Bruins

Haggerty: Kings look ready for crown after Game 1 victory

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Haggerty: Kings look ready for crown after Game 1 victory

NEWARK, NJ At a certain point the Los Angeles Kings might begin to think they are a team of destiny during this years Stanley Cup playoffs.
First, they vanquished the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks and possibly severed the final few strings of cord keeping together the dysfunctional marriage between Roberto Luongo and his team. Then the Kings dominated the St. Louis Blues in a four-game sweep that saw LA outscore the NHLs best defensive team by a 15-6 margin before romping their way to the conference finals.
It was off to the Western Conference Finals, where LAs hockey royalty squashed the Phoenix Coyotes in five games and dashed the Cup dreams of Shane Doan with a good, old-fashioned helping of hard feelings at the end.
Not even seven days of gathered rust could dethrone the Kings as they withstood some of New Jerseys best punches to secure a 2-1 victory in overtime of Game 1 at the Prudential Center.
Anze Kopitars goal was the difference-maker in overtime, but the victory was truly built on confidence constructed through a compelling postseason run.
The Kings arent brazen or foolish enough to pronounce the series over after one game, but there is belief within Los Angeles room that they will pull things out in the end.
Thats the depth and the heart that we have. A team could outshoot us 30-10 and we dont care. We still want to win so badly, and were so hungry to get that goal in overtime and win the game, said Drew Doughty, who started the play that led to the overtime game-winner. The boys did a great job with that.
Los Angeles could have curled up into a ball and cried for mama in overtime when the waters got a little rough. The humid New Jersey weather wreaked havoc with their hydration levels and the ice conditions had pucks bouncing all over creation.
Marty Brodeur looked every bit the first ballot Hall of Famer that Dustin Penner deemed him after Game 1 was over while stone-walling the Kings in the second and third period.
Brodeur made 23 saves in all, but his double-stacked stop of a clean Doughty rush from the slot off a Mike Richards pass was like watching a great goaltender from a bygone era.
The Devils built momentum while enjoying the better of the chances in the extra session, and they had the crowd at The Rock ready to celebrate a New Jersey win.
But the Kings are a perfect road team in the playoffs, and a hockey club doesnt build a 9-0 postseason record away from their friendly confines by buckling under pressure. Instead, Doughty took advantage of a little chaos in the neutral zone with a textbook chip off the boards, and Justin Williams and Kopitar did the rest for the Kings.
Williams no-look backhand pass to space was the cold-blooded move of a veteran thats been through the playoff wars, and Kopitar flashed the skill thats made him a Conn Smythe candidate during these playoffs.
But the play was made through an unbending mentality.
Most hockey clubs take the personality of their captains and key leaders, and Los Angeles is no different. Dustin Browns lunatic fringe intensity sets the tone for a Kings squad that refuses to break.
Its been the same for our team all year, said Brown. Weve been really good in this postseason at handling momentum. I thought they took it to us in the second half of the game, but overtime is overtime.
There are going to be good chances for both teams. They had some good chances and we found the best chance.
When Kopitars slick double-move lured Brodeur out of position and opened things up for his game-winner around the goaltenders pads, the Kings were once again rewarded for a champions resilience.
I saw those two on the boards battling. I wanted to make sure I went through the middle. I don't know if he heard me or not, said Kopitar. I yelled for the puck. He chipped it obviously perfect, right on my tape. You know, it happened pretty quickly. I was able to finish it off.
LAs world class players ended up with the overtime game-winner, goalie Jonathan Quick allowed only one fluky second period goal that bounced off his own defenseman, and role players like Colin Fraser (goal), Jarret Stoll (nine of 10 face-off wins) and Jordan Nolan (four hits and an assist) created energy all over the ice.
Its easy to see why Los Angeles has positioned itself for their first Stanley Cup title after rising from a humble eighth seed. They utilize every player on the roster and have had 16 different players score a goal during the postseason.
From a series standpoint its huge. To put them behind us from the get-go makes it a little more difficult for them to get back in it, said Brown. If we play our game and do the right things then it makes it extremely difficult for them.
The only thing the Kings are waiting for: to get crowned with a Cup and all its spoils with three more victories that look much more winnable after stealing Game 1.

Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the new Brown Sugar Cinnamon coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not Cookie Dough, but what is after all?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer James O’Brien has the details on Radko Gudas getting ejected for an ugly, reckless and dangerous slash to Mathieu Perreault’s head last night. Gudas should be facing a long suspension for a play that has no place in the NHL. It’s time for Flyers fans to stop making excuses for a player who’s no better than a cheap-shot artist and hatchet man. He has to face the music for consistently trying to hurt his fellow players.  

*Frank Seravalli has some of the details for a historic GM meeting in Montreal where NHL hockey was born in the first place.

*You always need to link to a service dog being part of the pregame face-off ceremonies. That’s like a rule here at the morning skate?

*Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, according to reports from the Athletic.

*It’s been quite an eventful year for Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and some of it has been to the extreme both good and bad just a month into his first year as bench boss.

*For something completely different: Chris Mannix is all-in on the Celtics being the front-runners in the Eastern Conference after their big win over the Golden State Warriors.

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

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