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Top Line: Losing to Kings will haunt Blackhawks; trade talk heats up; more

Blackhawks-Kings handshake line The Blackhawks were denied a shot at another Cup by a gritty foe and an untimely gaffe in an epic series. (Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:

• Exhausted and humbled, the Kings could hardly describe what they'd accomplished in the wake of their thrilling 5-4 overtime win in Chicago that sends them back to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in the last three seasons.

• Say what you will about the resilience of L.A., but being forced to go the distance in three consecutive series hints at a team that struggles to put together a consistent game-to-game effort. It's a habit that could be the end of them against the Rangers in the Cup finals.

• It's one thing to lose on a clean goal. It's another to lose like the Blackhawks did in Game 7. The quirky end to this series is likely to haunt these players for the rest of their lives.

There is no shame in losing a thrilling, exhausting Western Conference finals between the two best teams left playing in the NHL. But still ...

• Winning another Game 7 on the road? No problem. That's just how these Kings rule.

• Ryan Kennedy wants you to meet Alec Martinez, the little-known hero of Game 7.

• Steve Rosenbloom says that there is only one standard for success now in Chicago. Anything less than another Stanley Cup has to be viewed as an epic failure on the part of a team that just choked away its chance at a title defense.

• Rick Telander says that the memory of blowing three leads makes this a particularly galling loss.

• Tracey Myers says that the failure of the Hawks can be found in their defensive numbers. After allowing a combined 27 goals to the Blues and the Wild, Chicago coughed up 28 against L.A. in the conference finals.

• The NHL now has the attention of two big cities for the next two weeks. Consider it both a reward for the league's growth efforts and a once-in-a-generation marketing opportunity.

Rick Nash not scoring enough for you? Just remember that it is a team game, and that it is Nash's team-first approach that could make the difference for New York in the Cup finals.

• Former NHL player Bryan Muir has volunteered for a study to determine whether changes to his brain are a normal part of aging or the direct result of concussions suffered over the course of his hockey career.

• Jim Matheson says that a pair of recent Norris Trophy finalists could be on the move ahead of this year's draft, and also ponders the possibility of Ray Shero ending up in the management group of an old rival of the Penguins. This could get interesting ...

• Matty also considers the possibility of a major swap between the Islanders and Oilers in his Short Shifts column.

Wayne Simmonds and Alex Steen top this list of the top-five under-the-radar success stories of 2013-14.

• Increasing costs play a factor, but this is the key reason that the number of children playing hockey is in decline.

• With just 12 words, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson signaled that a massive culture change is on the horizon in San Jose.

• Uniformity of pay across the three Canadian major junior hockey leagues makes sense, but good luck selling the idea to players about to enter their overage system in the QMJHL. A new rule could cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

• Curious about Europe's new Champions Hockey League? Here are the answers to all your questions.
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