Los Angeles Kings

NHL Suspends Kings D On Domestic Violence Allegation

Slava Voynov in happier times.

Slava Voynov in happier times.

by D4Assignment Staff

Having learned from his NFL counterpart’s mistakes, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has suspended Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov for an undetermined amount of time due to allegations of domestic violence.

Bettman moved swiftly after Voynov was arrested early Monday morning. Yoynov’s suspension, as announced by the NHL, comes under Section 18-A.5 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which provides that, during the pendency of a criminal investigation, “The League may suspend the Player pending the League’s formal review and disposition of the matter where the failure to suspend the Player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.”1

Voynov will be paid during the period of the criminal investigation. He’s in the second year of a six-year, $24MM contract extension signed in June, 2013. The 24-year old defenseman was a fourth round draft choince in 2008 and is in his fourth year with the Kings. He was arrested at 3:45 am on Monday by Redondo Beach (CA) police.

ESPN contacted Voynov’s agent, Rolland Hedges, but he could not comment at that time.2


Update – 3:40 EDT

Several media outlets are reporting that the woman allegedly abused by Voynov was hospitalized due to the injuries she received. The woman, who said she was in a relationship with Voynov, was being treated in the emergency room of the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrence, CA when the staff called the police. Voynov accompanied the woman to the hospital where he was subsequently arrested.

Voynov was scheduled to be in court on Wednesday, but since he was released on $50,000 bail, the date was moved back to December 1. (No one has ever said that justice moves quickly.) Voynov’s lawyer tried to downplay things:

“We’re conducting our own investigation,” Craig Renetzky, Voynov’s attorney, said. “We don’t have anything to comment on quite yet. There should be no rush to judgment, and we’ll see what we find out.”3

The police had received a call on their business line earlier in the evening with reports of a woman screaming and crying, but the caller could not provide an address.

1 – NHL.com

2 – ESPN.com

3 – ocregister.com

 

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NHL Stanley Cup: Kings 2 Games From Coronation

DustinBrownKings’ captain Dustin Brown’s Game 2 winner put the Kings halfway to another Cup.

by Drew Sarver

Watching the relentless style of the Los Angeles Kings makes you wonder why the Kings aren’t going for a three-peat of the Stanley Cup rather than their second title in three years.  The Kings have taken the first two games from the New York Rangers in overtime and double overtime. Both games played on the left coast saw Los Angeles come back from two goal deficits to force the extra ice time. They’re the first team to come back from two goal deficits to win in three straight games. The first was the finale of the Western Conference Finals when they topped the Chicago Blackhawks.

While the Rangers tremendous speed has been their biggest asset in the series, the big-bodied Kings hit from beginning to end. And they just keep coming.

Saturday night the Rangers were hoping to bounce back from their Game 1 disappointment and it appeared they might just do that. Game 2 started out in much the same manner as Game 1 with the Rangers netting the first two goals. But things turned around in the third period with New York ahead 4-2.

The Kings’ controversial third goal will be talked about for some time to come, but the aftermath was more frustrating for fans who saw the Rangers lose control of the game. It started when the Kings’ Matt Greene shot the puck from the right point. Kings’ winger Dwight King was  a sandwich between goalie Henrik Lundqvist and defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the Rangers crease. Greene’s shot hit King and got past Lundqvist for the goal. A two-goal lead was suddenly one and the shift in momentum was palpable.

Lundqvist immediately expressed his frustration to referee Brian O’Halloran, who signaled good goal. O’Halloran’s two part explanation was the puck was already past Lundqvist when contact was made and the contact was initiated by McDonagh.1 There is currently no video review for goaltender interference, but that could change as a result of the impact of the Kings’ goal. It was an odd no-call considering the Rangers Benoit Pouliot had gotten called for goaltender interference earlier in the game on a play that had less contact with the puck nowhere in sight.

The goal came within the first two minutes of third period and fired up the Kings’ fan base. Just as they had in the first game and throughout this year’s playoffs, the Kings took advantage of their opportunities. Former Ranger Marian Gaborik swept a loose puck in the slot past Lundqvist to tie the game at four apiece with a little over 12 minutes remaining in regulation.

