Tonight, I was able to attend the Kings/Ducks game in Anaheim as a fan, which was quite a treat. I hadn’t attended a Kings game as a fan since 2006, I think. I got to wear one of my Kings jerseys, sit with my friend in a Ducks jersey, and cheer for the Kings. Fortunately, for me, the Kings gave me a lot to cheer about and the Ducks put up a good fight, making the game exciting and at times nerve wracking. Everything one would want in a game as a fan.
Jonathan Quick played for the Kings in both games against the Ducks even though they were back to back games and he had to win last night’s game in a shootout. Clearly, this was a good decision on Terry Murray’s part, since Quick looked great in net for the Kings. Dan Ellis was in net for the Ducks tonight. I would have played Hiller at home instead, since he generally gives the Ducks a better chance to win, but I’m sure Randy Carlyle had his reasons.
I was surprised that the game was still relatively empty (especially for a SoCal rivalry or “Freeway Series” game). Tonight’s game at the Honda Center in Anaheim had almost everything a fan could want in a game. The Kings scored a short-handed and power play goal (scored by Simon Gagne & Slava Voynov) and the Ducks got a power play goal (scored by Corey Perry). In fact, if you count the empty net goal at the end of the game, the Kings had two short-handed goals. One of the Ducks’ goals was reviewed and the call on the ice of a goal stood. Kyle Clifford and Sheldon Brookbank fought.
Jonathan Quick’s save percentage of .921 stood up with the Kings’ five goals. Star Kings’ player Anze Kopitar scored his 9th goal of the season, Mike Richards had two goals, Gagne had a goal and an assist, … what more could a Kings fan ask for in a game?
There was an odd problem with the lights tonight I can’t remember seeing in a hockey game before. The teams came back out for the third period and had to wait while the Honda Center employees rushed to fix the problem. The teams were waiting so long that they had to let them warm up some more. Practice in the middle of a game is definitely not typical, but the teams needed to stay active. Fans were a little restless, but a problem like that isn’t typical and gives fans something to talk about the next day other than the win or loss.
Perhaps this set of back to back games against the Ducks is exactly what the Kings to kick their season into gear and get them to start playing consistently like the team everyone expected to see this season – the contender.
Though it’s still early in the season and the Kings have played more games than all the teams in their division other than the Ducks, they took over the division lead with tonight’s win, putting them in third place in the western conference. Perhaps this is the beginning of a good streak that will keep the Kings near the top for a while.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, back-to-back games, Corey Perry, Dan Ellis, Ducks, fans, Honda Center, Jonas Hiller, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Kyle Clifford, Mike Richards, NHL, Randy Carlyle, Sheldon Brookbank, Simon Gagne, Slava Voynov, standings, Terry Murray
Both of the Southern California NHL teams are heading to Europe to start their seasons this year. The last time the Kings and Ducks played in Europe, they faced each other at the O2 Arena in London in 2007. This time, the Kings will face the Rangers in Stockholm and the Sabres in Berlin and the Ducks will face the Sabres in Helsinki and Rangers in Stockholm. The Rangers will be the only team of the four starting in Europe playing their first two games in the same country. The NHL has been starting some teams in Europe every year since 2007 and it’s odd that the Kings and Ducks are both going back in the same year, but at least this year the Kings have the luxury of not having to travel all the way back to start the North American portion of their season. They get to stop on the east coast (for games in New Jersey and Philadelphia) before getting back to the west coast for their home opener.
The Kings often go without a long road trip until February, when the Grammy’s kick everyone else out of Staples Center for a bit to set up. Kings’ coach Terry Murray said he thinks “it’ll be very helpful” with the team bonding. He said, “I think it’s really a timely thing when you add new players like we have this year… The timing of this thing with the changes that we’ve made is very good.”
All the players on both teams seem to be embracing this opportunity to play their sport in Europe. The trip allows some of the players from Europe to have more friends and family at the game than they typically enjoy here in North America. Kopitar said some of his buddies from back home were planning to make the trip to Sweden, though he hasn’t heard the latest. He also said, “We wanna get off to a good start no matter where we play.” That’s always the key at any point in the season and the Kings and Ducks are both looking to win both games in Europe to start their seasons with a bang.
The Kings face higher expectations this year than they have in a long time. None of the players on the team have experienced these high predictions while on the Kings, but they’re ready to meet them and show early on that they’re a real contender this year.
If you’re traveling to Europe with your team, have a great time and be safe.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, bonding, Ducks, Europe, Hockey, Kings, NHL, Rangers, Sabres, Terry Murray
After starting out okay, going down 3-0, and coming back to end the second period 3-2 after using their timeout to their advantage and seeming to turn things around, the Kings appeared to completely give up in the third period tonight at Staples Center in LA against the Sharks. Kings fans are surely still hoping to see their team again on Monday, but most fans I talked to were saying goodbye to their friends around them and their team for the season. They know the odds of the Kings turning things around are pretty slim at this point. They’re down 3-1 in the series and played horribly in their two games at home. Now, San Jose gets to host Saturday night’s game and the odds of them allowing the Kings to win there are slim.
