The Stanley Cup title defense has begun! In this episode we breakdown Game 1 between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues, make witty observations & give our Top 5 changes Coach Sutter should make for Game 2. Go Kings!
The Stanley Cup title defense has begun! In this episode we breakdown Game 1 between the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues, make witty observations & give our Top 5 changes Coach Sutter should make for Game 2. Go Kings!
One starts the show, two in :16 seconds can steal it.
Sometimes desperation wins.
For the Kings in St. Paul, Minnesota Tuesday night, desperation is what they were up against; a Minnesota Wild club that was clawing to maintain life in their efforts to clinch their first NHL postseason bid since with 2007-’08 season.
The Kings mathematically clinched a playoff berth over the weekend, but they’re still fighting to take hold of another accomplishment, and one that could most certainly play a respectable role come the start of the playoffs next week.
That’s home-ice advantage, something the Kings haven’t had in any of their playoff appearances the previous three seasons; unless it’s earned by winning on the road, of course. If home-ice was a factor during the playoffs last season, the Kings surely didn’t take it into account.
Home ice you say? The Kings barreled off a 10-1 record in opposing buildings last postseason.
However, Staples Center has been more than just the Kings’ home this season, it’s where they’re winning – it’s a place you’d like to see them kick off their defense of last year’s Stanley Cup Championship.
The Kings hold the NHL‘s best home record this season with an 18-4-1 mark.
Currently sitting at 4th-place in the NHL‘s Western Conference, the Kings are sitting in a spot that would grant them a series start at Staples Center if the playoffs started today. Two games still remain though, and both the St. Louis Blues (5th) and San Jose Sharks (6th) are both serious threats to overtake the Kings’ comfortable position right now, both of them one and two points behind in the standings respectively.
Before the Kings return home to close out the regular season against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center next Saturday night, it’s a quick visit to Detroit, Michigan and the Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday evening.
The Detroit Red Wings, who the Kings are familiar with on home-ice in the postseason.
And a team that is flirting, and heavily so, with failing to qualify for the NHL playoffs for the first time in 21 seasons.
That’s why they call it ‘HockeyTown‘.
You’d have to back-track to 1990 since Michigan’s wheel and wing was outside of the NHL‘s playoff picture.
Two to go: The Kings, 46 games into this year’s shortened campaign, have two games left on the regular season’s slate. One of them is on the road, against a team that is fighting to earn a spot in the playoffs. The other is home at Staples Center, against a well-known foe that is fighting to overtake the Kings in the standings to earn home-ice confines in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
The Detroit Red Wings maintained their postseason pace with a win against the Phoenix Coyotes Monday night, which just about put the Coyotes’ playoff hopes to rest.
This time, Detroit did it to Phoenix in the regular season.
The Kings have seen the Detroit Red Wings twice this season, once at home and once in Michigan. The series is split 1-1-0, with each club earning a win in their home building.
The first contest between the two on February 10 at Joe Louis Arena was decided with under five seconds to play. The second contest, this time at Staples Center on February 17, was decided with under five minutes to play.
Crease Conundrum: After seeing head coach Darryl Sutter swap goaltenders for a solid period of time throughout the middle of the season, Jonathan Quick subtly earned back his ‘every day’ label, getting the call in the previous five Kings’ contests prior to Tuesday night, and six of the Kings’ previous seven.
Jonathan Quick returned to his old, solidly dependable form, going 4-0-1 in a stretch in which he started five consecutive games for the Kings.
Jonathan Bernier, who started his 11th game this season Tuesday night, lost his first start in regulation against the Minnesota Wild, getting caught after what was a very strong start by the Kings, to surrender two goals within :16 seconds of each other in the first period.
Quick will be back in the crease tomorrow in Detroit, Michigan, and likely again at Staples Center on Saturday night.
The goaltending situation is just about as good as it can be heading into the playoffs. Jonathan Quick, with a healthy streak of contests under his wing, has found what seems to be last season’s form back in his swing.
And if needed, Jonathan Bernier is there.
Who is, and extremely arguably so, the best backup goalie option any of the NHL‘s 16 playoff teams have on their depth chart.
Minnesota’s Alive: There are times when the failure to execute on a golden opportunity can be exonerated by the team’s overall performance throughout the game. The Kings didn’t play a full 60 minutes of hockey Tuesday night, they got caught sleeping early, and by then, it was too late.
When you lay back, you don’t get bounces.
When you lay back with a player that beholds the skill-set such as Mike Richards, you’ll still get passes.
You’ll still get chances, you’ll still get opportunity.
Vyacheslav Voynov‘s free on this one. Just needed a tad more lift on that release, kid.
Mike Richards‘ pass crossed more lanes than O.J.Simpson‘s Ford Bronco in ’94.