After a scoreless first overtime – kept that way when Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick stopped the Rangers’ Chris Kreider on a breakaway – Dustin Brown redirected Willie Mitchell’s blast from the left point past Lundqvist for the game winner at 10:26 of the second extra session. Just like that the Kings are in command of the best of seven series.

Notes

Many in the media predicted the Kings would be tired entering the series after having gone the full seven games in their three previous series. The Western Conference semi-finals concluded with a Game 7 overtime. While the Kings may be tired, they don’t look tired. In fact, it’s the Rangers who appear to be more tired. The Rangers, particularly in Game 2, often fell to the ice without contact. Bad skates or tired legs?

Only five teams in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs have come back from a 2-0 deficit to win the championship. The 2011 Boston Bruins and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from two down to win the title. They’re the only teams to do so in the last 40 years.

Rangers defenseman John Moore returned from a two game suspension for elbowing Montreal’s Dale Weise in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. Defenseman Rafael Diaz was a healthy scratch. Dan Carcillo’s 10 game suspension, for abusing an official, was reduced to six games and he could return for the fourth game of the series.

1 – sports.yahoo.com

 

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

NHL Stanley Cup Final – Kings vs. Rangers

StanleyCup

The Stanley Cup champion. There can be only one!

by Drew Sarver

When you think about Los Angeles sports teams, physical toughness isn’t usually what comes to mind. The Magic Johnson-led Lakers couldn’t handle the Larry Bird-led Celtics until the Lakers upped their physical game. The result was two more championships in 1985 and 1987. The LA Kings epitomize toughness and physicality.

On the other hand, when you think about New York City sports teams, physical and mental toughness is one of the first things that come to mind. Whether it’s rebounding from 9/11 or Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers and the residents of the Tri-State area are made of tough stuff. Against this backdrop of steely stoicism, you don’t necessarily think about people being in touch with their emotional side. Yet the New York Rangers are fine representation for family and watching each other’s backs.

The two biggest markets in sports are ready to clash in what could be an epic Stanley Cup Final. Major League Baseball saw the two cities duke it out four times, but the last World Series final between the Yankees and Dodgers was 1981. The Knicks and Lakers met in classic NBA finals in 1970, ‘72, and ‘73. The east and west coast powers have not met in football, which now stands as the only one of the four major sports where that is the case.

Beginning tonight, the Kings and Rangers will maneuver, coach, hit, shoot and pass the puck and kick- and glove-save it away for up to two weeks. When one team reaches that magical fourth victory in the best-of-seven series, the Stanley Cup will be wheeled out by white-glove clad men for the greatest celebration in modern sports.

The Teams

LA Kings (Stanley Cup Victory – 2012; Runner up – 1993)

Don’t let the words of Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter fool you. He’s trying to play the underdog. But his team, which is largely intact from when they won the Stanley Cup two years ago, is the clear favorite.

After playing three conference series, the last of which ended in a Game 7 overtime victory on Sunday night, will the Kings show any fatigue? In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup, that’s not happening, at least from the outset when adrenaline takes over. The third period will be the true indicator of whether there is any lag from the Western conference finals.

The Kings are a beast that you better finish off when you have the chance. Their first round series with the San Jose Sharks saw the Kings fall behind three games to none. Four straight wins followed, including a 5-1 wipeout in Game 7.

The Anaheim Ducks looked like they would be the ones to knock the Kings off their throne when they erased a 2-0 deficit in games and won three straight. Forget about it…the Kings forced a Game 7 with a 2-1 victory at home and then dominated another seventh game on the road, 6-2.

Though not necessarily well played at times, the conference finals between the Kings and the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks was a classic. This time it was the Kings blowing a lead when the series appeared to be over. Back-to-back victories were earned by Chicago in Games 5, which went to double overtime, and in Game 6 which forced yet another seventh road game for LA. In their 21st playoff game of the year, the Kings’ Alec Martinez got a fortuitous bounce off of Blackhawks’ defenseman Nick Leddy, and the puck sailed past goalie Corey Crawford for the game winner.

NY Rangers (Stanley Cup Victories – 1928, 1933, 1940, 1994; Runner up – 1929, 1932, 1937, 1950, 1972, 1979)

No one expected the Rangers to reach the Stanley Cup final this year. There was no reason to expect it with the inconsistency that plagued the regular season or the powerless power play or their inability to score goals.

