Tonight’s game in LA was beyond disappointing for the Kings fans (18,216 sellout crowd with standing room only announced and unlike the Honda Center for the first two Ducks playoff games, Staples Center was packed). The Kings lost game one to the Sharks 3-2 after coming back from the very early Sharks goal. They bounced back from that to shut out the Sharks in San Jose Saturday night winning 4-0. They scored 2:26 & 2:39 into the first period tonight, ended the first period up 3-0, and even scored 44 seconds into the second period. The Kings scored eight unanswered goals after losing in overtime in game one. Then… they collapsed, hit the wall, stopped playing hard enough, … whatever you want to call it, the Kings had an embarrassing loss at home and many fans are (rightfully) upset with their team.
After the fourth goal in tonight’s game, the Sharks pulled goaltender Antti Niemi and apparently he took the Kings’ mojo and will with him. The Kings scored only one goal against Antero Nittymaki, who got his first win of the series, and allowed 5 goals in regulation to end the second period tied at 5 goals each. The Kings seemed to stop the bleeding when they answered the Sharks’ third goal with their fifth, but they allowed two more goals before that period ended and were quite simply outplayed. The Sharks looked like they had extended power plays. Though coach Terry Murray was happy with the way the Kings pulled themselves together for the third period, the only really good thing that can be said of the period is that the Kings allowed no goals against.
Unlike the regular season, where the Kings could do their best to survive five minutes of four on four overtime to win in the shootout (where goaltender Jonathan Quick was undefeated, 10-0), the playoffs don’t have a skills competition. Playoff hockey is 5 on 5 in 20 minute periods that become sudden death starting with the first overtime. TV timeouts are eliminated and intermissions get a bit shorter, but the game remains a real hockey game until a goal is scored. Devin Setoguchi scored the game winning overtime goal just 3:09 into the first overtime. On the bright side, since their team lost, at least the Kings fans were spared an agonizing 3 overtime game that ends with the same disappointment, but includes decreased sleep and a lot more disappointment.
Coach Terry Murray said you had to give the Sharks credit for their power play goal in the second period, “but outside of that, we did this to ourselves… we get caught out for extended shifts… you’re exhausted, you’re getting rattled…” It’s good that Murray acknowledged that the Kings brought the loss on themselves, since perhaps that means he’ll be able to address that problem with the Kings tomorrow, so they can come back from this demoralizing loss at home to win game four Thursday at Staples Center and re-tie the series.
There are a ton of stats (mostly not favorable) about teams (and the Kings specifically) who lose game three of a seven game NHL playoff series and go down two games to one. I’ve always thought those stats (even if they include the same teams from the year before, since there are always some changes from year to year) are as useless as knowing what numbers have hit recently in roulette or the recent coin flip stats. How the team performed when Wayne Gretzky was in the lineup is irrelevant. This team is a completely different team and only they can decide how they’ll play Thursday.
Regardless of what happens in the series, it was nice to see a southern California team properly celebrating the playoffs. The Kings do more for the first round of the playoffs than the Ducks did during the Stanley Cup Finals the year they won the Cup. The Kings had a DJ, live pep band, temporary tattoos, a beer garden, and other booths set up outside. They had The Briggs (who sing their theme song “This is LA”) perform inside before the game to get the fans into the game and after the second goal of the night, I can’t remember hearing Staples Center so loud before. I’m sure the “Frenzy on Figueroa” comeback win against the Red Wings in 2001 was louder and I was there, but it’s hard to remember the arena being that loud before. Kings fans are hoping their faithfulness and support will be rewarded Thursday and they’re sure to fill Staples Center with another SRO sellout crowd. Perhaps this time, the home crowd will be happier when they leave.
