The Kings broke a four game home losing streak tonight in LA when they won in the shootout… again. The Kings are tied with the New York Rangers for the best shootout record (8-2). The Flames have also won 8 shootouts, but they’ve lost 7. The only problem with being so good in the shootout this year is that players might hang back in the overtime, realizing that their goalie Jonathan Quick can get them the win in the shootout more times than not and if they’re tied with another team in points this season, they lose the first tie breaker. The Kings have 41 wins this season, but only 33 of those came in regulation or overtime and the first tie breaker this year only includes regulation and overtime wins. I’ve never been a fan of deciding a sport of any kind by a skills competition and if they think the shootout shouldn’t count maybe they should just get rid shootouts and go back to ties if there is no score in the five minute overtime period. I doubt this will happen, since it’s all about ratings and fans seem more likely to watch if the game could end in a shootout, so I’m sure it’s here to stay.
All other teams fighting for a spot in the western conference were surely annoyed by another three point game in the conference. There always seem to be more three point games near the end of the season when so many teams are desperate to secure their place in the playoffs. The only truly secure teams in the western conference are the Vancouver Canucks, though the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks are pretty sure of their spots, too. I suppose the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche are fairly securely out of the playoffs, but that’s not something anyone wants to admit until they’re officially mathematically eliminated and that hasn’t happened yet.
Tonight’s game was intense and definitely a nail biter for fans of both teams. There was no scoring until just under 6 minutes remained in regulation, then there were two goals within a little over a minute leading to a tie at one goal, which they maintained until they got to the shootout. Though the Flames were the first to score on the shootout, Stoll and Kopitar scored for the Kings and the Kings won the shootout and the game 2-1.
When asked about what makes him so successful in the shootout, a typically humble Quick threw the attention right back to his teammates saying, “I gotta give a lot of credit to the guys shooting the puck for us… when you score two out of three, I think we’re gonna win more times than not.”
I thought one of the best signs for the Kings fans tonight (other than a much needed win at home in front of the fans, which was a nice change from the last four home games) was that the Kings had one really amazing power play in the second period. They didn’t score, but they did everything correctly. During the second intermission, I was talking to some of my friends in the press box about that power play and mentioned that I thought it was the Kings’ best all year. Terry Murray brought up that same power play in the press conference, saying, “You know the power play we had in the second period. We didn’t score. You know the one I’m talking about? That was the best power play we’ve had this year. That is exactly what we’ve been talking about – what we need to see on a regular basis.” The trick, of course, is to somehow make that something the Kings can do on a regular basis and clearly if Murray had the solution to that the Kings would have the best power play in the NHL instead of the 19th (their rank before tonight’s game).
The Kings will be home again on Thursday hosting the division leading San Jose Sharks and what’s sure to be an excited Staples Center sellout crowd as the regular season winds down and Kings fans prepare to see some more playoff hockey in Los Angeles.
With tonight’s overtime win against Calgary (after giving up an early 3 goal lead) put them back in the 8th and final playoff spot of the western conference… at least until the end of tomorrow’s two games. Since the Ducks needed overtime to beat Calgary, the Flames could take their spot away for a bit tomorrow. The Ducks have two games in hand on the Flames now and will have 3 in hand as of tomorrow, so they’re concentrating on their own performance. Randy Carlyle even joked about it, since he really wasn’t sure if they were back in the playoffs or not. Clearly, none of the Ducks (or their fans) were happy with the way they gave away their early three goal lead and were losing 4-3 until Selanne tied the game with a power play goal at 17:59 of the third period. The Ducks’ two power play goals (their second goal of the game was a power play goal by Corey Perry) in three chances were definitely a good sign for fans who’ve watched the Ducks’ power play struggle lately.
Bobby Ryan had an unsuccessful penalty shot attempt in overtime (in a play that seemed even less obvious than last night’s take down of Dustin Brown when the Ducks beat the Kings in LA), but that didn’t deflate the team. On the contrary, the Ducks seemed to draw power from the penalty shot attempt. They won the next face-off and scored immediately. Corey Perry wasn’t even sure where the puck hit him for his game winning 39th goal of the season. He said it might have even been Lydman’s goal, but the official stat sheet came out still saying the goal was Perry’s, so he’s one step closer to having 40 goals this season.
