NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings

Island in the Sun: Kings 5, Blackhawks 2

Box Score

Event Summary

Extra Skater

And so it’s come down to this. Not that we should have been blind-sided by any of this. Following the Game 2 aftermath, it was pretty evident to see that Los Angeles possessed a much more potent offense than their version from last year. It shouldn’t have taken a six goal output to discover that. Perhaps it did to the mouthbreathers that were openly cheering for the Kings to dispense of Anaheim in the previous round but certainly not to anyone who watched them play hockey for more than a few minutes.

Tonight was a bit of the same and it’s becoming pretty apparent that when the Kings are rolling, they are nearly unstoppable. Even though the Hawks came out with another strong start and had two power plays in the first seven minutes, they had nothing to show for it. Meanwhile, the Kings did not miss when the Hawks made the tiniest of mistakes.

During a 4-on-4, Patrick Sharp got stuck on the ice when the Kings penalty let out. This should not have been a dramatic mistake. After all, Sharp was one of the best Hawk penalty killers a couple years ago. But Sharp failed to rotate as Toews wiped out on his pursuit of the puck-carrier. This left Jake Muzzin with ample amounts of time and room to pick a corner on a screened Corey Crawford. Again, I would hardly qualify this as an egregious mistake on Sharp and/or Quenneville. It was very slight but it ended up costing the Hawks.

From there, things got ugly. Anze Kopitar took the puck right off Duncan Keith’s stick for the second goal. The Kings scored another power play goal off a pinball bounce that ended up right on Dustin Brown’s stick and even he couldn’t miss that open net. Then Drew Doughty surprisingly found a lane to get his point shot through as Kris Versteeg pontificated which clubs he could start guest DJ-ing next December.

All that said, the fancy stats and eye test will say that the Hawks are not that far off. They carried the play 5-on-5 for the majority of the game. Their lines (minus Handzus) seemed to generate a fair amount of quality scoring chances. And to Quenneville’s credit, he didn’t blow things out of the water (by his standards) as soon as the Hawks went down big.

The difference tonight was very simple – Jonathan Quick made key saves when he had to and the Kings power play right now is automatic.

–It’s been awhile since the Hawks have been outclassed in long stretches of a playoff series (Vancouver in ’11 was the last time) but the Kings are doing that to the Hawks. When the Kings are going good like they are right now, they’re the best team in the league. There’s really no debate about it. We can talk about the Hawks’ effort or how their game day roster isn’t truly maximized but it’s all noise if the Kings keep doing their thing.

But when they start to get wonky (i.e. power play isn’t clicking; not clogging enough shooting lanes, sitting back in a defensive shell, Quick isn’t Thor, etc) they look incredibly ordinary.

(I’M ALERTING YOU NOW. THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IS ALL BASED ON A SILLY HUNCH AND REALLY ISN’T BACKED UP BY ANY RELEVANT DATA) All that being said, it feels like it’s been pretty “easy” for them to rack up three wins against the Hawks and despite how people feel right now, they’re not that much superior to the Hawks. In the Penguins/Rangers series, I had a similar feeling when the Penguins went up 3-1 on the Rangers. It just seemed like the team down in the series was too good to not have a serious response. Every bounce seemed to go Pittsburgh’s way and then all of a sudden, they didn’t.

Maybe I’ll still be waiting for a bounce to go the Hawks way as they’re shaking hands on Wednesday but I still think there’s a course correction coming. However brief it may be.

–So Michal Handzus only played 4:28 minutes tonight and didn’t skate a shift in the third. Why does it take facing elimination in a nearly must-win game for this to sink through? The Hawks aren’t winning face-offs and aren’t killing penalties. Amazing how his defensive zone value is of little use when this is happening. Truly groundbreaking.

It’s tiresome to keep talking about the same things over and over (Really, it is).

But when you see only one Kings line (Carter-Toffoli-Pearson) consistently torching the Hawks, they either need to find an answer to it or they need one of their two lines to start capitalizing on all their opportunities. It’s really that simple.

–If Kris Versteeg doesn’t break through the top 5 of contract buyouts on CapGeek in the coming weeks, then you have failed as Blackhawk fans.

–As for any other Game 5 adjustments, a stronger performance out of Corey Crawford would be welcome at any time. The Hawk lines seems to be rightly aligned for the remainder of this series, however long it may continue.

Sure, it would be nice to see another possession-driver like Jeremy Morin in the lineup but he’s not going to make an instant impact and he’s certainly not going to be trusted with more than 9 minutes of ice time at this juncture, combined with his lack of playing time.

The Hawks have to figure out how to close down LA’s shooting lanes on the power play because right now, it seems like every shot is getting through and the only way they’re not scoring is if they miss the net. Whether it means getting more aggressive on their point men or collapsing within the hashmarks, they have to try something different.

–The Kings have had 3 game losing streaks in each of their previous two series. If it’s going to happen again this postseason, it will happen against the Hawks because it sure as hell won’t happen against the Rangers.

Cinch it up and hunker down.

  • DudeMan

    Hawks don’t have any more buyouts.

    • TheRealBBOX

      They don’t have any more compliance buyouts but can still exercise standard buyouts.

    • TitanTransistor

      They can buy him out, it just wouldn’t be a compliance buyout so there’d be some cap penalty. They could still do it.

      They won’t though. And maybe they shouldn’t. I’m willing to give him an off-season to see if he can get closer to where he was pre-surgery.

      But I’d still probably sit him for Morin starting next game.

      • lizmcneill

        A cap penalty that would continue on into DDN’s next contracts when we need every cent we can get. If he rebounds ever to some extent next year, dumping 2.2M for one year should be possible.

  • TitanTransistor

    “When the Kings are going good like they are right now, they’re the best team in the league. There’s really no debate about it.”

    Agreed. They are very impressive. If the Hawks were playing at the absolute top of their game, this series would probably be 50/50.

    As it is now, between the roster selections in the first games, to the PK collapse, to the injuries to Sharp and Shaw, to a 4th line that Q doesn’t trust to play… yeah, they’re better.

    Hawks CAN win the next 3 games. I hope they do. But hopefully, if they don’t, they go into the off-season ready to cut ties to aging players, and are ready to pursue a legit option at 2C (and no, I don’t think TT is going to be ready for that next year).

    • DJ

      Agreed. They are very impressive. If the Hawks were playing at the absolute top of their game, this series would probably be 50/50.

      I’d say 55/45, but that might be nit-picking. I don’t think that San Jose or Anaheim are much better than us, and they both took LA to seven.

    • HawkIPA

      Why not give TT room to try? A big difference between the Hawks and Kings this year is that the Kings gave their young guys room to develop. It probably cost them some games in the regular season but look where guys like Tifoli are at now. Let TT have 50 games to learn how to excel in the NHL. Frankly, the Hawks can do far worse, and if he’s as good as many think, he could be one of the keys to keeping the Hawks a contender after Sharp and Hossa lose effectiveness.

    • HawkIPA

      Not saying that 2C has to be TT next year, but with the cap where it is, the Hawks likely can’t afford a proven 2C unless it’s a rental (and even then, I doubt it’s affordable).

  • Beastoftheeast81

    I’m going to catch hell for this statement but I’m sick of Quenneville. No it’s not all on him. It’s not his fault Sharp can’t hit open nets from up close, or hit the broadside of a barn from far out. It’s not his fault that Brent Seabrook fell asleep on all three goals and refuses to clear bodies from the net. Or after getting hosed in the corners he just stops skating while his marks go to the net and annihilate Crow.

    Is it his fault that the Hawks forwards all want to dangle and cycle in the LA zone? That they want to continue these drop passes backwards to no one, or that they want to stickhandle 1 on 2? Is it his fault that they like to force cross ice passes through three Kings players collapsing towards the net?

    Is it his fault that on the PP the Kings forwards overpursue and we don’t cycle down low? Is it his fault we passed up on at least 10-15 shots tonight in order to stickhandle a bit more and look for some perfect pass that will never be there due to the Kings relentless back check and overall defensive pressure in their zone.

    Is it his fault he hired the guy who the Kings fired after winning a cup to run our toothless powerplay? Is it his fault that Pirri was traded to Florida because of a supposed bad attitude? The kid who played his ass off and played well might we all add before that assbag #26 came back and got him sent back down. Is it his fault that we brought his guy Versteeg back who has been nothing but a complete bust since coming over? Is it his fault for not making the adjustments on the PK by sending our Forwards out to pressure the Kings on the point….who simply have been deadly accurate from afar? And yet are given all the time in the world to wait for open lanes to blast through?

