Rumor Roundup: Kings, Rangers, Red Wings face tough decisions in off-season

Milan Lucic.

The Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings were the first clubs eliminated from the opening round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. Their early exits have given rise to considerable speculation about their off-season plans.

Having rebounded from missing the 2015 post-season, the Kings entered this year’s playoffs considered among the Cup favorites. Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times cites a lack of blueline depth for why they fell in five games to the San Jose Sharks. It’s an issue she believes GM Dean Lombardi will have difficulty addressing this summer.

A lack of salary-cap space will hamper Lombardi’s effort to bolster his defense. The Kings currently have over $65.9 million invested in 20 players for 2016-17, though center Vincent Lecavalier’s anticipated retirement should free up an additional $2.25 million.

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Vincent Lecavalier’s plans haven’t changed, says he’s still retiring

Jared Clinton
Vincent Lecavalier (Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Vincent Lecavalier said when he was traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles that the 2015-16 campaign would be his final season and he would retire no matter the outcome of the Kings’ season.

But that was before Lecavalier, 36, potted 10 goals and 17 points in 42 games in Los Angeles and looked like he still had something left in the tank. After being scratched more often than not as a Flyer over the early portion of the season, Lecavalier looked like he could still be an effective veteran, even if his best years were far behind him. However, Lecavalier appears to be a man of his word.

In an exit interview Sunday, though, Lecavalier confirmed that his plans haven’t changed and that 2015-16 was indeed his final season in the NHL. That will put an end to his 17-season career. Read more

Sharks finish off Kings, showing they’re for real, and they’re spectacular

Ian Denomme
(Getty Images)

It may be time to re-write the old narrative about the San Jose Sharks. For the last decade the Sharks have been known as a good-to-very-good regular season team that can’t get it done in the playoffs.

It’s only one round, but the Sharks got it done on Friday night. The Sharks beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-3 on Friday to, surprisingly, win their first-round series in five games.

The last time the Sharks were in the playoffs was in the 2013-14 season when these very same Kings staged an epic comeback from 3-0 down to beat the Sharks in seven games en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

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Joe Thornton makes power play magic with slick feed to Joe Pavelski

Jared Clinton
Joe Pavelski celebrates with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski is one of the more underrated scorers in the league, and his four goals through four games in the first-round series against the rival Los Angeles Kings is proof of that. But in Game 4 Wednesday night, Pavelski scored a goal even the most stone-handed wannabe sniper couldn’t have missed, and it was all thanks to a great pass from Joe Thornton.

While the Sharks were on a power play midway through the second period, the puck was worked behind the net where Thornton set up shop. As Thornton moved out to the right side of the Kings’ net, Pavelski cut right down the middle of the ice, got his stick on the ice and gave Thornton a target to lay a perfect feed onto. Pavelski made no mistake, one-timing the puck past Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick to give San Jose a 2-0 lead: Read more

Sharks match Kings in swagger and smash to take commanding lead

Matt Nieto  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

At one time during the telecast of Game 4 between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, a post-game day skate was aired featuring Kings defenseman Drew Doughty talking about how the Kings were very confident about their chances in the series. Doughty then gave a toothless smile, one that carried a distinct message.

Even though Doughty wasn’t exactly providing the Sharks with rich bulletin-board fodder, his intent was very clear. The Kings have this uncanny ability to make things more uncomfortable than a British sitcom for their opponents, regardless of where the series stands. Doughty was clearly doing his best to get into the Sharks players heads, a place he and his teammates have occupied with an enormous amount of success in the past. The Kings have obviously earned the right to walk and talk with a swagger and they have the Stanley Cup rings to prove it.

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Kings’ Pearson the overtime hero as road team success continues in first-round series

Tanner Pearson and Drew Doughty (Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Forget about home ice advantage in the first-round series between the Kings and Sharks because the road team has walked away victorious for the third consecutive game, and once again it was by a one-goal margin.

In a tight-checking, end-to-end third game, Los Angeles got what could be the most important goal of their season when Tanner Pearson lit the lamp for the first time this post-season less than four minutes into the extra frame. The play began when Kings captain Dustin Brown dropped Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi with a clean, open-ice hit as the puck exited the San Jose zone. Brown chipped the puck back into the Sharks zone after the hit, allowing Pearson to turn into the loose puck, break in on a partial 2-on-1 with Vincent Lecavalier and go five-hole to win Game 3 for the Kings, 2-1. Read more

Are the 2016 Sharks different from the 2014 choker Sharks?

Matt Larkin
Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

“This time is different. I know we said last time was different, and it turned out to not be, but trust me, THIS time is different.”

That’s the sentiment the San Jose Sharks, from their players to their front office to their fan base, finally want to believe. But the Sharks, of course, have been the poster child for falling short of colossal playoff expectations throughout this millennium.

They made the post-season 10 straight times from 2003-04 to 2013-14, never finishing with a points percentage below .585 and topping 100 points seven times, or eight if you pro-rate 2012-13. They bowed out in three conference finals, four times in Round 2 and three times in Round 1. Most famously, they flopped in jaw-dropping fashion just two years ago against the Los Angeles Kings. San Jose led the series 3-0. It had Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick on the run, playing some of the worst hockey of his career. But Quick and the Kings as a whole rallied. They became the fourth team in NHL history to come back and win a series after trailing 3-0. They went all the way and won the Stanley Cup. It appeared halfway through that series “this time was different” for the Sharks. Instead, they cemented the choker reputation further.

You know what question comes next. Are the Sharks different this time now that they’ve jumped out to a 2-0 lead on L.A. in Round 1 of the 2016 playoffs? We can’t know for certain. We can, however, examine the facts surrounding the 2014 and 2016 series to unearth similarities and differences.

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Sharks take 2-0 lead with series headed to San Jose

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks are in familiar territory as they head home with a 2-0 series lead thanks to a 2-1 win over the L.A. Kings on Saturday night.

During the 2014 playoffs the Sharks held a 3-0 series lead against the Kings in the Western Conference quarterfinal and lost in seven games.

This series marks the third time the Sharks have taken a 2-0 series lead in a best of seven with two road wins. San Jose won its first two road games in the 1995 and 2013 conference quarterfinals.

Joe Pavelski opened the scoring with his third goal in two games and Logan Couture added the other as the Sharks led 2-0 through two periods.

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