Archive for June, 2012

Devils’ money woes may torpedo team

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By Stu Hackel

In his perfect world, Zach Parise not only would never play for the rival Rangers, he would stay with the New Jersey Devils as the team continues its revival as an NHL power. But the world is far from perfect and the Devils’ financial situation is even less so. That’s why the team and its captain are on the clock, and that may force Parise to make a hard decision on his future.

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  • Published On Jun 14, 2012
  • Can the Kings become an NHL power?

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    Kings cornerstones Jonathan Quick (left) and Drew Doughty are just entering the prime of their careers. (Mark J. Terrill/AP Photos)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Kings are making the rounds with the Stanley Cup – The Tonight Show, the Jimmy Kimmel Show (here, here and here, Off the Record, etc.), Wednesday night’s Angels-Dodgers  game – and will show it off to their fans as they ride on double-decker buses in a parade through downtown Los Angeles on Thursday. (“Fans are encouraged to celebrate responsibly and be prepared for warm weather by drinking water and wearing sunscreen,” cautions The Los Angles Daily News.) After the parade, there’ll be a rally at the Staples Center. Tickets for the rally are free, distributed to season ticket holders, team sponsors and the like, although KCBS-TV reports some are ending up on eBay and Craigslist for over $200 each.

    “In the days when the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup almost every spring,” writes The Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott, “the city’s mayor would succinctly announce the details of the championship celebration. ‘The parade will follow the usual route,’ was all he needed to say, and everyone knew what that meant. There is no usual route for the Kings, who Monday won the first Cup title of their 45-year existence….They actually took an unusual route to get here, but if a few things go right, their parade could become a familiar ritual.”

    “We built this for a long run. It’s a good young team with the core tied up, and we have the resources to keep our key guys and look to add,” Tim Leiweke, the Kings’ governor and chief executive of parent company AEG, told Elliott. “We want to compete for a long time now.”

    Can they? Do the Kings have the makings of an NHL powerhouse?

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  • Published On Jun 13, 2012
  • Bernier not goat in Devils’ Cup loss

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    The boarding call on the Devils’ Steve Bernier was a cruel blow to a team that thrives on the forecheck. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    You may want to fit the Devils’ Steve Bernier for goat’s horns after his five-minute major in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the penalty that essentially handed the championship to the Kings with their 6-1 victory. But there are many other people who deserve a share of the blame that history will unfairly heap on New Jersey’s fourth-line left wing for costing his team a chance to get to Game 7.

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  • Published On Jun 12, 2012
  • Devils’ adjustments push Stanley Cup Final to Game 6

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    Adding Henrik Tallinder (7), who has fresh legs, has made a huge difference for the Devils’ defense. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Stanley Cup Final moves to an unlikely Game 6 on Monday night as the Kings get a second chance to close out the Devils at home and win the hallowed chalice. Usually if you blow a chance to wrap up a series on home ice, it can be fatal and if L.A. coughs up a second opportunity and we get Game 7 on Wednesday night in New Jersey, anything is possible.

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  • Published On Jun 11, 2012
  • Can Kings of the road grab Game 5?

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    Their team in New Jersey, Kings fans in L.A. anxiously await a Cup coronation. (Chris Williams/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Maybe it ends on Saturday night and maybe not. The Kings, who were juuuust good enough to win two overtime games and then ride their home crowd to a more decisive Game 3 victory, dropped Game 4 to the Devils on Wednesday night in another close outing and now must build on their incredible undefeated road record to win the Stanley Cup this weekend.

    The Devils, meanwhile, look to extend their season. Twenty-six teams have lost the first three games of a Cup final. New Jersey is just the sixth to reach Game 5. Only two have pushed the series to a Game 6; both, in fact, went to Game 7. The Maple Leafs came all the way back to win in 1942 against the Red Wings, Detroit nearly returned the favor in 1945, losing to Toronto 2-1 on home ice.

    Although it seems the hockey gods changed allegiances on Wednesday, bestowing a larger share of good luck on New Jersey than they did in the first three contests, the Devils also benefited from better execution. They finally took their own advice and exploited the flaw they detected in Kings goalie Jonathan Quick — shooting high. L.A. meanwhile, played tentatively at times and missed the Devils’ net entirely with their shots on over 20 occasions, the nervous prospect of winning the Cup at home perhaps in their minds. All that should make Game 5 rather interesting.

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  • Published On Jun 08, 2012
  • Brodeur, Quick keep Cup bubbling

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    Goaltenders Martin Brodeur of the Devils  and Jonathan Quick of the Kings are at opposite ends of the ice and their career arcs, and both have been playing superbly this spring. (Photos by Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    So here’s a frustrated Martin Brodeur after the morning skate before Wednesday’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, and he’s calling out his teammates. “I try to give these guys a chance to win and I’ve done that in the first three games,” the sure thing Hall of Famer tells reporters. “At the end of the day, it’s hard to win games when you don’t score many goals. I try to be perfect, but the other guy is a little more perfect than me.”

