in particular, "Is that the real Stanley Cup?"
Regular season series: Devils win 2-0
NEWARK, N.J. -- Forget the silver hairs, the gaudy résumé dragging along the floor, the questions about age and even the ghosts he thought he'd buried long ago; Martin Brodeur stood tall with a legend's prescience and saved his case of the yips for a postgame leap into a pile of teammates.
Once again, our intrepid hockey scribes have thrown down the gloves to take on some of the Stanley Cup playoffs' big issues and stories as well as each other. Click here for last week's thrilling installment.
Make no mistake: the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are rivals, bound by geography and defined by history. Their proximity is obvious looking across the Hudson, at the standings and in seeing the two teams battle six times annually during the regular season as part of the Atlantic Division. History is personal, made in the moment by the players involved and remembered throughout time by the fans on each side. It becomes the fabric that enthralls us all when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
NEW YORK -- At some point, it's time to expect the unexpected, to look at the player who entered the postseason with one NHL game this year and see not a fourth-line plug but an integral piece of a winning puzzle. On a team that boasts such offensive talent as sniper Ilya Kovalchuk and workhorse Zach Parise, it would be easy to see players like Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier as bit players -- perhaps heroes for an evening. But night in and night out this spring, their impact continues to be felt, and on the backs of their fourth line, New Jersey pulled within a win of the Eastern Conference title by defeating the Rangers 5-3 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
On Sunday J.J. Henry led the Byron Nelson Championship by a stroke on 17, at which time he hit his tee shot six yards over the green, double-bogeyed the hole, finished tied for third and told the press, "I thought I hit a good shot but the golf gods thought otherwise." And with that, responsibility lay not with Henry, nor even a single supernatural force -- a soft-spiked, hard-hearted golf god -- but with a whole panel of multiple gods subjectively critiquing his performance, like the judges on American Idol.
What we learned from a thrilling overtime win that propels Los Angeles to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1993:
It's small picture time for the Phoenix Coyotes.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Zach Parise can usually be found sunny-side up, the kind of gentleman for whom every day brings a reason for optimism. So when the Devils' captain begged off his usual postgame obligations after the Rangers shut his team out in Game 3 Saturday afternoon, it was either a sign of frustration or a hint of fortitude and resolution to follow. On Monday night, Parise answered, lifting his team into a tie series and an entirely new posture. With two goals and an assist in the Devils' decisive 4-1 victory in Game 4 against the Rangers, Parise gave his teammates reason to smile anew. "Feels much better," said Devils forward Adam Henrique. "Zach pulled us up and it's a new series now."
What we learned from Sunday's series-extending Game 4 win for the Phoenix Coyotes:
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Devils figured out a way to get through the Rangers' vaunted defense; now they have to find ways to beat their goalie.
We asked two of our hockey scribes to put their heads together and discuss their impressions of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs thus far. Their consensus: surprises galore and a few dull moments in the east.
What we learned in Los Angeles' economical 2-1 win over Phoenix in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals:
NEW YORK -- The New Jersey Devils' David Clarkson is now 3-for-3. When he tipped in a high point shot from Adam Henrique past New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the 27-year-old winger scored his third goal of the postseason -- incidentally, his third game-winner of this spring. Clarkson himself has no answer as to why his stick has a certain Midas touch this spring.
What we learned in Los Angeles' decisive 4-0 win over Phoenix in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final:
While pondering Jeff Carter's natural hat trick in Game 2 and the systematic way the Los Angeles Kings are absolutely woodshedding the overmatched Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Final, it is worth remembering that some of the best trades are the ones you don't make ... and the ones that you do.
Does anyone get the feeling that this is 2004 all over again? It's the Stanley Cup playoffs, the pinnacle of NHL competition, yet there is such an unsettled feeling to this year's proceedings -- as was the case eight years ago. The similarities as I see them are: a collective bargaining agreement about to expire, unforeseen playoff runs by unlikely teams, and much ado about a boring brand of hockey. Let's debate, shall we...
Regular season series: Kings win 3-1-2
If these playoffs have told us one thing, it's that rest is for wimps. For teams that had a lot of rest and relaxation coming in, the results the next series have been rusty and rotten.