Tags: Antero Nittymaki, Antti Niemi, fans, Frenzy on Figueroa, Holiday, Honda Center, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, playoffs, sellout, Sharks, standing room, Stanley Cup, Staples Center, Terry Murray, Wayne Gretzky
The Anaheim Ducks didn’t really have much playoff intensity when the 2011 playoffs opened for them on Wednesday. Their fans were certainly wondering what happened to their league leading scorers and even what happened to the Nashville Predators – known more for their defense than offense. Friday night, the Ducks showed their fans that they DO remember how to show up for the playoffs and started with two power play goals (one 5 on 3, one 5 on 4) at 5:24 and 6:02 of the first period. They were the only goals scored that period, but at least Ducks fans had seen their team score a goal against the Predators in the post season without a two man advantage. I’m sure they were hoping their team would work up to an even strength goal at some point. The Ducks’ first even strength goal of the 2011 playoffs came almost halfway through their second game when Bobby Ryan scored his first goal of this year’s playoffs. His second of the playoffs was the empty net goal securing the win for the Ducks.
Ducks fans breathed a sigh of relief as their team proved they were capable of scoring even strength goals against Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. For some reason, the Ducks like to keep things interesting for their fans and let the Predators get a bit too close for comfort a couple times in the game, but they pulled out the win and managed to keep most of their fans in the arena until the end of the game. The announced sellout crowd, definitely much closer to the 17,174 capacity than Wednesday’s announced sellout, got to celebrate their team’s first playoff win of the year and know they will see their team at least once more at Honda Center this year (for game 5 on Friday, April 22).
In order to move past the Predators and on to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Ducks have to win at least one game in Nashville. They’ll play in Nashville tomorrow at 3pm and Wednesday at 5:30pm, Pacific. Ducks fans are hoping the team they saw Friday is the team that will travel to Nashville.
Tags: Bobby Ryan, Ducks, even strength, Hockey, Honda Center, NHL, Pekka Rinne, playoffs, power play, Predators, sellout
In the first day of the 2011 NHL playoffs, the Ducks were the only home team to lose. The Capitals had to get near the end of the first overtime period to win their game, but the Ducks lost 4-1 to the typically defensive Predators. Nashville was expected to be a good team defensively – especially with Pekka Rinne, one of the best goalies in the NHL, in goal. I don’t think many expected them to score four goals against the Ducks, though. Ellis hasn’t been the best goalie this season. In fact, he’s near the bottom in save percentage, but even if he’d played really well tonight it would have been rough for the Ducks. You can’t win without scoring and the only time the Ducks scored against Rinne was in a 5 on 3 power play. Teemu Selanne scored the Ducks’ only goal.
The only real good thin the Ducks can take out of this is (as Getzlaf pointed out) scoring the one goal means “we know we can get it past him.” The Ducks clearly realize that they don’t just need more traffic in front of the net to score on Rinne. Getzlaf explained that it’s, “not only traffic in front, we’ve gotta get good quality shots to the net… it’s not good enough just to throw them there, we’ve got to put them there with some enthusiasm and get there after the rebounds.
Though a sellout crowd of 17,174 was announced for Honda Center tonight, there were a lot of empty seats and I find it hard to believe the top corner seats were sold – especially since there were even tickets available on Goldstar. One of these days, I’d like to figure out what percentage of the tickets have to be sold before they can donate the rest of the tickets or give them to employees or whatever they do to ensure that they can announce a sellout at a sporting event.
Clearly, the Ducks are ready to move on from the first game and come back ready to take on Rinne and the Predators again on Friday. Hopefully, Honda Center will be more packed on a Friday night, in spite of it being more of a true hockey fan’s matchup.
The Predators were naturally happy about winning the first game away from home and essentially removing the Ducks’ home ice advantage from the equation, but they realize it’s a long series. They’ve just won one of the four games they’d need to win to advance to the next round and the series is far from over.
Tags: attendance, Ducks, fans, Hockey, home ice, Honda Center, NHL, Pekka Rinne, playoffs, power play, Predators, Ryan Getzlaf, sellout, Stanley Cup, Teemu Selanne
Here they are – my playoff predictions for the first round. Some of these were difficult for me to pick, but here are my thoughts.
Capitals vs. Rangers
Capitals in 5 – I don’t think this will be at all challenging for the Capitals given the way the Rangers have been playing lately. I think the Rangers will win a game, hopefully at home for their fans. I may not like the team, but I think all fans deserve a win at home in the playoffs.
