Haggerty: Kings look ready for crown after Game 1 victory

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Haggerty: Kings look ready for crown after Game 1 victory

NEWARK, NJ At a certain point the Los Angeles Kings might begin to think they are a team of destiny during this years Stanley Cup playoffs.
First, they vanquished the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks and possibly severed the final few strings of cord keeping together the dysfunctional marriage between Roberto Luongo and his team. Then the Kings dominated the St. Louis Blues in a four-game sweep that saw LA outscore the NHLs best defensive team by a 15-6 margin before romping their way to the conference finals.
It was off to the Western Conference Finals, where LAs hockey royalty squashed the Phoenix Coyotes in five games and dashed the Cup dreams of Shane Doan with a good, old-fashioned helping of hard feelings at the end.
Not even seven days of gathered rust could dethrone the Kings as they withstood some of New Jerseys best punches to secure a 2-1 victory in overtime of Game 1 at the Prudential Center.
Anze Kopitars goal was the difference-maker in overtime, but the victory was truly built on confidence constructed through a compelling postseason run.
The Kings arent brazen or foolish enough to pronounce the series over after one game, but there is belief within Los Angeles room that they will pull things out in the end.
Thats the depth and the heart that we have. A team could outshoot us 30-10 and we dont care. We still want to win so badly, and were so hungry to get that goal in overtime and win the game, said Drew Doughty, who started the play that led to the overtime game-winner. The boys did a great job with that.
Los Angeles could have curled up into a ball and cried for mama in overtime when the waters got a little rough. The humid New Jersey weather wreaked havoc with their hydration levels and the ice conditions had pucks bouncing all over creation.
Marty Brodeur looked every bit the first ballot Hall of Famer that Dustin Penner deemed him after Game 1 was over while stone-walling the Kings in the second and third period.
Brodeur made 23 saves in all, but his double-stacked stop of a clean Doughty rush from the slot off a Mike Richards pass was like watching a great goaltender from a bygone era.
The Devils built momentum while enjoying the better of the chances in the extra session, and they had the crowd at The Rock ready to celebrate a New Jersey win.
But the Kings are a perfect road team in the playoffs, and a hockey club doesnt build a 9-0 postseason record away from their friendly confines by buckling under pressure. Instead, Doughty took advantage of a little chaos in the neutral zone with a textbook chip off the boards, and Justin Williams and Kopitar did the rest for the Kings.
Williams no-look backhand pass to space was the cold-blooded move of a veteran thats been through the playoff wars, and Kopitar flashed the skill thats made him a Conn Smythe candidate during these playoffs.
But the play was made through an unbending mentality.
Most hockey clubs take the personality of their captains and key leaders, and Los Angeles is no different. Dustin Browns lunatic fringe intensity sets the tone for a Kings squad that refuses to break.
Its been the same for our team all year, said Brown. Weve been really good in this postseason at handling momentum. I thought they took it to us in the second half of the game, but overtime is overtime.
There are going to be good chances for both teams. They had some good chances and we found the best chance.
When Kopitars slick double-move lured Brodeur out of position and opened things up for his game-winner around the goaltenders pads, the Kings were once again rewarded for a champions resilience.
I saw those two on the boards battling. I wanted to make sure I went through the middle. I don't know if he heard me or not, said Kopitar. I yelled for the puck. He chipped it obviously perfect, right on my tape. You know, it happened pretty quickly. I was able to finish it off.
LAs world class players ended up with the overtime game-winner, goalie Jonathan Quick allowed only one fluky second period goal that bounced off his own defenseman, and role players like Colin Fraser (goal), Jarret Stoll (nine of 10 face-off wins) and Jordan Nolan (four hits and an assist) created energy all over the ice.
Its easy to see why Los Angeles has positioned itself for their first Stanley Cup title after rising from a humble eighth seed. They utilize every player on the roster and have had 16 different players score a goal during the postseason.
From a series standpoint its huge. To put them behind us from the get-go makes it a little more difficult for them to get back in it, said Brown. If we play our game and do the right things then it makes it extremely difficult for them.
The only thing the Kings are waiting for: to get crowned with a Cup and all its spoils with three more victories that look much more winnable after stealing Game 1.

Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

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Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while using “malarkey” in my day-to-day vocabulary as much as possible. 
 
-- Dale Tallon was promoted with the Florida Panthers to accentuate his strengths as a talent evaluator, but maintains that he still has final say on hockey decisions
 
-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has another young D-man off the board with the Wild’s Matthew Dumba signing a two year, $5.1 million deal with Minnesota
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my take on the negotiations between Brad Marchand and the Bruins: There’s a couple of good signs at the outset of negotiations
 
-- The Arizona Coyotes are stressing the defensive side of things in a big, big way, and it appears to be part of John Chayka’s master plan

 -- Alex Pietrangelo would be a natural selection to replace David Backes as the next captain of the St. Louis Blues. 

-- A moving letter from Sens forward Bobby Ryan to his recently passed mother is up at the Players Tribune website. 

-- Chris Kreider has re-signed with the New York Rangers, and plans to get out of his head and onto the score sheet more often. 
 
-- For something completely different: Jerod Mayo will bring a new voice to Tom E. Curran’s Quick Slants program on our very own CSN network. 

 

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.