NHL

Cullen: Kings earn Cup Final berth with Game 7 OT win

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Scott Cullen
6/2/2014 1:09:08 AM
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Alec Martinez scored 5:47 into overtime of Game Seven, giving the Los Angeles Kings a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, capturing the Western Conference crown.

Martinez doesn't play a lot, playing more than 18 minutes once in the past 11 games, but he's been remarkably effective. In the series against the Blackhawks, during 5-on-5 play, Martinez was on the ice for 115 shot attempts for and 74 against (60.8%). He now has four goals and nine points in 21 games during this year's playoffs.

Mr. Game Seven, Justin Williams, contributed a goal, as well as setting up Martinez for the winner. Williams now has 18 points in the postseason, ranking fifth, behind Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Patrick Kane and Marian Gaborik. Over the past three years, Williams ranks fourth in playoff scoring, with 42 points in 59 games.

Kings rookie RW Tyler Toffoli continued to produce, picking up a goal and an assist in Game Seven, giving him six points (4 G, 2 A) in the series. He was also strong in terms of puck possession, on the ice for 59.9% (112 for, 75 against) of 5-on-5 shot attempts.

Kings captain Dustin Brown had a productive game, with two assists giving him six points (2 G, 4 A) in the past four games after he had one point in the previous eight. Something about playing with Anze Kopitar works for Brown. Brown also registered a game-high eight hits and 13 shot attempts in Game Seven.

Kings LW Dwight King had a couple of assists in Game Seven, giving him five points (1 G, 4 A) in the series. He had three points in 14 games through the first two rounds of the series.

Chicago jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and it looked like their big guns were firing. Kane had a couple of assists, giving him 10 points in the past four games and a team-leading 20 points in 19 playoff games. In the last six seasons, there have been two players to score at least 14 points in four different playoff years; one is Kane, the other is teammate Marian Hossa.

Kane's linemate, LW Brandon Saad, had a goal and an assist in Game Seven, giving him nine points (4 G, 5 A) in the series. In the last six games, Saad was on for 62.1% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts.

Blackhawks LW Patrick Sharp was dangerous in Game Seven, more than most if not all of this year's playoff games, scoring a pair of goals. It was a rough postseason for Sharp, who finished with 10 points (5 G, 5 A) in 19 games and was on the wrong end of the possession game, 39.4% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts in the series.

This was quite a series, played at a very high level, yet undermined at times by subpar goaltending. Blackhawks G Corey Crawford had an .878 save percentage, stopping 187 of 213 shots, in the series. Three of the goals against in the series-deciding game were the result of ineffective blocked shots by Chicago defenders, so blame can't be pinned solely on Crawford, but it's tough to win stopping under 88% of the shots faced.

It's not as though Jonathan Quick was dramatically better in the Kings' net. Quick had an .889 save percentage (184 saves on 207 shots against), leaving him with a .906 save percentage in this year's playoffs.

The series was also a survival of the fittest and it was clear, in Game Seven, that there were individual players that couldn't be entrusted with ice time. For the Blackhawks, that included LW Brandon Bollig and RW Kris Versteeg, both on for zero shot attempts for and six against in limited ice time, under four minutes each, while C Michal Handzus was only on for two for and nine against in a little under seven minutes.

The Kings had their own liabilities. LW Kyle Clifford was on the ice for zero shot attempts for and 10 against, in less than three minutes of ice time, and RW Trevor Lewis was only slightly better (three attempts for, 12 against) in under six minutes of ice time. They were the only Kings forwards to go scoreless in the series.

It has been anything but easy for the Kings, who have won three straight seven-game series, but they will be favoured against the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final. As the league's top puck possession team, it's fair for the Kings to hold favoured status, but they will need Quick to play better than he has in the playoffs -- and most definitely better than he did against Chicago -- in order to win the Cup.

There's more to break down before that series starts, so let's give credit to the Kings for their hard-fought win over Chicago. It was a memorable series played between two outstandin teams and the victors ought to be applauded.

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.

Corey Crawford and Justin Williams (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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