Flyers vs. Sabres
Flyers in 6 – The Sabres have been playing amazingly well lately and have the best record in the last ten games out of all the teams in the NHL, but I still think the Flyers will prevail in the end. They’re a strong team and I think they may be the team that’ll make it out of the east.
Bruins vs. Canadiens
Bruins in 5 – With Tim Thomas (who should get the Vezina again) in goal, I don’t see how the Bruins can go wrong here. The Canadiens only won half of their last ten games and certainly don’t seem to be in playoff form at the moment.
Penguins vs. Lightning
Penguins in 6 – The Pens ended their season with the second best set of 10 games in the NHL and in spite of not having team captain Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin healthy, they have been finding ways to win. There’s still hope that Crosby might be able to return at some point during the playoffs, though clearly the Penguins will be careful not to rush him back too quickly. If Sid returns, who knows how well the Penguins will be able to do with him back in the lineup.
Canucks vs. Blackhawks
Canucks in 5 – The Blackhawks almost didn’t make it into the playoffs. They were 5-4-1 in their last ten games and only made it into the playoffs, since the Stars lost their last game of the season, too. I could see the Canucks sweeping the Blackhawks, but I think the Blackhawks will be able to win one game. The Canucks aren’t perfect and if the Hawks play well they’re an amazing team.
Sharks vs. Kings
Kings in 6 – I’ve heard some people say they think this will be the year the Sharks do well in the playoffs. It’s bound to happen one of these days and perhaps Nabokov was the reason they weren’t able to do well in the past. That might be true, but I don’t think so. These Sharks are definitely different than the Sharks on the last few years, but the Kings split their series with the Sharks including a win in the last month of the season. Of course, if the Kings who played the last two games of the season against the Ducks show up, I have to change this prediction to Sharks in 5. Anze Kopitar is definitely out until next season and though Justin Williams has been skating, he’s still an unknown. If he ends up getting back in time, he could help the Kings survive the first round.
Red Wings vs. Coyotes
Coyotes in 6 – The Red Wings have the worst record of the 8 teams who made it into the playoffs in their last ten games of the season (4-4-2) and have had some goaltending issues. The Red Wings look tired and I think the fact that they have quite a few older players and their goaltending isn’t as good as it has been the last few playoff runs. It took the Red Wings seven games to beat the Coyotes in the first round last year and I think the Coyotes will be even more motivated this year and will upset the Red Wings.
Ducks vs. Predators
Ducks in 6 – When Hiller got injured, a lot of people (including me) thought that would be the end of the Ducks’ playoff hopes. Hiller had been keeping the Ducks in the mix and very few thought they could manage without him. Anaheim proved us all wrong. Corey Perry (#1 goal scorer in the NHL this season with 50 goals) and Lubomir Visnovsky (the top scoring defenseman with 68 points) really stepped up. The Ducks have two of the top ten scorers in the NHL this season (and Getzlaf is tied for 11th) – if you resort by points per game, all three of their top scorers are in the top 10. I think that is what will get them past the Predators (whose top scorers are tied for 91st in the NHL). Pekka Rinne (the #2 goaltender in save percentage) has carried the Predators through the season, but I think he’s met his match in the Ducks’ offense. I don’t think it’ll be a super easy series, though I could see the Ducks winning in 5 games, too.
Enjoy the playoffs!
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Blackhawks, Bruins, Canadiens, Canucks, Capitals, Corey Perry, Coyotes, Ducks, Evgeni Malkin, Evgeni Nabokov, Flyers, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, Justin Williams, Kings, Lightning, Lubomir Visnovsky, NHL, Pekka Rinne, Penguins, playoffs, Predators, Rangers, Red Wings, Ryan Getzlaf, Sabres, Sharks, Sidney Crosby, Teemu Selanne, Tim Thomas
Tonight’s embarrassing loss by the Kings in front of their fans in their home closer at Staples Center probably means they dropped from 4th place (where they started last night’s game in Anaheim) to 8th place in a little over 24 hours. The Kings are currently in 7th place, but as long as the Blackhawks get a point in tomorrow’s home and season closer against the Red Wings, the Kings will finish in 8th. The Ducks weren’t even guaranteed a playoff spot until they beat the Kings last night in Anaheim and now they’ve moved from just barely making it into the 8th and final playoff spot to clinching 4th place and home ice advantage for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Ducks ended the season with one of the best records in their last 10 games to make sure they got into the playoffs and are now in a similar situation to their 2009 position where they’ve been playing playoff intensity hockey out of necessity in preparation for the playoffs and have been finding ways to win in spite of their number one goaltenders (Jonas Hiller) injury.