Corey Perry has increased his points every season he’s played in the NHL starting with 25 his first season. He had already reached last season’s point total last night in Los Angeles and has a career high 79 points after his two goals and assist tonight. The Ducks are heading on the road for their three game road trip starting in Dallas Wednesday. Most of the teams they face in their last ten games of the season are the teams close to them in the standings (the Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, & Los Angeles Kings). It’s going to be a tough road for them with six away games and 3 more sets of back to back games – especially when most of the teams they’re facing are fighting as hard to get into the playoffs as the Ducks.
Fans may have booed the Kings off the ice after the second disappointing period against the Blues on St. Patrick’s Day, but the announced sellout crowd was ready to cheer their Kings on at Staples Center against the Ducks last night.
Many Kings fans had issues with the call against Alexei Ponikarovsky which made the puck going into the net irrelevant and put the Ducks on the power play, though Ponikarovsky had been pushed into Emery by Sbisa. Per the rules in the NHL, the no goal call was correct. The penalty was definitely a bad call, but since the Ducks didn’t score, that’s not a big point. Some may disagree with the way that rule works in the NHL (had Sbisa been on top of Emery, it would have clearly been a goal for the Kings and no penalty on either team), but the rules definitely read that way, so the only call I think was bad there was the penalty on Ponikarovsky for basically being in the wrong place at the wrong time and getting pushed down on top of Emery.
The Kings and Ducks both played hard. Emery (who’s allowed only 2 goals in the 2+ NHL games he’s played this season) looked great for the Ducks and the battle was exciting for fans on both sides. Unfortunately, for everyone else fighting for a spot in the western conference playoffs, the game resulted in three points being handed out, since the Kings got a point for losing in overtime. I’ve never been a fan of getting something for losing. It makes no sense to me. I know it makes this time of year more exciting and that fans of many more teams believe their team has a chance, but I’ll never get used to the idea of giving a team credit for losing a game.
Willie Mitchell said the Kings “played really well tonight” and “exactly how we wanted to play.” He went on to explain that more times than not when they play like that, they’ll win the game. The plan, as always, is to continue to play well even though I saw some fans tweeting about when the Kings go on the road again, since the Kings swept their recent four game road trip and have only scored one goal in their 2 games (including a little bit of overtime play) at home since that trip.
The playoff race is going to be exciting until the very end this season largely because of points obtained in losing situations. Many of the remaining games are four point games to the teams involved, like tonight’s game in Anaheim where the Ducks (currently in 9th place, 1 point behind 8th) host the Calgary Flames (in 10th place tied in points with the Ducks, who have played two fewer games). If Anaheim wins tonight, they could frog to 6th place in the west if Chicago and Nashville both lose their games. If the Blackhawks and Predators both win and the Ducks win, they’d still end up in the 8th and final playoff spot until tomorrow’s games are played. Los Angeles remained in 5th place when losing last night and are three points behind the 4th place Phoenix Coyotes.
This year will be another without both southern California teams in the playoffs. It’ll be great for southern CA hockey to see them play in the playoffs the same year. Maybe next year it’ll happen. In spite of the fact that so many things could end the Ducks’ playoff run (and did), before the game I was having a disagreement with a friend in the press box about whether the Ducks could make it. Sure, before the Colorado/Vancouver game ended in a shootout (not long before the Kings beat the Ducks the same way), it was still possible for the Ducks to make it to the playoffs this year. Most of us knew that wouldn’t happen. I called it in October from the way they were playing and publicly predicted the Ducks missing the playoffs in November. I didn’t believe you could fail the first 30% of your season and still squeak into the playoffs. The Avalanche and Kings helped prove me right tonight.
The West is all sewn up for those in and out of the playoffs. Exact positions have yet to be decided, but there is no question that the Flames, Blues, and Ducks are out of the playoffs and the Avalanche will be playing in them again.
Terry Murray pulled Quick after the third goal by the Ducks and the Kings rallied to win the game 5-4 in a shootout. Kopitar and Johnson scored for the Kings after Perry scored for the Ducks, winning the shootout 2-1. Kopitar came close to ending the game in overtime, but had to go on to use his most famous shootout move to beat McElhinne and win the game for the Kings.
Now the debate turns to where the teams will end up in the standings and what teams will face each other in the playoffs. As usual at this time, there are many possibilities there. The last few days of the season are always exciting. Kings fans are looking forward to seeing their team in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and many of the Kings are looking forward to their first playoffs of their NHL career.
With their playoff spots secure, many teams are having trouble coming out strong in these last games before the playoffs. Hopefully for Kings fans, tonight’s game against the Ducks will help the Kings to finish the regular season strong so they can build on that performance when the playoffs start.
Today, I watched the Rangers/Flyers game on NBC in HD and the Penguins/Bruins game (not on the NHL Network in HD, in spite of what the guide said – good thing I checked and recorded it on Center Ice where it was on in standard definition, but at least it was playing – the NHL Network chose to show replays of the Maple Leafs/Flames game from yesterday and then the Canadiens/Devils instead of airing the Penguins/Bruins game live. I can’t even begin to understand that programming choice, but I’m sure there was a good reason.
Those of you who watched the Penguins game know that Chris Kunitz (acquired from the Ducks in an early trade around the trade deadline along with Eric Tangradi for Ryan Whitney) scored his first hat trick with the Penguins… or did he? What you might not know if you didn’t look at the stats a while after the game is that Kunitz’s one goal (and, therefore, his hat trick) away. When I was watching the game, I didn’t think he had touched the puck (clearly they later found out that Kunitz hadn’t tipped the puck in), but I think there should be some time limit on when they can change the scoring of a goal in the NHL.
In talking to one of the NHL employees who works on that in Anaheim after the game, I found out that there really is no time limit. Guys sometimes remember after the game that they might have touched the puck or the team’s people look at the goals a little bit more closely and realize that a certain guy did or didn’t touch the puck. They said at that point it’s up to the main NHL office in Toronto to make the call and take closer looks at the goal and make the scoring change. It was my understanding that the Toronto office looked at every goal and closely analyzed it at the time of the goal, so I don’t really see how this can happen. I would assume the offices in Toronto have HD feed even though all games aren’t televised in HD and are looking at the goals very closely. I know the NHL officials at the rink don’t always have HD capabilities, but I assume that the office where they make all the final decisions has the latest technology and closely examines each goal right after it happens. It would seem in that case the goal scoring records would not need to be changed after the fact.
I don’t know exactly when Kunitz’s goal was taken away from him, but I know it wasn’t announced until after the game, since my dad (who was at today’s game in Pittsburgh) learned about the change while listening to the post game show on his way home from the game. Considering the fact that it was not a late goal, I think they should be able to make that call earlier and not change that late.
The goals are reviewed at the time for a reason. The goal announcements are often delayed as the NHL powers that be try to determine who scored a goal, the assists, etc. I think once the final whistle blows all goals (other than the goal or goals in the last couple minutes of the game) should be finalized and no more changes should be made to the scoring. Would mistakes be made occasionally? Sure. Mistakes are made sometimes in baseball and football on whether a home run is a home run or should be called a foul ball. They review the plays at the time and sometimes they make the wrong call. In hockey, they’re not taking back a goal – that is reviewed at the time and I’ve never heard of a goal being disallowed after the fact. Changing who scored a goal is clearly not as drastic a change, but I still think it’s something they should determine in a specified amount of time.
I know there is a lot of debate about the idea of mascots not fitting in with the hockey world, etc. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed NHL mascots. Perhaps that’s because Iceburgh (the mascot of the Penguins, my first NHL team) is so entertaining. The way he plays around is fun to watch and he doesn’t disrupt the game at all, so I don’t understand the harm. Depending on the counts you use and what you count as a mascot, 24 (or 25) of the 30 NHL teams have mascots. If you haven’t been lucky enough to see all of them, you can click here to see pictures of all 24 mascots. Four of the original six teams have mascots, including the Canadiens and Maple Leafs. Since most of the arguments I’ve heard about hockey not being a place for mascots say that they take their hockey more seriously in Canada, I find it interesting that the two original six teams from Canada, as well as the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, & Calgary Flames have team mascots. This makes the Edmonton Oilers the only team in Canada without a mascot. Clearly it’s not simply an issue with being serious about hockey. Mascots entertain kids and older fans when they’re not overly intrusive and distracting. If used properly, I think a good mascot can add to the experience of a great night of hockey.
The video my sister posted today on her Facebook page made me think about this. If you want to see a hilarious campaign video for Iceburgh, check this out: