The Los Angeles Kings are back in 1st place in the NHL (the Flyers were there for a few hours until the end of the Kings game). Before tonight, the Lightning had never lost at Staples Center and their goaltender Mike Smith had never lost a game to the Kings. The Kings had also not lost at home this season (4-0-0). Los Angeles hadn’t started 4-0 at home since the 1988-89 season. Clearly, something had to give tonight – at least one of the streaks had to end. The Lightning & Smith’s streaks gave way as Jonathan Quick stopped all 24 shots he faced (including 3 by NHL leading scorer Steven Stamkos) and extended the Kings’ home winning streak to 5-0-0 so far this season. Jonathan Quick also ended Steven Stamkos’ 7 game point streak.
In spite of the low score, tonight’s game in LA was a lot more exciting than the game the Lightning played in Anaheim last night (where they lost to the Ducks 3-2 in overtime). Tonight’s game had the potential to be one of the best hockey games in the NHL this season. Two of the top teams in the country (who were #1 and #2 in the NHL before any of tonight’s games were played) faced each other for the only time this season. Hockey fans everywhere were interested in this game and it was definitely more exciting than last night’s game. The Kings’ 4th sellout of the season was definitely more full than most of the sellouts in southern California hockey.
Dustin Brown got hit hard into the boards from behind pretty early in the game… not exactly the birthday present he was looking for tonight, but I’m sure the win helped make today a great birthday for the 26-year-old Kings Captain.
The Lightning players were a bit tired after last night’s game in Anaheim, but a great team usually rises to the occasion when facing another great team and the Lightning seemed to have plenty of energy tonight. The Kings had been off for four days, which can also make it difficult to keep energy levels up. They came out with all cylinders firing and looked really good at the start of the game.
The game got very chippy at the end. There had been some tough hits already and Downie clearly wanted to fight someone, but when he went after Doughty Mitchell stepped in. Downie missed, but Mitchell had to send a message. Fans always like to see players sticking up for each other. Things were definitely very chippy near the end of the game, but there were only two fighting penalties in the game (when Mitchell and Downie fought). Things seemed a bit out of control near the end of the game, but no one was seriously injured.
Justin Williams’ goal was the only goal of tonight’s game. It extended his goal streak to tie his career high of four games. His goal was a beautiful goal with a great pass from Smyth to start it off. Williams continued to be the Kings’ best offensive player this season. Williams talked about how important it was to have Drew Doughty, the Kings’ most important defensive player, back tonight and how well Quick played.
Naturally, Jon Quick talked mostly about how great the team in front of him performed and didn’t take much credit for his stellar performance tonight. That’s the kind of guy he is, but Kings fans know how important it is to have a solid goaltender and so do the players on the team.
The Kings host the Predators at Staples Center on Sunday in a fairly rare 7:00 pm start. They’ll try to be the second team this season to start out 6-0-0 at home (the Blues have won all six of their home games this season). The Lightning head to San Jose to face the Sharks on Saturday and try to win at least one game in California on their west coast trip (they’re 1-1-1 in their road trip so far and I’m sure they want to head back to a win before heading home).
Tags: Drew Doughty, Ducks, Dustin Brown, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Justin Williams, Kings, Lightning, Mike Smith, NHL, Ryan Smyth, Staples Center, Steve Downie, Steven Stamkos, Willie Mitchell
The Lightning may have only won 13 games this season (fewer than any team in the Western Conference) and be ranked 12th in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve done well in southern California. They beat the Ducks 4-3 Friday night and beat the Kings 3-1 last night. In last night’s game, the Lightning scored two goals in 41 seconds at the end of the 1st period to give them a 2-0 lead. They went ahead 3-0 at 5:48 when Vincent Lecavalier scored his 17th goal of the season. At that point, Murray did what I would have done at the beginning of the 2nd period – he put Jonathan Quick in goal. Though Quick stopped all 15 shots he faced, the damage had been done and the Kings only scored one goal against Lightning goaltender Mike Smith.
Ryan Malone scored goals 98 and 99 of his NHL career on Friday in Anaheim, but didn’t get the hat trick in Anaheim or a goal in LA, so he’s still in search of his 100th goal. Maybe he’ll get that in San Jose on Wednesday.
This was only the second game I’ve seen Stamkos play live. I’ve watched the Lightning quite a bit on TV (to see Stamkos, the ex-Penguins on the roster, and to see if they’re going to perform pretty much as I expected this year – horribly), but I’ve only seen Stamkos play in two games live. Unfortunately, he did not play against Anaheim (he was benched due to the new conditioning program he’s doing). From what I’ve seen, it really doesn’t seem like he was ready for the NHL yet. It seems that he was rushed and pushed to be ready, since he was the number one draft pick. Perhaps they should have done what the Ducks did with Bobby Ryan (selected 2nd behind Sidney Crosby in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft). Ryan had played in a couple NHL games, but was essentially kept in the minor leagues until November 16, 2008. Since then, Ryan has had a couple games where he didn’t look great, but has been amazing overall. Ryan’s got 26 points in 26 games (putting him in 4th place for all NHL rookies in points, though he’s played 10+ games fewer than the top 3 rookies). He’s also scored a hat trick, has a +/- rating of 11, & has 32 hits. Stamkos (who has played in 41 of the Lightning’s 42 games) has only 15 points (tying him for 14th among rookies).
Clearly, the Ducks are a better team than the Lightning, which many will argue helps Ryan. Stamkos doesn’t measure up when compared with comparable team. The Blues have one fewer point than the Lightning (and have played one less game). Patrick Berglund of the Blues is tied for 2nd among rookies with 27 points in 36 of the Blues’ 41 games. Though I haven’t seen Stamkos play enough in person and television coverage can’t show you everyone on the ice most of the time, I still think it’s possible that he was rushed into the NHL and might have done better as a rookie in the 2009-10 season.
Oddly enough, I’ve seen the Lightning play in 3 games live (against the Penguins in December and their two games in southern California this month). They’ve got a perfect record when I’m in the building. Perhaps I should ask them if they’d like to take me to some of the arenas around the league I haven’t seen yet.
Tags: Blues, Bobby Ryan, Ducks, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Lightning, Mike Smith, NHL, Patrick Berglund, Penguins, rookies, Ryan Malone, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Terry Murray, Vincent Lecavalier
Is it just me, or did you expect more from Steven Stamkos? I’m not a scout, so I only saw clips of him before this season. However, with all the hype, I expected more of a Sidney Crosby than just your average rookie. In 8 games, Stamkos has 1 point. That’s worse than 17 of the other rookies (including Jakub Voracek of the Columbus Blue Jackets). I’m not saying that Voracek is facing even close to the pressure that has been placed on Stamkos this season. In fact, none of the other rookies this season have to deal with the pressure he’s faced. Crosby dealt with more pressure (he was on a team without a lot of scoring talent and was immediately revered as the savior of the franchise, part 2) and many rookies have been under the same amount of pressure as Stamkos without having the talent that Tampa Bay has assembled. Granted, Tampa Bay is doing about as well as I predicted, not as many seemed to think they’d do. However, Kopitar was on a worse Kings team and he did great in his rookie season.
I’ve only seen Stamkos play in 4 complete games and a bunch of partial games, but I’m still pretty surprised by his lack of impact on the Lightning. Stamkos was supposed to be the rookie to watch this season and he’s just part of a group that includes 8 other rookies (6 of whom have played in fewer games than he).
On the topic of Tampa Bay… a lot of people predicted that the Lightning would be a great team this season. They were supposed to have the biggest turn-around season by many accounts. I never saw that as likely. I thought Tampa Bay would be a mess. One of my friends asked if I was as upset as he would be if his team did nothing instead of doing what Tampa Bay did (referring to the LA Kings). I laughed and said that I’d much rather be a fan of a team that cares about the future than one that is overpaying a bunch of guys who will have no sense of being part of the same team. The Kings didn’t make a big splash and sell out their future and they’re a fun team to watch this season. They will be able to make an impact in the future and have a good team that is sustainable. I don’t think the same thing can be said about Tampa Bay at this point, though I realize it’s early in the season. Right now, Tampa Bay has the same number of points as Los Angeles, but fewer wins. Both teams are doing better (relative to the rest of the league) than they did last season, but Tampa Bay wanted more out of this season. The expectations for the Kings are much lower, so if they ended the season where they are today, everyone would be happy about the improvement they made and realize their future looks bright. If the Lightning finish where they are now, I have a feeling the fans will be disappointed that they didn’t improve as much as they should have.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, fans, Hockey, Jakub Voracek, Kings, Lightning, NHL, Penguins, rookies, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos