Kings dominating on the road


Kings dominating on the road

NEW YORK Winning on the road: its a necessity for any team that strives to win a championship. And any time a team can steal a victory on the road, it goes far.

But what the Los Angeles Kings are doing sets a whole new standard in thievery. The No. 8 seed has now won 10 consecutive road playoff games on their remarkable run, as the Kings continue to treat opposing buildings like their home ice.

When the Kings beat the Devils 2-1 in overtime on Saturday night, they took a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals series and extended their astounding road victory run. The Kings are the fourth team to collect 10 postseason road victories in the same year the Devils did it in 1995 and 2000, and Calgary did it in 2004. The 95 Devils won the Cup, and it certainly looks like the Kings are headed for the same.

OK, maybe were getting a tad ahead of ourselves with that. But considering how the Kings have efficiently whipped through these playoffs, maybe it isnt. Los Angeles swept through the Western Conference in fabulous fashion, wrapping up series against Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix in five, four and five games, respectively.

So even though they havent reached that ultimate goal just yet, they have to stop and admire that 10-game road winning streak a little, right?

Its nuts. But you cant think about it right now, said defenseman Matt Greene, whose Kings have started each playoff series up 2-0. You try to take one game at a time, just worry about the game youre suiting up for.

Sounds pretty close to what Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after Game 1. The Kings won nine in a row at the time but Sutter stressed the Cup finals were a new series, and it was just one road victory. Still, its nevertheless impressive. And the Kings realize that, considering where they started in the playoffs, winning on the road was a must.

Its a big accomplishment for us, but we definitely had to do it, starting as an eighth seed, starting on the road every series, Dustin Penner said. Weve been the beneficiaries of timely goals and good bounces, and weve had to work for them. In every game weve won on the road, more times than not, we couldve lost them, too.

Bounces, breaks and other lucky occurrences have their place in a successful teams playoff history. But winning on the road requires focus, dedication to defense and a simple game, as well. The Kings have had all of it, from timely goals to stifling defense to the brilliant goaltending of Jonathan Quick.

The Kings are on the cusp of history. Theyve already set a heck of a road standard along the way.

Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

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Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

CLEVELAND - It doesn't take long for the 2016 Cubs to rebound.

Their American League-style lineup is just simply too talented to keep down for an extended period of time, especially with Kyle Schwarber now added back into the fold.

They Cubs hitters are so confident, they even left Progressive Field feeling good about themselves despite being shut out in Game 1 of the World Series.

The Cubs got on the board early Wednesday night, plating a run on the third batter of the game as Anthony Rizzo doubled home Kris Bryant.

"Take the momentum away. Take the crowd out of it," Bryant said. "It's nice to score first. Especially when you're the visiting team, to get out there and score within the first three batters is huge."

The early lead helped the lineup settle in and keep their foot on the gas for a 5-1 victory to take the series back to Wrigley Field tied one game apiece.

"Especially with a young lineup, I think when you see a few guys go up there and take some good quality at-bats, one happens after the other and the other guys seem to do the same thing," Ben Zobrist said. "It takes a lot of pressure off. When you see other guys having good, quality at-bats, you don't feel like you have to take pitches and you can be aggressive early on. 

"Oftentimes when you're aggressive in the zone is when you take the tough ones. We did a good job tonight laying off some good pitches. When they made mistakes in the zone, we really hit the ball hard. Even though we scored five runs, obviously we had a lot of baserunners on and we could've scored a lot more."

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Zobrist has a point.

The night after leaving nine runners on base and going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, the Cubs left 13 runners on base and tallied just three hits in 12 tries with runners in scoring position.

Between nine hits and eight walks, there were Cubs on base all game. Indians pitchers didn't retire Cubs hitters in order in an inning until the seventh.

The Cubs also forced the Indians to throw 196 pitches in nine innings and worked starter Trevor Bauer to 51 pitches through the first two frames.

"That was good for us," Bryant said. "We saw a lot of their bullpen, so we have a lot of information to learn from and hopefully use in the next game."

Anthony Rizzo summed up the lineup's mentality simply:

"Grind out at-bats, work the pitcher's pitch count up and get the next guy up," he said.

That "pass the baton" mentality is what drives this offense and after a brief lull in that regard in Los Angeles when they were shut out in back-to-back games in the NLCS, the Cubs leave Cleveland feeling pretty good.

"When we're able to [get pitch counts up], you can kinda feel it - our offense really feeds off of that," Zobrist said. "We believe that we're going to break through eventually."