Wrapping up the weekend NHL action, with the Kings taking a lead in the Conference Finals and the Rangers getting there with their Game Seven win against Washington Saturday night.
KINGS OPEN WITH A WIN
The Los Angeles Kings continued their playoff road dominance, beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 in Game One of the Western Conference Final.
It was the Kings' sixth straight road win in the playoffs and they launched a season-high 48 shots on the Coyotes' net, while allowing a typical 27 shots against.
Dustin Brown, who has been a force for the Kings throughout the playoffs, led the way with a goal, an assist and seven shots on goal. He tied teammate Trevor Lewis with a team-high six hits as well. Coyotes RW Shane Doan was the game's top hitter with seven.
Rookie winger Dwight King scored a pair of goals for Los Angeles, while Lewis also contributed a pair of assists. Getting offensive contributions from King and Lewis definitely sets the Kings ahead of expectations for the night.
C Anze Kopitar was dominant for the Kings too, scoring a goal and registering a plus-2 rating, but if you are inclined to dig into more advanced metrics, he also had a plus-27 Corsi (which includes hits, blocked shots and missed shots -- denoting territorial advantage), according to www.timeonice.com.
Coyotes D Derek Morris managed to score a goal from centre ice on his way to scoring two points and finishing with a plus-2 rating. Morris has had multiple points and a multiple plus rating twice total in the last three seasons.
On the other hand, it was a rough night for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who was minus-3 for only the second time in his career, playing more than 24 minutes and matched up primarily against the Brown, Kopitar, Justin Williams line (per www.timeonice.com).
If the Kings are going to be able to control the territorial play as much as they did in Game One, the Coyotes are going to need a superhuman effort from Mike Smith because Jonathan Quick (Morris' goal aside) has been a crucial factor in the L.A. Kings' success this season.
With the season on the line for the New York Rangers, they received big contributions from young players to take Game Seven against the Washington Capitals, 2-1, earning a spot in the Eastern Conference Final.
Rangers rookie LW Carl Hagelin, who hadn't scored a point since the first game of the postseason (a span of 13 games, including his three-game suspension in Round One), picked up assists on both Rangers goals.
Defenceman Michael Del Zotto had a goal and an assist in the deciding game and also recorded a game-high eight hits. Del Zotto had six points in the series, tying him with Brad Richards, one point behind team leader Marian Gaborik, who had seven points. Gaborik also led all Rangers shooters with 28 shots on goal.
On the other side, there will be a certain amount of blame pinned on Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom et al, the skilled forwards who played big minutes in Game Seven, when the Capitals needed them, but it's difficult to cast blame for not being productive in a road game, facing difficult matchups (the Dan Girardi-Ryan McDonagh defence tandem, most notably), particularly when their ice time fluctuated wildly throughout the series.
With subpar production from Ovechkin and Backstrom (four points apiece in seven games), the Capitals' leading scorer in the series was LW Jason Chimera, who had five points.
Alexander Semin recorded one assist in his last nine playoff games, which obviously encompasses the entire series against the Rangers.
As it turned out, though, the Capitals did miss Jay Beagle, the checking centre who played 11:51 per game during the regular season, but had averaged 20:38 per game in the first five games against the Rangers.
Rookie G Braden Holtby kept the Capitals in the series right to the end, posting a .929 save percentage, but Rangers stalwart Henrik Lundqvist did his part too, with a .927 save percentage. With the Rangers holding the territorial edge, that was enough to sway the series in the Blueshirts' favour.
Case in point, after the shots on goal were relatively close through the first four games of the series (margin was plus-4 in favour of Capitals after Game Four), the Rangers outshot the Capitals by 36 over last three games of the series. In small samples, it's possible to win when getting outshot by a dozen shots per game, but that's not a long-term plan for success.