Yet again, our swarthy men of virtue drop the gloves and face off on top stories from around the NHL.
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.
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.
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.
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."
The NHL's lion in winter is back in the spring.
Regular season series: Devils win 2-0
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.
What we learned from Sunday's series-extending Game 4 win for the Phoenix Coyotes:
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:
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.
Regular season series: Kings win 3-1-2
Jonathan Quick carried more than his share of the load to help the Los Angeles Kings advance to the Western Conference Final.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some might think the Hockey Gods owed one to the Nashville Predators for handling the Alexander Radulov/Andrei Kostitsyn imbroglio "the right way."
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.
The saying goes that you're never in trouble in the playoffs until you lose a game at home.
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.
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
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."
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.
The San Jose Sharks traveled to St. Louis needing three wins to save their season.
The NHL on Saturday suspended Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres for 25 games for launching himself into an opponent during a playoff game earlier this week.
The Detroit Red Wings said all the right things before their must-win Game 5 battle with the Predators.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins -- After allowing a record-setting 49 goals through the first four games, both Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov managed to board up the shooting gallery in Game 5 with their best efforts of the series. It was Pittsburgh's netminder, though, who backstopped the series-extending 3-2 win Friday night. Fleury was barely tested in the first two periods, but just might have turned the series with seven pulse-pounding stops during a frantic third-period Flyers power play. With back-to-back solid performances, it looks like both Fleury and the Pens will be carrying momentum back to Philly for Game 6.
Spontaneous, and mostly coherent, thoughts after watching New Jersey zip Florida 4-0 and St. Louis get past San Jose 2-1 on Thursday night ...
Almost everyone, including yours truly, said that this would be a close series. On many levels it has been: three one-goal games, with Game 4 last Tuesday in Detroit ending 3-1 Nashville after starting with 40 scoreless minutes. Yet, the series tally isn't close, as the Predators hold a commanding 3-1 lead.
CHICAGO (AP) -- The NHL fined Chicago coach Joel Quenneville $10,000 on Thursday for criticizing officials following the Blackhawks' overtime loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night.
LOS ANGELES -- Destiny's Doormat lives.
Dustin Brown, roaring down the boards to deliver a malevolent hit that left Henrik Sedin gasping for breath and clawing for help from his bench. As a metaphor, it worked pretty nicely: The captain of the Kings all but knocking out the captain of the Canucks.
Regular season series: split 3-3
Season series: Canucks win, 2-1-1
Regular season series: Coyotes win, 3-1-0
In the misspent days of my television-watching youth in the 1950s -- this is so long ago that the remote control consisted of getting off the couch, crossing the room and turning the dial to one of the five other channels -- my favorite show was the after-school classic, The Mickey Mouse Club. (This Disney reference is only tangential to hockey, unlike Wayne Gretzky's 1984 off-the-cuff assessment of the Devils as a Mickey Mouse organization, and, of course, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, but please stick with me.) The show's best day was Wednesday, known as Anything Can Happen Day. It's a memory, like Proust's madeleine, that flooded over me like hot Zamboni water recently during a chat with Predators coach Barry Trotz.
With Injuries playing a major role during the regular season, how teams deal with losing players goes a long way in determining their postseason seeding and fortunes. Once in the playoffs, injuries can swing a series one way or another and cripple an otherwise healthy Stanley Cup pursuit. Particularly dire is losing your number one netminder. So, who can best survive such an unfortunate occurrence should it arise in 2012?
The ballots came on Thursday. Well, not real ballots. Like almost everything else that used to be on paper, the NHL awards that the Professional Hockey Writers' Association votes on are now part of the digital realm.
NEW YORK -- Is this really an exciting race for the NHL's final playoff spots? Or more like the equivalent of a bunch of inebriated night owls stumbling to the one and only cab available to take them 20 or so blocks home?
What a rollercoaster season for the Detroit Red Wings. Early-on, they went through an 0-5-1 skid with Pavel Datsyuk struggling to find the net. He recovered his form, and throughout the middle portion of the season looked like a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate. All the while, the Wings piled up points at the Joe during what turned into an amazing record-setting streak of 23-straight home wins.
Acronym names for lines almost always don't work. The BBC Line -- Bates Battaglia, Rod Brind'Amour and Erik Cole -- in Carolina a few years ago wasn't bad. Toronto's old HEM Line -- Billy Harris, Garry Ehman and Frank Mahovlich -- in the 1960s had a nice ring to it. But mostly what you get after playing around with the players' initials is gobbledygook.
Of the top 13 NHL goal scorers by the beginning of March, 11 were drafted in the first round, one in the second, and one in the seventh. Say hello to Radim Vrbata, the 212th overall pick of the 1999 draft.
When Mike Keenan arrived to coach the Blackhawks in 1988, he noticed something disturbing in his team's dressing room at Chicago Stadium: ashtrays. Not just the squiggly-squared, amber-colored glass trays that populated most public places, but tall, regal-looking stands. Finished butts, dozens of them, had been given proper state funerals, or so it looked.
It's a pre-deadline Mailbag, otherwise known as the "Let's Spin the Roulette Wheel and Guess Where Rick Nash is Going Mailbag." Really, is there any other suspense left this year?
VANCOUVER -- British Columbia is still beautiful, as one February walk through its largest city confirms. No burning cars, no broken store windows, no police officers with billy clubs held high, no foolish young men flexing phony muscles for pictures that probably will put some of them behind bars.
So, the Red Wings set the NHL's all-time record for home wins at 21 and the achievement is at once impressive and divisive. What it takes to get the desired result -- a victory -- that many times in a row and send your fans home happy each time is mind-boggling. It is a testament to preparation and focus.
When the Minnesota Wild traded for lightly used New York Rangers center Erik Christensen earlier this month, a Western Conference general manager observed, "They must be thinking shootouts."
DENVER -- It has always been Joel Quenneville's quirky little habit to take a slip of paper from his pocket and scribble notes whenever his team is scored upon. Who was on the ice, short observations of what went wrong -- those kinds of things are quickly jotted in longhand. Unfortunately for Quenneville, he's been flirting with writer's cramp a lot this season.
Last week, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland commented that he likes his team and is comfortable as the February 27 trade deadline approaches. His club has the most points in the NHL right now, validating his position. And there has been much to like about his team thus far.
DENVER -- First off, the surname is pronounced Yo, not "Yow" or "Yee-ow."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Barry Trotz likes the improvements his Predators have made this season -- and he thinks his young team can get even better.
You get plenty of correspondence in this business, and my natural guilt complex makes me always want to give at least a sentence or two in reply. You take the time to write, I'll take the time to respond, even to the haters. Of course, when I blow up and become world famous (any day now, any day) that might change.
The winner of Surprise of the First Half Award (if the league can create the Mark Messier Leadership Award, we can invent whatever we damn please) is St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott, whose career seemed headed one way -- due south -- until it was revived with a two-way.
(Los Angeles) -- Outside the Staples Center, a formerly seedy section of downtown Los Angeles pulsates with the color of money. Fancy schmanzy hotels tower above other instantly recognizable brand names dressed up in 100,000-watt marquee signage. Downtown hipsters in skinny jeans seem to mix comfortably with well-heeled suburbanites in a place now known as "L.A. Live." It's a place that demands to be noticed and succeeds at it.
Predicting what will happen in the NHL during a given calendar year is very easy.
1. Sidney Crosby and the concussion epidemic. There are many years when you could argue that Crosby has been the focal point of hockey. This is another of those years, unfortunately for less than sanguine reasons. The Penguins' captain bracketed 2011 from Day 1 until the December reoccurrence of his concussion symptoms that have made this something other than a Merry Christmas season.
During the last four regular seasons, and in six of the last eight, the San Jose Sharks have ruled the Pacific like Magellan, the Spanish explorer who first sailed what he called "the peaceful sea" in 1519. By this point in the schedule, it is usually safe for the seamstress to begin sewing "Pacific Division Champions" on another flag to hang at HP Pavilion.
With the NHL Board of Governors in Pebble Beach, CA. on Dec. 5-6 to discuss the subject of realignment for the 2012-13 season, we asked SI.com hockey scribes Michael Farber, Sarah Kwak, Darren Eliot, Brian Cazeneuve and Adrian Dater -- to say what they would do if they ran the zoo. While addressing the question of where to place the Jets and a western team that must take Winnipeg's vacated spot in the Eastern Conference/Southeast Division, our writers were free to move teams at will, rename the divisions and conferences, and even reformat the schedule.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 5. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.
During the last two calendar years, Roberto Luongo has won Olympic gold and lost Stanley Cup silver, both in winner-take-all final games on home ice. He has laughed and he has cried, been saluted by hosannas and by single fingers. He draws "oooos" from Vancouver Canucks fans everywhere he goes. Sometimes the "oooos" start with an L, sometimes with a B.
DENVER -- For opponents of the Colorado Avalanche, trips to Denver used to be like going to the dentist. You took your drilling, left the building feeling numb, and hoped the calendar didn't call for a return visit anytime soon.
In my colleague Stu Hackel's tremendous dissection of what we'll call "The Big Stall" last week in Tampa Bay -- when the Flyers held on to the puck to lure the Lightning out of their 1-3-1 trap -- he said it was "as bizarre as anything I've seen in 50 years of watching the NHL." And he wasn't talking about Mike Milbury walking off the Versus set in a corny, staged protest.
Yes, it is that time of year again. With a minimum of fuss -- something the five men on this list probably appreciate -- we present our annual Stealth List (past installments are linked at the bottom of this page), a brief compilation of people who generally fly below the figurative radar while making the NHL a better place.
Nobody wants to go there. Nobody dares to go there. But you're just a little bit tempted to go there. Really, though, it isn't a good idea.
Vancouver police said Monday they are recommending 163 charges against 60 people in connection with the riots after the city's hockey team lost the Stanley Cup.
It's something of an inside NHL slogan: "If you want to be good on the ice, you must first be good in the room."
The Stanley Cup Hangover puts those recent Hollywood movie hits of the similar name to shame. There aren't enough aspirin in the bottle to wipe out its effects, which are a kind of nausea-in-reverse.
The opening of a new NHL season arrives with anticipation, excites on multiple levels and sometimes is even telling. Some things are easily identifiable, such as the Ottawa Senators as a team that will struggle all season. The bigger issue in analyzing the Sens is how does an organization that competed for the Stanley Cup in 2007 fall so far so fast?
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