My Two Cents for May 21st:
Kings in Command- Through four games of the Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Kings have take three of four games against the Phoenix Coyotes. After winning the first two games in rather impressive style in Phoenix, the Kings got back home to the Staples Center with their eyes on another possible sweep of a high seed. Thursday Night the Kings behind Jonathan Quick’s 18 saves and a defense that smothered the Coyotes particularly late took a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the best of seven series. With the win, the Kings gave themselves an almost insurmountable 3 games to 0 lead over Phoenix. Daymond Langkow of the Coyotes would open the scoring just 1:03 into the second period giving Phoenix their first lead at any point of the series up through that time. However the Kings wasted little time getting the equalizer as Anze Kopitar would score on a break away chance just 2:07 later to draw LA even at 1-1. The Kings would grab the lead for good early in the third period when Dwight King scored just 1:47 into the final frame. LA would turn to their defense to smother out the Coyotes allowing the desert dogs just four shots on goal in the final frame.
Sunday afternoon in Game 4 the Kings had a chance to close out the Coyotes and advance to their second Stanley Cup final in team history. However, Mike Smith and Shane Doan had other ideas, such as bringing the Kings back to the desert for a forced Game 5. Doan’s two goals in the first and second period held up as Smith’s 36 saves gave the Coyotes a 2-0 win to guarantee the series at least one more game in the Valley of the Sun. The Coyotes managed 21 shots on goal and kept Quick busy in the Kings goal, but it would be the men in black that would push the pace of the game again. Smith however was up for the challenge and more than equal to the task at hand. Though Smith was actually beaten on one occasion, the puck hit the left post and bounced away. The Coyotes certainly did not go to LA looking for a mere split, however right now they’ll take it as at least they still have an outside shot the the Cup Finals. However, the Coyotes will need to “steal” three more games, and with Quick in the net for the Kings that will be a tall order to say the very least.
Rangers Make Devils See “Deja Vu” All Over Again- The New York Rangers grabbed a 2-1 best of seven series lead over the New Jersey Devils with a 3-0 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals Saturday afternoon. Game 3 had a very striking resemblance to Game 1 in New York on May 14th. The game was scoreless through the first two periods with the Devils carrying a good deal of the play. The final period would come along and the Rangers would explode for three goals, two of which would come from both Dan Girardi and Chris Kreider. The final goal in each game was a late empty net goal, in Game 3 it came from Rangers’ Captain Ryan Callahan (in Game 1, it came from Artem Anisimov).
Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves in Game 3 (and made 21 in Game 1). Through three games, Lundqvist has made 81 saves on 84 New Jersey shots on goal. Meanwhile the Devils’ Martin Brodeur made 20 saves however has been lit up for four goals in the final periods of Game One and Game Three combined. Obviously Game 4 will be a critical one for the Devils as another loss will put them in a very deep hole and also the difficult position of having to win two more games north of the Hudson. Through the first three games New Jersey has carried the play, however it is the Rangers that are getting the majority of the breaks and bounces. If New York goes on to win this series and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, along the way they may prove that with their team it’s not the quantity of opportunities, it’s the quality of the scoring chances they are getting.
McLellan Will Return- Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan is no longer hanging in the balance about his job, and frankly never was. It appears that behind closed doors General Manager Doug Wilson already had advised McLellan he was safe as far as returning as the Head Coach. However, it appears the Sharks will also be active in recruiting new Assistant Coaches who are going to bring a wealth of NHL experience and an edge with them. Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” on CBC Sports reported that this was actually decided on April 24th, three days after the Sharks were eliminated from this years’ playoffs by the St Louis Blues in five games (*-this report was re-iterated by Puck Daddy on May 15th).
Now as to who will the new assistant coaches, it’s hard to say. It depends on what the Sharks are looking to do here. If you are going to get new Assistant Coaches, you want one that will respect both DW’s and McLellan’s authority but at the same time will have a voice on the bench that will be an effective one (he means what he says, he says what he means). If McLellan looks inside the Sharks organization, I would say get Mike Ricci as one of the assistants. Ricci has won a Cup as a player (with the Colorado Avs) and will bring both a strong attitude and work ethic behind the bench. Outside the Sharks organization, one possibility is Mike Haviland who was recently let go by the Chicago Blackhawks in a coaching purge. Haviland has had a hand in cultivating players and has a good eye for what’s going on in the ice. Haviland in fact, if not brought on as an Assistant Coach, may be someone to help with the cultivation the talent that is drafted and comes to Worcester. Haviland was the AHL Coach of the Year in 2006-07.
Whatever the Sharks line of thinking is here, the one thing for certain is that whomever is brought on if a change is made, they need to be a difference maker. Especially when you consider the possibility of a roster shake up that likely will commence once the Stanley Cup Finals have concluded by mid-June.
From Russia with Gold- The World Hockey Championships in Helsinki, Finland concluded Sunday with Team Russia taking the Gold Medal Game 6-2 over Team Slovakia. The Russian team rolled through the WHC going 10-0 for the tournament and outscored their opposition 44-14 in the process. Pittsburgh Penguin’s star Evgeni Malkin was named the MVP of the tournament. This marks the third time in five years Russia has captured the Gold, and the sixth time in eight years that they have come away with a medal. In the final game Malkin scored along with the Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk. The Washington Capitals’ Alex Semin scored twice while Alexander Perezhogin, Alexei Tereshenko added goals for Team Russia as well.
The Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara scored both of Slovakia’s goals. Team Slovakia took the silver medal for their second place finish in the tournament. In a very classy show during the post game medal ceremony the team looked towards the sky and saluted fallen Captain Pavol Demitra for whom they dedicated the tournament too. Demitra, who played in the NHL for the Vancouver Canucks, St Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings, was one of 44 men killed in a tragic plane crash on September 7th, 2011 that claimed the lives of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team that played in the KHL.
In the Bronze Medal Game, The Czech Republic defeated host country Finland 3-2. It was Finland who eliminated team USA on Thursday 3-2 while the Solvalia upended Team Canada 4-3 also on Thursday. With the tournament win, Team Russia appears to be the odds on favorite to dominate at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games that will be held in Sochi, Russia. Team Russia will enjoy home ice advantage.
Los Angeles Is A Lot of Things, But A Hockey Town It’s Not- I will admit up front I’ve never really openly pulled for Los Angeles based teams having lived in Northern California for much of my life. Also, this is NOT intended to any way take away from the Los Angeles Kings success, they have earned it. If the Kings win the Cup, they will have earned it, no doubt. There are LA Kings fans out there by the thousands, and they are great hockey fans without any question whatsoever. So why am I saying that Los Angeles is NOT a hockey town?
Los Angeles is one of the ultimate melding pots on the West Coast. There are several things to do in the LA area and many of them do not even involve attending sports events or even participating in a sport, pick-up game or otherwise. The Kings have fans that are in the city and outside of it. I myself have a co-worker who’s husband is a Kings fan and occasionally makes the trek from San Diego to LA. The Kings even have one of the finest arenas on the west coast in the Staples Center. The problem the Kings have and may continue to have even if they were to win the Stanley Cup is that they are simply not the high team on the food chain. This is in no way the Kings fault here. As the ole’ saying goes, “It comes with the territory”.
Our own Blueline Boomer (@bluelineboomer on Twitter, please follow him) wrote a good article about a recent trip he took to Los Angeles and was surprised to see how little the Kings are promoted. I had commented on his article that in the LA area, sports teams in order of importance in Tinseltown are 1) The Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers have always been the Kings of LA since the days of Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I am not and never would be a Lakers fan, especially since they ripped my heart out 10 years ago (I won’t go into that, don’t care to). However, I know people who are Lakers fans and they have all told me it’s the Lakers, the Dodgers, and the rest. It will never change. In LA, the Lakers ARE “The King”. Period. 2) The Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have many loyal fans and a huge fan base in and outside of LA. They are #2 for one reason, the town belongs to #1 and #2 is what most people do while the Lakers are in off season. 3)USC Football- NCAA, not NFL. The Trojans have won two national titles (I could care less what the NCAA says or thinks, I won’t let one bad apple run it for the rest). USC sells out most of their games and leads into what #1 does for Tinseltown. 4) The Beach: Not a sport unless you swim or surf, but this is done most often times during the Lakers off season or when there is no game on (i.e. in the morning). 5)LA Clippers: In LA because of a recluse for an owner that wants “Los Angeles” as part of his teams name, even though they will never do in our lifetimes what their counterpart has done. 6) LA Kings: If the Kings go on to win the Stanley Cup, they move to 5th now that the Spurs finished off the Clippers Sunday Night. However the point here is that the Kings, thanks to Los Angeles in general will never get the true respect they deserve which is a shame. 7)LA Angeles of Anaheim: They are Anaheim’s team, Mr Moreno not LA’s. 8)Oakland Raiders…still followed after moving back to Oakland 17 years ago. 289) Anaheim Ducks…No, that’s not an exageration or typo either. NHL awarded franchise to the wrong city (It was actually awarded to the Walt Disney Co.) LA only goes to Anaheim to visit Mickey Mouse & Company.
In spite of all of this, LA still needs to be in the NHL and has been for 44 years. The Kings only misfortune is being in a media market that is too big. Also, it’s amazing how some people who would not be caught dead at these games during the regular season are there for the late season run. However, LA is NOT the biggest bandwagon in the NHL. That honor belongs to Anaheim. In the last Sharks road game I went to there in 2010 I struck up a good pre-game conversation with a Kings fan who basically told me Kings fans are there but can be hard to find, but still out number hockey fans in Orange County. To put it in his words, “If you can ask some young lady ‘what is icing?’ and she tells you it’s what goes on top of a cake, you’ve got a passenger on a bandwagon ride.” Could not have said it better myself.
To all LA Kings fans, congrats on your teams success. If you win the Cup, celebrate it with your team, you will have earned it. As for the rest of you that are just there because it’s the “in thing”, enjoy the ride but when it’s over please let those who’ve been there the longest enjoy their day in the sun. Some have waited 44 years for it…
…Just My Two Cents…
The King Shark
Blades of Teal: The Final Word On San Jose Sharks Hockey
*-Link to Puck Daddy, McLellan story: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/todd-mclellan-return-san-jose-sharks-head-coach-204202343.html