Or rather… You wouldn’t recognize the Devils. The New Jersey Devils are off to their worst start in 27 years. I’d never seen their defense look as horrible as I did two days in a row here in southern California. I’ve only been a hockey fan since the late 80’s, so I’d never seen the Devils look this bad. In Anaheim, it was like the Devils and Ducks were playing themselves. Both teams had been built on their strong defense and neither team has much of a defense this season. If their offenses were more in tune, I would have expected a much higher scoring game.
When the Devils signed (and later re-signed) Kovalchuk, they were indicating a commitment to being a more offensive team than defensive, but they haven’t followed through on that and their defense is definitely lacking. They don’t have Scott Stevens or Scott Niedermayer right now. Their current defense isn’t the same. They’re not as difficult to figure out and they handle pucks very poorly in their own end. The Devils are currently ranked last in the NHL again, which is really surprising to me. I didn’t expect them to be as good as they were last year and I figured they’d probably just squeak into the playoffs, but if anyone had told me they’d only win ¼ of their first 12 games, I would have thought they were nuts.
The makeup of the Devils’ team has really changed this season. I was talking to someone Friday night, who said it was strange, since most of the players he saw on the ice didn’t make him think of the Devils. Perhaps that identity crisis ad not knowing if they’re going to be an offensive or defensive team is what’s causing their poor performance.
The Kings are currently number one in the NHL…. It’s definitely good to be a King this season. They’re 4-0-0 at home (one of two teams with a perfect record at home – St. Louis is 5-0-0 at home) and even won their first game back from a long road trip last night. Most people I talked to seemed to think the Kings would be too lifeless in their first game back to even beat the tired Devils (they’d played the night before in Anaheim) who’ve been at or near the bottom of the NHL. I thought they’d pick themselves up to beat the Devils because of honoring Mattias Norstrom before the game and having some of the former players (including fan favorite Ian Laperriere) back for that. Rob Blake’s reception was actuallybetter than most of us expected. I’d say he was cheered by about 75% of the fans and only booed by 25% – it was nice to see that he got a better reception than usual in Staples Center.
The player Kings fans were determined to boo was Ilya Kovalchuk (clearly). Fans may not know the whole story (Kovalchuk himself is probably the only person who really could), but they do know that Kovalchuk chose not to play in their city. Oddly enough, I think the fans should probably be thanking Kovalchuk for not taking the outrageous contract the Kings offered him. It was more than Lombardi wanted to offer Kovalchuk. Lombardi was protecting the Kings’ future and their ability to re-sign the important franchise players like Drew Doughty (who looked good and said he’s feeling okay – he just can’t get up to full speed and still feel okay and the Kings are being careful to make sure he’s fully healthy before his return). Just as the Penguins probably couldn’t have won the Stanley Cup in 2009 with Marian Hossa, signing Kovalchuk would have probably done much more harm than good to the LA Kings who are in first place without Kovalchuk as the Devils sit in last place with him.
The Kings were determined to win again at home, in spite of how the first game back from a long road trip usually goes. Jonathan Quick continued to look great and in control tonight. He’s currently 4th in the NHL for save percentage, which is definitely a huge leap from his performance last season.
The Kings’ next game is Thursday as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning led by Steven Stamkos the number one offensive player in the NHL.
Tags: booing, Dean Lombardi, Devils, Drew Doughty, Ducks, fans, Hockey, Ian Laperriere, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Marian Hossa, Mattias Norstrom, NHL, Penguins, Rob Blake, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Staples Center
I almost never predict that one team will sweep another team in the playoffs. I suppose I should stick to that from now on if they’re all going to work out the way the Penguins/Senators series did for the first game. The Senators clearly aren’t getting swept by the Penguins. I still think the Pens will bounce back and win the series, but they’re obviously not going to do it in 4 games. If they look the way they did in game one, the Penguins could get swept. They had their moments, but the game wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.
I know NBC couldn’t possibly give up Minute to Win It (which I’d never heard of before I decided to see what was on tonight), Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit (a show I’ve actually seen), & “To Be Announced” (that’s still what my DVR has listed for tonight, though it looks like a second episode of Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit or another Law & Order). However, having all the NHL playoff games on only one channel (Versus, of course) in this round is very frustrating for someone who can’t get NHL Center Ice any more. The trade-off (not having to deal with the horrible Cox Cable any more) was well worth it, but I couldn’t watch tonight’s Flyers/Devils game and that was very disappointing for someone who missed fewer than 2 full games the last two playoff years. Four playoff games in a day and only three on TV in the United States is disappointing, but it could be worse. Last year, only two of the first four games were on Versus in the US. All of the games are, of course, televised in Canada and if it were the Los Angeles games that were being skipped by National TV, I’d be fine. Sadly, I won’t get to see ANY of the Devils/Flyers series (I can’t count the in-game updates and NHL on the Fly as watching the game). I really can’t imagine how the network deemed that series completely unworthy of national television. Of course, I guess it’s almost worse to say that the entire Penguins/Senators series is worth except for game 7 if it happens. I still don’t think that series will go to 7 games, but what if it does? If that series goes to 7 games and the only game of the series not televised nationally in the United States is the most important game of the series, Gary Bettman and Versus should be completely ashamed of themselves. Just as much as when NBC and Bettman chose horse racing pre-show coverage over the overtime ending of a playoff hockey game.
I thought it was great to see Muhammad Ali in Phoenix for the Coyotes/Red Wings game. Perhaps he can take some of the credit for the Coyotes being the only home team to win game 1 in the first day of the 2010 NHL playoffs. Then again, perhaps it’s the Coyotes’ reaction to a completely full building. I’ve never seen the Glendale Arena so full. In talking to the players when they were here for one of the Kings’ last games, I found out that their building has been a lot more full recently and that they’ve enjoyed seeing so the building get more crowded as they continued to do well. I’m sure it’ll stay that way through the playoffs. Hopefully, the attendance burst will carry over to the 2010-11 season for the Coyotes, too. The Glendale Arena isn’t that far from downtown Phoenix. Hopefully, those living in Phoenix will figure that out during the playoffs and keep going back. The Glendale Arena is beautiful. It’d be nice to see it full more often.
Due to the way the games were scheduled on Versus, I saw under 8 minutes of the Sharks/Avalanche game. It seemed like that game was going to go into overtime. I was thinking how fortunate it was for the NHL and Versus that the last game of the day would be the only game to go into overtime. No sooner had I thought that than I got to the Avalanche goal with just 49.3 seconds left in regulation. Stewart banked it off of Rob Blake’s skate and won the game for the Avalanche. Oddly enough, this was the only series that started out the way I would have guessed. It’s definitely going to be an interesting playoff season!
Tags: Avalanche, Center Ice, Chris Stewart, Coyotes, Devils, Flyers, Gary Bettman, Glendale Arena, Hockey, Kings, Muhammad Ali, NBC, NHL, Penguins, playoffs, Red Wings, Rob Blake, Senators, Sharks, sweep, Versus