Regular season series: Rangers win 3-2-1
It is the growing sports epidemic of the 21st century, where being the best team in the regular season of any of the four major professional leagues has never meant so little for the postseason. In fact, not only are the trophy cases of such teams likely to be empty at playoffs' end, but these regular season champions are lucky if they get past their first playoff opponent.
Jonathan Quick carried more than his share of the load to help the Los Angeles Kings advance to the Western Conference Final.
John Tortorella was given the chance to counteract what Dale Hunter acted upon in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday night. And there is your difference as to why the New York Rangers are pushing on with their season, and the Capitals are all done.
It started out as yet another winter of discontent in New Hampshire for Slava Voynov, who last October unhappily began his fourth season as a pro hockey player in North America. Drafted 32nd overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2008, the Russian defenseman knew he'd likely have to spend some dues-paying time in Manchester before he got his shot in the NHL. But four years? Nyet.
Martin Brodeur was unstrapping his goaltending pads after another victory, about to be rushed to a TV interview, when a reporter on deadline made a request. Could he answer just one quick question?
Whatever John Tortorella said to his players before Game 6 Wednesday night, they totally ignored him. On a night when his New York Rangers could have eliminated the Washington Capitals and moved on the Eastern Conference finals, Tortorella's troops played a robotic, passion-free hockey game, with the thought bubble that seemed to say "It's OK, we can get 'em in Game 7 in our barn if we don't do it tonight."
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave his stamp of approval to new St. Louis Blues ownership, saying the franchise's financial picture is much improved.
Much sweat and blood has been invested in a playoff season that has surprised many. Certainly, parity has played a part in the exits of top seeds and favorites in the early rounds, where the work harder/give more mantra is enough to make a difference. The Western Conference is evidence of that, as both coaches of the finalists, Dave Tippett in Phoenix and Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles, have long subscribed to that coaching credo. Same in the east where John Tortorella's Rangers and Dale Hunter's Capitals are set for a Game 7 on Saturday night because both men have their respective teams sacrificing everything physically to an utterly jaw-dropping degree.
Behind two first-period goals and 27 saves by goalie Martin Brodeur, the New Jersey Devils dropped the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinal at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night, taking the series and advancing to the Conference finals for the first time since 2003.
On what may go down as one of the finest days in the history of the Phoenix Coyotes, captain Shane Doan's first thoughts were for the team's long-suffering supporters.
1. Marc Staal, Rangers. Staal had just two goals and five points on the season after his debut was delayed by long-term concussion issues, but after pounding home the winner in New York's I-can't-believe-that-just-happened 3-2 overtime win on Monday night, he's already matched those totals in the playoffs. The goal -- a laser from the blue liner that took full advantage of an Artem Anisimov screen -- is likely to go down as one of the greatest in Rangers lore, but it was the amazing defensive work in the third when he broke up a 3-on-1 twice on the same play that kept New York within striking distance and set the table for the remarkable comeback.
NEW YORK -- Call it the power of pessimism. With his team down in the waning seconds of a likely 2-1 defeat in Game 5, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was looking ahead.
The utter dominance of the Devils in their 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night wasn't captured by the 4-2 final score.
All you needed for visual proof of the complete and total transformation of the Los Angeles Kings during the past 30 days was to watch the final two minutes of their Game 4 sweep of the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon.
Ladies and gentlemen, for this afternoon's performance, the role of the New York Rangers will be played by the Washington Capitals. All shot blocking previously depicted by Mssrs. Girardi, Staal, Del Zotto and McDonagh will instead be handled by Carlson, Alzner, Green and Schultz. Especially Schultz. Big time Schultz. One man traffic snarl, that Schultz. Time to call roadside assistance to evacuate the impediment.
1. Shane Doan, Coyotes -- Dave Tippett didn't mention him by name, but when the coach praised the team's leadership in his post-game press conference, it was a clear nod to the play of his captain. Doan set the tone with his aggressive forechecking in the first, then created the game's only goal with a knockdown of hulking Hal Gill and a slick drive to the net. After that, he was the model of discipline, playing virtually flawless defense as the Coyotes clung to the thinnest of margins for 45 minutes before claiming their 1-0 victory.
