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Cullen: Kings bounce Blues; Devils push Flyers to edge

Scott Cullen
5/7/2012 12:54:28 AM
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The Kings make surprisingly short work of a higher seed, again, and the Devils have the Flyers reeling.

Scott Cullen looks at Sunday's NHL playoff action.

CROWN ROYAL
Dustin Brown continued his stellar postseason, scoring a pair of goals, including the winner and the empty-net clincher, as the Los Angeles Kings completed a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues.

There are a number of reasons that the Kings' sweep of the Blues would be considered unlikely and not only because it is the first time that a No. 8 seed has beaten both a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed in the same playoff year (let alone dispatching of them in a total of nine games) to advance to the third round.

The Kings also managed to make short work of St. Louis despite being held to 62 shots over the last three games. Certainly, there are score effects involved (teams that establish early leads are likely to shoot less once the lead is established), but 62 shots over three games is remarkably few.

Brown and linemate Anze Kopitar led the Kings with six points in the series, followed closely by Mike Richards and Dustin Penner, who each had five points in four games. That the Kings could count on offence from both of their scoring lines made it difficult for the Blues to keep up.

Kings D Drew Doughty, who was minus-2 during the regular season, was plus-6 in the series and has been playing at a higher level in the postseason. Brown is usually the physical leader on the Kings and he did register 18 hits in the series, one shy of team leader Trevor Lewis, who was credited with 19.

It's no surprise that the Kings received high-quality goaltending from Vezina nominee Jonathan Quick, but he stopped 96 of 102 shots faced in the series, good for a .941 save percentage.

Quick won the goaltending matchup in the series, as the Blues' Brian Elliott stopped just 76 of 89 shots faced, an .854 save percentage -- a far cry from his .940 save percentage during the regular season -- and Elliott allowed too many goals that were stoppable. It's understandable when a goalie surrenders one or two on occasion, but when the stoppable shots start adding up in a series, it becomes even more challenging to win.

Among the Blues forwards that might have been expected to score more, RW T.J. Oshie, C Patrik Berglund and LW Alex Steen were notables that failed to record a point in four games, though Steen (13) and Berglund (12) led the Blues in shots on goal for the series.

As long as the Kings are getting elite goaltending from Quick, production throughout the lineup and Doughty is anchoring the defence, then -- seed be damned -- L.A. looks of a viable Stanley Cup team.

THE DEVILS YOU KNOW
The New Jersey Devils rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to knock off the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2, taking a 3-1 lead in the series.

Dainius Zubrus, who has been an unheralded contributor, scored a pair of goals for the Devils, including one into the empty net to lead the charge. He was also the victim of a late head hit by Flyers C Claude Giroux. The fact that Zubrus returned to play in the third period may mitigate against any suspension for Giroux, but the hit will at least warrant a look from the league for supplemental discipline.

Giroux was off to a fine start to the game, scoring a shorthanded goal after getting an assist on the Flyers' first goal, by Scott Hartnell (who led the Flyers with six shots on goal).

The Devils also received two-point games from RW Petr Sykora and D Marek Zidlicky.

With C Ryan Carter hurt, Tim Sestito made his NHL playoff debut for the Devils -- his first game for New Jersey since January 6 -- and got involved, delivering a team-high four hits in 6:51 of ice time.

New Jersey outshot Philadelphia 42-22, so Flyers G Ilya Brzgalov did his part to give his team a chance, making 39 saves.

Down 3-1 as they return home, the Flyers need Giroux in the lineup and need more from RW Jaromir Jagr, who has one point in the last five games.

The Devils? They can just keep doing what they have been doing so far; they're frustrating the Flyers and only need to take one of the next three games to move on.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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