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.
Detroit at Home
To Detroit, then Home
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.
Kopi’s got Wings
A Cold Bern
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.
Voynov’s gotta go high
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.
Look What I Found
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.
Big-eyed About it
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.