The last two NHL champions do not exactly have a gilded path back to the Stanley Cup.
The Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings each need to beat a bitter rival just to get out of the first round in the Western Conference playoffs.
The defending champions Blackhawks meet the St Louis Blues in an early meeting of regular-season powerhouses, while the two-time champion Kings face the rival San Jose Sharks for the fourth time in six years when the Stanley Cup post-season begins this week.
Top-seeded Dallas faces Minnesota in the other Central Division matchup, while the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks host the Nashville Predators, who will cross over from the Central with the top wild-card seed.
All eyes in the first round will be on the Blackhawks as they chase their fourth title in seven seasons and the first back-to-back Cups in the salary cap era. That is a heavy burden on the shoulders of captain Jonathan Toews, do-everything defenseman Duncan Keith and NHL scoring champion Patrick Kane, but few players have ever been more capable of lifting their team in the post-season.
They will have to get in gear quickly against the Blues, who are wildly overdue for playoff success to match their regular-season prowess. St Louis have put up more than 100 points in each of the last four full NHL seasons, but has won exactly one playoff series — way back in 2012.
“We know that we are going to have our hands full,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “They are as good as any team in the league.”
Another first-round rivalry series is set on the coast after the Kings blew a three-goal lead and the Pacific title in their 82nd game, losing to Winnipeg and allowing Anaheim to snatch the division banner by a point.
“We’re going to have to change our attitude before the playoffs start, or else we’re not going to last long,” Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin said.
Few teams in recent NHL history have had a better post-season attitude than the Kings, who won two Stanley Cup titles and 10 playoff series from 2012 to 2014 with a gritty, relentless mindset.
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
Taiwan Steel on Sunday grabbed three points with a narrow 1-0 win against Hang Yuan FC, to move into the No. 2 spot on the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) log, while Taipower FC beat NTUS 2-0 to maintain first place. Taking advantage early in the match of opposition defenders who had not yet settled down, Taiwan Steel’s attacking trio of Wu Chun-ching, Marc Fenelus from the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Benchy Astama from Haiti pushed forward with good passes. After only one minute of play, Fenelus dribbled from the right flank, feeding a short pass inside the penalty area to
LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational
STAYING COOL: Hamilton said that his ‘heart nearly stopped’ when he noticed the puncture, but he kept going to beat Alain Prost’s total of six home wins in France Lewis Hamilton said he feared he might not make it home when a last lap puncture almost derailed his charge to a record seventh British Grand Prix victory on Sunday. “I didn’t think I would make it round the last two corners,” the world champion said. The front left tire of his Mercedes had delaminated and deflated on his final lap, leaving the six-time world champion to nurse his vehicle to the finish as second-placed Max Verstappen hunted him down. “I just can’t believe it,” Hamilton said. “It was heart-stopping. I backed off and stayed chilled and was so glad it happened on