If Kings fans missed the game last night against Vancouver, they might have thought they were seeing things when they read that their team lost 2-1 in a shootout. The only difference in the simple box scores was the game in San Jose taking 3 more rounds of the shootout to end the game.
Though he always went on to say that he liked the shootout for the fans and realized that the fans like the shootout and get excited, Terry Murray made it very clear that he hates the shootout. Many of us think it’s a bit ridiculous to decide a game by a team with a skill competition. Yes, penalty shots are exciting and the skills competition of the All Star game is always my favorite part. However, other sports don’t end team games with individual competition, why does the NHL? Could you imagine after 9 innings of baseball deciding the game in a home run competition instead of continuing to play? What about the team that loses in 22 innings getting a point for that in the standings? Didn’t think so. What about the NBA ending in a free throw competition or a game of HORSE? So why give a goaltender who’s played well enough to keep his team in the game and get them through 65 minutes of play a loss (even if it is in the separate overtime loss column)? Okay, enough of my anti-shootout rant.
Naturally, the Kings didn’t look as good in the second night of their back to back games. I still think that teams in back to back games should be facing other teams who played the day before on their second night (which would have worked if the Canucks had played the Ducks on Wednesday instead of playing them Friday). The Canucks will have the disadvantage against the rested Ducks tonight and the Ducks will be at a disadvantage on Saturday when they play in Phoenix. Somehow, it seems it could have been coordinated a bit better.
On the bright side for Kings fans, their team got a point for the shootout loss in both of their last two games and points in their last 6 (4-0-2) games. The Kings had two four game winning streaks in the same month for the first time since… I’m not sure when. I went back to the late 90s and couldn’t find another time when the Kings put together two winning streaks of 4 games or more in the same month. The Kings are at the head of their division and despite many reports to the contrary, when they were tied in points with the Sharks the Kings were in the lead of the division, since they’ve gotten 3 points in their 2 games with the Sharks and the Sharks have only gotten 2. They only had two four game winning streaks in their entire last season (and none longer).
It’ll be very interesting to see the Kings play the Penguins next week. They’ve played the Sharks, but the Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and (having lost only two games so far) are clearly still at the top of their game. The Penguins haven’t been to LA since November of 2006. For some reason, they tend to come to southern California in November or December (escaping the Pennsylvania weather for a bit?). I’ve seen the Penguins play so often the last couple years in Pittsburgh that I sometimes forget how little most southern California hockey fans have seen of the Penguins. The last time the Penguins were in LA was the season where they made the playoffs for the first time in years. It was Sidney Crosby’s first trip to California in the NHL and Evgeni Malkin’s first year in the NHL. They both had fairly big nights in LA and the Kings lost in overtime (Malkin scored the OT goal). Both teams have changed quite a bit since then. The Penguins have found a coach (Dan Bylsma) who seems to know exactly how to lead a group of young superstars. Bylsma’s record in his 61 games as a coach of the Penguins is 44-13-4 (they’ve won 72% of their games, 83% since his first training camp with the team). The Kings have done well with Terry Murray’s system focusing on defense and seem to have found a goaltender (in Jon Quick) capable of making the saves to give the Kings a chance to win every night. They’ve also added a few key players to help them achieve a higher level of play. Anze Kopitar has definitely stepped up his game this season. It’s early, but Kopi’s on pace to score almost 60 goals this season and has scored 1.5 points per game so far. (He was leading the NHL in points until Alex Ovechkin passed him last night.) Next Thursday’s game should be very interesting and will certainly be the biggest test the Kings have faced so far this season.