When breaking down tonight’s game, Coach Terry Murray was able to make most of the game sound better than it looked. Positive spin is clearly his job – especially with the media. He pointed out that they killed off a 5 on 3 and “really liked our competition to make it a 3-2 game.” Murray did go on to say, “And then whatever happened in the third with giveaways, turnovers, lost face offs- that’s sometimes a hard thing to explain.” Hard to explain is probably an understatement for the announced standing room only crowd of 18,234 and the Kings fans at home.
Every home crowd deserves to see their team win in person during the playoffs. Unfortunately, it seems like Kings fans might have to wait until 2012 to see the Kings win a playoff game at Staples Center.
Tags: fans, Hockey, Kings, NHL, playoffs, sellout, Sharks, Staples Center, Terry Murray
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
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 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
Dustin Penner’s first game as a King was definitely different from their collapse against the Red Wings in the 7-4 loss Monday. The Kings went from a game where 11 goals were scored to a game where the only goal was the game winning power play goal by Jarret Stoll at 12:13 in the 3rd period. When talking about the upcoming playoffs, Stoll mentioned that “You really can’t have a bad period any more.” With any luck, the game against the Red Wings Monday combined with the addition of Dustin Penner will be what the Kings need to shake them up and get them into playoff mode as the regular season winds down.
Bernier got his second shutout of the season tonight in LA, but Terry Murray said he hasn’t thought about who will start on Saturday yet when asked if Bernier’s performance tonight has him thinking of starting him on Saturday. Jonathan Quick was definitely less than stellar Monday night against the Red Wings, but one can hardly blame him completely for the Kings’ breakdown that night. The Kings did well in their last afternoon game, but I’m sure Kings fans are crossing their fingers that their team can play two afternoon games in a row at a high level and stay in the playoff mix.
The Western Conference is so tight that one win moved the Kings from 8th to 5th place (and the Coyotes, who have played two more games than the Kings, but are tied in points with 76) down to 6th from 5th. Terry Murray often talks about how important the four point games are within the division and at this time of the season, these games seem even more important in a tight conference.
Tags: Coyotes, Dustin Penner, Hockey, Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick, Kings, NHL, playoffs, power play, Red Wings, standings, Terry Murray
The Kings definitely don’t feel lucky right now, but given the circumstances of tonight’s game, I think they’re lucky to get a point for the overtime loss to the Wild. Quick (who could have easily been given credit for assisting the two regulation goals by the Minnesota Wild) made a couple bad mistakes that cost the Kings easy goals. The referees made a lot of bad calls (the first goal the Kings scored being disallowed, interference being called later when the player was no where near the goalie, high sticking calls missed, etc.) tonight in LA. They made bad calls both ways, but it seemed the key bad calls went against the home team. Add that to the play by Quick, which would have caused many people to pull him from the game (or at least seriously consider it) and the Kings’ horrible power play and the Kings fans should be relieved that their team got something out of the last home game their team plays until December 23rd.
On the bright side, the Kings got seven out of eight possible points so far in December. The down side is that the Kings head on a road trip starting in Detroit on Monday now. They’re hoping to bounce back from this overtime loss, be glad that they got a point, and move on to playing hard against Detroit.
Though Terry Murray admitted that the Kings’ power play and penalty killing didn’t do the job for his team tonight, he was fast to point out “those are not fluke plays… those are giveaways. That’s a puck on your stick, that’s concentration, that’s making the right play – the right decision with the puck” when asked about the regulation goals against Quick tonight. In spite of this, Murray answered with a very quick “No” when asked if he thought of pulling Quick. Clearly, he made a good decision there, since Quick buckled down after that and didn’t allow another goal until the Wild had a 4 on 3 power play in overtime.
This is the Kings’ first overtime loss this season. They won one game in overtime (against Detroit at home earlier this month) and three in shootouts (all on the road). Now that the Kings have lost in overtime, only one team remains who hasn’t lost once they get past regulation – the Florida Panthers.
It’s early to think of standings, but the Kings are still in good shape there, in spite of being how it looks at first glance (with the Kings in 10th). Though the Kings are 2 spots out of the playoff standings, They’re only one point behind the Coyotes, Predators, Avalanche, Sharks, & Ducks in 5-9 places and have 2-5 games in hand on those teams. Just one win in those extra games puts the Kings right in the playoff mix. The Pacific division is only separated by 3 points and has teams in 2, 5, 8, 9, & 10 right now. It’s clearly going to be a hard fought division title this season.
In other news, most Kings fans know about the deal the Kings made for Marco Sturm earlier today. Dean Lombardi was very clear about the deal being dependent on the physical, which is typical. In this case, Sturm’s physical on Monday will definitely focus on his knees a bit more than usual. The Kings have been burned before with injured players, though they seem to be doing something right in that area the last few years (*knock on wood*). Will Sturm be the piece the Kings are missing? Time will tell. Lombardi pointed out that the deal for Sturm leaves him room to possibly make a deal before the trade deadline if he thinks that’s necessary. It’s clear that he’ll be doing his best to make sure the Kings get far in the playoffs this season. Getting kicked out in the first round after six games is not going to be acceptable this season.