    Is it his fault for playing a no talent assclown like Bollig and Handzus for an entire playoff run? Two guys who have offered very little and are easily replaced by half of the Ice Hogs tomorrow?

    I’m frustrated guys, and no we can’t blame Q for everything that’s transpired on the ice, but someone has got to start being real here. I don’t care what his past W/L record is. I don’t care what he’s done or hasn’t done in his time here. He has been bad this postseason and we’ve won in spite of his decisions on the ice with personnel or otherwise. This organization was built and proclaims to strive for excellence year in and year out. The Kings are a fantastic hockey club, there is no question. But some of this comes down on the Q-Stache whether you’ll admit it or not.

    I’m not a fan of the job he’s done this year in the regular season or the post season.

    • DJ

      He hasn’t seemed to learn from his mistakes this year. Or to realize that they are mistakes.

      Now you don’t win as many games as he has done by being a nitwit. Plus, he has the benefit of having Scotty Bowman as an advisor, Stan as the cap guy and a solid judge of talent, and all the metrics you could ask for. If when the smoke clears after this season, Q can really learn something from this and apply it…well, sometimes education is painful. I’d only consider dumping him if his stubbornness is too strong for his intelligence.

      • Beastoftheeast81

        I don’t believe Q is a nitwit. I believe he is stubborn though. He’s made more mistakes this year than I can remember. There is a part of me that feels like a spoiled bratty child right now but there is a part of me that feels like this franchise has been built near perfectly and to a standard that Q possibly might not deserve. Even through all the success fans have been left head scratching with some of the things he does. I just have found myself disagreeing with more and more each year that passes and now understand why the animosity that built up between the front office and the coach existed two years ago. Winning brushes the ugly past under the rug but it never truly goes away. I hope the boys come ready to play Wednesday.

        • DJ

          “Nitwit” was simply the word that popped into my head; I did not intend to say that you think he is that.

          Stubborn is an apt word. It might be the growing certainty that he’s unwilling to trust young players. Why else would he keep Morin and Nordstrom in the press box in order to skate statistical black holes such as Bollig, Handzus, and Versteeg? I suppose you could point to Saad, but he’s on a shorter leash than you’d think.

    • Bannerman

      At the beginning of the season, whoever wrote the preview (McClure?) pointed out that the Hawks had lost a lot of the speed that had given them such a big edge last season. I think we’re seeing those chickens come home to roost now.

      Everyone’s been frustrated with some of the lineup decisions but really the options aren’t really that much better. I’m as tired of Bollig, Handzus and Versteeg as anyone. Regin was better than Bollig. If you bench Handzus, who replaces him? Nordstrom? Morin for Versteeg? I think there’s a lot of “The back up QB is the most popular guy in town until he plays” at work here.

      Keith and Seabrook were bad tonight. Sharp’s struggles have been well documented. Those guys playing better will be a lot more important than which 4th line guy skates under 5 minutes.

    • Bob Lanz

      I couldn’t agree more. But then I have been saying this since training camp with some of the ridiculous roster decisions he made. Bollig started every fuckiñg game prior to the playoffs… That’s a Problem

  • BestPredsForward

    “Carry me Ladd!” has taken on so many new meanings these past months/years.

  • 1benmenno

    Thanks Fifth for a sombre yet realistic assessment.

    • cliffkoroll

      ditto for cliffkoroll

  • Jon

    The thing is, the Kings have actually not been that much better than the Hawks these last 2 games. I know, I know, this seems absurd. But look at the PP . I mean look at it, seriously. The Kings powerplay is monstrous right now, but on the ice at 5v5, they’ve been around the Hawks’ level.

    Solve that powerplay, and this series is dead even.

    Crying for Bolland and Frolik to come back and give us a fantastic shutdown line isn’t an option, and this roster doesn’t have too many great options as currently constructed. Morin would have been nice earlier on, when we had the time to see what he could do, but inserting an unknown into an elimination game is extremely dangerous.There just aren’t that many options.
    But the real issue is the special teams. If the Hawks can figure it out, then I think it becomes all about trying to stop Carter and the speedy kids. Maybe the Hawks won’t be able to: this team is slower than last year’s, and it shows when players like Haula in Minny can torch them again and again. So maybe a more trapping style, removing the ability of the Kings to carry the puck in would work better.