Red Wings, Red Light: The Kings suffered from poor offensive results Tuesday night, and a lack of productivity on the special teams’ end may have something do to with it. The Kings had just one powerplay opportunity in Minnesota, and failed to record a shot.
This breaks the Kings’ streak of powerplay goals recorded in consecutive games, which was at an astounding eight straight contests with a Kings tally on the man-advantage.
Matt Greene has been himself, his ‘return from injury‘ self. Greene’s had some slips in quickness and coverage, but nothing a return to every day activity can’t mend. He’ll be along for the ride.
That ride hits it’s second-to-last regular season installment Wednesday night.
Detroit’s got history on the line, and a Kings win would situate local playoff hockey just fine.
Puck drops in Detroit, Michigan at Joe Louis Arena at 4:30PM PST on Wednesday. Have the car’s radio-dial situated to KTLK 1150 AM for that cruise home from work.
Saturday night’s contest with the OC’s orange and black has prime-time written on it in more ways than one.
It trumps thoughts of Dodger Stadium from wherever you are to Chavez Ravine and back.
Don’t get swayed.
At this time last year, the Kings were already in the midst of their unseen and delightfully unexpected playoff run, a run to a Stanley Cup championship that wasn’t just a historic feat in the NHL, but in the world of sports all together.
Tonight marks the one-year date of Dustin Brown going short-circuit against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
The NHL will spotlight it’s attention on the league’s two clubs from Southern California Saturday, which is certainly a postseason precursor with both the Kings and Anaheim Ducks extremely well en rout to solidifying playoff positions. Anaheim has already clinched a postseason berth.
The Kings are as close as it comes if we’re going to talk mathematics.
Staples Center has the Kings’ 42nd contest of the season slated for an 8:00PM PST puck-drop Saturday night, which is unprecedented for hockey contests in Downtown Los Angeles.
This will be the first time, in the 20 possible seasons it could have happened since the Anaheim Ducks‘ franchise was inaugurated in 1993, that both the Kings and the Ducks will qualify for the postseason in the same year. 19 seasons if you delete the lockout that wiped out the entire 2005-’06 NHL season.
Both clubs are coming off of appearances against the NHL‘s last-place Colorado Avalanche. The Anaheim Ducks were owned in every asset Wednesday night against Colorado, losing 4-1, right after former Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere called out his current Avalanche teammates.
The Kings fared quite a bit better off against Colorado, but did allow the game a to get a bit too close for comfort. After pouncing on Sami Aittokallio early, a 20-year old rookie out of Finland making his first-career NHL start, the game slowed down rapidly.
When you’re playing a bad team, and the pace of the game slows down, it’s not a good thing.
The Kings played extra hockey against Colorado, only their sixth contest to extend into OT/SO this season. All three shooters for the Kings in the shootout frame (Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar) scored to earn a full two points, and surrender one to a hapless team in the standings.
Well done, especially considering the last two shootouts the Kings went into – which were against the Minnesota Wild, and of course, the Anaheim Ducks. The Kings faltered terribly in both, with Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier failing to stop one opponent shot respectively, surrendering three breakaway bids apiece.
The Kings were able to solve their shootout problems Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche by evading any expectations from their goaltender. Opposition had scored on the Kings in the shootout on every shot in their past two show outs in a breakaway contest.
They had allowed goals on the opposition’s previous seven shootout attempts leading up to Thursday night.
This time around, the Kings took their notes to the net, quieting the Colorado Avalanche and the hot-mouthed Jean-Sebastian Giguere by doing it the only way best – scoring on every shot you take.
This time, they took back momentum. When you’re on home-ice, you’ve got the choice to take the first shot in the shootout. That can be the deal breaker.
Sometimes the first shot does it. Because then, the flood gates are cracked open.
Big Date: Tonight will mark the Kings’ fourth and final meeting against the Anaheim Ducks this season, who they hold a 1-1-1 record against in the campaign’s previous three meetings. In the season series, each club has earned a full two points when playing in their home building.
If that trend continues to ride true, Downtown Los Angeles should be an attractive setting for tonight’s affair.
Jonathan Quick will get the call – his third straight start between the pipes.
Puck drops against the Anaheim Ducks at Staples Center at 8:00PM PST.
The LA Kings push towards the Stanley Cup playoffs continues. In this brand new episode we breakdown the games against the Blues, Stars, Coyotes & Wild, discuss the trade deadline, do a See Ya for Davis Drewiske and welcome the newest King Robyn Regehr. Buckle up, it’s going to be quite a ride!
Chin up, baby.
The Kings returned to Staples Center for the first time in 12 days Thursday night, where they hadn’t scored a single goal in 124:16 consecutive minutes of play.