In contrast, the Kings have one of the worst records in their last 10 games and are just barely limping into the post season. They’ll probably face the #1 team in the NHL in the first round, since the Vancouver Canucks are clinched the President’s Trophy a while ago and are in the western conference. Randy Carlyle talked about how far the Ducks have come from where they were a couple months ago in spite of the challenges they’ve faced since then. He credits the players for solidifying their group and said they’d earned this position. Carlyle laughed as he said, “I don’t think anyone picked us to be with home ice advantage at any point, but it’s funny the way things fall in your lap if you continue to win your fair share of games.”
With under 3 ½ minutes to go almost everyone on the ice ended up fighting each other. Not surprisingly, there was no third man in penalty. It was most surprising to see Teemu Selanne (generally mild mannered and the oldest player on either team) face off against Brad Richardson. It started with shoving during a puck battle along the boards, but deteriorated fairly rapidly. For a bit, it seemed like goalies Jonathan Quick and Dan Ellis might get involved, but according to Ellis, they really just talked about how they had no desire to fight. He went on to say that he was so tired that “if he were to punch me, I’d be right down on the ice. I might have just laid right down anyway.” The fans who stayed in Staples Center for the end of the game got to see a bigger fight than in most NHL games and many fans enjoy the fighting aspect of hockey games, but the Ducks fans were definitely the only truly happy fans exiting Staples Center tonight.
Tags: Brad Richardson, Canucks, Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, fighting, Hockey, Jonas Hiller, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Quick, Randy Carlyle, Red Wings, standings, Staples Center, Teemu Selanne
It didn’t seem likely at the beginning of the season, as the Ducks started out 0-3, but tonight’s win over the LA Kings in Anaheim ensured that the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks would all be in the playoffs in 2011. It’s the first time since the Ducks joined the NHL (in 1993) that all three teams will be in the playoffs at the same time. Who would have predicted that in spite of Canada having double the teams of California that California would be represented by more teams than Canada? (Only Vancouver, #1 in the NHL, and Montreal will be representing Canada in the NHL playoffs in 2011).
Ducks’ coach Randy Carlyle said that “it is amazing that you’ve got to play 81 games to find out you finally made the playoffs.” Carlyle also talked about how great it is for California hockey (not just SoCal) that all three teams from the state are in the playoffs this year.
Though Teemu Selanne (40) is the oldest player on the Ducks and one of the oldest players in the NHL, he’s consistently been one of the best and scored the Ducks’ only two goals tonight against the Kings. Selanne is the only one of the 10 oldest players currently playing in the NHL in the top ten of NHL scoring (#9 before tonight’s two goals). Coincidentally, Ryan Smyth, the Kings’ oldest player (35) scored the only Kings goal in Anaheim tonight.
Because of tonight’s loss, the Kings fell to 6th place in the western conference. The conference is so tight that the Kings can still end up in 4th place if they win tomorrow and Nashville and Phoenix lose their final games in regulation. In fact, the Ducks could still potentially end up in 4th place, since they beat the Predators and Coyotes in the first tie breaker. With the playoff standings still up in the air, tomorrow night’s game in LA where the Kings and Ducks face off again is sure to be an intense end of the season before the SoCal teams start the playoffs next week.
Tags: California, Canadiens, Canucks, Coyotes, Ducks, Hockey, Kings, NHL, oldest players, playoffs, Predators, Randy Carlyle, Ryan Smyth, Sharks, Stars, Teemu Selanne
Those following the Kings’ season will not be at all surprised that the Kings clinched their playoff spot in a shootout. Their number one goalie (Jonathan Quick) is now 10-0 in shootouts. The team is 10-2, but both shootout losses were by Jonathan Bernier. Quick isn’t the only reason the Kings have had such success in the shootout this season. Jarret Stoll is 9 for 10 in the shootout this season, which is amazing.
With tonight’s win, the Kings are currently in 4th place in the western conference and have played the same number of games as the other teams currently the playoff spots. Home ice advantage for round one of the playoffs is definitely a real possibility for the Kings. It would be the first time they’d had home ice advantage in the playoffs since the early 90s. They’ve also tied the club record for 46 wins in a season (also in 09-10 & 90-91). Stoll’s 20th goal of the season tonight gives the Kings six 20 goal scorers for the first time since 92-93, which was the only time the Kings got to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In spite of how it may have looked to some of us watching the overtime tonight in Staples Center, Terry Murray said the Kings always play to win in overtime when in those situations and were NOT playing to get into the shootout, since their goaltender is undefeated in the shootout. Not surprisingly, Murray also said “it was a fun game to coach tonight” and later responded “this is the best time of my life” when asked if he was having fun.
For their part in this season possibly being the first time he two SoCal teams (and, in fact, all three California NHL teams) make the NHL playoffs, the Ducks beat the Sharks tonight in Anaheim. They were led by Corey Perry’s hat trick, including his league leading 50th goal of the season.
The Kings and Ducks face off in their last two games of the season in back to back games in Anaheim Friday and Los Angeles Saturday. Both games are sure to be very intense, since the Ducks may still be fighting to clinch their playoff spot and both teams will want to finish as high in the standings as possible.
Tags: Corey Perry, Coyotes, Ducks, hat trick, Hockey, Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Sharks, shootout, standings, Stanley Cup Finals, Staples Center, Terry Murray
The Anaheim Ducks could have clinched a playoff spot for themselves and the Los Angeles Kings tonight, by beating the Stars and gaining those four points needed to secure their position. Much to the disappointment of their fans (though a sellout wasn’t announced, there were more fans in Honda Center than I’ve seen there in quite a while, so actual attendance seemed to be up), the Ducks did not come away from tonight’s game with a win against the even more desperate Dallas Stars.
The Stars and Ducks had both lost last night (the Stars to the Kings in LA, the Ducks to the Sharks in San Jose). Since Calgary won tonight, the Stars didn’t improve their standings by beating the Ducks tonight in Anaheim. They do have two games in hand on the Flames, though. Chicago did lose in regulation, potentially hoping the Stars or the Flames.
The Kings need two more points on the Stars – either by them gaining points (with one win or two overtime losses in the next four games) or by the Stars losing a single game in regulation or two games in overtime. The Ducks are in a similar position, but need four points, since they lost to the Stars and still need the four points they needed going into tonight’s game. Four points in 3 games doesn’t sound like a lot, but the Ducks have no easy games in their last three. They face the San Jose Sharks at home Wednesday, host the Kings Friday, and play the Kings in LA for their final regular season game. The Kings are just as desperate for points to improve their playoff standing (they would certainly rather face the Predators or Coyotes than the Canucks or Red Wings in the first round. The Canucks are much better than they were when the Kings faced them last year in the playoffs and that ended in the Kings being beaten in 6 games. Definitely not the end they’d like for the playoffs this year. Without Anze Kopitar, the Kings’ road is already more difficult than it would have been without his injuries. They don’t need the added pressure of facing one of the best playoff teams in history (the Red Wings) or the Presidents’ Trophy winner (the Canucks).
As anyone who watched the game in Anaheim tonight knows, there were a couple of disputed no goal calls against the Ducks at the end of the game. Personally, after watching replays at Honda Center and at home in HD, I believe the refs made the right call in both cases and would like to commend them for doing such a good job with them. (I’d like to point out that the Ducks’ own broadcast team agrees with me on both of these calls, which surprised me from what I’ve heard them say in the past.) Referees are often booed and blamed when a team is performing poorly (taking stupid penalties, icing the puck, etc.), but they rarely get the credit they deserve for making so many calls correctly. Everyone points out the one or two calls they may have missed in a game rather than looking at the dozens they got right in that same game. Most of us are more likely to complain than compliment service at a store or restaurant, so I’m not saying the behavior of fans is unusual… I’m just trying to point out that the referees have a very difficult job and skate for over 60 minutes in a game, which is triple the average ice time of a player. If you’re a Ducks fan and didn’t get to watch the game on TV (I record every game I attend in case there are questionable calls I’d like to review in HD later), try to record or watch the replay. I think you’ll see that the calls were made well, though you’ll still be upset with them. I don’t believe the puck Perry touched with his hand touched his skate and it definitely didn’t hit his stick. I’m sure he intended to pass it to himself, but he didn’t and that’s a very clear rule. When asked about the goals, coach Randy Carlyle said it was clear Lehtonen had been skated into in the crease and it’s not clear if Corey Perry hit the puck with his skate or not, but if he didn’t then it’s a hand pass and a good call. (With calls like that, you can’t really argue strongly against any call made on the ice.) Carlyle went on to explain that “obviously we don’t feel very good about the calls that went against us, but … I don’t know if we were worthy of it… to get that goal at that point.” Carlyle explained that they made some mental mistakes – not from lack of effort, but they were mistakes that led to the Stars’ goals and the loss.
Fans should think about placing blame where it’s due and being upset with their team for not making the close calls irrelevant. If the coach of your favorite team isn’t upset enough that he can’t discuss the situation (for fear of fines by the NHL or getting so upset that he’ll say something he shouldn’t), I’d argue that it’s time to stop being a homer and look at the goals in question. I’m sure they’re already on YouTube if you can’t catch a replay. On the bright side, it was really nice to see the Ducks fans passionate enough about their team to boo so loudly. I don’t think I’ve heard cheering that loud in Anaheim since they won the Stanley Cup Finals at home in 2007. The booing was almost deafening. It was like being at a concert, it was so loud. I loved seeing the crowd so involved and staying to the end of the game. Most of the fans in attendance tonight left together at the end of regulation. Normally, whether the Ducks are ahead or behind, a lot of fans leave early. The earlier start Sundays certainly helps those with children not have to leave early to get their children in bed for school, but many without kids leave games early, too. It’s something I’ll never understand, but it was great to see the Ducks fans stay until the end for such an important game at the end of the regular season. Fans are still only guaranteed two more games in Honda Center this April. Hopefully, the arena will be packed as they face the Sharks Wednesday and Kings Friday. The playoff race is tighter than I can remember it this late in the season, which should help bring in the fans.
Will this be the first year all three California teams make the playoffs the same year? We won’t know the answer to that for a couple days (at the earliest), but the Kings have another opportunity to clinch their playoff spot tomorrow in San Jose as they face the Sharks in the Shark Tank.
Tags: Canucks, Corey Perry, Coyotes, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Honda Center, Kings, NHL, playoffs, Predators, Presidents' Trophy, Randy Carlyle, Red Wings, referees, Sharks, standings, Stanley Cup Finals, Stars
A few of us were pretty surprised that none of the fans we heard chanted “One more year” for Selanne at all tonight as the Ducks rallied to beat the Avalanche 5-4 after being down 2-0. The fans had plenty of perfect opportunities… Selanne scored on a penalty shot tonight to score the Ducks’ first goal. He also got a point in all five of the Ducks’ goals tonight and scored the 22nd hat trick of his career (13th as a Duck). Tonight was Selanne’s 33rd career 5 point game and he was the first player age 40 or older to record a hat trick and five points (or more) in a single game. Selanne has been truly amazing this year. He’s second in Ducks scoring and looks better than most players in the NHL.
In spite of all this, the only person I heard actually chant, “One more year” tonight was Corey Perry, teasing as he walked by the scrum interviewing Selanne and (of course) asking him his thoughts on continuing to play. At this time last year, retirement was something Selanne seemed to be seriously considering. This year, I don’t see how he could be thinking of retirement. Last season Selanne played very well, but this year he’s been truly amazing. For his part, Selanne said he’s been feeling great the whole year and he’s still having fun, which is the only reason he’s still around. He also said, “My mind goes like an elevator – one day I feel that I can play ten more years and the next day I feel why do I keep doing this? That’s why I’m not yet thinking about that during the season.” Selanne went on to say that it’s better to think about these things after the season and then asked to talk about something else.
