The Pittsburgh Penguins have advanced to the conference finals, and the Los Angeles Kings are one win from getting there. If the 2009 and 2012 Stanley Cup champions end up meeting in this year's Final, the Penguins and Kings would present one of the biggest contrasts in style we've seen in a long time.
The Penguins lead all teams in scoring during this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs -- by a lot. They piled up 25 goals while beating the New York Islanders in six games to win their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, and scored 22 more while beating the Ottawa Senators in their second-round series.
Pittsburgh is averaging 4.2 goals per game; only the Boston Bruins (3.22) and Senators (3.10) are above three goals per game. The Penguins scored four or more goals nine times in 11 games through two rounds.
The Kings, on the other hand, have prospered this spring the same way they did last year -- by keeping the puck out of their net.
Los Angeles is now 21-0 in the past two playoff seasons when scoring two or more goals after blanking the San Jose Sharks 3-0 in Game 5 of their Western Conference Semifinal series. Of the eight games the Kings have lost in the past two springs, they've scored one goal seven times and were shut out in the other. Their last five losses, including all four this spring, have come by the same score -- 2-1. Los Angeles hasn't allowed more than three goals in a playoff game since a 4-3 overtime loss to the Sharks in Game 6 of their opening-round series in 2011.
One difference between the Kings' run to the Stanley Cup last year and their quest to repeat has been a switch in their home-road dominance. Los Angeles won its first 10 road games last year and finished 10-1 away from home -- but lost three times in nine games at Staples Center. This year, the Kings have lost four of five on the road but are a perfect 6-0 at home, where goaltender Jonathan Quick has allowed just seven goals and posted three shutouts.
Can't hang on -- The inability to hold third-period leads cost the Bruins the Northeast Division title, and it came back to bite them again on Thursday night.
Boston led after two periods 23 times during the regular season, but turned only 15 of those games into victories -- the Bruins' four regulation losses and eight total losses when leading after 40 minutes were both League highs. They were 20 minutes away from completing a sweep of the New York Rangers on Thursday when they took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but wound up losing 4-3 in overtime.
The Bruins are hoping they don't have a repeat of the 2010 East semis, when they won the first three games against thePhiladelphia Flyers only to lose the last four. Trent Whitfield, who played four games with the Bruins during that series, went through the same ordeal this spring with Boston's AHL team. Whitfield is captain of the Providence Bruins, who won the first three games of their second-round series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins only to lose the next four. Three NHL teams and three AHL teams have lost series after winning the first three games; Whitfield is the only player to be part of a losing team in both leagues.
The power of D -- One reason the Bruins are within a victory of advancing to the conference finals is the offensive production they're getting from their defense.
Rookie Torey Krug scored the second of Boston's three goals on Thursday, giving Boston's blue-line corps a League-leading 12 goals (Pittsburgh is second with eight). Krug, an undrafted college free agent who's playing because three regular defensemen are out with injuries, has three goals in four games against the Rangers. But perhaps the biggest postseason offensive surprise is Johnny Boychuk, who has four goals in Boston's 11 playoff games after scoring once in 47 regular-season games.
Amazingly, three of Boychuk's five goals in 2012-13 have come against the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, last season's Vezina Trophy winner. Boychuk scored his only regular-season goal against Lundqvist on opening night, then connected in Games 2 and 3 of this series.
One of a kind -- If Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson calls it a career now that his team has been eliminated, he'll retire having accomplished something no other player did this season.
Alfredsson tied Game 3 of the Senators' Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Penguins with a shorthanded goal in the final minute after Ottawa pulled goaltender Craig Anderson. The Senators went on to win the game 2-1 on Colin Greening's goal at 7:39 of the second overtime.
No player during the regular season scored a shorthanded goal in the final minute of regulation to tie a game (Buffalo's Cody Hodgson had a shorthanded extra-attacker goal on March 5 against Carolina, but the Sabres were down two goals at the time and still lost). In fact, no one has done it during the playoffs in more than a decade. Time-wise, the closest anyone has come to matching Alfredsson's feat during that time was Brett Clark, who scored a game-tying shorthanded goal with 2:04 remaining in regulation of Game 2 in the Colorado Avalanche's opening-round series against the Dallas Stars in 2006; however, that goal was scored before Colorado pulled goaltender Jose Theodore.
Power surge -- While shorthanded goals that force overtime are incredibly rare, it's the best spring ever for OT winners scored on the power play.
San Jose's Logan Couture scored on the power play in the Sharks' 2-1 overtime victory in Game 3 against Los Angeles -- the fifth time in this year's playoffs that an overtime goal was scored by a team playing with the extra man. That's two more than last year -- and one more than the previous record, set in 1996 and matched in 2003 and '08.
All five of Couture goals this spring have been scored on the power play -- he had only one man-advantage goal in the playoffs before this year.
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