The Los Angeles Kings might have taken a couple games to get started in these playoffs, but last year’s Stanley Cup champs have the look of a freight train right now. After winning four straight against St. Louis to close the first round, the Kings immediately opened the second with two more wins against a good San Jose Sharks team.
Los Angeles took the opener on Tuesday, 2-0. Jonathan Quick was dominant in goal, and even though the Kings were outshot 35-20, the bulk of that margin was built up in the third period when Los Angeles already had a two-goal lead and San Jose had to fire away with desperation.
Last night, the Sharks were able to break through against a quick. Even though a pair of early Los Angeles goals gave them a 2-0 lead, San Jose came all the way back and took a 3-2 lead with twelve minutes left. The lead held until the final two minutes when Los Angeles struck twice on the power play and snuck out of town with a 4-3 victory.
San Jose just isn’t getting its best players active in the offense. Give defenseman Brad Stuart credit for his goal and assist in Game 2. But shots taken by Stuart means they aren’t being taken by Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton or Logan Couture—a talented quartet that combined for only eight cracks on the net.
I leaned the Sharks to win this series in seven games and things can change fast in hockey, especially with the series going back to NoCal on Saturday night. But between the way Quick is playing and the way his team is finding ways to win, NBC might get a big-market dream in the Western Conference Finals with Los Angeles-Chicago.
SPEAKING OF CHICAGO
The Blackhawks broke a 1-1 tie with Detroit and scored three times in the third period to take Game 1 by a 4-1 count. In reality, Chicago took the game over in a scoreless second period. They enjoyed a huge 42-21 edge in shots for the game and it began in the second period, with a 17-5 margin. I’ve knocked Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard in previous installments of our NHL analysis, but you can’t expose any goalie to the firepower Chicago has and expect them to stand up. Chicago continued with 19 shots in the third period and eventually they found the back of the net.
Furthermore, Chicago’s shots are being taken by their big guns. Patrick Sharp took seven shots and turned it into two assists, plus an empty-net goal that sealed the deal. Marian Hossa shot five times and scored the game’s first goal. Detroit’s got a big hill to climb in this series and they did nothing to suggest an upset could be in the works.
THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
Pittsburgh did as Chicago did, and that’s validate their #1 seed with a 4-1 win over the 7-seed. The Tomas Vokoun story as the one-time backup goalie and Washington castoff saved 35 of 36 shots. Pittsburgh’s offensive prowess beat the game’s best goalie, Ottawa’s Craig Anderson, going 2 of 4 on the power play and also scoring one shorthanded.
If Boston’s last-minute heroics against Toronto in Game 7 of the first round weren’t enough, the Bruins gave the local fans more overtime heart failure. In a back-and-forth game, the Bruins finally finished the New York Rangers in OT with a 3-2 win. The shot margin of 48-35 in Boston’s favor was eye-catching, and almost all of that edge came in overtime, where Boston shot 16 times to New York’s five.
If you dig underneath though, there were good signs for the Rangers. I harped on Rick Nash’s failure to get involved offensively in the Washington series and he took six shots in Game 1 here. There were no goals, but he did have an assist, and it’s safe to say offensive productivity will follow if Nash keeps active. And on the flip side, Boston’s shots came heavily from the defenseman, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuck. Chara is a good offensive player, but while Boychuck has a lot of good attributes, scoring is not one of them. I’m sure New York would take this general shot distribution spread over the series and count on things working out.
The next schedule installment stretches out over the weekend. Ottawa-Pittsburgh resumes Friday night (7:30 PM ET, NBC Sports Network) and then we get a doubleheader both Saturday & Sunday, with NBC getting involved…
Detroit-Chicago (1 PM ET, NBC)
Los Angeles-San Jose (9 PM ET, NBC Sports Network)
NY Rangers-Boston (3 PM ET, NBC)
Pittsburgh-Ottawa (7:30 PM ET, NBC Sports Network)
When these games conclude, the Pittsburgh-Ottawa/Los Angeles-San Jose series will be three games deep, with the other two having a pair under their belt. TheSportsNotebook’s NHL analysis returns on Monday morning. In the meantime, check out the NBA commentary andMLB coverage here at TheSportsNotebook.