Then the trade deadline came and GM Glen Sather had a tough decision to make. Should he hold on to free-agent-to-be captain and spiritual leader, Ryan Callahan, or deal him so as not to lose out on any return if he walked after the season? Martin St. Louis was doing his own deliberating down in Tampa Bay. The 13-year veteran, possibly prompted by the decision of Lightning GM and Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman to pass over his selection for the 2014 Canadian Olympic team, demanded a trade. He had one destination in mind, the New York Rangers, which would put him near his home in Connecticut.

On March 5, the Rangers sent Callahan, a first round draft pick, and a conditional first round pick to the Lightning for St. Louis and a pair of conditional picks. St. Louis managed just one goal and eight points in 19 games, and many wondered aloud if the 38-year old could handle playing in New York. But his teammates, especially friend and former Lightning teammate Brad Richards, knew better. The playoffs began and St. Louis started clicking.

The Rangers battled division rival Philadelphia before they squeaked out a 2-1 win in Game 7 at home. When they fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins three games to one in the conference semi-finals, most pundits and fans started making their offseason plans. Then a tragic event seemed to turn things around.  St. Louis’ mother, France, died unexpectedly at the age of 63.

St. Louis and his family were embraced by the Rangers and a close team became even closer. The team, sparked by the play of St. Louis and goalie Henrik Lundqvist, won three straight games to capture the series. Like the Kings, the Rangers had won Game 7 on the road. The specialty units, especially the power play, had improved dramatically.

In the conference finals, the Rangers faced off against long-time “Original Six” rival, the Montreal Canadiens. The played their best game of the postseason in the Game 6 clincher, which saw Lundqvist and the Rangers win 1-0.

The Coaches

Head man Darryl Sutter is part of hockey royalty. Along with his brothers Duane, Brent, Brian, Ron, and Rich, he played in the NHL, and Brent’s son Brandon is currently a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Prior to coming to LA, Sutter coached the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames. He was behind the bench for the Flames team that went to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals with the Tampa Lightning in 2004. The Lightning, which included St. Louis and Richards, won the finale 2-1.

Sutter was also GM of the Flames and resigned as coach after the 2005-2006 season to concentrate on his front office position. He stepped down in the middle of the 2010-2011 season and was hired a little less than a year later to replace Terry Murray as the Kings’ head coach. Sutter then won his first Stanley Cup when the Kings swept the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 final.

Alain Vigneault knows what it is like to get to the mountain top, but also how rough it is to come back down. The former defenseman played just 42 games over parts of two seasons in the NHL before going into coaching. After not finding success in parts of four seasons with Montreal, Vigneault was hired as the Vancouver Canucks’ head man in 2006-2007. The Canucks finished with the best record in the division and/or NHL six times in the regular season, but made it to the finals just once. There they lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games after holding a 3 games to 2 lead. After being swept in the first round last year, the Canucks fired Vigneault, who basically swapped jobs with fellow fired coach John Tortorella.

The Goalies

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick’s resume shows a Stanley Cup championship, an Olympic Silver medal for Team USA (2010) and a second place finish in the Vezina Trophy voting, for the league’s best goalie, in 2012. The Kings current playoff run in no way reflects the way they blew through opponents en route to the championship two years ago. That team went 16-4 in the playoffs and Quick held opponents to a 1.41 goals per game. He also stopped nearly 95% of the shots he faced. This year, Quick has a 2.86 goals-against-average (GAA) and the team has allowed many more shots on goal than the winning squad. The 28-yr old is at his best when he stays in the crease area and doesn’t wander too much. He has a tendency to drop down too quickly at times, which can allow an opponent to roof the puck to beat him.1 http://forecaster.thehockeynews.com/hockeynews/hockey/player.php?5348

Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist has won Gold and Silver Olympic medals representing his native Sweden, and won the 2012 Vezina Trophy, beating out Quick. He was the runner up last season. This is the 32-year old’s first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. After a rough start to the season, in which he was at times benched for back up Cam Talbot, Lundqvist was outstanding in the second half of the year and carried that level of play into the postseason. He has a 2.03 GAA and has stopped 92.8% of his opponent’s shots. Lundqvist likes to play deep in the crease and has a strong glove hand. His style is used to take away low shots, so expect opponents to try to beat him in the upper part of the net.2 http://forecaster.thehockeynews.com/hockeynews/hockey/player.php?2585

