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  • Saad ramps up his game during 2014 postseason Jun 2, 2014 12:19 AM
    Scoreless in his last 12 regular-season games, which cost him his first 20-goal campaign. An upper-body injury that caused him to miss three games in March. A healthy scratch with four games left before the start of the best time of the year for a hockey player: playoff hockey. Brandon Saad, sad? Sadly for Blackhawks opponents, no.

  • L.A. proves it’s one tough out Jun 2, 2014 12:18 AM
    This is how Kings can rule Los Angeles. By winning a Game 7 on opposition ice for the third time in one postseason. By knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champs. By doing the latter when facing a 1-goal deficit with less than eight minutes left in regulation.

  • Blackhawks’ road to repeat hits dead end Jun 2, 2014 12:01 AM
    It was simply not meant to be for the Blackhawks, as the schedule and the competition conspired to ensure that for the 15th straight season, the Stanley Cup will have a new dance partner. The defending champs are no more. Long live the champs.

  • No real good reason to be hard on Hawks Jun 1, 2014 11:59 PM
    A question has been lingering ever since the Blackhawks fell behind early in the Western Conference finals. What should the response be if the Kings eliminate the Hawks from the Stanley Cup playoffs? Well, there's no reason to be hard on a team that ran into another champion at the wrong time.

  • Epic series has sad ending for Blackhawks Jun 2, 2014 12:32 AM
    Even though they’ve been in the midst of a furious battle with the Kings, Blackhawks players realize they’ve taken part in one special series againt Los Angeles.

  • Kings eliminate Blackhawks in Game 7 Jun 1, 2014 11:04 PM
    Alec Martinez scored at 5:47 of overtime, and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Blackhawks 5-4 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals Sunday night. Martinez’s shot went off Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy and over goalie Corey Crawford, stunning the sellout crowd at the United Center and leading to a wild on-ice celebration for Los Angeles. Leddy was disconsolate as the Kings gathered in a big huddle along the boards. Los Angeles improved to 7-0 in elimination games with its third Game 7 win on the road this postseason. It will host the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night. “We never say die ... someone described us as a bunch of cockroaches that don’t go away,” Martinez said. Justin Williams and Tyler Toffoli each had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who once held a 3-1 lead in the series, only to have the defending champion Blackhawks come back to force Game 7. Jeff Carter scored his ninth playoff goal in the first, and Marian Gaborik had the tying goal midway through the third period. Patrick Sharp scored two goals for the Blackhawks, who blew a 2-0 lead. Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist, and Patrick Kane had two more assists. Chicago’s loss means Detroit remains the last NHL team to win consecutive titles in 1997 and 1998. The Kings also got 37 saves from Jonathan Quick in another resilient performance for Darryl Sutter’s team. Los Angeles trailed San Jose 3-0 in its first-round series and was down 3-2 to top-seeded Anaheim in the second round before rallying each time. Gaborik, Williams and Mike Richards each improved to 7-0 in Game 7s. Sutter moved to 7-3 in such games, breaking a tie with Blackhawks adviser Scotty Bowman and Pat Burns for the NHL record for most coaching wins in Game 7s. Sharp sent a big power-play drive past Quick to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 lead at 18:25 of the second. Sharp, who has been mostly quiet this postseason, celebrated the tiebreaking goal with a big fist pump and scream as his teammates rushed in to congratulate him. The Blackhawks held onto that slim lead all the way to 7:17 of the third, when Gaborik swept in a rebound on the break for his NHL-best 12th playoff goal, sparking a celebration on the Kings’ bench and setting the stage for a frantic finish to regulation. Quick turned away prime opportunities for Sharp and Bryan Bickell before he made a terrific save on Andrew Shaw in the final seconds. Dustin Brown had a great rush to the net for Los Angeles that he nearly completed for a breathtaking score. Jonathan Toews also scored for the Blackhawks, and Crawford finished with 27 saves. The finale of the epic series between the last two Stanley Cup winners attracted a frenzied crowd of 22,315 that included NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley and Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall. And they were treated to another heart-stopping classic full of big shots and great saves by each side. Just like in Game 5, a 5-4 double-overtime victory for Chicago, the Blackhawks got off to a fast start, only to have the Kings come storming back. Kane picked up an assist on each of the first two goals, finding Saad with a slick pass from behind the net, and then getting to the right place at the right time for a lucky power-play carom that went right to Toews for an easy tap-in at 8:36 of the first. The comeback Kings, who seem to play their best the closer they get to the brink of elimination, then went to work. Carter batted a rebound out of the air and past Crawford at 16:31, and Williams scored his seventh of the playoff 51 seconds later, tying it at 2. It was Williams’ seventh career goal in a Game 7, tying Glenn Anderson for the NHL record. Williams added an assist on Martinez’s winning score, breaking Doug Gilmour’s record for most points in such games with 14. Add in Sharp’s first score at 18:25 of the first, and the five goals set an NHL record for the highest total in the opening period of a Game 7, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Blackhawks then held the Kings without a shot on goal for the first part of the second, but Los Angeles took advantage of its own lucky bounce to tie it at 3 with 9:29 left in the period. Matt Greene’s long shot went off the right skate of Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus and right to an open Toffoli on the right side of the net. The rookie poked it in for his 7th of the playoffs. Chicago wasted a prime scoring chance when it was unable to generate much action when it 46 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play later in the second, and Quick made a great stop on a streaking Shaw on a 2-on-1 with 2:45 left in the period.

  • Special teams finally special for Blackhawks Jun 1, 2014 1:04 AM
    After going 1-for-11 on the power play and stopping just five of 10 Kings power plays in three straight defeats, the Blackhawks got back on track in Games 5 and 6, winning both games to even the series heading into Game 7 on Sunday night at the United Center.

  • Blackhawks, Kings put it all on the line in Game 7 Jun 1, 2014 6:42 AM
    Sunday night, the Blackhawks look to make some magic again in a Game 7 when they host the Kings, a team they trailed 3-1 before a pair of magical victories put them on the cusp of a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

  • Quenneville still making all the right moves May 31, 2014 5:12 PM
    On most nights, a hockey coach might feel like an elevator operator. In either job, buttons are at your disposal to control ups and downs. But they are so repetitious that it is advisable to accept a certain sense of being powerless, go with the flow and keep the status of your emotions veering too far from quo. On most nights, Joel Quenneville operates thusly as his Blackhawks seek to defend their 2013 Stanley Cup, but in Games 5 and 6 against Los Angeles, Quenneville has changed up and pushed all the right buttoms, as Blackhawks Team Historian Bob Verdi explains.

  • Blackhawks’ Crawford standing tall again May 31, 2014 4:59 PM
    Lost amid the highlights of incredible athletes performing incredible acts on the ice was the play of Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who finished Game 5 strong and was superb in Game 6.

  • Kings remain confident about Game 7 May 31, 2014 12:53 AM
    As badly as they were feeling after dropping their second straight game to the Blackhawks to force a Game 7 in Chicago, the Kings could at least take solace in knowing that they’ve gone on the road this postseason and won Game 7s already.

  • Right on cue, Kane rescues Hawks to live another day May 31, 2014 12:38 AM
    Remember about a week ago when Patrick Kane admitted he was a little bummed that he hadn’t yet come up with the big play at the big moment in the Western Conference Finals? Yeah, well those days are officially over because Kane was Kane in the biggest game of the season and now the Blackhawks, somewhat improbably, are one victory away from a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

  • There almost had to be a Game 7 May 31, 2014 12:01 AM
    If you think the Blackhawks-Kings series has been entertaining through six games, it might be that you haven't seen anything yet. There's nothing in sports like a decisive Game 7.

  • Kane, Blackhawks leave Kings searching for answers May 31, 2014 12:20 AM
    What will remain inexplicable is the Blackhawks’ mind-numbing need to dig a canyon before mounting the heroic effort to climb out, usually against overwhelming odds. What remains indefinable, and yet somehow predictable, is the character and heart of a group that simply doesn’t want to go home until the last game of the season is concluded.

  • Onto Game 7! Hawks blow past Kings 4-3 May 30, 2014 11:00 PM
    Patrick Kane scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:45 to play, and the Blackhawks forced a decisive seventh game in the Western Conference finals with a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night. Kane scored two goals and set up Duncan Keith's tying goal with 8:26 left in regulation to help the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks avoid elimination for the second straight game.