    In any case, even if the Hawks do lose, the exile of Handzus and the potential rehabilitation of Versteeg should do wonders. Maybe Stan will even dump Oduya for a fast forward prospect to slot in the bottom 6, or just picks, and we’ll get to see what we have in Rundblad, Johns, and co. Morin should play a bigger role as well. And you can’t forget Teuvo, who will be better than Zus by virtue of not being in his mid-late thirties, if nothing else.

    So I’d attribute a potential series loss to the Kings PP, the Hawks’ lack of speed, and the lack of a strong defensive 4th line.

    • lizmcneill

      The erstwhile 4th line has become the 3rd line. Have we ever had 3 strong defensive lines? It’s been 1 2-way, 2 scoring, 1 defensive for a while now.

  • cliffkoroll

    Who had Jake Fucking Muzzin in the John Druce pool?

  • bennicksic

    “Perhaps it did to the mouthbreathers that were openly cheering for the Kings to dispense of Anaheim in the previous round but certainly not to anyone who watched them play hockey for more than a few minutes.”

    The Hawks have matched up well against the Kings in both playoffs and regular season games for the last 2 years. The same cannot be said for the Ducks (regular season only) and it must be nice to insult people on here with the benefit of hindsight. Truth is, playing as they have this series, the Ducks would have beaten the Hawks too. So who cares who anyone was rooting for?

  • wihawkfan

    “………..that ended up right on Dustin Brown’s stick and even he couldn’t miss that open net.”

    exactly.

    how he is their captain and how he made the Olympics is beyond me. i agree he was a leading force when they won the cup but since then he has been a caricature.

    imo the 2 biggest things wrong with the american olympic team this year were d bag…er, d brown, and blysma.

    i’d like to feel like the correction is coming too because of the hawks history in this spot, their games 5 record, and the kings 3 game losing streak in previous rounds along with the kings memory of losing in the uc. (if the hawks can remind them of that and get in their heads again).

    i’d like to.

    it is funny how q sits bollig for the elimination game and basically sits handzus as well. it suggests that he does know what everyone else seems to already see.

    does anyone else think crow is hurt?

    they showed an interesting stat last night: kings first 48 shots, 1 goal. in 48 shots after that, 13 goals.

    crow went down after getting hit in the leg (game 2). i believe he took a stick to the top of his right thigh between his pants and shin pad, where there isn’t any padding. he was down for a bit but shook it off. maybe its affecting his mobility?

    i can’t say that he’s been getting beat on softies, because he hasn’t. but i was wondering if he was carrying something too.

  • Bannerman

    During the Q era, the Hawks tend to get better later in the series. Perhaps Q does see what we see but is saving the moves he can make until the other coach doesn’t have as much time to adjust. During the season, for example, in that game against the Avs which seemed so important he starts Raanta over Crawford and seems to make an effort not to show Roy anything.
    It goes back to the analogy about not starting the fire in the first place. Perhaps there’s an overconfidence factor with Q. Being a good coach, he probably thinks he can win with anybody.

    • YoAdrienne

      It seems like Q lets the other coach play all of his cards, and then he’s able to figure out how to react. Most of the time he’s able to figure things out in time. I hope it’s not too late this time, but I’m not so sure about that.

  • Bannerman

    This song goes out to all the goalie chanting KIngs fans out there.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJXZLnMPiQ4

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    Saw the highlights… Seems like one or two Kings were parked right in front of Crow on every goal. The first puck he saw was the empty netter.

    • I Remember The Roar!

      The Kings are BIG, and there’s always at least one directly in front of Crow. In the past, we’ve gotten away with leaving these players their, blocking shooting lanes, and hoping Crow has good (aka “lucky”) positioning for shots that get through, but no longer. I think it’s time to step up and play a bit more aggressive.

      Now, to compound the issue, do we think there’s any validity to the Kings’ home jersey colors adding to this? I’ve seen goalie pad color stats before, but never on jersey color. Not only is there a giant in front, but it’s a wall of black. Seems to be it’d be easier to track the puck through white, red, blue, green, or really any other color. (not an excuse, just a thought / observation) I have no experience here though – thoughts?

      • Hawkeytalk

        Well, that works both ways, though in theory the kings players aren’t actively trying to screen their own goalie. By that logic then, it’s slightly harder for Quick to track rebounds that stay near his own body.

