Chicago White Sox

L.A. Kings end 45-year Stanley Cup drought

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L.A. Kings end 45-year Stanley Cup drought

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dustin Brown practically snatched the Stanley Cup away from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, skating directly to center ice and thrusting it skyward. Forgive his haste. The Los Angeles Kings' captain had only been waiting his whole life for this moment. The Kings' long-suffering fans had been waiting nearly 45 years for somebody to lift that 36-pound silver trophy and remove the burden on a franchise that had never won an NHL title. Brown, MVP goalie Jonathan Quick and the late-blooming Kings never flinched under all that weight. After an unbelievable postseason run that ended in a triumphant flurry of blood, sweat and power-play goals in Game 6, they're all champions. Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis scored two goals apiece, Quick finished his Conn Smythe Trophy-winning performance with 17 saves, and the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 6-1 Monday night, becoming the first eighth-seeded playoff team to win the Stanley Cup finals. When Lewis scored into Martin Brodeur's empty net with 3:45 to play, the Kings' decades of tension and frustration finally turned into raw anticipation. After 45 years of existence, one tumultuous regular season and two missed chances to clinch the Cup, the Kings knew they were about to be champions for the first time. Even the sober, serious Quick got happy. "You get that four-goal lead, you know, it's hard for it not to creep into your head a little bit," he said. "That's when you take a big, deep breath, relax a little bit, and know it's going to happen." The Kings can exhale. They're reigning over the NHL for the first time. Brown had a goal and two assists for Los Angeles, which ended its spectacular 16-4 postseason run in front of a crowd including several dozen Kings faithful who have been at rinkside since the team's birth in the Second Six expansion in 1967. "Every single guy worked so hard for us this season," said defenseman Drew Doughty, who began the year as a contract holdout and finished with six points in the finals, including two assists in the clincher. "Everyone deserves this. We got used to each other, we developed a chemistry, and we just went sailing from there." After taking a 3-0 series lead and then losing two potential clinching games last week, the Kings finished ferociously at Staples Center just when the sixth-seeded Devils appeared capable of matching the biggest comeback in finals history. One penalty abruptly changed the tone of the series. Brown, Carter and Lewis scored during a five-minute power play in the first period after Steve Bernier was ejected for boarding Rob Scuderi, leaving the veteran defenseman in a pool of blood. Quick took it from there, finishing a star-making two months by allowing just seven goals in six finals games. "You never know. You get to the dance, you never know what's going to happen," Brown said. "We calmed down after losing two. It was the first time we had done that all playoffs, and we finally got off to a good start." Rookie Adam Henrique ended Quick's shutout bid late in the second period after the Kings had built a 4-0 lead, but Lewis and Matt Greene added late goals. Brodeur stopped 19 shots for the Eastern Conference champion Devils, just the third team to force a Game 6 in the finals after falling into an 0-3 hole. "It's disappointing, but it's been a great season for the Devils," the 40-year-old Brodeur said. "We came a long way to challenge for the Stanley Cup from not making the playoffs last year. There's only one team that can win. It's not us this time, but we're proud of what we've done." The Kings steamrolled everyone in their path after barely making the playoffs, eliminating the top three seeds in the Western Conference in overwhelming fashion as they matched the second-fastest run to a title in modern NHL history. Although the Devils gave them a little trouble, the Kings boasted a talented, balanced roster that peaked at the absolute perfect time under midseason coaching hire Darryl Sutter. Quick is the third American-born Conn Smythe winner, adding one more dominant game to a run in which he set NHL records for save percentage (.946) and goals-against average (1.41) among goalies who played at least 15 postseason games. Brown, just the second American-born captain to raise the Cup after Dallas' Derian Hatcher, capped his own impressive playoff work by finishing with 20 points, tied for the postseason scoring lead with linemate Anze Kopitar. And don't forget: Brown accomplished what even Wayne Gretzky couldn't do in eight years in Los Angeles by lifting the Cup. Brown handed off the trophy to Willie Mitchell, the 35-year-old defenseman who had never won a title. Mitchell gave it to long-injured and recently returned forward Simon Gagne, who nearly tripped before raising the Cup for the first time. Sutter, the stone-faced Alberta farmer from a family of hockey-playing brothers, smiled like a kid at his first chance to lift the prize. Later, Brown and Justin Williams sat their crying children in the Cup, and Kopitar -- the first Slovenian NHL champion -- raised it while wearing a gold crown on his head. After going on a 12-2 tear to the Western Conference title, the Kings won the first two games of the finals in overtime by identical 2-1 scores in New Jersey. Los Angeles then flattened the Devils 4-0 in Game 3, but missed its first chance to clinch on home ice in New Jersey's 3-1 win in Game 4. The Devils then beat Los Angeles 2-1 in Game 5, earning another cross-country trip after becoming the first team since 1945 to win twice after falling behind 0-3 in the finals. The Kings were the West's bottom seed after failing to clinch a playoff berth until right before their 81st game, but only because they underachieved for much of the season, spending most of it as the NHL's lowest-scoring team. The talent coalesced under Sutter, who replaced the fired Terry Murray shortly before Christmas and turned Los Angeles into a competent offensive club by late February. Five years after the Anaheim Ducks won California's first Stanley Cup, the Golden State's oldest team raised the second. The Kings also are the first team to win the Cup at home since those Ducks, and their fans appreciated the Hollywood touch. Despite coming off their first back-to-back losses of the playoffs, the Kings started with impressive energy in Game 6, getting most of the good early scoring chances -- and then they got the break they needed when Bernier pushed Scuderi headfirst into the boards behind Quick's net. Scuderi stayed motionless for quite a while, eventually heading to the dressing room after leaving plenty of blood from his lacerated nose. Bernier, a 27-year-old journeyman and depth forward with two goals in 24 playoff games this season, went to the locker room. The Devils complained Jarret Stoll received no penalty for checking Stephen Gionta into the boards between the benches a moment earlier. "I wish I could take that play back," Bernier said. "I didn't want to hurt my team. I wanted to help them. This is extremely hard. It's been a long playoff run for us. To finish on that note, it's not fun for sure. But there's nothing I can do now." Brown scored 53 seconds into the power play, slickly redirecting Doughty's low pass in front for his first goal since the Western Conference finals opener. Carter then deflected home his seventh goal of the postseason after Brown walked the puck out of the corner and fired a shot at Brodeur's glove side while skating away from the net. With the Los Angeles crowd on its feet, the Kings added another as rookie Dwight King ferociously drove the net and left a rebound for Lewis, who tucked it home for his first goal in 18 games. Staples Center was deafening for the rest of the first period, and Los Angeles went up 4-0 just 90 seconds into the second when Brown found Carter unchecked in the slot for a one-timer. "It's pretty awesome," Sutter said. "It's the feeling of seeing them so happy, the work that you go through. The first thing you think about as a coach -- these guys are all young enough, they've got to try it again." NOTES: Linemates Brown and Kopitar finished tied for the NHL postseason scoring lead with 20 points in 20 games, and fellow first-liner Williams had 11 points in the final 14 games, finishing with 15 points. ... New Jersey LW Ilya Kovalchuk, who spurned the Kings' advances two years ago to sign with the Devils, managed just one empty-net goal in six finals games. Captain Zach Parise scored his only finals point on a Game 5 goal off a misplay by Quick. ... My Chemical Romance attended the game. Their song, "Welcome to the Black Parade," has become the black-jerseyed Kings' unofficial anthem after its incorporation into a clever pregame video featuring photos of several Kings as kids.

