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