The Defense

The Kings’ Drew Doughty is arguably one of the best defensemen in hockey. He was the second overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft, following high-scorer Steven Stamkos. The Ontario native has scored 10 or more goals four times in his six-year career and is smooth as glass when handling the puck. He finished third in the Norris Trophy voting, for best defenseman, in 2012 when he collected a career-high 59 points. He added 16 points, including a tournament-high 12 assists, as the Kings won the Cup. The Rangers need to be aware of Doughty’s tendency to pinch into the offensive zone. The durable 24-year old averaged better than 25 minutes of ice time per game during the regular season and upped that by two minutes in the playoffs.

The Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh was the 12th overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007 draft. That same year, the Rangers signed free agent center Scott Gomez to an awful seven-year, $51MM contract. After two mediocre seasons in the Big Apple, the Rangers were desperate to trade Gomez and the Canadiens were desperate for a top center. Gomez and Tom Pyatt headed to Montreal for three players, including McDonagh. Whether he knew what he had at the time or not, it turned out to be one of the best deals that Sather ever made. The soon-to-be 25-year old defenseman stepped up his offense this season and set career highs with 14 goals and 43 points, but it’s his transition from offense to defense and stopping shooters in the defensive zone that makes McDonagh special.

The Snipers

Marian Gaborik knows what it’s like to wear the red, white, and blue of the New York Rangers. He did so for three-plus seasons and scored 41 goals for NY two years ago. But his style of play was stifled under former head coach John Tortorella’s “defense first” approach, and he was sent packing to Columbus for three current Rangers – Derick Brassard, John Moore, and Derek Dorsett. Gaborik missed half of this season due to injury and was dealt to the Kings at the trade deadline in March for two draft picks. Gaborik is now healthy again and has topped all playoff scorers with 12 goals, 10 of them at even strength. Many of “Gabby’s” goals come from his ability to elude defensemen around the net.

The Rangers’ Rick Nash was acquired from Columbus prior to the 2012-2013 season for three players and a first round pick. The hope was that he could combine with Gaborik to give the Rangers a pair of solid scoring lines. A player’s strike/owner’s lockout didn’t help, but the experiment failed and the Rangers parted company with Gaborik. Nash was solid in his first year in New York with 21 goals and 42 points in 44 games. A concussion had a major impact on Nash earlier this year and he finished with just 39 points in 65 games. He also lacked playoff experience and postseason success, and the Rangers’ fans let him have it when he went without a goal in the first two rounds this year. Nash finally got his offense going in the conference finals with three goals and a pair of assists. Just as importantly, he’s been responsible in his own zone and has played a physical game.

The Prediction

The Kings have an experienced, playoff-tested squad that has just about seen and done it all this year. They find ways to win, not ways to lose. For that reason, the prediction here is the Kings in six.

 

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

2014 NHL PLAYOFFS: SHARKS VS. KINGS

Antti Niemi Sharks 2014 playoff preview

Goalie Antti Niemi may be on a short leash, with Alex Stalock waiting to take over.

by Christopher Wenrich

“Always a bridesmaid, never the bride” is a phrase that sums up the San Jose Sharks very well.  Many times over the past 10 years or so, the Sharks were among the favorites in the National Hockey League to win the Stanley Cup, only to suffer embarrassing first-round exits in the playoffs.  Once again, they have a very talented team that may be among the favorites to win, but there is the cloud of a goalie controversy hanging over the club as they prepare to face the Los Angeles Kings in the first round.

Despite the collective talent and potential of the Sharks, the team enters the post-season with some doubts about their number one goaltender.  Antti Niemi was 39-17-7 this season with a 2.39 goals-against-average (GAA), a .913 save-percentage (SV%) and four shutouts.  Although Niemi’s overall numbers are good, he struggled at times and has been outplayed recently by backup Alex Stalock. In 24 games, 18 of them starts, this season, Stalock was 12-5-2 with a minuscule 1.87 GAA, a .932 SV% and two shutouts.  Niemi is the starter for Game 1, but could be pulled in favor of Stalock, if he doesn’t perform up to, or above par.

San Jose Sharks
239 goals for (6th)
193 goals against (5th)
17.2 PP% (20th)
84.9 PK% (6th)

Joe Pavelski led the way for the Sharks this season, scoring a career-high 41 goals and 89 points in 82 games.  In addition to his offensive breakout, Pavelski was once again strong with his two-way play and won 56.0% of his faceoffs this season.  He’s expected to play on the third line to give the Sharks three solid offensive lines. Joe Thornton was once again the masterful playmaker on the team, dishing out 65 assists (2nd in NHL) and scoring 76 points in 82 games.  Like Pavelski, Thornton was also dominant on face-offs, having won 56.1% this season.

The speedy Patrick Marleau scored 30-plus goals (33) for the seventh time in his NHL career, and had 70 points in 82 games.  Marleau was yet another Shark that dominated face-offs as well (52.9%).  Youngster Logan Couture is a rising star in the NHL and one of the best two-way players in the game today.  Injuries limited him to 65 games this season, but he posted a productive 54 points and won better than half of his face-offs.

Rookie Tomas Hertl impressed in the early going this season with a four-goal game.  Hertl is an electrifying puck-handler whose one-on-one ability resembles the highlight reel plays of a young Jaromir Jagr.  A knee injury limited Hertl to only 37 games this season, but he amassed 25 points. Former defenseman Brent Burns has been a solid winger this season with 22 goals and 48 points in 69 games.  Burns possesses a heavy shot, but has not shown much consistency as a forward.  He’ll need to find the net with more consistency if the Sharks are to finally realize their potential.

On the blue line, Dan Boyle (36 points) and Jason Demers (34 points) led the way offensively.  Although the Sharks’ defensemen move the puck well in transition, their collection of defensemen are mostly defensive-minded.  Marc-Edouard Vlasic will never be mistaken for Bobby Orr, but he one of the best at breakout passes and provides a steady performance.

Los Angeles Kings
198 goals for (26th)
168 goals against (1st)
15.1 PP% (27th)
83.1 PK% (11th)

Unlike the Sharks, the Kings were a poor offensive team in the NHL this year, but were perhaps the best defensive team in the league.  Anze Kopitar was productive with a team-leading 70 points in 82 games.  Jeff Carter was second on the team in points with 50 in 72 games (27 goals).  Gritty winger Dustin Brown had a very disappointing season, posting only 27 points in 79 games.  Youngster Tyler Toffoli is a player to keep an eye on in this series.  Toffoli posted 23 points in 36 wins, but only six points in 26 losses.  In need of more offensive punch, the Kings acquired Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline.  .

On the blue line, the Kings have more offensive talent than the Sharks do.  Drew Doughty is one of the best defensemen in the NHL at leading a rush.  Doughty tallied 37 points in 78 games this season.  If not for the play of Doughty and Slava Voynov, the Kings would have scored even fewer goals this year.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick struggled mightily at the start of the season, but improved as the season progressed.  Quick finished the campaign 27-17-4 with a 2.07 GAA, a .915 SV% and six shutouts.  Quick returned to form after the Olympics, posting a record of 11-4-2 with a 1.86 GAA, .924 SV% and three shutouts the rest of the way.  When he is on his game, Quick is one of the top goaltenders in the league.  He has superb reflexes and is a very athletic goaltender, however, he has a tendency to play the angles poorly at times and be forced to sprawl while being out of position.

nhl bracket

Ultimately, this series may come down to an oft-overlooked stat:  faceoffs.  Both the Kings and Sharks were tied for second in the NHL in face-off win percentage this season.  The Sharks have the edge offensively, so the key to victory for the Kings are a strong defense and a steady Quick.  LA will need to play keep-away – the Sharks cannot score if they do not have the puck.  This should be an excellent series, but the Sharks’ firepower should help them come out on top.   Toffoli, Carter and Gaborik will have to find the net early and often if the Kings are to have a chance.

Christopher Wenrich is a contributor for Designated For Assignment.  Follow him on Twitter (@DuggerSports).