The key is to dismiss the low-points and move forward.
And that they did, scoring on their first two shots against the Minnesota Wild Thursday night in what was a magnificent start to an extremely important contest, forcing the impressive Niklas Backstrom to be sent to the showers just 3:07 into the first period.
By then, it’s already too late if you’ve made the second mistake twice.
Because when you falter in the same fashion twice, you’re not moving ahead. The Kings know that. Minnesota had no business repeating last week’s happenings in St. Paul Thursday night at Staples Center. They had no chance.
When you give up a two-goal lead to a team and lose as the result, that same team should have no chance against you the second time around. The mindset, the attack, should be fierce – and most importantly, confident.
The Kings are sitting pretty at the moment, holding the Western Conference‘s 4th-place position with a 21-13-3 record that atones for 45 points. They have eleven regular season games remaining.
I can’t see right now, Justin Williams‘ confidence is all up in my sh*t.
Justin Time: Other than the Kings’ two-game stumble that saw them fail to score in two consecutive contests, the offense has been producing in a consistently pleasant fashion, and a lot of it has to do with Justin Williams and the past three weeks.
Williams is currently on a five-game goal streak, now with six goals in five games after his two-goal performance against the Minnesota Wild Thursday night. In his past 12 games, Williams has matched that number with points, scoring seven goals and dishing 5 assists for a twelve on the stat-sheet.
You add Williams’ presence without the puck he has while on the forecheck and backcheck, and the role he plays so well of clogging lanes, and you realize his importance.
Call him five-tools. Call him five-tools with a shot.
Making it work: When you’re able to plug up or adapt to any such weakness, or loss of a player, before there’s any elongating effect that hurts your team, you’re doing quite a top-notch job.
And to do it continually so, in all facets of a roster, like Darryl Sutter has done since arriving in Los Angeles last February, is going to grant you a pretty successful makeup of a team.
There’s something magical about the simple, short-worded, extremely humble and private persona that Darryl Sutter and his mindset beholds. It’s a beautiful fit for a talented roster based in Los Angeles; where the big market city and the overflowing amount of media-crazed coverage can easily protrude a team’s focus and chemistry.
Not so, because Darryl Sutter has this team’s heads in his hands. And by golly gee, if there’s one vital aspect of respect a coach can ask for, or be influential enough to earn, it’s the full-on attention and dedication given to the coach’s voice.
The Kings and Darryl Sutter have that firm understanding. There’s absolutely no question. None.
Adaptations: The year after a Stanley Cup Championship is never an easy challenge, even if you have a similar roster than you did in the season past. The fact is, you still have to work for it, you still have to earn it, and in every single tiny facet, every minor detail.
From Dean Lombardi staying active this season in making numerous minor acquisitions for depth players and draft picks, to Darryl Sutter putting good use to the hand he’s been dealt, it’s been a rather smooth season for the Kings.
After losing Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell to injuries prior to the start of the season, Darryl Sutter was dealt a huge blow to his defense corps, losing the two defensemen who were the most reliable when it came to dedicate, stay-at-home defensive type play.
When you have Vyacheslav Voynov on your roster, those losses become not as big of a deal.
So, in come Rookie Jake Muzzin, Keaton Ellerby from the Florida Panthers, and why not make some light use of Davis Drewiske?
And since Dean Lombardi dealt Davis Drewiske to the Montreal Canadians, we’ll just replace him with a veteran, much more proven stay-at-home defenseman in Robyn Regehr.
We’ll give him the same number, too. The Kings dressed a new face in an old number: Fourty-Four. And he played the best game you could ask for; Simple and safe, staying true to the role he was brought to Los Angeles for.
Sutter was right in wasting no time getting Robyn Regehr associated with his new teammates in live-action, calling on the veteran defenseman to play Thursday night, and once again, surrendering Alec Martinez as a healthy-scratch.
And Juggling It: When you first consider having two great goalies in Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier on your roster, you probably couldn’t think of a better goaltending depth chart in the entire NHL. It’s not all glamorous, however.
It’s not easy to balance the play of two elite-touted goaltenders. You’re not just trying to share the minutes, but you’re dealing with the minds of goalies – and the head of a goalie is almost as complex as it gets.
You don’t want to disrupt the flow of a goalie, you don’t want to shatter their confidence, and you certainly don’t want to clash their value against one another.
And most importantly, you don’t desert Jonathan Quick.
It’s a delicate game handling two goalies with the skill both Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier have.
Even though Jonathan Bernier is undefeated in his ten starts (9-0-0), continuing to shuffle the starts between these two goaltenders is key. At best, you maintain both goalies’ confidence and groove. At worst, you figure out who your number one guy is come the start of the playoffs.