Selanne’s penalty shot goal was the second of his career, the last one coming in Tampa Bay when he was playing for the Winnipeg Jets on March 9, 1993. I would have never guessed that it had been 18 years since Selanne scored his only other penalty shot (he’s now 2 for 6), but that’s because Selanne has been so amazing in his career and continues to stun crowds. With 6 games to go this season, Selanne is already the third highest scorer of 40+ years. Only Gordie Howe (with 103 points in 68-69) and Johnny Bucyk (with 83 points in 75-76) scored more at that age. Clearly, no one but Selanne can know what he feels when recovering for a game, but watching him on the ice, I can’t imagine how this could possibly be his last season in the NHL. (Not surprisingly, Selanne was also the top NHL performer of the day, not just tonight’s game in Anaheim.)
Since the Ducks and Blackhawks both won tonight, Anaheim maintained their position in the standings (7th place in the western conference). Clearly, every point is important at this time of the season when all the teams are so close. As Randy Carlyle pointed out, everyone other than the top couple teams and bottom couple teams is worrying about winning games to get into the playoffs and maintain their position in the standings at the time. Though four teams have secured their spots in the playoffs in the eastern conference, the Canucks are the only team completely mathematically secure in the western conference so far.
Tags: Avalanche, Blackhawks, Canucks, Corey Perry, Ducks, hat trick, Hockey, NHL, penalty shot, playoffs, Randy Carlyle, retirement, standings, Teemu Selanne
The Kings are now 9-2 in the shootout (and their #1 goalie, Jonathan Quick is 9-0) and 24-0-1 when leading after the 2nd period. They also scored two power play goals tonight (both by team captain, Dustin Brown), though their power play had been struggling lately. They’ve moved back into 5th place in the western conference and have 2 games in hand on the 4th place Coyotes, three points ahead of the Kings. The Kings also have back to back wins at home after playing horribly in their first game back after sweeping the recent four game road trip. Willie Mitchell scored a nice goal. Jarret Stoll scored his 7th straight shootout goal. All of this is very good news for the LA Kings fans.
The bad news is that the Kings gave up two leads against the Sharks (one with only 4.1 seconds to go), ended their penalty kill streak at 35, and lose the first tie breaker (wins not counting shootout wins) with everyone. The Kings are also only four points ahead of the 9th place Dallas Stars and being out of the playoffs. As much as the fans and players want to enjoy the playoffs at Staples Center again this year, only one team in the western conference has a guaranteed spot – the Vancouver Canucks have clinched the head of their division and are currently leading the NHL and the race for the President’s Trophy.
In spite of scoring both the Kings’ power play goals and the winning goal in the shootout, Captain Dustin Brown was clearly concerned about the team blowing two leads at the end of regulation tonight, saying it was “definitely not the way we want to do it… blowing two leads really with less than three minutes left or four minutes left.” It may not be the way a team would want to win, but at least the Kings are winning. The game against the Sharks was an exciting one. Both teams even fought hard to try to win in overtime and had decent chances. The sold out crowd at Staples Center definitely found going out in the rain (something southern Californians seem to try to avoid at all costs) and the money spent worth it tonight. I may not be a fan of the shootout (and I can’t see my opinion of it ever changing), but the shootout ending with Dustin Brown scoring the deciding goal was definitely an exciting end to a very intense game in Los Angeles.
The playoff race is definitely going to remain intense until the end of the season. All NHL teams have nine games or less left in the regular season and only ten percent of the teams have secured their playoff spots. No teams are listed as mathematically eliminated on the NHL site yet, but Edmonton and Colorado have been mathematically eliminated in the west. If they won all of their games and no one above them won a single game remaining this season (which is impossible given the schedules and all the teams ahead of them that play each other), the Avalanche finish higher than 11th in the west. (For the record, no one has been mathematically eliminated in the eastern conference.)
Tags: Avalanche, blown lead, Canucks, Coyotes, Dustin Brown, Hockey, Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, Oilers, penalty kill, playoffs, power play, sellout, Sharks, shootout, standings, Staples Center, Stars, tie breaker, Willie Mitchell