Leave it to Phoenix goalie Mike Smith. When asked by NBC's Joe Micheletti after Friday's 1-0 Game 4 snoozer how his team keeps pulling off these tough road wins, he voiced what we all were thinking.
It was so easy to want to lose faith in the Los Angeles Kings all season long. Words such as "underachievers", "disappointments" and "#$%@!$%" were applied to them during a regular season that saw the coach get fired and the captain nearly traded.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Ilya Kovalchuk did not accompany the New Jersey Devils to Philadelphia earlier this week, but that doesn't mean he didn't make a side trip to Lourdes when everybody was looking elsewhere. The restorative waters on the other side of the great un-Zamboni-ed pond are said to promote healing better than those of Upper New York Bay, which probably has more to do with public relations than with the purity of the wet stuff in north Jersey.
Some might think the Hockey Gods owed one to the Nashville Predators for handling the Alexander Radulov/Andrei Kostitsyn imbroglio "the right way."
The game was over in the first overtime. Matt Hendricks crushed Ryan McDonagh with a clean hit, took the puck and fed Troy Brouwer with a backhand pass to the front of the Rangers' net. A shot into a wide open right part and the Washington Capitals would be going to Game 4 with a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. But Brouwer simply missed it, wide right.
1. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers -- This is a triple-OT, paint-by-numbers, no-brainer selection. 53:17 of playing time. Eight blocked shots. Three hits. Nine shots directed at the Washington net. And most of those numbers accrued after he was blown up by Matt Hendricks while he tried to move the puck out of the corner. There were plenty of heroic efforts on the night (Hendricks was a beast out there for the Caps) but McDonagh may as well have slipped on a cape and a cowl. Marc Bergevin could only watch and curse his predecessor for what might have been in Montreal.
MONTREAL -- In the coaching realm, when an organization hits the reset button, invariably it hires what it hasn't had: a players' coach is succeeded by a disciplinarian; a prison warden replaces a country club social director; Mr. Yin yields to Mr. Yang. But the storied Montreal Canadiens, who sashay down Ste. Catherine St. to a beat sometimes only they can hear, have extended one of sport's governing principles to the front office.
The game was destined to be about the Ilyas -- that is, the Devils' Kovalchuk and the Flyers' Bryzgalov.
The saying goes that you're never in trouble in the playoffs until you lose a game at home.
NEW YORK -- Enough talk about role players, fourth-liners and character-gritty-unsung one-off heroes. With one laser strike, Alex Ovechkin righted the hockey hierarchy, the emoting superstar with his fists in the air and his team on his back. With the lethal suddenness that befits the sniper he still is, Ovechkin rifled a game-winning 45-foot missile past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with 7:27 to play, giving the Capitals a 3-2 victory in what is now a 1-1 series.
1. Anze Kopitar, Kings -- Kopi was nails for the Kings, scoring a pair of first-period goals that flat-out crushed the spirit of the St. Louis Blues. The first was one for the highlight reels, a short-handed beauty that saw him take a crisp pass from Dustin Brown in the high slot, drive the net, hit the brakes at the edge of the crease then tuck it around a stunned Brian Elliott for a 2-0 Los Angeles lead. The second was the kill shot, a backhander off a sweet Justin Williams dish that came with just 17 seconds left in the frame. With L.A. desperate for a big game from its top line, Kopitar led the way.
I'm not sure what coach Dave Tippett said to the Phoenix Coyotes before Game 2 Sunday night, but whatever magnificent words of inspiration he offered sure did the trick. Dominant from start to finish, the Coyotes were full value for a surprising 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators.
1. Chris Kreider, N.Y. Rangers -- One goal, one assist for the kid who was playing his hockey on a place called Chestnut Hill just a few weeks ago. The Boston College product is now a favorite of New York. Kreider's slap shot from high in the slot past Washington goalie Braden Holtby was the game-winner for the Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. It might be tempting to call it a soft goal -- as that's what everybody seems to call a goal that comes from beyond 20 feet anymore -- but it wasn't. It was a great shot from the rookie, and he is one big reason why more and more hockey pundits are starting to think the Rangers might just win a Stanley Cup for the first time in 18 years.
