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King of the Nerds

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Déjà Vu All Over Again

The 2013 Los Angeles Kings sure look like … the 2012 Los Angeles Kings

It took all of 22 seconds. The public address guy at Staples Center hadn’t even had the time to announce Dustin Brown’s game-tying power-play goal, and already the Los Angeles Kings had scored again. This time it was Trevor Lewis, who earned only five goals in the regular season (none of them in the month and a half leading up to Thursday night), converting on the power play. And just like that, a 3-2 Sharks lead with less than two minutes to play in Game 2 of the second-round series turned into a 4-3 Sharks loss.

The whole thing was reminiscent of another remarkable comeback in the closing minutes of a playoff game, though it didn’t quite match up to what went down at Boston’s TD Garden on Monday. This was a one-goal deficit, not three; it happened in Game 2, not Game 7. Still, it was a crushing blow for the Sharks, who themselves had clawed back from being down 2-0 early in the second period, only to see it all fall apart. Now, with the Kings holding a 2-0 series lead and the two teams heading to San Jose for Game 3 on Saturday night, the question is whether the Sharks can work their way back into the series.

Earlier in the third period, Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic had given the Sharks a 3-2 lead when he buried a rebound. But less than 30 seconds after Brad Stuart was called for a tripping penalty, at 17:19 of the third period, Vlasic tried to clear the puck from the zone off the glass and instead shot it up and over the wall. While one linesman appeared to think the puck had glanced off Jeff Carter’s arm, which would have negated the delay-of-game penalty for a puck over the glass, the lead official called the penalty and gave the Kings a five-on-three power play with two minutes left. (When they took advantage of the situation — twice — it kind of brought to mind Game 6 of last year’s Stanley Cup finals, when L.A. scored three goals during a five-minute major for the Devils’ Steve Bernier.)

The mandatory delay-of-game penalty for this type of situation is one that always makes fans groan; while the reasoning is sound — you don’t want players sending pucks sky-high just so they can buy themselves a quick rest — the implementation has been shaky, and it’s only a matter of time before a bad call in a big game leads to major controversy. Some people suggest that a puck over the glass ought to be treated like icing, in that you can’t make a line change off the whistle; others at least want the rule to be enforced more transparently. At a morning skate Friday, the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby said he was in favor of using video reviews on those delay-of-game penalties.

“Well, there you go,” said Vlasic after the game when a reporter mentioned that the puck may have hit Carter’s arm. “He saw that, then everybody saw that. What’s done is done. It’s unfortunate. We move on to the next game.”

The Kings have now won six consecutive games since losing their first two of the first round against St. Louis. Jonathan Quick has been outstanding in net. L.A. has gotten balanced scoring from all around its lineup — four playoff goals for Carter, three for defenseman Slava Voynov, two apiece for Drew Doughty, the two Dustins, and Justin Williams. Mike Richards has a goal and seven assists. It’s beginning to look like last year redux.

But all is not lost for the Sharks. They played a close game against a great team and were a weird meltdown away from returning to HP Pavilion with the series tied 1-1. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, sure, but San Jose can either curl into a ball or, with apologies to Sheryl Sandberg, lean the hell in. When things are jelling for San Jose, it looks like this:

When things aren’t, though, you get two goals against in 22 seconds. But perhaps the Sharks need to look to Los Angeles for help in dealing with their defeat. After Quick’s behind-the-net mishap led to a St. Louis Blues win in their first playoff game a few weeks ago, the goalie told reporters that he had already forgotten about it. “If we had won,” Quick said, “I put it right away. If we lost like we did, I put it right away. It doesn’t make a difference. We’ll try to win Game 2.”

They didn’t win Game 2 back then, either. But they’ve won all of them since.

Lighting the Lamp: The Week’s Sickest Snipes

The terrifying thing about a team like the Chicago Blackhawks is that you can hold Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to zero playoff goals, as the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings (so far) have done, only to have other threats by the names of Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp emerge. Hossa and Sharp have combined for 10 goals and six assists in the playoffs. There’s not much you can do about it; it’s like trying to hold on to one of those creepily phallic water snakes, or playing Whac-A-Mole.

Midway through the first period in Game 1 of the Chicago-Detroit second-round series, Toews made a smart pass to an open Hossa on the power play and the 34-year-old Slovak seamlessly converted to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. Sharp’s goal Wednesday night was an empty-netter; more impressive was the look he gave to Johnny Oduya before the defenseman scored to give Chicago a 2-1 lead in the third.

Just as Hossa and Sharp are occasionally overlooked, Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis also really doesn’t get enough love. (Dupuis came to Pittsburgh in 2008 along with Hossa, incidentally.) In the last two seasons, he nearly doubled his production from some of his earlier campaigns. It doesn’t hurt that he’s playing alongside Crosby, but it’s not like he needs the Kid there to score goals like this one.

Piling on the Pylons: The Week’s Worst Performers

Shame on these college Jeopardy! contestants for not knowing which Pittsburgh Penguins player is nicknamed “Geno.” Even the kid from Tufts can only weakly venture a “Cros … by?” And here I thought Boston was a good sports town. (Full disclosure, I tried out for college Jeopardy! once and didn’t make the cut. Still stings.)