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Wednesday’s homer may only have been Yoan Moncada’s first, but he predicts plenty more are headed this way.

The White Sox second baseman and baseball’s top prospect crossed off another first when he blasted a solo home run in Wednesday’s loss to the Cubs. Moncada’s 417-foot drive to center field sent Cubs starter Jake Arrieta to the showers, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox fell to the Cubs 8-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The round-tripper came in the 47th plate appearance of Moncada’s young career and 27 th this season.

Acquired from the Red Sox in December, Moncada made his White Sox debut on July 18 and picked up his first hit on Friday.

“It means a lot because it was the first one of many that are coming, and I’m happy,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “It has been a nice week for me.”

Moncada had already walked and struck out looking by the time he faced Arrieta in the seventh inning. The rookie fell behind Arrieta 0-2 in the count but didn’t panic and belted an 0-2 curveball on the outside corner for a solo shot to center. The drive left Moncada’s bat at 105 mph and bounced off the green tin roof in straightaway center.

“He really put a good charge into that ball,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Right off the bat, too. I mean the ball really jumped off his bat. I think it was a breaking ball, too. Stayed on it, really good swing. I think his at-bats in general were pretty good. I think both sides probably got squeezed a little bit, but I think most of the guys put together some pretty good at-bats.”

Moncada has managed to put together a nice little memorabilia package in his first eight days in the big leagues. He received the lineup card from Renteria after he debuted against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Wednesday. Moncada also retrieved his first home run ball and hoped to get the lineup card from Renteria, too.

Arrieta was satisfied with his pitch but not the location. Still, the Cubs pitcher sounded impressed by the swing Moncada put on it and the result.

“It was a good breaking ball, but not in an 0-2 count where a guy’s in swing mode,” Arrieta said. “And he put a good swing on it, especially to hit it to dead center. Pretty balanced swing. You can tell that that guy is going to have a lot of potential. He’s pretty balanced in the box, but the pitch wasn’t supposed to be there.”

