Haggerty: Kings need to focus in for Game 6

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Haggerty: Kings need to focus in for Game 6

So the Kings have utilized the excuses and the alibis, and now openly admit there were distractions in the first two games in which they had chances to win the Stanley Cup.

Thats all well and good for a young team thats still figuring out what it takes to ultimately hoist that Cup over their heads, but even the buxom Taylor Stevens shouldnt be able to distract Los Angeles in Game 6.

This is LAs game to win, and if they dont then theyre going to be in all kinds of trouble headed back to Jersey for a potential winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night. Mike Richards has been through the Cup Finals experience before, but has never come out on the winning side. He was one of LAs better players in a Game 5 that saw many of their best players (Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown) get weighed down by a Devils defense and their own expectations.

But even Richards admitted that Kings players have done a little too much imagining about their Cup moments before actually securing that fourth win against the Devils.

"Maybe. It's something that you have to handlesomething you have to go through, said Richards, who had the last big shot that Marty Brodeur stopped during a last minute flurry in the third period of Game 5. Obviously we would have liked to have won one of the last few games, but we're in a situation where we can still be better.

We have to be better to beat their team because it seems like they're getting better, too. We just have to bring our best game in Game 6.

Several Kings players mentioned the distraction of family and friends in Los Angeles that wanted to be in attendance for Game 4 and were ready to celebrate if the Cup moment was on hand. Those are the kind of real life distractions every pro athlete faces in the big moments that most outside the dressing room dont spend much time thinking about.

We don't want any distractions. I think a lot of us before Game 4 were distracted with family members and friends, the Cup coming in the building, said Doughty. A lot of things we have to put aside.

Family always comes first for everyone, but at this point of the year, the team has to come first. We're a family in the room and on the ice. Right now we're number one in everyone's mind.

The shining beacon of hope for the Kings: They have not yet played as well as they can in the Cup Finals against the Devils. The first few games appeared to have a level of rust as Los Angeles hadnt played in eight days, and now New Jersey is once again gaining momentum as they gain familiarity with their opponent. Jonathan Quick was excellent before faltering early in Game 5, and Anze Kopitar picked his spots before Jeff Carter, Richards and Dustin Penner factored largely into the middle portion of the series.

Drew Doughty has been close to dominant throughout the series, and the Kings grit players have shown up in every game.

But the entire team hasnt been powering the bus in any of the games during the series. There have been LA passengers. For example Kopitars no show in Game 5 where he was no more than a forceless phantom on the ice.

That cant happen with 60 minutes of good hockey separating hunger from elation.

We've lost a few in a row, but we could have easily won those two games, too. The Cup is going to be in the building again for Game 6. I think that's enough motivation.

At this point of the year, you don't feel the bumps and bruisesyou don't get tired. You have so much adrenaline running through your body; you want it so bad that you just put it all aside.

With the Kings 0-2 when the Stanley Cup has been polished and ready in the building, perhaps Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi can make a call to Peggy to make sure that the Stanley Cup is a little tardy arriving to LAs barn.

None of the Kings players need to see Phil Pritchard giving it the white glove treatment headed into the third period, but they might just want if a Cup winner is crowned shortly after that.

Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

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Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering what Melissa McCarthy is going to do now that Spicey is gone.

*The debut for Philadelphia Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick has been scratched due to “an infection in his face.” Boy, this kid can’t get healthy, can he?

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is 100 percent sure that the Winged Wheels will be making a return to the playoffs this season.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has hope returning to the city of Houston that they might get an NHL franchise one of these days.

*Travis Yost delves into shooting percentage and some of the nuances when properly trying to break it down statistically.

*There are new season ticket charges for Habs fans in Montreal, and boy are they pissed off about it. Feels like the kind of thing that could push them to riot in the streets or flood 911 emergency lines if the Canadiens aren’t too careful about it.

*Young Blues defenseman Colton Parayko signs a five-year deal with St. Louis to avoid salary arbitration while the D-man taken exactly one pick before him by the Bruins in the draft, Matt Grzelcyk, is going to be hard-pressed to move past the AHL level this season.

*For something completely different: What would Ivan Drago have been doing with his life after his showdown with Rocky in Mother Russia?

 

 

Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

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Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

Urho Vaakanainen was billed as a smooth-skating, solid defenseman when the Bruins selected him in the middle of the first round in last month’s draft.

That’s exactly what the 18-year-old D-man put on display at his first chance to participate in Bruins Development Camp earlier this month as one of the younger players taking his first paces with the B’s organization.

Vaakanainen skated with ease and smoothness and didn’t have much in the way of panic when he was breaking the puck out of the zone during workouts. To be sure, it was clear that many of the tools are there for the Finnish prospect. Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley had likened him to Hall of Famer Paul Coffey for his skating ability in the days after he was drafted last month in Chicago, and Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner used the equally impressive Devils player comparison of Scott Niedermayer when discussing Boston’s top pick.

The bottom line is that Vaakanainen would appear to be well-suited to an evolving hockey league where the skating game is arguably the most important quality and it’s pretty much a prerequisite for success if you’re going to be a D-man in the NHL.

“I think it’s the effortlessness that he skates with, it’s smooth," Langenbrunner said. "I think Scott [Bradley] had mentioned to me yesterday, Scott Niedermayer. That’s obviously high praise with a guy that is effortless and can skate

"[All] around the rink,” said Langenbrunner. “He seems to have a little bit of those tendencies that kind of floats on his skates a little bit. That’s something that I don’t believe you can really teach. Some guys have that and some guys, it’s a little more work.

“You’re talking about a 17-year-old kid that played in the Finnish Elite League. For him to put up huge offensive numbers, I think would be pretty tough. I think now, going into his second year there is a little more confidence. Obviously, you hear more growth. You’ll see maybe a little more of an uptick there. He’s a smooth skater. He sees the ice well, he’s got good size, and he can make plays. So, I think as the confidence grows, numbers will grow just if you’re making the right plays over and over again.”

Clearly, there is some polish still to come to Vaakanainen’s offensive game after watching him in drills with his fellow prospects at development camp. That’s reflected in the two goals and six points in 41 games for JYP in the Finnish Elite League last season as well, a level of production that caused some to question just how top-end he’ll be offensively in the NHL when he does mature into his 6-foot, 183-pound body.

Vaakanainen showed a decent, accurate shot from the point and some solid instincts when it comes to making plays with the puck, but it’s also clear he doesn’t have quite the same level of pure offensive as Charlie McAvoy. The good stick, solid defensive instincts and strength for his size were all there as advertised. The skating game will cover up a lot of the things that Vaakanainen still needs to work on.

Some of the young player’s lessons can be learned and improved with greater offensive experience afforded him when he returns to Finland for the upcoming season. Some of that may mean a modestly effective offensive player in Vaakanainen once he’s met his NHL potential. It’s simply too early to tell and a lot could be learned based on his level of improvement in Europe this season and the preview everybody will get when he plays in the World Juniors for Team Finland around the holidays.  

For his part, Vaakanainen had a great week at development camp learning the streets of Boston, meeting his fellow Bruins prospects and officially making a good first impression in his first action as a first-round pick.

“As the camp went on you felt so much better and relaxed, and I had so much fun,” said Vaakanainen, who actually stayed with Langenbrunner and his family at his house after the draft. “You’ll learn new things and you get to know all the new people that are in the Bruins organization. It’s going to help me in the future to know everybody.

“I think maybe they want to see more of my offensive game because there hasn’t been so much of that the last couple of years. The role might be bigger now and more offensive, so it’s coming. Of course, you have to work hard for that, but when you play more minutes it absolutely helps to get more comfortable with what you’re doing.”

The bottom line with this pick hasn’t really changed even as Vaakanainen showed what he could do in a week of practices at Warrior Ice Arena. The Finnish teenager is a fine D-man prospect who looks like he’ll going to enjoy a solid 10-year career once he actually cracks the NHL roster and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The one thing we’ll all see over the next few years is whether or not the Bruins could have done better for themselves with the No. 18 pick in a draft class with an admittedly shallow talent pool as compared to the past couple of seasons.