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 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
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.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Avalanche, Canucks, Flames, Hockey, Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, Oilers, overtime, playoffs, power play, Rangers, Red Wings, Sharks, shootout, standings, Staples Center, Terry Murray, tie breaker
The Kings were clearly tired from beating the Sharks in overtime the night before, but they brought home a win in spite of giving up their two goal lead and allowing the Coyotes to tie the game. The Kings are undefeated when leading after the 2nd period (14-0-0) and haven’t been beaten in regulation in the last seven games. It may be too early for some to pay attention to standings, but the Kings have been solidly in playoff contention this whole season and they’ve played 40% of their games now, so I don’t think it’s too early to talk about the fact that the Kings are in 4th place in the West now. Yes, some of the teams behind them have games in hand, but they’ll catch up when the Kings are off the week before Christmas and I think the Kings will still be solidly in playoff contention at that point.
In spite of giving up many of their leads when they get to the 3rd period, the Kings are finding ways to win games this season rather than finding ways to lose (as they did most of last season). Los Angeles has done very well in a pretty tough division (including against the San Jose Sharks, the top team in the western conference and tied for the NHL lead). The Pacific division currently has 4 teams in playoff standings (everyone but the last place Anaheim Ducks), so the division is doing well overall and the Kings are only 1 point behind the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks have a game in hand on the Kings at this point, but the Kings weren’t even close to the Sharks last year at this point.
Before the season started when people asked me if I thought the Kings would make the playoffs, they thought I was giving them too much credit when I said I thought they’d sneak in (6-8th place in the conference). Now it seems that I may have been underestimating the team. The games might not all be pretty and the Kings definitely make their fans nervous a lot. However, the Kings are getting the job done and somehow and finding ways to win.
Kings fans should start saving their money for playoff tickets if they haven’t already. This team is definitely a team determined to make it to the playoffs, just as their “The only reason we’re here” shirts say.
Tags: Coyotes, Hockey, Kings, Kings record, NHL, Pacific Division, playoffs, Sharks, shootout
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.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar, Canucks, Coyotes, Dan Bylsma, Ducks, Evgeni Malkin, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, penalty shots, Penguins, Sharks, shootout, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup, Terry Murray, winning streak
Jonathan Quick has been performing amazingly well since he was called up from Manchester when Erik Ersberg got injured and seems to have a permanent spot on the Kings’ roster, since they traded Jason LaBarbera to Vancouver. Tonight’s game against the Flyers led Quick to his first NHL overtime and shootout, where he shut out the Flyers. Of course, it was also helpful that the Kings (who haven’t been performing well in the shootout this season) scored two goals in the shootout. Terry Murray’s strategy in the shootout has always been to shoot first in the hopes of scoring and putting pressure on the competition. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been working that way for Murray until O’Sullivan scored leading off the shootout for the Kings. Apparently, when scoring on the first try, Murray’s approach works. Kopitar missed his shooutout attempt and Dustin Brown scored ending the shooutout before the Flyers’ third shooter.
With 31 saves (33 counting the shootout) and a save percentage of 96.9%, Quick earned the first star of the game and is listed as ESPN’s 3rd star of the day. Though Ersberg is healthy now, he remained on the bench due to the great performances Quick has been giving. I’m sure Ersberg will be in goal again for the Kings, since I can’t imagine Terry Murray not giving him another chance after his injury, but long stretches of starts have been common this season for all three of the Kings’ goaltenders.
The Flyers only had 3 power play chances today, but were held without a power play goal. After only scoring one last night, Philadelphia definitely didn’t look like the number 2 power play in the country when visiting southern California this season. The Kings did score a power play goal in one of their 6 chances against the Flyers, which means they had one more power play goal than the Flyers, just like the Ducks last night.
On the bright side for the Flyers, they went into tonight’s game tied in points with the Rangers (though still ahead of them for the Atlantic division lead because of playing fewer games) and came out of it as the sole division leader and third in the eastern conference. The Kings also moved up in the standings (to 12th from 14th in the west and back into 4th in the Pacific.
The Staples Center announced attendance tonight was a sellout of 18,118. It didn’t break any records or include any SRO tickets and there were many empty seats, but most of the empty seats were in the PR section & the suites (sold out for every sporting event in Staples Center). Clearly, the Flyers are a huge draw in southern California.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Ducks, Dustin Brown, Erik Ersberg, ESPN, Flyers, Hockey, Jason LaBarbera, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, Patrick O'Sullivan, power play, sellout, shootout, Staples Center, Terry Murray
Though this year’s Winter Classic game didn’t have the snow or the shootout ending with the golden boy of the NHL scoring the game-winning shootout goal (or even a game close enough to make one think that it might go into overtime), the Winter Classic was a great game to watch.
I didn’t think the Red Wings would take a 3 goal lead (or hold it for over 16 minutes), but I think it was wonderful that the Blackhawks didn’t give up. The fact that they scored a goal with only 10 seconds remaining in the game made this year’s Winter Classic a lot more exciting than it looked at the beginning of the 3rd period. The Winter Classic is a great way to showcase the NHL and get those who don’t typically watch hockey to pay attention to the sport.
I wasn’t a big fan of the idea when I first heard of the Winter Classic, but they won me over. I now love the idea of an annual outdoor game. I’ll always be bummed that I didn’t go to the first Winter Classic game when the Penguins beat the Sabres in a shootout. Of course, the blizzard-like conditions in the game reminded me of why I decided (after marching at a Buffalo Bills game with the Penn State Blue Band in the winter when they had to plow the field before halftime) never to return to Buffalo in the winter. I need to see a Sabres game sometime to get to all the arenas, but I think a spring game would make more sense.
Another city I never like visiting in the winter is Chicago, but when it took me almost 2 days to get from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas this week, I was actually in three NHL cities (Philadelphia, Chicago, and Phoenix) without attending a single game (or even looking to see if the teams were in town). I stayed overnight in Philadelphia and Chicago, but couldn’t have gotten to a game. Chicago is still on my list of places I need to see an NHL game, but there will be plenty of time to get there.
As a Penn State fan, naturally the Rose Bowl was very disappointing, but it was good to see Penn State come back some in the 4th quarter and score more points against USC in the 4th quarter than any other team this season. USC had actually shut out 8 of the teams they played this season for the 4th quarter, so Penn State’s 17 points (10 more than any other team had managed to score against USC in the 4th quarter) was impressive. I’m sure they were disappointed that they didn’t get that extra touchdown at the end, but they played a good game for the most part. If it weren’t for the breakdown in the 2nd quarter, the game would have been a lot more exciting for everyone watching. I thought the Rose Bowl would be one of the closest bowl games this year, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Hopefully, the national championship game will be an exciting game to watch.
It was also disappointing not to see Joe Paterno running out on the field with the team. I really thought that unless he was in a wheelchair he would run out there – no matter how much it might hurt his hip at the moment – and be on the sidelines with his team for the Rose Bowl. He must have really been in a lot of pain to stay in the press box for the Rose Bowl.
Tags: Bills, Blackhawks, Blue Band, College Football, Hockey, Joe Paterno, JoePa, NFL, NHL, Penguins, Penn State, Red Wings, Rose Bowl, Sabres, shootout, Sidney Crosby, USC, Winter Classic