    That’s quite something. Imagine if Marty had struggled this round and one of the Devils’ forwards had said to reporters, “We’re scoring enough goals but it’s hard to win games when your goalie can’t stop pucks.” But of course, Brodeur has been stopping them, and watching Game 4 was like watching video of the 40-year-old in his prime. When a guy plays that well and has amassed a body of work like Brodeur’s, his public irritation at his lack of offensive support — not to mention his team having no luck, not getting the bounces and the calls from the officials — somehow is forgiven in the dressing room. Maybe it was even welcomed.

    Regardless of whether Brodeur’s words sparked them, the Devils finally scored an opening goal, took the lead for the first time in the series, and didn’t buckle when the Kings tied the game. The proceedings now shift back to Newark for Game 5 on Saturday, and, at least through his goaltending, Brodeur helped make it possible.

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  • Published On Jun 07, 2012
  • Kings one win away from dream

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    Rogie Vachon, the Kings’ first star goalie, won two Stanley Cups with Montreal, but endured lean years in Los Angeles. (Steve Babineau/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    This, finally, could be the night that fast-talking Jack Kent Cooke envisioned in 1966 when he plunked down $2 million for an NHL expansion franchise. He called his new team the Kings, dressed them regally in gold and purple (which he’d later call “Forum Blue”), had them briefly play home games at the Long Beach Arena in 1967 before moving them to his new “Fabulous” Forum in Inglewood, and — as Sports Illustrated’s Pete Axthelm reported in a cover story near the end of their first season — believed they could win the Stanley Cup that spring.

    Now, a mere 45 years later, it is possible. More than possible, it is very likely. Whether it happens tonight or Saturday night or some time next week, chances are that the Sun Belt’s first hockey team will hoist the Cup for the first time. The Kings’ dominance, on full display in their 4-0 shutout of the Devils in Game 3, has turned a dramatic playoff year anticlimactic. All that’s left is the coronation.

    Before that, however, the Kings must get their fourth victory. Three times this postseason, they have had a chance to sweep a series with a win on home ice. They’ve only managed to do it once. You know what they say in the playoffs: That fourth game really is the hardest to win.

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  • Published On Jun 06, 2012
  • Will Therrien’s second time be a charm?

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    If Michel Therrien does not adapt to the current NHL game, his next stint in Montreal will end as unhappily as his first one did. (Photo by Paul Chiasson/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    It’s unusual when big hockey news intrudes on the Stanley Cup Final, but fittingly in this unusual playoff year, there’s already been a lot: the announcement that the NHL and NHLPA will start CBA negotiations shortly, Nick Lidstrom retiring, Tim Thomas saying he’ll sit out next season, the Flames hiring Bob Hartley as coach, Marian Gaborik’s surgery and the Penguins acquiring Tomas Vokoun.

    Now there’s another story, and it’s a curious one — the Canadiens hiring Michel Therrien as their coach, a move that returns him to the Habs’ bench for the second time.

    The curiosity stems in part from Therrien’s penchant for installing a passive defensive system on the teams he coaches. Both the Canadiens players and their fans groused at Jacques Martin’s passive approach to the game and it’s pretty obvious that when teams wait for the opposition to make errors and then counterpunch, they don’t have much success in the NHL anymore. The Kings and Devils reached the Cup final because they abandoned that style of hockey. The Bruins and Canucks, last year’s finalists, did as well.

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  • Published On Jun 05, 2012
  • Devils forced into a must-win Game 3

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    Zach Parise and New Jersey’s other big guns have been misfiring or silent, a major reason why the Devils find themselves in such a dangerous 0-2 hole on the road. (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The fat lady in this 10 month-long hockey opera hasn’t started to sing yet, but she’s put on her makeup and is warming up in the wings.

    A Game 3 win by the Kings tonight in Los Angeles will leave us within one game of the Stanley Cup championship. They’ve won the first two games and not really played their best hockey of the postseason — and that’s fine: You don’t get style points in the playoffs.

    Four times now, the Kings have put a team that had the supposed home ice advantage at a distinct disadvantage by forcing it to win twice at the Staples Center to draw even in a series. No one has done it yet, not Vancouver, St. Louis, or Phoenix. It’s a remarkable achievement.

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  • Published On Jun 04, 2012
  • Kings and Devils thrive in Game 2s

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    The Kings were able to keep Ilya Kovalchuk in check in Game One. (Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    After an underwhelming opening night performance by both teams, the stakes have suddenly gotten quite high for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Two opposing trends will be on the line when the teams face off in Newark on Saturday evening.

    The Kings have taken a 2-0 series lead on the road in each of the three rounds they’ve played so far. Their Game 2s have been strong outings all spring.

    The Devils, conversely, have lost the first game in the last two series they’ve played and come back to win the second and the round. They say they are quite comfortable being down 0-1 and they’ve played well in their Game 2s.

    Both trends can’t continue. One will end on Saturday and that should have a lot to do with the course this series takes. A win by L.A. in this one will send the Kings back home for the fourth straight series with a chance to make this one a quick affair and hoist the Cup on home ice.. A win by New Jersey could at least mean that what many prognosticators expected, that we’re in for a six- or seven-game series, will indeed ensue.

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  • Published On Jun 01, 2012


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