Goaltender shuffling in the postseason is an entirely different monster to handle.
The Kings will play the Edmonton Oilers Saturday afternoon, who are just one spot out of playoff contention, sitting at ninth-place in the Western Conference. So, there’s absolutely no question they’ll be coming out in full-force.
Day games, or “hangover contests” as I’m accustomed to, don’t usually bode well for the Kings at Staples Center. This season alone, the Kings are 1-2-0 when playing under the sun in Downtown Los Angeles.
The last time the Kings played the Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center during the day, you’d have to back-track to February 14th of 2009.
Dustin Penner scored the first of two goals for the Oilers, but Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown netted a couple for the Kings to send the game past regulation.
Dustin Brown, assisted by Kyle Quincey and Alexander Frolov, tipped in the game-tying goal with just :26 seconds left in regulation.
The simple times.
The Kings would go onto fall to the Edmonton Oilers in that contest in a shootout, losing 3-2.
As for shootouts, forget what happened in Minnesota last week. The Kings have seem to overcome it, and showed so Thursday night at Staples Center.
Jonathan Quick doesn’t have a bad swing, though.
Expect Jonathan Quick to start in net Saturday for the Kings. And expect nothing but the best.
After all, that’s what this team has been built for, and it’s the direction they’re being coached in.
Puck drops at Staples Center at 1:00PM PST Saturday afternoon against the Edmonton Oilers.
There’s nothing wrong with staying idle at the deadline.
A player’s trade value to the outside market can be a dangerous reactor in triggering a knee-jerk move at a General Manager’s most vulnerable time.
That time, which Dean Lombardi has divulged into heavily with hot hands the previous three seasons, is just five days away. It’s the cut-off date to move assets, it’s the 2013 NHL trade-deadline, slated to strike it’s time and freeze NHL rosters on April 3rd.
For backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier and the Kings, that outside trade value is gigantic, and a lot of the reap for reward in trading Bernier will be greatly minimized if the Laval, Quebec native isn’t dealt at this campaign’s deadline.
Again, in five days.
To let return-value fully gauge your actions in letting a player flee can be a very dangerous trap to fall into. You first must work with what you have, and look at it hard. Because, if moving a player proves to bite you in a negative fashion just once, that player, now gone, was priceless.
If Dean Lombardi and the Kings are to trade Jonathan Bernier prior to or on April 3rd, you can expect a 1st-Round draft selection and a current well-known name player to come in return.
Really, you need to compare what the Kings actually need, to maintaining the roster they already have in place.
Dean Lombardi impresses, and shows the utmost confidence as Kings’ General Manager if he sits idle through April 3rd’s NHL trade-deadline.
You don’t move Bernier. And I don’t think Lombardi does.
Hot Commodity: Bernier’s name is nothing new to the NHL trade-market, in fact, he’s been one of the most sought-after names in the league for more than a calendar year. It’s no secret he’s been targeted by a number of NHL clubs in need of a goaltender, but he even voiced his request to be traded from Los Angeles – asking to be dealt before last season’s trade-deadline, right after Jonathan Quick signed his 10-year contract extension.
It’s difficult to not side with Jonathan Bernier and his frustrations. The 24 year-old is good enough to be a starting goaltender for a rather large chunk of NHL teams, yet he’s been belittled to the shadow of Jonathan Quick, with little room, or opportunity to live up to the high acclaims he’s been developed with.
After all, he was the #11 overall selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
What may be more impressive than Bernier’s extremely high draft position, is how professional he’s been during the lack of playing time he’s received in, well, not be repetitive, his professional career.
You can push his complaints with AHL demotion and skirmishes with the Kings’ front office in 2007 and 2008 to the side. The kid was 18.
Quick-Kick: It’s so vital, and not just to the Kings, but Jonathan Quick as well, that Jonathan Bernier stay with the Kings throughout the postseason for any chance to see this team repeat as a Stanley Cup champions.
He won’t only be needed to fill in for a few of the Kings’ remaining regular season contests, but could surely be used healthily come the postseason.
Jonathan Quick’s human, folks. And a lot of people have realized that this season.
Jonathan Bernier‘s stellar stand-in performances this season have allowed fans to comfortably stay at ease when Quick isn’t called upon by Darryl Sutter.
If many are confronted with a Jonathan Quick-less situation at this time last year, well, they’d be waiving a flag colored white.
There’s no issues with the goaltending right now. In fact, it’s so good, it might be a problem – but a very, very good one to have. Handling two talented goalies, especially a backup that has the skill to start for a large handful of other NHL teams, is a huge card dealt to the head coach.
Darryl Sutter needs to handle this the right way. And so far, he’s done a pretty damn good job.
