In the US hockey world, LA Kings defeated Phoenix Coyotes (4-0).
Once again the LA Kings have proved they are a team to be reckoned with on the road, handing the Phoenix Coyotes a 4-0 loss on Tuesday night to go up two games to none in the Western conference final. With the win, the Kings moved to 10-1 during the playoffs and 7-0 on the road – an impressive and daunting record.
The Coyotes pushed, but the Kings put on a defense and puck protection clinic, frustrating Phoenix for most of the game. That manifested itself more than once, as tempered flared after the whistle went, but perhaps most of all showed when both captain Shane Doan and Martin Hanzel took five-minute majors for hits from behind (which also meant they were gone for the game). Those hits will likely both be up for review by the league, but what mattered on the ice is that they resulted in long stretches of power play hockey for the Kings.
Here’s an example of what Brendan Shanahan will have to deal with:
The Kings made use of their scoring chances, and the bench they spent so much money on building but had failed for much of the regular season to produce much, hit another gear Tuesday night. Jeff Carter netted a hat-trick, adding a new dimension to the Kings offense. He’d always been there, of course, but if Tuesday night was a sign that he has finally hit his stride (and the power play is clicking) the Coyotes – and perhaps whoever might follow them – ought to be nervous.
For the Coyotes, the next two games will be difficult, and they will have to find ways to beat the Kings at their own game without letting their emotions get the better of them. First and foremost, that means scoring goals. The Coyotes simply cannot rely on Mike Smith to carry them through this round and to win games on the road, when they are facing a Kings team that is so complete in its ability to shut down offense and, thanks in large part to Dustin Brown, generally annoy.
At this point, it’s difficult to see how the Coyotes will accomplish all of those things. But surely, top of mind for them moving forward will be to keep their tempers in check – Smith’s most of all. He has not been so easily rattled as he was in Game 2, and at the moment his is the one mind that still seems the most focused out of any on the ‘Yotes bench. But overall, it’s a grim outlook for Phoenix as they head to LA for Game 3. The hometown fans knew it Tuesday, too, of course. It’s why they threw garbage on the ice after the fourth goal – a summary, perhaps, of what they thought of their team’s effort.
But you have to hand it to the Kings. After the game, TSN asked Anze Kopitar whether he agreed that his team was getting better every game. Kopitar replied, “Yeah.” It’s hard to argue with him.
Game 3 is Thursday night at a very busy Staples Center in LA.
Rangers hope to go up by two
Look out, here comes another game in New York. Wednesday night will see Game 2 at MSG in Manhattan, where the Rangers hope to hold off the Devils again. The Rangers have been good at scoring in the first period, but commonly put in a lot of work only to go to the dressing room just one goal up. And given how crammed their schedule has been, it might be advantageous of the Rangers to try as much as possible to build an early lead, rather than risk pushing the game into extra frames. But… easier said than done. Once again, look to Henrik Lundqvist for clues as to how the Rangers night will go.
On the Devils side, the latter also holds true. They will need to find some way of solving Lundqvist, and that might be as simple as getting more pucks in deep and putting more bodies in front of the net. They should also capitalize on the fact that the Rangers have been working their top five defencemen hard in the first two series, and grab every chance to dump pucks in deep, either opening up a chance to grind down low and keep the Rangers on the ice for extended periods, or at least force them to go back and wear them down little by little.
Look for another close game Wednesday, and watch for that tired bench on the Rangers side. It didn’t end up hurting them too much Monday, but one of these days, it will.
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