Kings need a goaltending change for Game 4

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In the wee hours of Wednesday morning – Center of the Universe™ time, of course – your trusty correspondent was crucified in Twitter for suggesting that the Los Angeles Kings should seriously consider starting Martin Jones for Game 4 of their first-round series against the San Jose Sharks.

The critics were pretty evenly split between one camp that insisted that none of the Kings troubles in the first three games could be dropped at Jonathan Quick’s doorstep and a group that worried about what kind of message that would send and whether it would damage his relationship with the Kings moving forward. All in all, the general sentiment could be summed up in the following Tweet: “You’re (expletive) kidding, right?”

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Patrick Marleau scores overtime winner on first Sharks shot, denies Kings of hope

Jonathan Quick

The Los Angeles Kings played their best game of the first round, had the lead midway through the third period and were clearly the better team in overtime, but none of that mattered. The San Jose Sharks won anyway and now hold a 3-0 series advantage on their division rivals.

Patrick Marleau continued his amazing run of overtime winners with this fortunate redirect, San Jose’s very first shot on goal in OT. The Sharks have won 10 of their past 11 playoff overtime games and Marleau has ended four of them.

Who says the Sharks vets don’t get it done in the clutch? Read more

Is Rene Bourque the new Dustin Penner? Wake me in the spring?

Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens - Game Three

Nobody could sleepwalk through a season the way Dustin Penner did the past few years in California. Then come the Stanley Cup playoffs in the springtime and Penner would come to life.

Is Montreal’s Rene Bourque the Dustin Penner of this year’s playoffs? With three goals in three Canadiens wins – and probably nary a mention in a hockey pool from coast to coast – Bourque is up from his season-long slumber.

If the Canadiens are to do any damage in the second round of the playoffs (yes, this is getting ahead of things slightly, but it’s just postulating), they’re going to need secondary scoring and physical play from the big body of the big man from Lac La Biche, Alta. At his best, Bourque can be Milan Lucic. Problem is, Bourque has rarely been at his best in recent seasons.

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Why these ain’t your granddaddy’s San Jose Sharks

Matt Larkin
Torres

“Just win, baby.” An effective expression for sports, as victories are what matter in the end, but it really doesn’t do the San Jose Sharks justice right now. They’re showing us a side of them we’ve rarely if ever seen not just because they’re winning, but because of how they’re winning.

Remember that vintage L.A. Kings period, when they silenced the SAP Center crowd with two rapid first-period goals, when Jonathan Quick looked absolutely unstoppable, turning aside all 15 shots? And remember the Kings’ humiliating 7-2 defeat, in which Quick was a sieve and an emotionally rattled Kings team saw captain Dustin Brown ejected? Hard to believe it all happened in the same night. And if the Sharks end up on a long, glorious run this spring, we may look back at April 20 as the night they went from prey to predators in the Western Conference.

On a stacked San Jose team, the catalysts were actually the grinders. Make no mistake: the likes of Raffi Torres and Mike Brown won Game 2.

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Top 10 clutch performers in the playoffs

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Sport)

Come crunch time, these are guys who find that extra gear when the pressure gets ramped up in the 
post-season. Here are the top 10 skaters you can count on to come through in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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Cripplingly insecure, arrogant & phony – there’s something to hate about all Sharks, Ducks and Kings fans

Kings-Sharks Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The deep dislike the Ducks, Kings and Sharks have for one another is mirrored by the fans in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. We asked bloggers from all three cities to state the hate each fan base has for its California rivals. Much to our delight, none of them played nice.

By Chris Kontos of The Royal Half

DUCKS: According to the Anaheim Ducks Twitter account, a theme for their post-season run this year is #UnfinishedBusiness. I’m not sure what #UnfinishedBusiness they could be referring to…unless they mean being unable to “finish” off the seventh seed last season despite leading the series 3-2. I bet #UnfinishedBusiness refers to the ticket sales department of the Anaheim Ducks. Since they are 21st in attendance, it must be a constant battle to try and get people in Orange County to stop waiting in line for Space Mountain or watching themselves on Bravo and go to a hockey game.

SHARKS: San Jose Sharks fans just love to tell you about how loud their arena is. That it’s the most deafening building in the NHL and provides a distinct home-ice advantage for their team. I guess if I was a hockey fan that was completely insecure about how poor my team did in the playoffs, I’d be boasting about how great the acoustics are in my building as well. And it’s true…the acoustics at the SAP Center are amazing. Each time the Sharks are eliminated in the post-season you can easily hear the tears of the fans drop to the ground!

 


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Bruins, Avs dominate my NHL Awards picks

Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Once again, I’m privileged enough to receive a ballot for the NHL’s annual individual player awards. It’s a huge honor for any hockey journalist and one I think deserves the respect of full transparency to the public. If we’re supposed to represent the fans, we owe it to them to reveal and stand behind our choices – choices I make after numerous discussions with NHL executives and players.

So here are my picks, along with some brief thoughts on why I chose the players I did for the five awards. You probably won’t agree with all of them, but the last thing these honors are about is pure consensus.

HART TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”) — Five selections.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

The Rationale: As I’ve noted in the past, I’ve come to see the Hart as a most valuable player award, if only because the concept of “value” is so nebulous. But certainly, Crosby’s value to the Penguins – especially during Pittsburgh’s injury-plagued season – cannot be questioned. Nor can his status as the game’s best all-around individual force. Getzlaf was a very close second, while Giroux got the nod over Bergeron because he was the catalyst in Philadelphia’s remarkable season-saving turnaround. Read more

Building a playoff team from scratch? No doubt you take Drew Doughty first

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(Editor’s Note: In our Playoff Preview edition of the THN magazine, we asked the question, “Who Would You Take” if you were a GM and were building a team from scratch to win in the playoffs? Most said Sidney Crosby, but three THN writers had another opinion. Below you’ll read why Ryan Kennedy would build his team around Drew Doughty. Also check out Rory Boylen’s column on Steve Stamkos and Adam Proteau’s on Jonathan Toews)

In a very short period of time, Drew Doughty has become one of the best and most well-rounded defensemen in the world. Never mind the fact he was Canada’s best player at the Sochi Olympics, never mind the fact he has a Stanley Cup championship ring and another gold medal from 2010 to go along with that triumph, just look at the visceral evidence.

For example, ask Washington Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom how he felt when his 6-foot-1, 213-pound frame was hoisted into the air by a Doughty hit in a recent tilt, then unceremoniously dropped from a fair height. Simply put, the Los Angeles Kings’ blueliner can hurt the opposition in every manner possible and that’s why I would want him as the headline player on my team if I were shooting for a title.

At just 24, Doughty has already racked up an array of championships that has him looking like a nastier version of Scott Niedermayer, who is now employed just down the road in Anaheim. The fact Doughty played for a mediocre Guelph team in junior means he’ll never have the Memorial Cup Niedermayer earned in Kamloops, but the young Kings star did get his World Junior Championship gold medal in 2008 and it’s only a matter of time before Doughty’s name is etched into the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. Read more