Sticking with Quick: Last season, Jonathan Quick played in a total of 102 NHL contests – from preseason in late September 2011 to the Stanley Cup Finals in the middle of June 2012. He then underwent back surgery over the summer.
His rehabilitation process then hit a point of uncertainty as the NHL did the same, as the labor strike held the 2012-2013 season start off until January 19th, making for an extremely unique and compact regular season schedule.
This consisted of a number of back-to-back contests for the Kings, and a travel schedule that’s a bit harsher than normal. And when you’re an NHL player in Los Angeles, travel is always difficult under a normal schedule.
And for Jonathan Quick, that’s no ideal situation considering last year’s work load and the construction done on the body over the summer.
To put it simply, the Kings would be in big trouble if without Jonathan Bernier this season. And for the first time, I think many faces are realizing the potential and skill the 24 year-old native out of Laval, Quebec holds.
In Bernier’s eight starts this season, he’s 7-0, with one indecision after being pulled early from his start against the St. Louis Blues on March 5th. Jonathan Quick relieved Bernier early in the second period after he gave up three goals on eight shots.
In his two relief appearances of Jonathan Quick this season, Bernier has lost both times. Then again, when you’re put in relief of a starting goaltender, in what is most likely to be a losing situation, your hopes can’t be too high.
The kid has a 7-2-0 record, chiming in with a sexy .923 SV% and a 1.94 GAA in ten games played.
Bottom Line: You keep Jonathan Bernier, because the Kings don’t need outside assets as much as they need a dependable backup goaltender. Having two options in the crease is a gift, appreciate it while it’s here.
And if you think this season’s shortened 48-game schedule has been crazy, remind yourselves of what NHL playoff schedules behold.
It’s a f*cking haul, and Jonathan Quick isn’t the Ox he was last season. The Kings don’t need another first-round draft pick and another respected name. They’re fine.
What they need is stability in the crease. That’s what does it.
We can re-start Bernier trade-talks during the summer time. Capiche?
Twin-City life: The Kings are in Minnesota Saturday night for the third game of their current five-game road swing. The Kings have won both contests on their recent trip, and have scored nine goals in their previous two games, after being shutout the two games prior.
This is the first of three games against the Minnesota Wild this season, who sit two points and one position ahead of the Kings in the Western Conference.
Jonathan Bernier is back with the team after taking a leave of absence for a death in his family. However, expect Darryl Sutter to give Jonathan Quick the call in Minnesota, he deserves the continuity in play.
The Kings are in Dallas for a matinee on Sunday. Chances are you’ll see Jonathan Bernier back in crease against the Dallas Stars.
And chances are, he’ll be around for another postseason ride. And get a taste of it, too.
Puck drops against the Minnesota Wild Saturday night at 5:00PM PST from the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Get that car dial tuned to KTLK AM-1150 for that cruise home from work.
They’re seeing red again.
For the Kings, the goals have returned in bulk. A little toast, if you will, to the doubting folk.
Up until the 4:21 minute mark of the second period in Tuesday’s contest at the United Center in downtown Chicago, Illinois, the Kings lugged through a painful 150:35 minute stretch without scoring a goal, amassing a span of seven consecutive scoreless periods of play.
Until then, the Kings’ last tally was still colored purple.
They notched five goals Tuesday night in the Windy City, stuttering any doubts the league’s audience had developed regarding this roster, and shocking the Chicago Blackhawks – the NHL‘s best hockey club, by way of a heart-felt 5-4 victory.
If there was any tension built within the Kings’ locker room after their two consecutive shutout losses to the Dallas Stars Thursday night and Vancouver Canucks Saturday afternoon, both games of which at Staples Center, the Kings surely took those frustrations out in stretching out the twine in the goal cages used at Chicago’s United Center.
10 different players recorded a point, that spells a cool-headed, synchronized roster. The Kings’ previous scoring streak had nothing to do with anything but unfortunate happenings of the Kings running into a pair of hot goaltenders.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you find yourself when in unfamiliar, rather challenging confines.
Like hitting cheese in Chicago, on consecutive lampers.
And put some more cheese on it.
Going Red on the Blues: The Kings will see the St. Louis Blues Thursday night in the second contest of their current five-game road swing, a team the Kings are accustomed to scoring on.
The Kings are 2-0 against St. Louis this season, winning 4-1 in Missouri on February 11th, and 6-4 in California on March 5th. That’s 10 combined goals on the Blues in two contests, a trend the Kings would like to continue to build on following their offensive ambush in Chicago.
These two teams currently sit next to each other in the Western Conference standings, just two points apart. The Blues (36 pts) hold the Conference’s seventh seed, while the Kings (38 pts) sit a slot higher at sixth overall.
