The LA Kings are one win from the Stanley Cup

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The LA Kings are one win from the Stanley Cup

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After Jonathan Quick put Los Angeles on the brink of its first NHL title with yet another shutout, the Kings' unbeatable goalie wore pretty much the same placid expression he sports after exhibition wins in September. Almost nothing bothers Quick, including nearly all of the New Jersey Devils' 72 shots in the Stanley Cup finals. Nothing affects his poise in the crease or his focus on the next victory -- and that's the only goal remaining for the Kings near the end of a playoff run with few equals in NHL history. "We're just trying to win one game here, that's all we're trying to do," Quick said. If they do, he'll get to drink from the Stanley Cup. Maybe that will put a smile on this goalie's face. Quick made 22 saves in his third shutout of the postseason, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams each had a goal and an assist, and the eighth-seeded Kings beat New Jersey 4-0 Monday night to take a 3-0 series lead in front of a sold-out arena daring to believe in the end of a 45-year championship drought. Alec Martinez scored the opening goal several minutes after Los Angeles killed a key 5-on-3 disadvantage. Jeff Carter and Williams added late power-play goals for the Kings, who improved to an astonishing 15-2 in the postseason. Only the 1988 Edmonton Oilers can compare with their 16-2 run to the Cup. The Kings can match them with a win in Game 4 on Wednesday night. "I don't think we're too surprised," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who has scored in every game of the finals. "We know we have a great team in here. Before this game, it easily could have been 2-0 for them. It is a tight series, but at the same time, we are really confident with the team we have in here." And with good reason: Los Angeles has jumped to a 3-0 lead in its fourth straight series -- a feat never accomplished in NHL history before these seemingly charmed Kings steamrolled every opponent in their path. Yet there's not much excitement yet among the Kings, who realize the folly of celebrating anything that isn't the Cup. Captain Dustin Brown didn't pick up the Campbell Bowl after winning Los Angeles' second conference title, and nobody was touching any speculation about the Cup. "We're obviously not going to be stone-faced if we do something we've been waiting our whole lives for," Williams said. "We're going to keep pushing forward. We're a focused group right now. We're not going to let anything get in our way. We certainly don't want to get back on that plane." Martin Brodeur stopped 17 shots, but the Devils couldn't beat the impenetrable Quick, who has allowed just 24 goals in 17 playoff games, or his penalty-killers, who turned aside six power plays -- none bigger than a 60-second kill during 5-on-3 play late in the first period that left the Kings' fans standing and roaring. "I think the (penalty-kill) was the difference in the game," Quick said. The relative youngster in black has outplayed the 40-year-old Brodeur, and New Jersey must accomplish just the fourth comeback from an 0-3 series deficit in NHL playoff history to win its fourth title. "It's not the best situation," Brodeur said. "It's probably the worst situation you could be in -- no, it is the worst situation you could be in. But we believe in ourselves. We're going to compete as hard as we can, and the result will be there one way or another. ... We're just facing a team right now that's doing everything right." The Devils had never lost three straight Stanley Cup finals games in the franchise's five appearances. New Jersey hadn't lost three straight games this season since late February. New Jersey has been pretty good in the finals, but nothing has been able to slow these Kings, who seem destined to become the first No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup. "We felt like the way we were playing, we were going to get one, but it just didn't happen," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "It's frustrating when everyone has been playing well, and we find ourselves down three-nothing." The Kings could celebrate their first title at home, but their only speed bump in this dynamic postseason has been Game 4. They're 10-0 on the road in the postseason, but failed to close out Vancouver and Phoenix at home in Game 4s. No team has won the Cup with a sweep since Detroit wiped out Washington in the 1998 finals. After opening their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 19 years with two overtime victories in New Jersey, the Kings relied on Quick and their penalty-killing in Game 3 before their offense got rolling. The Kings had to survive their early nerves from playing in front of their title-starved fans, and they barely hung on at times against the Devils' dynamic forechecking in the first two periods. After Carter took a 4-minute penalty for high-sticking Adam Henrique while Los Angeles already was short-handed in the first period, Los Angeles killed one minute of 5-on-3 play before Marek Zidlicky lopped two more minutes off the power play with a penalty of his own to prevent a breakaway by Mike Richards. Martinez scored his first career playoff goal early in the second period on a goalmouth scramble that Brodeur felt should have been whistled dead, and Kopitar followed about 10 minutes later with his third goal in four games off an impressive pass from Brown. The Kings went ahead when Dwight King created a scoring chance with a big hit, eventually hacking at the puck underneath Brodeur's pad in front. Martinez joined the effort with Trevor Lewis and got credit for the goal when the puck finally trickled in, scoring his first goal in his 23rd career playoff game. "I had the puck, I covered it with my stick, and the guy just pushed me," Brodeur said. "I think the referee was in the wrong position, so I guess it was tough for him to make the call." Late in the period, Kopitar extended the lead on a stellar rush by the Kings' top line. Williams moved the puck into the zone and found Brown, who feathered a cross-ice pass to Kopitar for the Slovenian star's eighth goal of the postseason, giving Los Angeles its first two-goal lead since Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. In the third period, the Kings finally got something from the power play that has been their weakest feature during the postseason, going 6 for 77 before a 2-for-2 effort in Game 3. Carter scored his sixth goal of the postseason on a splendid setup pass from Richards, his longtime teammate, early in the third period -- and Williams followed 2:32 later with a slick goal in the slot, practically blowing the roof off the sold-out building. "We're a confident group right now," Kopitar said. "As we all know, the fourth one is the toughest one. We want to make sure we're ready for the start on Wednesday, try to get another win." Staples Center was packed to the rafters well before Wayne Gretzky took the ice for the ceremonial opening faceoff. Los Angeles' long-suffering hockey fans hadn't seen a Stanley Cup finals game since Gretzky got them there in 1993, enduring two trips to the finals by the rival Anaheim Ducks in the previous decade while the Kings moved into their 44th season of play without a championship. The Kings got another boost from the return of left wing Simon Gagne, who hadn't played since Dec. 26 while recovering from a concussion. Gagne is a seven-time 20-goal scorer in his first season in Los Angeles, carrying ample playoff experience from his decade with the Philadelphia Flyers, including a trip to the 2010 Stanley Cup finals. NOTES: The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team to rally from an 0-3 deficit to win the Stanley Cup finals. The other 24 teams facing the deficit have lost the Cup. ... The crowd of 18,764 was the largest in Staples Center history for a Kings game. Hundreds of fans in black jerseys gathered in the plaza outside several hours before game time, chanting slogans and carrying inflatable Cup replicas. ... Gagne played just over 6 minutes on 10 shifts.

Ravens like their draft class, and so did Vegas sports books

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Ravens like their draft class, and so did Vegas sports books

The Ravens liked their draft, and so did Las Vegas.

In mid-March prior to the draft, the Ravens had 40-1 odds to win Super Bowl 51, according to Bovada. After their 11-player haul in the draft, the Ravens’ Super Bowl odds have improved to 33-1, according to Bovada.

Here are the six teams whose Super Bowl odds improved most dramatically after the draft, according to Bovada:

Browns – 150-1 to 100-1

Redskins – 50-1 to 40-1

Jets – 50-1 to 40-1

Giants - 33-1 to 25-1

Raiders – 33-1 to 25-1

Ravens – 40-1 to 33-1

Despite quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension being upheld, the Patriots remained the favorites for Super Bowl 51 (7-1), followed by the Seahawks (8-1), Packers (10-1), Steelers (10-1), and Panthers (11-1).

As for the AFC North, the Ravens still have their work cut out according to Vegas. The Steelers and Bengals (18-1) still have better Super Bowl odds than the Ravens.

So if you believe the Ravens are a better team after the draft, Vegas would agree. However, it remains to be seen if the Ravens will be improved enough to get back into the playoffs.

Nationals make big jump in updated sportsbook World Series odds

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Nationals make big jump in updated sportsbook World Series odds

Bovada has released their updated World Series odds after the first month of the 2016 MLB season and the Nationals are rising the ranks. They are now tied for second in best odds to with the World Series with the New York Mets. The only team ahead of them is the Chicago Cubs, who they face in their next series beginnning Thursday.

Here are teh full updated odds courtesy of Bovada:

                                            Odds on 4/4/16             Current Odds (5/316)               

