One of the teams had to end their winning streak last night when the Rangers hosted the Kings in Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately for Kings fans, the team that extended their streak was the Rangers. The Rangers remain tied for first place in the Atlantic division and the NHL (with the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins). The Kings remain in first place in the Pacific division, but drop from 2nd to 5th in the Western conference.
Definitely not the best game to attend as a Kings fan, but there were up sides to not getting credentials from the Rangers. I got to talk to more fans (Kings and Rangers alike). I also didn’t have to talk to the Kings after the game and somehow I don’t think they were in the best mood – especially with their upcoming flight to Detroit immediately following the game.
As a Kings fan, I was definitely in the minority at Madison Square Garden, but I did see quite a few Kings fans. I talked to almost all the Kings fans I saw before the end of the game. One of the fans hasn’t lived in LA for years (he’s spent most of that time overseas serving our country), but he still manages to follow his favorite team. One of the fans is from Philadelphia, but he’s been a Kings fan most of his life. Apparently, he really liked their earliest purple jerseys and chose the Kings as his team as a result.
Everyone watching the game saw Brian Boyle (a former King) score his first goal in a Rangers jersey. Considering how little the Kings face the Rangers, it’s pretty surprising that he scored his first goal of the season against the Kings.
Special teams were definitely a problem for the Kings last night. The Kings’ penalty kill (tied for 27th in the league going into last night’s game) was already struggling, but the power play had been tied for 4th. The Rangers fan next to me turned to me to say that the Kings were making the Rangers look good near the end of one of the Kings’ last power plays of the game – and he was right. I couldn’t keep track of all the times the Kings passed the puck to the point without looking to see if there was someone there and cleared the zone for the Rangers (the Kings did this when they weren’t on the power play, too). Los Angeles was 1-7 (14%) with the man advantage and only stopped one of the three Rangers power plays. If I had to guess, I’d say the Kings will spend a lot of money working on their power play and penalty kill in upcoming practices.
Erik Ersberg was in goal for the Kings, since they face the Red Wings tonight in Detroit. His save percentage of 81% is definitely not what he would have wanted, but two of the goals scored against him were scored on the power play (one with a two man advantage), which clearly made his job more difficult.
The Kings hadn’t had a four game winning streak since about 2 months before the end of the last season and hadn’t started out with a record of 4-1-0 since the 1992-1993 season (the year they went to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost to the Montreal Canadiens) and ties with the best 5 game start in Kings history. It’s too early to be super optimistic if you’re a Kings fan (especially since Kings fans have seen their team start out well and finish way out of the playoffs before), but I do think that the team Dean Lombardi has put together is on the right track and will finish in the playoffs this year.