They’ll have to do a lot more work on the road in the coming week, where the winning ways must be continued, with the Kings holding only a small four-point cushion from being out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Before Monday night’s win in Chicago, the Kings were 0-3 away from Staples Center during the month of March.
Opposing buildings will host the next four Kings’ contests, as well as nine of the Kings’ final 16 regular season games in this shortened 48-game campaign.
In the Kings’ two games against the St. Louis Blues this season, Jonathan Bernier has been the starting goaltender both times, winning one decisively, and being pulled early by Darryl Sutter after surrendering three goals to St. Louis on eight shots.
Bernier started against the Blues on February 11th, making 21 saves in a 4-1 Kings victory, which also happened to be his first start of the season. He lasted barely over one period against the Blues on March 5th, with Jonathan Quick replacing Bernier in a game that would see the Kings come back and win after staring at a 4-1 deficit.
This will be Jonathan Quick‘s fourth consecutive start. He deserves the continuity on play regardless of Jonathan Bernier‘s absence.
Another 30: The NHL schedule has officially reached the final month of it’s slate, with the Kings, and the rest of the league, expected to play their final contests on April 27th. The Kings will host the San Jose Sharks on that final night of league-play.
In this final month of play, the Kings have 16 games left. Nine of those games will be on the road, and the other seven at Staples Center. All remaining games, such as the entire season, will be against Western Conference opponents.
A Conference that sees a slim eight-point margin separate the 13th-place Phoenix Coyotes and 5th-place Detroit Red Wings.
Playoff-style hockey, especially because of the season’s unique circumstances, should be in full throttle in about two weeks.
Two weeks ahead of time. But hey.
Off the Ice: The Kings’ front office, which has been showing the corporate signs of raking in an asset’s success, while subtly pulling away from their loyal supporters, has taken another step this week.
The downfall was first seen when the well-known and respected roster print cards were no longer given away at the turnstiles at every home game, starting last season.
Now they’re holding back the folks who own half-season ticket packages from privileged rights to postseason ticket stubs.
Getting There: The postseason is statistically no guarantee right now, but you mine as well guarantee it — in a realistic sense.
If the Kings have developed one thing other than a Stanley Cup Championship, it’s a roster that’s too good — including it’s coach, to miss out on postseason play. Even so, with injuries to major players.
The Kings are still without defensemen Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene.
Puck drops against the St. Louis Blues 5:00PM PST Thursday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis MO.
Make sure to have the car’s radio dial tuned to KTLK 1150 AM on that cruise home from work.
With authority, we’re back! The busy month of March continues as the LA Kings battle for playoff positioning. In this installment, Chris is joined by KingsCast blogger Alex Kinkopf as they breakdown the San Jose Sharks & Phoenix Coyotes games, give a See Ya! to the 3rd jersey and discuss goaltending. Go Kings!
They’re not trying to catch up – they’re trying to stay ahead.
That’s the good thing here for the Kings.
Amidst their longest streak of consecutive games against Pacific Division opponents this season, which has called for six inter-division games in nine days, the Kings are maintaining themselves with a 1-2-0 record, while hoping to feed off of the juice that saw them annihilate the San Jose Sharks in a 5-2 routing Saturday night at Staples Center.
The upcoming slate calls for two straight in downtown Los Angeles against the Phoenix Coyotes.
During the Kings’ current Pacific Division stretch, they’ve lost two contests on the road; one to Phoenix 5-2 Tuesday night, and another to San Jose 4-3 on Thursday.
Saturday night’s return to Staples Center was a much different story, a game the Kings needed to win in order to maintain their slim lead that finds them at second place in the Pacific Division and sixth overall in the Western Conference.
They did so with five goals, with twelve players on the roster recording at least one point. And from another impressive performance between the pipes from Jonathan Bernier.
The upcoming two-game stand with the Phoenix Coyotes poses to be worth an eight-point spread in the standings. That feeds more importance into the outcome of this season than a bottle of water does for you on a summer’s day in Arizona.
Side to side: Consecutive dates against an opponent is a rare thing in the modern-day NHL, but not so this season. The Kings will play their third round of back-to-back contests with an opponent for the third time in ten days.
The Kings swept the Calgary Flames in two games last week at Staples Center, and they split their two contests with the San Jose Sharks – each team winning in their home building. The Kings stay in their home confines now hosting the Phoenix Coyotes for two in a row on home ice.
And home has been sweet for the Kings, who hold a 10-2-1 record at Staples Center this season.
Both previous dates against the Phoenix Coyotes have taken place at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona this season. The Kings won the first meeting 4-2 on January 26th, their first win of the season. Last Tuesday, the Kings played arguably their ugliest game of the season, falling 5-2 on the same ice sheet they clinched the Western Conference‘s Clarence Campbell trophy on back in June.
Coming into Monday night’s contest, the Kings (32) sit two points ahead of Phoenix (30) in the standings. There is some unseen room for movement, however, as the Kings have one game in-hand on Phoenix, playing 27 games so far this season compared to the Coyotes’ 28.
So when you talk desperate, hungry, and quite frankly – scary, you’re looking at the Phoenix Coyotes and their upcoming two-game visit.
With eight points on the line, and ten if you include the games-played difference, this is must-win territory for both clubs, and it’s against quite possibly the hungrier team in the matchup.
There’s some backdrop here.
Give me the Keys: When it comes to good results, there have been a few key aspects to the Kings’ game this season. Heading into Monday and Tuesday, the Kings already have one of them in their hands – home ice, where the Kings hold a 10-2-1 record this season.
It truly starts with scoring first, and the Kings are 10-1-1 this season when issuing red-light service first in games this season. In their current three-game stretch against Pacific Division opponents, the Kings have lost when surrendering the first tally of the contest, and won when striking first.
There’s no Cliff-hanger when goals come early.
Clifford, Clifford, Clifford.
Crease conundrum: It may come as a shock to feel comfortable when Jonathan Quick doesn’t get the call for the Kings these days, but Jonathan Bernier has certainly earned the trust of both head coach Darryl Sutter and the Kings’ roster.
And maybe some possible trade-deadline suitors. But you don’t dare go there right now.
When getting the starting nod, Jonathan Bernier has been spectacular with an undefeated 7-0-0 record, holding opponents to two goals or less in six of his seven starts.
He’s lost twice, but both of those decisions came upon relief of Jonathan Quick.
There is no goalie issue in Los Angeles, in fact, right now, it’s almost as good as it gets.
If anything, Jonathan Bernier is simply living up to the expectations he was drafted with, and long-awaited to show at the NHL level. He’s helping the Kings win, and he’s allowing Jonathan Quick to slowly ease back into form.
If you happened to forget, Quick played in a total of 102 games last season, and underwent back surgery over the summer.
Quick shouldn’t be expected to be the iron-man he was last season, and having those same expectations would be silly. The Kings mine as well use Bernier to their fullest advantage while he’s here.
That doesn’t just give the Kings a winning shot, as we’ve seen, but it opens up the long-awaited trade market Bernier is expected to hit sometime in the near future.
Call it a win-win.
Expect Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier to get one start apiece in Monday and Tuesday’s two-game set with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Hell, maybe we’ll even see former Kings netminder Jason LaBarbera.
That would be like time-travel to the bad days.
Fashion Show: The Kings will be officially putting their purple and black ‘Los Angeles’ hemline crown jerseys to rest this week, planning to don the nearly defunct uniform template that has graced this organization since 1999 for the final time.
They will be wearing these sweaters for both contests against the Phoenix Coyotes this week.
Many associated with the team symbolize these uniforms with some of the darkest ages this franchise has seen in recent history.
So why not put them to rest, while the team continues to climb.
Puck drops against the Phoenix Coyotes not just Monday, but Tuesday night as well. Both contests are scheduled to start at 7:30PM PST at Staples Center.
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Look back at it.
Call the fire department, this one’s out of control.
Analogies, analogies. Sometimes they’re shitty.
Led by Jeff Carter‘s recent string of monstrous offensive output, the Kings have buried an astounding eleven combined goals in their previous two contests, this on 45 shots – that’s nearly a 25% success rate. That’s filthy.
The Kings aren’t only scoring at all times, but at the right times. They tallied eight third-period goals in a 48-hour span on Monday and Tuesday evening at Staples Center, beating the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues in convincing fashion.
In both contests, the Kings have forced opposing goaltenders to be pulled from their own crease, chasing away Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak.
Things were over Monday night before Nashville could weather the Kings’ third-period outburst, and the Kings executed again Tuesday night, when things were supposed to be over, scoring five unanswered goals to overcome a 4-1 deficit.
Both game-winning goals came off the stick of Jeff Carter, who now has 15 goals for the season – more than double of the Kings’ second-leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, who has seven.
They’ve won nine of eleven contests.
Call ‘em hot-headed.
How ironic: The Kings, who have been putting on a slew of giveaway promotions for fans this season, went with the traditional ballcap handout to those in attendance Monday night. When Jeff Carter scored his third goal of the game that night, clinching a ‘natural hat-trick’, many of those gifted hats were given back – tossed to the ice in celebration of Carter’s accomplishment.
The same thing happened with the Kings in October of 2005 against the Colorado Avalanche, when the late Pavol Demitra recorded his own hat-trick on a hat-giveaway night at Staples Center. The ice, again, littered with free hats.