  • Bobby Otter

    I thought the Hawks were pretty much outclassed last night. Once it was 4-0, the Kings took their foot off the pedal and the Hawks were able to make things interesting, but it wasn’t really ever in doubt.

    But yes, in Games 1, 2, and 3 this has been an even series (and though I didn’t see G3, what I’ve read confirms this). Kings were lucky to go back to LA tied 1-1. Hawks are unlucky to come back for Game 5 down 3-1.

    We can talk about how even it’s been 5v5; and I wouldn’t disagree. And I do think this is going back to LA; they have gotten too many bounces. But at the same time, the Hawks are getting obliterated on the PK, not doing much with their PP, and thus it doesn’t really matter that it’s been even 5v5.

  • Peter Turner

    2013 Stanley Cup mindset

    Bickell: I want to win the CUP
    Crawford: I want to win the CUP
    Kane: I want to win the CUP
    Hossa: I want to win the CUP
    Sharp: I want to win the CUP

    2014 Stanley Cup mindset

    Bickell: I want whatever Amanda wants/Buy that boat/Meet with lawyer/investment banker/what to do with all that money.

    Crawford: Frickin’ ex-girlfriend/Meet with lawyer/investment banker/what to do with all that money.

    Kane: Girlfriend says I gotta not lose my teeth/man where did I spend all my money.

    Hossa/Sharp: I won you 2 Stanley Cups and you can’t give me a son? #HockeyGodSucks

    • Hawkeytalk

      So much bullshit in one post. Congratulations.

    • HawkIPA

      Wow this is terrible–I was about to bang on about your belief in TWTW but then I read the rest and just don’t see the point.

      • Peter Turner

        Yup you are right. But you know, 80% of these postings after the game is in one way or another saying how this hawk sucks or that hawk is asleep etc…
        But no one has yet explained why? Why is it they’re choosing to slump now. Oh yes..Fatigue of course..like as if no one from the Kings are tired? The Olympics…yup..that explains why Quick is so tired compared to Crawford that he let in those 2 goals on Sunday night. Injuries…yes of course …good old injuries. That’s what depth in the roster is for. Next..

        So if no one knows why the Hawks are not playing as a team with focus and purpose, then obviously they’ve decided to prioritize something else in their mindset and I’m just sayin’…ya know.

  • wowwowweewoo

    I’m not selling on Versteeg yet, he always played a skating game and I’m curious to see what another year of rehab on that knee looks like. Didn’t he blow two ligaments and come back in like 6 months? No way he’s full strength.

    I am however a seller on Leddy. The kid will be good, but he is not top four on a perennial cup contender. If Q can’t get his game to its peak, I don’t know who can. Maybe he’ll go on to be a world beater, but that could have more to do with a change in scenery/playing with a chip (which he needs and won’t do here). I like him just fine, just not on an elite team. We can stop gap with Oduya for 2 more years I think, but the search for his replacement does not lye in Leddy.

    • HawkIPA

      I’ll try my chances developing Morin over keeping Versteeg. Much more upside. Also, 2014 Leddy is much better than 2013 Leddy. The kid has made strides, giving up on him would be a huge mistake.

      • Peter Turner

        If we wanted Morin in the lineup we should have had him playing more ice time during the regular season and not just the last 3 games towards the end. Instead we gave ice time to Pirri and Hayes before shipping them down to Blackhawk South.

  • eyemon

    I was hoping to see the Hawks come out breathing fire to tie the series up but was remarkably disappointed in what I saw. Kinda like turning on channel 5 to see Cheryl Scott for weather and getting a HD closeup of Peggy Kusinski…

    • Hawkeytalk

      So you value looks over brains? Good to know.

      • eyemon

        FYI, apparently Miss Scott has a degree from Brown University- so both are preferable.

        Apologies to Peggy. A cheap shot. Should have gone with a Susannah Collins to Luke Stuckmeier analogy. There I will admit to favoring looks.

        • Hawkeytalk

          Fair enough.

  • caliconservi

    while i think your comments have merit the problem the hawks have is after the 5 minutes of fury the hawks are left panting and tired and the kings go to work grinding down the hawks , many are saying the hawks look tired , they are tired they are slow and they lack the desire to keep fighting , hoping the kings get lax and lazy in an elimination game is a fools errand , look at the teams headed for the finals and you see teams who have played in elimination games and survived , what happened last is is old news and a false hope… these kings players survived 6 elimination games ! trial by fire and iron ….