  • Rangers overcome rough start to reach Cup finals May 30, 2014 6:12 PM
    Eight months ago, first-year Rangers coach Alain Vigneault could never have imagined he would now be behind the bench for New York’s first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 20 years. The mere suggestion made him laugh Thursday night after the Rangers advanced with a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, “In October? I probably would have said, ‘What are you smoking?”’ he said. Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of New York’s firing of blustery coach John Tortorella, who was dismissed after a second-round elimination. One year earlier, Tortorella led the Rangers to the conference finals, but they couldn’t get past New Jersey. Vigneault was hired last June after he was let go by Vancouver. He wasn’t starting from scratch with the Rangers, but no one predicted the heights he and his team have quickly achieved. New York began this season with a nine-game road trip because of major renovations at Madison Square Garden. When the Rangers finally limped home, they were 3-6 and near the bottom of both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. They got over .500 with a New Year’s Eve victory at Florida and improved to a 45-31-6 record for a second-place divisional finish. “We worked our way and improved how we played,” said Vigneault, who coaches with a much calmer style than Tortorella. “Ever since we’ve gotten in, all the series have been so competitive and so hard-fought. We’ve gotten the goaltending we need and we’ve found ways to win.” That recipe has continued to fuel their run in the playoffs. Now they are in the finals for the 11th time and are seeking their fifth title. Chicago or Los Angeles will be the opponent. The Rangers edged Philadelphia by two points in the division, which secured home-ice advantage in the first-round matchup between the clubs. That was critical because after the Flyers stayed alive in Game 6 with a 5-2 win in which star goalie Henrik Lundqvist was chased from the net, the Rangers hosted Game 7 — and advanced with a tense 2-1 victory. Lundqvist led the way then, carried them through the second round against Pittsburgh after the Rangers fell into a 3-1 hole, and punctuated New York’s trip to the finals with his franchise-record-tying ninth playoff shutout when the Rangers knocked out Montreal. That clincher also came after a clunker. Lundqvist was driven out in the second period of Game 5 in Montreal after allowing four goals in a 7-4 loss. “It was my toughest (season) start in my career,” said Lundqvist, who has spent nine seasons in the NHL. “It feels better when you turn it around and good things start to happen. It’s been a great ride so far, especially the second half.” Lundqvist leaped in jubilation several times when time ran out Thursday. It was a combination of joy, relief, and pure satisfaction to finally clear this major hurdle two decades in the making for the Rangers. The series victory was New York’s first in fewer than seven games since 2008. The last time they got this far, Mark Messier was making guarantees as captain as the Rangers ended a 54-year curse without a Cup title. Compared to that, 20 years is a mere drop in the bucket. “You never know what can happen in a year,” said Brad Richards, one of three assistant captains. “We felt confident going into the season. We all know now if you just get in and get hot ... but we had the start that we did. It got a little shaky there for a while. “It took a while to get everybody going. It was a testament to the group. “ We lost it, we kept battling, and figured it out to get a chance to win the Cup.” One move that solidified this postseason run was the trade-deadline deal that brought Martin St. Louis to New York from Tampa Bay for Ryan Callahan, a rare swap of team captains. St. Louis got only one goal and seven assists in 19 regular-season games with the Rangers, but he is tied for the club lead with 13 playoff points and six goals. His overtime score in Game 4 against Montreal gave New York a 3-1 edge. His on-ice production is only part of the story, of course. The team was galvanized following the unexpected death of St. Louis’ mother at the low point of the Pittsburgh series. The Rangers are 7-2 since. “It’s been a tough year for me. This makes it pretty cool,” said St. Louis, who won the Stanley Cup with Richards and the Lightning in 2004 when Tortorella was their coach. “Being somewhere for 13, 14 years and changing teams, and to get a chance to play in the Stanley Cup finals with these teammates who have been nothing but great through my tough time, it makes it even more special.”

  • Blackhawks need fresh legs, speed in lineup May 30, 2014 5:07 AM
    Joel Quenneville has pushed the right buttons too many times to try to count them all, and he will go down as one of the greatest coaches ever. But when it comes to loyalty, he's got a stubborn side that borders on the absurd. The most obvious example is the continued presence of Kris Versteeg and Brandon Bollig, both of whom could have been removed from the lineup weeks ago.

  • Blackhawks still want to be king of the mountain May 29, 2014 5:19 AM
    The Stanley Cup champs showed up Wednesday night for the first time since the middle of Game 2 and announced to the Kings that winning that coveted fourth game in the Western Conference finals will be no easy task. “The pressure was all on them coming into this game,” Brandon Saad said. “It's only going to get worse from here for them. They don't want to come back to Chicago.”

  • Lineup tweak pays huge dividends May 29, 2014 1:05 AM
    Facing a 3-1 deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the conference semifinals a year ago, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville made an eye-opening lineup switch with his defensemen that worked for the rest of the playoffs. After splitting longtime defense partners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook mid-season, he reunited them before Game 5 at United Center and the Hawks won to get back in the series. Wednesday night at the UC, facing a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Kings, he did it again — only in reverse.

  • Rangers knock out Habs in 6, reach Cup finals May 29, 2014 10:16 PM
    Dominic Moore scored in the second period, Henrik Lundqvist bounced back from his worst performance in the playoffs and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 on Thursday night to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. The Rangers are in the championship round for the first time since winning it all in 1994

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