Tags: bad calls, Dean Lombardi, goaltender interference, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Kings, Marco Sturm, NHL, overtime, Panthers, penalties, penalty kill, power play, referees, Terry Murray, Wild
The Anaheim Ducks won their second game in a row and extended the Kings’ three game losing streak to four. The Kings have lost 7 of their last 8 games starting in San Jose on November 15th. They only won 5 of their 12 games in November. After starting their season winning all but three of their first 15 games and leading the western conference and sometimes even the NHL, the Kings have practically been in a free fall. It may be early, but if the playoffs started today the Kings would not be in them.
When the Kings lost three games in a row, most Kings fans weren’t really concerned. They knew losing streaks happen and you can’t win them all. But if playing the Ducks wasn’t enough to get the Kings out of the slump they’ve been in lately, what will it take? Coach Terry Murray thought the team played well saying he’s not ready to shake up the line combinations yet. If losing 7 out of the last 8 games and 4 in a row isn’t enough of a sign that things aren’t going well, I’m not sure what will get them out of it. If Kings fans aren’t concerned at this point, I think they should be. At this rate, neither of the southern California teams (and perhaps none of the three California teams) will make it into the playoffs. I predicted that the Kings would be in the western conference finals this season and I still think they can get there, but they’ve got to figure out what’s wrong and address the mental lapses soon. November was a bad month for them. It’s time for them to turn the page and start December with a fresh outlook.
The first game of the “Freeway Face-Off” goes to the Ducks. There are five more games between the SoCal rivals and they’ll probably all be more interesting than tonight’s game. The Ducks and Kings each face the Florida Panthers next (the Ducks host them Wednesday; the Kings Thursday).
Tags: Ducks, Freeway Face-Off, Hockey, Kings, losing streak, NHL, Panthers, playoffs, Sharks, slump, Terry Murray
It may be early and Terry Murray may not pay attention to the standings much, but the fans know that their Los Angeles Kings are #1 in the west and #2 in the NHL after their league leading 8th home win in a row to start the season. The Kings are also tied with the Ducks for the longest current NHL winning streak with six games. Their penalty kill is still perfect at home (and their overall pk is also #1 in the NHL). Their top line had points in 4 of their 5 goals including a goal on the first shot of the game and one on a beautiful penalty shot by Dustin Brown. As Kopi said, “it’s nice to see him get one of the nicer goals.” Brown said, “I had a plan at center and I switched about the blue line.” He mentioned that he has three moves that he does and two come off that move to the right. He said he just “pulled a Kopi and slid it five hole.” The penalty shot might not be as rare as it was in the past, but those goals are still special for the players and their fans.
Justin Williams tied his career high point streak of 9 games with his goal against the Islanders. Jonathan Quick has consistently been one of the leading goaltenders in the league (and had a save percentage of almost 95% tonight). The Kings even scored on the power play (not the Kings’ strong suit this season) against the Islanders. What more could LA Kings fans ask of their team? It really doesn’t get much better than this as a fan. It’s good to be the Kings and their fans this season.
A couple years ago, the Kings would have started slow against the last place team in the NHL. They didn’t do that against the last place New York Islanders. Instead, the Kings came out strong and extended the Islanders’ league leading losing streak to ten games.
Southern California is not the place to visit if you’re on any other team in the NHL this season. The SoCal home teams have lost only 2 games this season and gone without a point in a game only once.
Possibly one of the best signs for Kings fans is that it’s getting better all the time. The last few games, the Kings’ top line seems to have clicked. Kopi has 7 points in the last three games, Brown has 5, & Parse has 3. Kopitar scored his 300th career NHL point with his second goal of the game against the Islanders (and the 301st with his assist in the last Kings goal). When asked about what changed for his line, Kopitar said he thought they’d been making good plays without getting any results, “but now we get a few bounces here and there and we score a couple goals and then the confidence gets high and everything seems a lot easier.” That’s really how things have been going for the Kings all season. Many players have talked about how everything seems to go your way when you’re winning. When things are going well for your team, all the bounces seem to go your way. The Kings are continuing to work hard in every game and not phoning it in – ever. The team clearly enjoys being on the top of the standings and having other teams have to come into Staples Center to play up to the Kings’ level of play and not the other way around. Teams coming to LA know they’re going to have a tough time and play harder as a result.
This year’s Kings remind me a lot of the Penguins of 2008, though they have a better record. They were knocked out of the playoffs (many of the players’ first in their NHL career) early last season and they’re clearly determined to do better this season. Before the season started, I said I thought the Kings would be in the conference finals and perhaps even the Stanley Cup Finals. The more I see of this team, the more I believe they’ve got the right mindset and skill set to go deep into the playoffs.
The Kings travel to San Jose to face the Sharks Monday night. That’s always a tough building and the team knows they have to take their A game with them to San Jose. Clearly, the team hopes to continue their winning streak there.
Tags: Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Hockey, Islanders, Jonathan Quick, Justin Williams, Kings, losing streak, NHL, penalty kill, penalty shot, playoffs, power play, Scott Parse, Sharks, Stanley Cup Finals, Staples Center, Terry Murray, winning streak