You live by the one-goal-lead, sit-back-and-trap-it-up-from-there-sword -- you die by the one-goal-lead, sit-back-and-trap-it-up-from-there-sword.
NEW YORK -- Three weeks ago, Chris Kreider was a champion. With Boston College, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger helped the Eagles to their fifth NCAA title as the NHL regular season was coming to a close. Three days later, he signed with the Rangers, who drafted him 19th overall in 2009, and joined the top team in the Eastern Conference for a playoff run, getting acquainted with new teammates, a new coach and New York City.
The Nashville Predators controlled nearly every aspect of their series opener with the Phoenix Coyotes Friday night.
Regular season series: Predators win 3-1
Regular season series: Kings win 3-1
For the first two periods, this game was Ambien mixed with Melatonin. For the final 43 minutes 47 seconds, it was a triple-shot cappucino mixed with Red Bull and steroids followed by a 50,000-volt chaser of electricity.
NEW YORK -- Thanks to a defense-turned-offense that was unexpected and timely goaltending that was presumed, the New York Rangers are alive to play another game, the remaining top-seeded team after a first round of playoffs that cleared out a number of favorites and left eight fortunate and resilient survivors.
What? You didn't know the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers are set to meet tonight in a decisive Game 7?
It had been the closest series in NHL playoff history coming in, so did we already know that Wednesday's Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins would go to overtime? Yup.
NEWARK, N.J. -- It came as no surprise that a game between the Devils and Panthers went to overtime. After all, Florida led the league with 25 extra sessions this season; New Jersey was close behind with 22. If anything, it's shocking the teams hadn't needed more than regulation before Game 6 on Tuesday night. At times, it looked like a marathon was in the making as they traded chances early in the extra frame.
Whether it was Henrik Lundqvist shaking with anger at the final horn, Chris Neil barking through his 7-10 split teeth, John Tortorella clearly mouthing one of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on TV or Paul MacLean heatedly saying ... something ... through that Wilford Brimley mustache, everyone it seems got their two cents in to the referees during the Rangers' 3-2 stayin'-alive win over the Senators at Scotiabank Place.
It was the hot talking point after the Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup with Antti Niemi between the pipes: Do you really need an elite goalie anymore to win it all?
1. Mike Smith, Coyotes. "I told our guys we were pretty good after we got it to 4-0," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Before that, it was all Mike Smith."
NEW YORK -- They didn't look all that different Saturday night, those Senators and Rangers. Both teams, backed by solid goaltending, undermined by impotent power plays, looked for any edge in a 2-2 series, however thin it might be. And in the end, it was Ottawa that found it, defeating top-seeded New York, 2-0, in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.
The Penguins learned a tough lesson Sunday. You can only dodge a bullet for so long. Especially when you keep supplying the other guys with ammunition.
VANCOUVER -- The entire city wanted to believe. Who didn't? But down 3-1 in the first round of the NHL playoffs, the Presidents' Cup-winning Vancouver Canucks didn't look too solid heading into overtime in Game 5 at home, especially after giving up the tying goal to the Los Angeles Kings early in the third period.
Zdeno Chara looked like the hapless extra in a Steven Seagal movie fight, Patrice Bergeron was playing with an "upper-body injury" that could have been a concussion, Brad Marchand had a bloodied mouth from a miscalculated Fosbury Flop and Tim Thomas looked just, well, pooped.
1 Craig Anderson, Senators -- The formula's pretty simple. For a No. 8 seed to even entertain the thought of rousting the top seed from the playoffs, it needs some clutch scoring, contributions from an unsung hero and some Ronnie Biggs-type thievery between the pipes. The Senators got all three tonight, including a pair of goals from Jason Spezza -- his first in the series -- and a stellar debut from Mark Stone, the Team Canada World Junior star who made the most of his chance with a physical presence and a slick pass to set up Spezza's game-winner.
The San Jose Sharks traveled to St. Louis needing three wins to save their season.
It was a reverse-jinx theory that even some of the most superstitious types had finally abandoned, even as the playoffs began. The theory: Maybe it was the best thing for the Washington Capitals to enter the playoffs as a low seed this time around. No more "If this team doesn't win a Cup, the whole season will be a bust" beast of a burden expectations-wise.
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