Which is a good thing, cause they’re pretty f*cking brutal looking, and everything.
Deal-Breaker: When Dean Lombardi acquired Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 23, 2011, it was a bold move for a top-six forward the Kings beleaguered offense was in dire need of.
This was a trade-deadline deal, a plea for a player that could spark some life into the Kings’ offensive scheme, and helping this team to take a serious stab at a playoff run. Which, they did – and more. Jeff Carter chimed in magnificently during the Kings’ 20-game postseason stretch, potting eight goals and five assists for an attractive 13 points.
Jeff Carter came to Los Angeles along with the carry-over of his lengthy contract, an 11-year deal signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, which was then sent with Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and just under 12 months ago – placed into the hands of the Kings’ front office.
Carter is under contract until the end of the 2021-2022 season, a lengthy deal has rarely look so good. With the carryover of his contract, has come the carryover of his outstanding production.
He leads the roster in goals with 15 to his credit, and is second in points with 17, only behind Anze Kopitar‘s 20. If his shots aren’t hitting the back of the net, they’re creating opportunity – Jeff Carter leads the team with 64 shots on goal.
To say he hasn’t been clutch would be a farce – because he’s been the roster’s lifeline in crucial moments, his six game-winning goals show that.
Hey, Rookie: Another problem may arise when Willie Mitchell and/or Matt Greene return to the Kings’ blue-line. That’s what to do with Jake Muzzin. Back to the AHL and a return to the Manchester Monarchs seems to be past this player’s ways now.
Alec Martinez is finally back, sending Davis Drewiske back to natural and necessary confines.
Chances are you’ll see Jake Muzzin in a Kings uniform throughout the remainder of the season, and for how he’s looking now, the beginning of next year’s campaign as well. He’s been more than reliable in his second NHL stint, doubling down for three goals and four assists through the Kings’ first 18 games this season.
Muzzin is third on the Kings’ defense in points (7) and shots (27). He’s also got the second best +/- rating with a +6, only behind Vyacheslav Voynov‘s stalwart +10 mark.
Playing time?: Head coach Darryl Sutter pulled a shocker Tuesday night, penciling in Jonathan Bernier to start for the second consecutive game. It may be hard to remember the last time Jonathan Quick sat two consecutive contests, because in Bernier’s four-plus seasons with the Kings, he had never once started in net in two straight games.
This time around, coming off an 18-save performance in a deciding 5-1 win over the Nashville Predators Monday night, Jonathan Bernier got the call again in a back-to-back situation with a Pacific Division matchup with the Dallas Stars looming on Thursday.
Darryl Sutter‘s decision to play Bernier was bold, nevermind whether it was right or wrong. He instituted a feel of confidence in Bernier, who has struggled with an opportunity to find a consistent, dependable starting role in the NHL.
Jonathan Bernier allowed three goals on eight St. Louis Blues shots, forcing Darryl Sutter to react on his decision, pulling Bernier from the game less than two minutes into the second period. This decision didn’t spark immediate reaction from the roster, but it proved to be part of the Kings’ miraculous come-from-behind victory.
Jonathan Quick faced just six shots in his 39 minutes of relief of Bernier, stopping all but one.
When the players in front of you bury five unanswered goals, chances are you’re in good hands. A la the Kings Tuesday night.
The Kings found decent success when facing the Dallas Stars last season, going 3-1-2 against their Pacific Division foe. The most eye-opening part of last year’s match-ups against Dallas, however, may be the success the three prominent Kings’ rookies had in the state of Texas last season.
Vyachaslav Voynov, Dwight King, and Jordan Nolan all recorded their first-career NHL goals against the Dallas Stars last season.
Look now: The Kings, who have spent the majority of the season in the basement of the Pacific Division and out of playoff seeding in the Western Conference, now sit pretty. With their 12-7-2 record, which atones for 26 points, the Kings hold the second position in the Pacific Division, only behind the Anaheim Ducks and their 35 points with a 16-3-3 record.
The Kings sit at 4th-place in the Western Conference. Call it sexy.
It’s a meeting with the Dallas Stars Thursday night in Downtown Los Angeles. Dallas, with 24 points, is just one regulation win from matching the Kings’ mark, yet they sit dead-last (5th) in the Pacific Division. and are just barely maintaining playoff seeding, holding the Western Conference‘s eight seed.
If you don’t call this meeting a vital one, you’re out of this league. The Kings can either maintain their push to the top, or topple in the Pacific Division in their first meeting of four this season with the Dallas Stars.
Welcome to LA, Jaromir Jagr.
Puck drops against the Dallas Stars at 7:30PM PST Thursday night at Staples Center.