Chicago Cubs                                       5/1                    5/1                                           

New York Mets                                      12/1                  10/1     

Washington Nationals                            18/1                  10/1

Boston Red Sox                                   14/1                  12/1     

Chicago White Sox                                33/1                  12/1

Toronto Blue Jays                                 10/1                  12/1                                         

Kansas City Royals                               14/1                  14/1     

Los Angeles Dodgers                            12/1                  14/1                                         

San Francisco Giants                            8/1                    14/1                                         

Texas Rangers                                      25/1                  18/1                             

Pittsburgh Pirates                                  20/1                  20/1                             

St. Louis Cardinals                                18/1                  20/1                                         

Detroit Tigers                                        20/1                  22/1                                         

Seattle Mariners                                    40/1                  22/1                                         

Arizona Diamondbacks                          25/1                  28/1                                         

Baltimore Orioles                                   40/1                  28/1     

Cleveland Indians                                  18/1                  33/1

Houston Astros                                     16/1                  33/1     

Los Angeles Angels                              40/1                  33/1

Oakland Athletics                                  66/1                  40/1     

Miami Marlins                                        50/1                  50/1

New York Yankees                                25/1                  50/1                                         

Tampa Bay Rays                                   40/1                  50/1                                         

Colorado Rockies                                 150/1                75/1                                         

Philadelphia Phillies                               150/1                75/1                                         

Minnesota Twins                                    50/1                  125/1                                       

San Diego Padres                                 125/1                150/1                                       

Cincinnati Reds                                     125/1                200/1                                       

Milwaukee Brewers                                125/1                200/1                                       

Atlanta Braves                                       150/1                500/1                                       

Weber preparing to replace Schmidt on Caps' blue-line in Game 4

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Weber preparing to replace Schmidt on Caps' blue-line in Game 4

PITTSBURGH -- Left wing Marcus Johansson is expected to be in the lineup tonight in Game 4 when the Capitals look to even their second-round playoff series against the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.

So is defenseman Mike Weber, who told NHL.com he will be in the lineup tonight against the team he grew up watching. Weber is expected to replace Nate Schmidt, who was a minus-1 in Monday night’s 3-2 loss in Game 3.

While most of his teammates participated in an optional morning skate on Wednesday, Johansson played a spirted game of soccer knockout with teammates T.J. Oshie and defenseman Matt Niskanen.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Johansson will be “available” to play tonight but said reporters would need to wait until warmups to see if Weber, who grew up in nearby Cranberry Township, would be in the lineup. Weber is expected to be paired with Taylor Chorney, while Dmitry Orlov, who was benched in Game 2, is expected to be paired with John Carlson.

“I was born here and raised here, but I want to compete for the Stanley Cup, so any game it’s nice to get in,” Weber told NHL.com. “It’s nice to be able to compete with my teammates here.”

As for Schmidt, who logged 13:31 of ice time in Game 3 and was on the ice for Carl Hagelin’s goal, Trotz said he’d like to see better decision making from the 24-year-old blue liner.

“You have to be acute at this time and I didn’t think we were as good in that,” Treotz said. “We don’t have time to pat the guy on the back. You just move on. …  Nothing’s personal; it just needs to be done and you have to make those tough decisions.”

Trotz said he thought Weber was “real solid defensively” in his only playoff appearance this post-season, a series-clinching 1-0 win over the Flyers in Round 1.

Trotz on Letang: Asked his reaction to the one-game suspension issued to Penguins defenseman Kris Letang for his open-ice hit on Johansson, Trotz replied: “My reaction to the suspension is the league dealt with it and he’s not playing today so we have to take advantage of them missing a real terrific defenseman.”

With Letang out of the lineup it appears defensemen Justin Schultz and Derrick Pouliot will make up the Penguins’ third defense pairing, and Brian Dumoulin will be paired with Trevor Daley on the Pens’ top unit.

“All of us D men have to step up,” said Schultz, who has not played since Game 1 of the first round. “He’s a hard man to replace. I don’t know if you can replace him.”

Dumoulin said all of the Penguins’ blue liners need to be aware of the Capitals’ strong forecheck, especially after seeing the Caps deliver 58 hits in Game 3, nine of them from Alex Ovechkin.

“He’ll definitely take that extra step and try to finish you and we have to be aware of that,” Dumoulin said. “We know he’s going to finish sometimes a little high, too. We’ve got to be prepared and brace ourselves for those hits.”

Fehr out? Penguins forwards Eric Fehr and Bryan Rust did not participate in the Pens’ optional morning skate and both could be out of the lineup tonight, with Oskar Sundqvist and Tom Sestito possible replacements.

Sundqvist, 22, is a 6-foot-3, 209-pound Swede with one career playoff game. Sestito, a hard-hitting, glove-dropping, 6-foot-5, 228-pounder from Rome, N.Y., also has one game of NHL playoff  experience.

In 141 career NHL games Sestito has 41 fights and 451 penalty minutes.

“We’ll have to keep our heads up,” Capitals right wing Andre Burakovsky said.  

Goalie carousel: Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he’ll go with Matt Murray as his starting goaltender for Game 4, even though Marc-Andre Fleury appears to be ready to return from a concussion.

"Matt is obviously playing really good hockey right now and Marc is trying to establish his game and hasn't played in a while,” Sullivan said. “With as well as Matt is playing, common sense would suggest that we should probably stay with him. Having said that, we think we have two really good goalies that we can rely on to help us win." 

[RELATED: Mike Weber 'wanted to be a Penguin,' but now wants to beat them]