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No. 8-ranked Kings favorite to win wild West; Flyers missing Chris Pronger

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The NHL Playoff Recap gives you THN's take of what happened in each game of the night and what the consequences will be for the rest of the series.

We also provide our Three Stars of the night, which will be tabulated after each round. First Star is three points, Second Star is two points and Third Star is one point. Be sure to vote on who you think the first star was as well.

Of course there's the other side of the coin: The Black Hole is a piece of the lineup that just couldn't get it going on a given night and contributed to a difficult evening for the team.


THN’s Take: In their entire 45-year history, the Los Angeles Kings had never swept a seven-game playoff series. But after another standout showing from their goaltender and captain in a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues, they now have that first four-game romp and are the first team to secure a space in a conference final.

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick wasn’t worked very much in the first period – his teammates’ rapid puck movement out of their zone and aggressive forecheck limited the Blues to just four first-period shots for the second straight game – but in the second (when St. Louis outshot L.A. 13-2) and third periods, he fended off a far more desperate opponent and stopped 23 of 24 shots on the night. Meanwhile, captain Dustin Brown scored the game-winning and empty-net goals (his fifth and sixth of the post-season) and set the emotional and physical tone for the Kings, who last appeared in the Western Conference final in 1993.

L.A. has now eliminated the No. 1 and 2 Western Conference seeds via a defense-uber-alles identity forged after former coach Terry Murray was fired in December. It looks like they’ll be taking on a Phoenix Coyotes team equally as adept at it, but with fewer options on offense. And that means the team that entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed has become the favorite to win the West, if not another series after that.

Three Stars

1. Dustin Brown – In addition to his pair of goals that sent home the Blues for the summer, Brown was tied for second on the Kings with three shots and tied for third on the team with four hits. If it weren’t for Quick and Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, he’d be the runaway Conn Smythe Trophy frontrunner.

2. Jonathan Quick – Another day with very little goal support, another clutch performance from Quick, who lowered his post-season goals-against average to 1.55 and raised his save percentage to .948 in the victory. Even more impressive? He didn’t get much help in Game 4, as the Kings blocked only five shots (the Blues blocked 11).

3. Drew Doughty – The Kings defensive cornerstone had an assist and a game-best plus-2 while logging a team-high 23:02. He was also second on the Kings in hits (five) and his crisp first passes out of L.A.’s defensive zone helped take the heat off Quick early on.

Who do you think was the first star?

The Black Hole: T.J. Oshie was tied with David Backes for the team lead in regular-season scoring with 54 points, but the 25-year-old was held off the scoresheet altogether in the second round and finished the playoffs with just three assists in nine games. And in Game 4, he didn’t record a single shot or hit. There were a lot of Blues forwards who didn’t come through with offense, but Oshie stands out most in that regard.

- Adam Proteau


THN’s Take: Quick question. Those guys in the white, orange and black uniforms were indeed the Philadelphia Flyers, right?

Well, they’ve got some ‘splaining to do. Ever since the Flyers came into the league 45 years ago, their teams have always been more than a sum of their parts. They’ve had talent to be sure, but they’ve always excelled more on dedication and hard work.

That’s what made Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 4 of the second round series so incredibly hard to fathom. Has there ever been a time when you’ve seen a Flyers team play with less urgency than this one did? In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you’d have assumed that the Flyers, not the Devils, were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the series.

The Flyers were outshot almost by a 2-to-1 margin and had only 12 pucks directed at Devils goalie Martin Brodeur through the first two periods. And we might be able to excuse them if this were a traditional Devils outfit, but it’s not. This is a team that, instead of smothering you by clogging the neutral zone, has been giving the Flyers fits with its ability to jump on loose pucks and forecheck the daylights out of teams.

Not only does this kind of effort likely have Fred Shero turning in his grave, we’re willing to bet that Chris Pronger is at home grumbling right about now. Remember him? Can you imagine the Flyers playing like this with Pronger anchoring the blueline and playing 30 minutes a game? Not a chance. And if the Flyers turned in this kind of effort on his watch, you can be rest assured the light fixtures in the visitors’ dressing room at the Prudential Arena would not be intact at the moment.

The Devils certainly appear to have the Flyers vulnerable, the 3-1 lead in the series notwithstanding. Their rabid forecheck in the offensive zone has given the Flyers defense corps all sorts of problems and they seem to have figured out that Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who has actually been quite good in this series, is susceptible on the backdoor play.

On the defensive side of things, you have to give 40-year-old Martin Brodeur a ton of credit. He knows this defense corps is not a great one, so he has taken it upon himself to handle the puck with such aplomb that his defensemen almost never have to themselves. It also helps, of course, that the Flyers seem determined to play completely into Brodeur’s soft hands by flipping the puck in the Devils zone instead of trying for hard rims or, at the very least, dumping it in the corner and chasing it down.

Perhaps the ghost of Kate Smith will inspire the Flyers to show a little more determination in Game 5. Maybe the possible absence of Claude Giroux, who drilled Dainius Zubrus with a clear head shot at the end of the second period, will provide them with the motivation they need. Giroux received a minor penalty for the transgression and could get called on the carpet by Brendan Shanahan, but with the way the discipline rulings have gone in these playoffs, anyone who can say with certainty one way or another whether Giroux will receive more supplemental discipline is shooting in the dark.

Three Stars

1. Dainius Zubrus - He scored the game-winner and the empty-net goal to seal the victory and was an enormous presence in the offensive zone all night.

2. Ilya Bryzgalov - One of the most enduring mysteries of this series is the better Bryzgalov plays, the more the Flyers lose. But the Flyers would have been embarrassed in this one had Bryzgalov not played so well.

3. Martin Brodeur - Not necessarily for the saves he made on his 40th birthday, but for how well he handled the puck. His ability to play the puck prevented his defensemen from getting into any trouble.

Who do you think was the first star?

The Black Hole: Take your pick on the Flyers, but veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen’s lazy play on the puck led to the game-winning goal. Then with the Flyers trying to tie the game in the final five minutes, he took an obvious holding penalty to essentially kill two minutes off the clock.

- Ken Campbell


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