Upon the conclusion of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, when you look up the word ‘resilient’ in the dictionary, there will be a picture of the 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings. It’s truly unbelievable how at ease the Kings look when facing a troublesome situation. Down three games to none to San Jose in the first round? No problem, they rally off four straight victories. Run into a red hot rookie goalie in Anaheim’s John Gibson while behind three game to two to the Ducks? No worries, back-to-back-wins move L.A. to the Western final. Fall behind numerous times to Chicago in game seven? Again, no reason to panic, as Alec Martinez scores the OT winner to send the Kings to the final. Now Los Angeles find themselves on the verge of going ahead three games to none on the Rangers with a win tonight, even though they have not had a lead in the series (they haven’t led since game six of the West finals vs. Chicago), but thanks to clutch OT goals from Justin “Mr. Game 7″ Williams and captain Dustin Brown, L.A. are now two victories away from a second Stanley Cup championship in the last three years.
Aside from the third period in game one in which the Rangers were out shot 20-3, the Broadway Blueshirts have actually looked like the better of the two teams thus far. The Kings have had trouble containing the speed of the Rangers, most notably Carl Hagelin and Marty St. Louis, yet two key moments in each game have killed the Rangers in each of the first two games. The obvious one being the giveaway by defenseman Dan Girardi that led to the Williams OT winner. In all fairness to Girardi, that was the fault of his d-partner, Ryan McDonagh. There was no reason that in that situation McDonagh should have been been at his own blue line while Girardi was trapped in deep in his own end. With McDonagh away from the play and the forwards at centre ice, Girardi had no outlet. The key turning point in the Rangers blowing the lead in game two is mainly the fault of a blown call changing the momentum. How was L.A.’s third goal not called goaltender interference? It’s not looking good for New York, but if they are going to have any hope of winning this series, they need to win the next two at MSG.
As we approach the NHL draft and start of free agency, the off-season news is heating up for those not competing for Lord Stanley’s Mug.
Last week, the Penguins announced a new GM in former Hurricanes boss Jim Rutherford, while waving goodbye to head coach Dan Bylsma. At his press conference, Rutherford said he thinks the talent is there, but that the Pens need a coach who can get that talent to adapt to certain circumstances, basically laying the blame for early playoff exits at Bylsma’s feet. That’s where I think Rutherford is incorrect. The Pens are talented, but as I mentioned weeks ago, they are top heavy with that talent, and are not a solid four-line team like the Rangers, Bruins, or many teams from the West. The Pens need a few adjustments, but with Rutherford at the helm, the man who built the Hurricanes into a Cup-winner in 2006, Pens fans should feel comfortable, especially as Rutherford no longer has to work within the confines of a small-market team.
I cannot believe I am about to type this, but a thumbs up should be given to Islanders GM Garth Snow. In the past few weeks, Snow has managed to provide the Isles with a top-notch goalie in Jaroslav Halak, and if he can sign the pending UFA, a reliable, veteran defenseman in Dan Boyle, while only giving up a 4th and 5th round picks to get both. The Isles two main problems last year were goaltending and injuries. They solved problem #1 with Halak, now they just need to stay healthy. Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen provided the offense when John Tavares went down with an injury, and hopefully they can continue to do so into next year with a healthy #91 to play alongside. Also, if Boyle signs and Lubomir Visnovsky stays healthy, they have two seasoned defenseman to groom the young d-core, one that features Travis Hamonic, and should include the talented Griffin Reinhart next season. Not to mention they have an abundance of cap space, so they may be able to lure in a free agent or two. Maybe bring back Matt Moulson to play with young sniper Ryan Strome?
Finally, there have been rumours the Sharks Joe Thornton could be dealt to a number of teams, one of which could be the Maple Leafs. I took to reddit.com to ask Leafs Nation what they thought of this potential deal, and their answers pretty well echoed my own thoughts. Thornton would not be the right move for the Leafs. For a team with a limited amount of cap space that should be spent on improving the bottom-6 and the defensive unit, trading for Thornton, who carries a $6.75 million cap hit, might not be a wise move. And while Thornton is still producing offensively, he’s getting a tad long in the tooth, as he turns 35 in a few weeks.
Photo credits to: zimbio.com, bloguin.com, and ithacajournal.com