The offensive production hasn’t been there as much as Moncada would like early in the season. But, he suspects that will change.

“The results are going to come step by step,” Moncada said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and try to take advantage of the experience and the opportunity to play here. I’m just happy I’m having this opportunity here.”

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

There’s nothing fun about losing, as the White Sox are finding out first hand.

Wednesday night featured another defeat, this one coming at the hands of the visiting Cubs, the North Siders taking Game 3 of this edition of the Crosstown series by an 8-3 final score.

But should the White Sox need commiserators — and inspiration — they need look no further than the team across the field.

See, the Cubs have been where the White Sox are right now. Last season’s curse-smashing World Series championship was the fruit yielded by a lengthy rebuild on the North Side, one with a similar level of minor league focus and future expectations as the one currently underway on the South Side.

And as the Cubs and their fans well know, major league losing is a part of the process.

The White Sox dropped to 39-59 on Wednesday night, mired in last place in the American League Central. The Cubs spent five straight seasons in fifth place in the National League Central, methodically accruing top prospects with top draft picks.

The kind of nasty outing James Shields turned in Wednesday? The Cubs have seen that before, too. Wearing blue at the time were the likes of Rodrigo Lopez and Chris Volstad and Carlos Silva, the precursors to Shields, who hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in four of his last six starts. The stories aren’t much different for the rest of the White Sox current rotation, with veterans like Derek Holland and Mike Pelfrey struggling most times out.

The White Sox bats did a whole lot of nothing against Jake Arrieta on Wednesday, silenced offensively the same way the Cubs were repeatedly a few years back, in seasons when guys like Marlon Byrd and Darwin Barney led the North Siders in Wins Above Replacement.

Heck, they even had the same manager. Rick Renteria skippered the Cubs in 2014, the final fifth-place finish before Joe Maddon took over.

“We’re just going to have to keep going,” Renteria said Wednesday night, sounding like an echo of himself when he used to helm the Cubs. “There’s no lamenting or anything. This is the situation we’re in, and I think the guys want the ball every time I give it to them and they want to do a good job. We’re going to try to keep it respectable as much as we can, and in some cases win some ballgames.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Thing is, a look across the diamond Wednesday and once more Thursday in the Crosstown finale at Guaranteed Rate Field will allow the White Sox to see something else they share with those Cubs teams of the recent past: hope.

In the same way White Sox fans are currently gobbling up minor league reports on the organization’s fleet of highly ranked prospects, Cubs fans did that, too. They did it with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. White Sox fans are doing it with Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez. They’ll soon do it with Luis Robert and, a former Cubs prospect, Eloy Jimenez.

Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect in baseball bringing Bryant-like hype to the South Side, gave White Sox fans plenty to smile about Wednesday night, smoking a 0-2 pitch from Arrieta over the center-field fence for his first career home run.

If you need a glimpse into the future of the White Sox, at what things should look like when the rebuild reaches its apex, go watch Moncada’s home run again. And again.

While the Cubs and their World Series rings own bragging rights that stand above all others, the White Sox can also look into the third-base dugout and know they’re going about things differently — and perhaps even better — than their North Side counterparts did.

While Theo Epstein built his farm system with much-hyped draft picks (in addition to a couple extremely meaningful trades) over the years, Rick Hahn has built his in what has seemed like one fell swoop. The lightning-fast pace of the White Sox rebuild could make the five years of fifth-place finishes the Cubs experienced a non-factor on the South Side. Hahn has built arguably baseball’s best farm system in a matter of months, trading All-Star caliber big leaguers to stockpile highly touted minor leaguers and acquiring other prospects through trades and the draft who provide depth to the system.

“It’s improved,” Hahn said of the depth of his farm system before Wednesday’s game. “It has absolutely been a goal from the start, not just a matter of getting as much potential impact talent as we can but trying to set up layer upon layer of that talent, trying to get to the point when inevitably some of these guys don’t develop the way everyone has projected them to develop or an injury occurs that we have other options, that we have guys that perhaps developed a little more quickly or improved beyond what we projected as their ceiling. And the only way you get there is by having a critical mass of prospect depth.

“I would say that while we are pleased with the strides we’ve made in the last year or nine months, however long you want to draw the line, we know we still have work to do. We know we’re going to have a really important draft in 2018 and before that, another few days before this (trade) deadline and then some offseason maneuvering to take place.”

The Cubs have forever been a symbol of hope for their fans, a team that no matter how sorry the finish would always have expectations and a new chance every spring.

Though White Sox fans are unlikely to embrace the team on the other side of town, they’d be well served to take a step back and look at what has happened there. Because the Cubs’ successful rebuild, one that ended in a World Series title, could provide hope for White Sox fans, too.