Taking It Coast-to-Coast: A Lap Around the League

• New York coach John Tortorella (he of the glorious yearbook page) on the Rangers’ Game 1 loss to the Bruins: “We got spanked in overtime.” Here’s an excellent visual representation of that statement. Don’t worry, it’s not only safe for work — your boss might think you’re actually getting stuff done.

• Yay! It’s that time of year for one of our favorite hockey features: Puck Daddy’s Stanley Cup Beard Watch. This edition contains some terrifying child abuse and some surprising revelations about the Sidstache. Fun for everyone! There are too many favorite lines to quote, but I do like this one: “Patrice [Bergeron] wears a year-round, League-best five o’clock shadow, like the college lit professor we were never lucky enough to have.”

• Speaking of Bergeron, the best part of this video of Jack Edwards calling his Game 7 overtime series winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs is the way Andy Brickley coolly and silently adjusts his pocket square. I’m kind of upset he didn’t take out a tiny ironing board to really get that crease right.

• Part of the beautiful circadian rhythm of the NHL season is the yearly announcement of detailed injury news right after a team is bounced from the postseason. This year’s winner of the Anti–Derrick Rose Award? Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin, who averaged more than 25 minutes of ice time during a first-round seven-game series against the Detroit Red Wings WITH A TORN ACL. Has anyone ever considered that maybe RG3 is playing the wrong sport?

• With Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, and Wade Redden all hurt for Thursday’s game against the Rangers, the Bruins iced three rookie defensemen in the 3-2 win. Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski had seen some time with Boston this season (Hamilton a lot, Bartkowski a little), but Torey Krug had played in just one regular-season game and was called up to return Tuesday only because of the injuries. With an assist from Hamilton and Brad Marchand, Krug scored the third-period goal that tied the game.

• After the Dallas Stars fired GM Joe Nieuwendyk and replaced him with Detroit’s Jim Nill, coach Glen Gulutzan had a feeling his days might be numbered. He was right: On Tuesday, the Stars let him go from the position he’d held for two years. (The next day, he signed on with the coaching staff of the Saskatoon Blades, for whom he played in 1992, to help out temporarily as the team competes for the Memorial Cup.) Like the Colorado Avalanche, who fired Joe Sacco a few weeks ago, the Stars have yet to name a coaching replacement.

• More award announcements: The three finalists for the Selke Trophy (a.k.a. “the Hipster Hart”) are Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk, and Toews. And for the Lady Byng? Patrick Kane (cue the jokes!), Matt Moulson, and Martin St. Louis. On my ballot, top spots went to Bergeron and Moulson, respectively. Also released on Thursday were the three Jack Adams Award nominees for best coach: Chicago’s Joel Quenneville, Ottawa’s Paul MacLean, and Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau. This one is voted on by broadcasters, but I hope MacLean wins.

• The Penguins and Senators face off tonight at Consol Energy Center in Game 2 of their second-round series. Sean McIndoe has more on this matchup.

• I enjoyed this essay by Bobby Kelly about the absurdities of declaring the Ottawa Senators “Canada’s team” just because they’re the only remaining squad from north of the border. After seeing a sports-pages spread in the Globe and Mail featuring a photo of Craig Anderson and the headline “OUR ONE SURE HOPE,” Kelly wrote: “The playoff hopes for the Great White North rest on the shoulders of a native of Park Ridge, Illinois.”

And a Beauty! The Week’s Nicest in Net

Even the best goalies need a little bit of help and a lot of luck sometimes. In Game 1 against Pittsburgh, the Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karlsson swept a puck off the goal line to prevent Pittsburgh from scoring — that time, anyway. (Karlsson would later say, however, that he is not happy with his recent play.)

And on Wednesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Brent Seabrook helped out his goalie Corey Crawford in much the same way. It was a crucial play, considering a Red Wings goal would have narrowed the score to 3-2 with about 2:40 to play — and as we’ve seen in these playoffs, the last thing you want to do is let a trailing opponent build some steam late in a game. Instead, Sharp scored an empty-netter at 19:11 of the third to seal the 4-1 win.

(P.S.: Henrik Lundqvist ought to buy his crossbar and goalposts a drink after their performance against the Boston Bruins. And the rest of the Rangers owe their firstborns to both.)

Chirping Like a Champ: The Best Mouthing Off

With all the conference semifinal series still in their first few games, there hasn’t been enough time for the real hostilities to emerge. So let’s just use this space to award a lifetime achievement award to L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter, whose press conferences are always a sublime combination of rancher reticence, sarcasm, straight talk, and hidden whimsy. Here’s how he kicked off his presser following Thursday night’s win:

“It has not been a good day. I lost my glasses early this morning and I had to go buy a pair of 79-dollar reading glasses today. Seventy-nine bucks. You can literally get them at Costco, three for 20.”

Man, just wait till he leaves a phone charger in a hotel room and has to buy a new one from one of those Best Buy vending machines in the airport. I can’t wait for that postgame rant.

Hockey Haiku

Westeros Dragons
Ought to trade for a sniper
Like Arya Stark.

Filed Under: Events, Los Angeles Kings, NHL Playoffs, NHL Viewing Guide, Sports, Teams

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes