Kings and Oilers: A Crease History

Tonight as Los Angeles and Edmonton prepare to meet each other for the first of five times this season, Kings fans, players and staff alike are preparing to welcome back an old friend to Staples Center. Oilers goaltender, Ivy League graduate and all-around swell guy Ben Scrivens is set to make his first appearance back in front of the Kings faithful which systematically swooned over him during his brief stay a year ago.

ScrivensStats

These numbers weren’t too shabby either

In honor of Scrivens’ wonderful time in the LA goalcrease and his continued success in Edmonton, let us flip back the calendar pages a few years and take a cathartic glance at a time where the Kings and Oilers’ goaltending situations were enough to make their fans bash their heads against a brick wall.

But first, remember back in the late-80s and early-90s when things were great for the both the Kings and Oilers, at least as far as their netminders were concerned. Holding down the fort in the Forum were Kelly Hrudey and the incomparable Rick Knickle (ok so maybe just Kelly Hrudey).

photo.phpBut this mustache is actually incomparable… Unless you are counting every 70s porn star than it is pretty typical

Up to the north a few of the game’s greats made their home between the Oiler pipes, with Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr forming a formidable tandem for the greater part of a decade before handing the reins to Bill Ranford.

As they say however, all good things come to an end, and both teams soon found themselves in goaltending purgatory; a never-ending depression of quality backstops (which led to the depression of their fan bases). A depression that LA has only recently recovered from, and that Edmonton is hoping that Scrivens and Viktor Fasth can finally rescue them from.

It was a period pockmarked with the Fukufujis and the Drouin-Deslauriers of the world, when the goalie position for both Los Angeles and Edmonton looked like a revolving door of mediocrity than something they could build a team around.

Considering that the Kings and Oilers are both squads with a rich hockey history and a long-standing tradition of success at the highest level (long-standing meaning the last five years for Los Angeles), chance would have it that these two teams suffered through these trying times simultaneously.

Now sit down, get your anxiety medication ready, and enjoy a brief recollection of the best of what was the absolute worst.

fisetStephane Fiset – Los Angeles Kings – 1996-2001

The Kings acquired Fiset from Colorado at the start of the 96-97 season for something called Erik Lacroix and a first-round draft pick that turned out to be Martin Skoula. Fiset appeared in 40 or more games for the Kings from ‘97 to 2001, and carded two seasons with a winning record and made playoff appearances in ’98, ’00 and ’01.

So why is Fiset on this list? He went 0-5 in the playoffs and got shipped off to Montreal for future considerations in the spring of ’02. In case you didn’t know, “future considerations” is hockey-speak for a bag of pucks or a washing machine.

Salo_Tommy_LTommy Salo – Edmonton Oilers – 1998-2004

If you take a look at the numbers that Salo turned in for the Oil in the five-plus seasons he spent in Alberta, you might be confused as to why he’s on this list. Salo recorded 25 or more wins in four of his five full seasons with Edmonton, and took his team to the playoffs four times as well. But Salo did finish with a 5-16 playoff record and being a good goalie is all about performing when the lights are at their brightest.

Like at the Olympics, where Salo lost to Belarus. While he was a representative of the Edmonton Oilers. Enough to earn him a spot in this article.

_39953803_icehockey300x245Ty Conklin – Edmonton Oilers – 2001-2006

Speaking of performing well in playoffs, remember this?

 

 

 

Sorry about bringing that up, at least things ended up working for these two.

la-sp-sn-kings-movie-premiere-20120724-001

 

As for Conklin’s legacy in Edmonton, I’d say this about sums it up.

8460516Dan Cloutier – Los Angeles Kings – 2006-2008

It is not to say that Cloutier’s tenure in Los Angeles was rough, but it made fans harken back to the good ol’ days when the dynamic duo of Roman Cechmanek and Cristobal Huet ran the show.

In his two years of sharing the net with Mathieu Garon, Barry Brust, Sean Burke, Erik Ersberg, Jean-Sebastien Aubin and Danny Taylor among others (the Kings were so deep in the nets at this time that a grand total of 11 goalies saw playing time in two seasons), Cloutier carded GAAs of 3.98 and 3.44.

In fact, when you run a search on Google Image for Cloutier, three of the first five results contain a Photoshopped beach ball in the net behind him.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 9.20.52 PM

Thanks a lot Vancouver

He also had an ugly incident with then-Nashville Predator and soon-to-be Kings trade-deadline pickup Scott Hartnell that really gave his reputation a black eye.

Such an outburst was so uncharacteristic of Cloutier, but thankfully it was only a one-time thing and did not in any way define his career.

Wait, never mind.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions:

Los Angeles: Frederic Chabot (1997-08), Steve Passmore (2000-01), Milan Hnilicka (2003-04), Adam Hauser (2005-06), Jason Labarbera (2008-09)

Edmonton: Mikhail Shtalenkov (1998-99), Steve Passmore (1998-99), Dominic Roussel (2000-01), Mike Morrison (2005-06), Jason Labarbera (2013-14)

Now if this glimpse back into the history books gave you a series of nightmarish flashbacks, take a step back and breathe, because the times are much better now. The past is in the past and you can rest assured that your team is in the hands of not only capable goaltenders, but some of the league’s best (offer may not apply in Edmonton).

But as the 2014-15 Kings and Oilers renew their rivalry tonight, let fans of both teams get together and mutually agree to one thing.

At least it isn’t 2005 anymore.

Advertisements

An Introduction, an Audition, a Plea for Help (TRH Blog #2)

When I was asked to write a sample post as part of my ongoing tryout for The Royal Half’s North America’s Next Top Blogger competition, I racked my brain for literally tens of minutes trying to find a relevant, edgy topic to blog about that would have the internet begging for more.

I decided not to get ahead of myself, as none of you came to TRH to read my recollections from last weekend’s Frozen Fury (which I did not attend), or my analysis of the young players at training camp (whom I hardly know). Since you don’t know who I am and don’t care who I am, I figured the least I could do with my moment in the spotlight is to fix the former, and attempt to make my case on why I would make an excellent, an above average, a tolerable addition to #TeamTRH.

I grew up in a northern suburb of Minneapolis. For the impatient readers who are already frustrated asking what the hell this has to do with the Kings, I’m getting to that part. Before my senior year of high school I became what had to be the first high school hockey player to give up playing in front of 18,000-plus at the Minnesota State Tournament to play in front of 18 parents at Iceoplex Simi Valley, as I moved west to play with the Southern California Titans 18AAA team.

As a goalie, I typically chose to root for New Jersey since I idolized Martin Brodeur through my youth. However I began to shift allegiances when I grew a fondness for the Kings’ goal horn and goal song when it played over 15 times over the two games I started at the Toyota Sports Center against the Jr. Kings.

For proof of this, watch this stunning high-definition highlight package of me getting torched against Beau Bennett and company, all set to the dulcet tones of some guy from California Rubber magazine I have to assume is doing voice overs for the NHL Network today.

Hint: I gave up goals four through nine

The next year I moved from beautiful Southern California to a slightly less pristine locale as I played a season of junior hockey for the Fresno Monsters. Living with my teammates from the Santa Clarita Valley, I became more and more of a Kings fan, partly due to their influence and mostly in order to stick it to the San Jose-supporting chumbolones who lived in Fresno.

21058_350450364277_7196319_nProof that I actually played in Fresno and that I actually can make a save, contrary to what the previous video may have indicated

 I returned to Minnesota for college a born-again LA Kings fan, and in the four years that followed all of the these things happened:

-I purchased Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick Kings t-shirt jerseys, and a Jack Johnson Team-USA Olympic t-shirt jersey (officially an antique as of February 2014)

unnamed-2Looks even funnier in person

-Created a fantasy hockey team named “CoreyPerryHasAids” (2011 Runners-Up)

-Celebrated a Stanley Cup Championship

-Purchased a Penner Pancakes shirt from The Royal Half Gift Shoppe

-Celebrated a second Stanley Cup Championship

-Graduated from a small college with an English major (all but eliminating any chance of a real career and a paying job)

-Applied to blog for The Royal Half (See above note)

I realize that after telling my story I have probably alienated myself from the majority of The Royal Half audience by virtue of being a goalie (a bad one at that), being from the Midwest, living in Fresno and by being a Kings fan who came on board post-2010. Despite all this, I still feel like there are a few things I can bring to the table.

-On the off-chance there are people who are interested in technical breakdowns and detailed analysis on the goaltending matchups that go on over the course of the season, I could deliver in spades. Want an example? Check out this hot take: Quick = good. Dan Ellis = bad. You’re welcome.

-In case Flubber McGee and his Kansas City roots weren’t quaint enough for all you LA city slickers, I could be a #TeamTRH correspondent from deep in the midst of flyover country while being a constant reminder of how much better life is in California than in Minnesota during the winter months.

(Fun fact: I have Omsk, Siberia saved in my weather app on my phone so during the third blizzard in March I can look at the weather and say to myself “at least I don’t live in Siberia”. In the winter of 2013 Siberia had better weather 78 percent of the time.)

-I would be able to showcase my writing chops to a wider audience (English major bro), and boast extensive experience with writing on topics that readers here might come to expect, such as the softness of Ryan Kesler, the Sharks embarrassing themselves, and above all game recaps that incorporate Simpsons videos and Darryl Sutter quotes.

So if you have made it to the end of this article, I wholeheartedly thank you and assure you that you won’t have to endure my ramblings again. Unless by some crazy miracle I win this contest then unfortunately you might have to hear from me again. Sorry about that.

But in all seriousness, if The Royal Half’s North America’s Next Top Blogger competition comes down to a vote, please vote for me. If you won’t do it because you enjoyed this blog or because you want the opportunity to ridicule my Midwestern accent on a future podcast of All The Kings’ Men (I say the word coach really funny), I will stoop lower and ask you to vote for me out of sheer pity. Because chances are you live in sunny California, where the calendar is moving from summer to second summer, and I live in a place where there is snow in the forecast next week – snow that won’t be gone until late April. And that sucks.

Blogging for #TeamTRH would give me an excuse to stay inside on my computer and avoid the reality of the harsh elements and sub-zero conditions of winter outside my window. By choosing me you are saving me from possible frostbite and hypothermia.

You don’t want me to get frostbite or hypothermia do you?

Actually, don’t answer that…

GKG

Taking it Outside (#TeamTRH Tryout Blog)

20140808-levis-stadium-stadium-series-dl

Will the Kings-Sharks outdoor game be a stunning spectacle or an open-air atrocity?

In early August it was announced that the San Jose Sharks would not only be finally making their long-awaited outdoor debut, they would be doing so in their backyard. The NHL’s 2015 Coors Light Stadium Series would be taking place in Santa Clara’s Levi Stadium, and the Sharks would be assuming the duties of the home team.

In early August it was also announced who San Jose would be playing outside on Feb. 21, but there was not nearly the same amount of buzz coming from the Sharks’ opponent in the weeks that followed. Possibly because that team was still preoccupied with celebrating some award thing a couple months earlier.

1897079_SP_0616_parade_WJS

Yep, that’s the one

But now that training camp is upon us and the 2014-15 season is almost here, it is only fair to consider the implications of the Kings’ second outdoor game in two seasons. But while the hype machine for the Stadium Series is already whirring at full speed, talking about heated rivalries-this and outdoor aesthetics-that, it is not the worst idea to take a step back and try to see the big picture.

So here is my attempt to try and lay out the positives and negatives that come with such a high-profile event, and to ultimately decide whether or not the 2015 Stadium Series is a good thing for the Kings.

Pro: Every time the NHL takes its product outdoors it is another fresh reminder of the sheer beauty and majesty of the sport of hockey. The cliché is beaten into the ground but it truly is hockey at its most pure form. Every chance a team has to play in such an event and every chance a fan base has to participate in one should be cherished, because it truly is a special experience and you never know when the next chance will come.

Con: On second though, the matchup at Levi Stadium will mark the 12th outdoor game the NHL has played in the last six years. The Rangers, Flyers and Capitals have seven appearances among them. If this outdoor fad was any more played out Bettman would probably start handing outdoor games to any old team, even those from a market without a trace of enthusiasm for the sport or any hockey history to boot. Like Minnesota.

hfr-hockey-city-classic-2-1

But where do you put the beach volleyball court?

Pro: Unlike the defensive snooze-fest that occurred last year at Dodger Stadium, the 2015 matchup between the Sharks and Kings is sure to be one with loads of offensive excitement. Los Angeles rode a retooled and reenergized forward core to the top of the mountain in the playoffs, and is bringing back just about all the pieces to defend their crown. As long as Marian Gaborik can keep his groin in one piece, the Kings should have no problem putting at least a few on the board, if not more on Feb. 21, making for a much more appealing game to Kings fans than their 2014 dud against the Ducks. Especially considering the Sharks goaltending, which is known for cracking when the lights are at their brightest.

Con: Now that everything in the previous has been written down, none of it is going to happen. Gaborik will be on the IR by December, the Kings will hit their mid-season scoring slump right on time, Niemi and/or Stalock will stand on his head and the Sharks will win in shutout fashion, probably like 6-0.

Pro: One of the best parts of NHL’s outdoor series, has been the awesome retro jerseys the participants design for the games. The games have been an opportunity for teams with rich histories like the Penguins, Maple Leafs and Red Wings to take a step back in time and show off some great throwback sweaters.

Recently the Stadium Series games have taken a more modern approach to designing the specialty jerseys. In 2014 the Kings’ uniforms were sharp and the expectations should be no different in 2015. Longtime fans should revel in the opportunity to accept another jersey into their Kings collection.

Con: If the trend of putting regional emblems on the shoulders continues like it did with the “LA” and “OC” patches last year, good luck trying to make it through the game while seeing this on the Sharks’ jersey.

norcal Also look for 74% of the crowd to already have this tattooed on their shoulders.

Pro: Another crack at a high-profile game like this allows the Kings a chance to redeem themselves after faltering under the Dodger Stadium lights a year ago. A victory against the Sharks brings them above the .500 mark outside (including the game at Caesars Palace in 1991), and will be another opportunity to gain some bragging rights over their California rivals.

Con: Do the Kings really need more bragging rights over the Sharks? Ever hear of a little thing called the #ReverseSweep? The Kings essentially tore out the Sharks’ souls, emptied about four magazines of an AK47 into them, and proceeded to defecate on the annihilated pile of nothingness that was the San Jose Sharks organization. They aren’t done yet either, they are raising the Stanley Cup banner right in the Sharks’ faces. A championship run that all started with laying an egg at the Stadium Series. I’m not saying winning at Levi Stadium could sabotage all chance of the third Cup in four years, but that’s exactly what I am saying. If it ain’t broke don’t break it. Also after what we did to them last year it’s a nice gesture to give the Sharks something to celebrate.

SharksBanners

There’s a similar banner hanging at the Honda Center

The Verdict: Inconclusive. Who is to say if participating in another outdoor game is good for the Kings, when it comes down to it the game is just one out of 82. It’s probably good for the exposure of the league and good for growing the game in California and yadda-yadda-yadda, but in all honesty it is probably just one big money grab.

As a Kings fan the best way to look at the outdoor game against San Jose is as a win-win situation. The Kings lose, and they are right where they were a year ago. All they need to do is rally the troops, pick up a free agent from Columbus (cough Hartnell cough) and next thing you know a high-profile public figure is cussing in front of a podium at Staples Center at yet another Stanley Cup rally.

If the Kings win, that’s just one more thing they are better than San Jose at. Also it would make Logan Couture sad, and if there is anything that gets me excited, it’s making Logan Couture sad.

photo-5

It doesn’t end therehMZ7dic

Game 3 Recap: Quick Leads Kings to Cusp of Glory

Photo Cred.- NHL.com / Getty Images

Photo Cred.- NHL.com / Getty Images

After much was made about their unorthodox, improbable (and as some would say, referee-assisted) manner in which they escaped Staples Center with a 2-0 series lead in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, the Los Angeles Kings silenced their critics and the Madison Square Garden crowd with an absolute no-doubter Monday night.

Led by a transcendent 32-save shutout performance by Jonathan Quick, the Kings blanked the New York Rangers 3-0 in Game 3 taking a stranglehold of the series and pulling themselves one win short of clinching their second Cup in three years.

Quick’s finest work came in the middle period, when he was able to anchor his team, which entered the frame with a 1-0 lead, against a furious Ranger onslaught without giving an inch. New York threw everything they had at the Kings, outshooting them by a 17-8 margin, but could not solve the visiting netminder, who made three or four jaw-dropping stops to preserve the goose egg on the scoreboard.

Not only was LA able to take the Rangers’ best punch without buckling, they were able to counter with a pair of second period tallies to extend their lead and all but ice the game heading into the final 20 minutes. It was a microcosm of the Cup Final to this point, with the Kings ultimately finding a way to stymie a stretch of strong play by their opponents with timely goaltending and opportunistic scoring.

Unlike the first two games of the series, Los Angeles was able to draw first blood, and they were able to do so in the most deflating way possible for the Rangers. The Kings were able to add an exclamation point onto the end of a tight, well-played first period when Jeff Carter buried a beautiful outlet pass by Justin Williams with 0.7 seconds on the clock.

It was a gut punch for the home team that would soon be worsened by a seeing-eye shot by Jake Muzzin that bounced off a Rangers defender past Henrik Lundqvist on the latter of two early second period power plays for Los Angeles.

After weathering the ensuing Rangers surge and killing off a pair of penalties, the Kings added a backbreaker at the 17:14 mark when they were able to turn a bad pinch attempt by Dan Girardi into a 2-on-1 rush the other way. Mike Richards’ pass attempt to Trevor Lewis returned to him off of Ryan McDonagh’s skate, giving him ample space on the short side against a sliding Lundqvist.

The Kings knew exactly what they had to do in the third period with a 3-0 lead, and tapped into their trademark suffocating defensive style of play, meticulously winding down the clock and snuffing out any hope of a New York comeback.

No matter if they were up a man, down a man, or facing an empty net, LA never wavered from playing smart, conservative hockey in the final 20, focusing on getting the puck safely out of their own end and depositing it deep in the Rangers’ end.

One of the primary reasons the Kings were able to completely control the flow of the game was their strong outing on special teams. Their penalty kill was masterful, silencing New York on all six of their opportunities, thanks to several big stops by Quick and a few massive shot blocks by Matt Greene and company. Not only did the PK keep the Rangers off of the scoreboard, it allowed the Kings to stem some of the momentum that New York was building in the second period. Factor in Muzzin’s power play goal earlier in the second at a time when the Rangers were trying to rally around their own penalty kill unit, and it was full-scale domination for LA in the special teams battle.

With the win the Kings take a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years, and have earned four chances to get that elusive 16th playoff victory. Rest assured that the Rangers, a team that has showcased its pride and heart so often this postseason, will not go down quietly, especially in a Game 4 before their home crowd. Los Angeles had trouble closing out the Devils in 2012, dropping Games 4 and 5 before clinching the Cup in convincing fashion in Game 6 at Staples Center; this year’s team is surely hoping to not postpone a possible celebration quite as long.

This hindsight is the single biggest advantage the Kings have over their Eastern foes in this series – not their size, not their skill or depth – but the fact that the bulk of their roster has been in this exact same spot before. Los Angeles knows what it takes to close out a series and will be careful not to rest on any laurels before finishing this series off once and for all. They know first-hand that three wins amount to absolutely nothing. They have already seen a 3-0 comeback this spring up close and personal, which could be their most valuable weapon in trying to prevent a second one.

 

Other Stuff and Things:

-This is the closest representation I can find of the Kings’ play in this series so far.

-My favorite thing about this team is their unwavering composure, both on the ice and in front of the media. In the post-game interviews the players wouldn’t even talk about the game that was just played – in their minds the page was already turned to the task at hand in Game 4.

Whether it was Quick dryly shooting down a reporter asking him if he could taste the Cup with a simple “no” or Greener focusing on areas of improvement, talking about the need to be more disciplined than the many things his team did well, this group is all on the same page.

That is why while it is easy as a fan to fear a let down and drop in intensity for the next couple games, reason leads me to believe this squad will not let that happen. Here’s hoping my rational instinct is more accurate than my irrational fan side.

-As to why the Kings are all aboard in their collective mindset and unflappable focus on their goal, give all credit to the man behind the bench. Coach Sutter has done an incredible job of creating an entire team of guys in his image, systematic and maddeningly even-keeled. The cliché of “buying in” to a coaches philosophy is thrown around more than it should be, but that is the only explanation for what has transpired with this Kings team. Sutter has found a way to get his team to 100% buy into what he has told them, and as a result they all have responded remarkably on the ice. The fact that he cannot be added the Jack Adams ballot after this playoff run is a crime.

Maybe one of the funnier things I have ever seen.

-The NBC feature on Dustin Brown during the first intermission was incredible. The fact that as a kid growing up around Ranger fans in New York, he chose to root for Vancouver in the 1994 Cup Finals is perfect. The guy was a pest his whole life, and is not afraid to admit it.

Brown-Brent

I’d make fun of a young Dustin Brown if he didn’t look so eerily similar to someone.

-Speaking of NBC, the production and broadcast crew must have made a decision well prior to Game 3 that regardless of what happened it would be bag-on-Rick-Nash-night. Poor guy got put through the ringer from the pre-game show to the closing remarks. I know he hasn’t been producing as someone of his compensation should, but he played an effective game yesterday, producing a slew of good scoring opportunities. Yet every intermission there was a new highlights package dwelling on his impotency. Hopefully he doesn’t pull a Patrick Sharp and come alive at the worst time (Knock on wood)

-Speaking of knocking on wood, I’m going to be doing that pretty much up until faceoff on Wednesday. Nothing makes me feel more uneasy then hearing people say the other team has no chance and that this series is over. The Kings have won three games, the series is not over, and the last thing the media needs to do is give the Rangers any more bulletin board material than they need facing the end of their season. The last win is always the toughest, please let’s not make it any harder.

-15 down, one to go. Maybe Wednesday is the night. Go Kings Go.

Game 1 Recap: They Do it Again

 

Photo Cred: NHL.com- Getty Images

Photo Cred: NHL.com- Getty Images

The Kings of the rope-a-dope picked up right where they left off last Sunday in Chicago. After once again digging themselves a hole early in Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Kings once again found a way to climb back out in dramatic fashion, thanks to an overtime goal by who else, but Justin Williams.

Mr. Game 7 Game 1 added yet another page to his clutch-player resume when he buried a feed from Mike Richards, who picked off an errant pass from Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi less than five minutes into the overtime period. After Richards made a simple pass from the sideboards to the slot, Williams coolly walked in and uncorked a perfect shot from the hash marks that beat Henrik Lundqvist over the blocker side, giving the Kings a 1-0 lead in the series.

But while the game ended in smiles for the LA faithful, it hardly began that way – a trend that is becoming all too familiar in this postseason run. New York controlled most of the first period, jumping out to a 2-0 lead, and threatened to do even more damage, while the Kings’ first 10 minutes or so was akin to Bambi learning how to walk for the first time.

Perhaps it was the disparity in days off between the two teams, perhaps it was the Rangers being extra motivated by all the talk of their underdog status, but they used their elite speed and tenacity to draw first blood with tallies by Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin while capitalizing on sloppy defensive play and costly turnovers by the Kings.

However, just like we’ve seen so often in the playoffs, all this Kings team needs is a spark to turn around a game, and in Game 1 that spark came from the unlikeliest of sources: Kyle Clifford. The Big Red Dog reacted to an impromptu line pairing with Jeff Carter and not only cashed in his first goal since December 11 to make it 2-1, but made a couple incredible defensive plays to keep the Rangers from doing any more damage.

The second period was where the momentum clearly shifted toward the Kings favor, as the turnovers and their difficulties possessing the puck began to fade and their defensive zone presence began to resemble the Los Angeles squad that surrendered the fewest goals in the regular season. Add in Drew Doughty throwing in his hat for goal of the year at the 6:36 mark of the period to tie the game and the Rangers were on their heels for the remainder of the game, save for a helter-skelter last minute of regulation play.

The Kings poured on the pressure in the final 20 minutes, outshooting the Rangers 20-3 but coming up empty against Lundqvist, who finished the game with 40 saves. While playing solid in the first two periods, Lundqvist lived up to his all-world billing in the third, making a number of grade-A saves to keep his team in contention, including a miraculous diving save in the dying seconds on a Jeff Carter wrap around.

While it will be easy to shine the spotlight on Lundqvist’s third-period heroics, the goalie on the other side had just as much of an impact on the game’s outcome. Jonathan Quick, the target of ruthless scorn and doubt coming into the series with his less-than-stellar playoff numbers, turned in a gutsy 25-save performance which should be remembered for the quality of the stops he made, not the quantity. He was the best player on the ice over the games’ first 10 minutes, making several difficult stops to keep the game scoreless. Then after being victimized for two sudden goals, one on a breakaway and one deflecting off of Slava Voynov’s skate after a breakaway save, he shut the door the rest of the way.

Even though he only saw three shots in the third period – the first coming more than 10 minutes into the frame – the chances he did see were of the highest quality imaginable. The first save was a tough shoulder save off of Martin St. Louis on a two-on-one, then he stymied Hagelin on a breakaway with less than a minute left.

The Kings can take solace in the fact that they played a subpar game, took an early haymaker from their opponent and still escaped with a Game 1 victory. They learned that they can find a way to overcome an incredible performance by Lundqvist (a feat they will probably have to repeat a few more times), and they should be more prepared to deal with the Rangers’ speed moving forward. The post-game sentiment by the Kings showed that they are well aware they got away with one, and that vast improvements are necessary to continue to enjoy success in this series.

Game 2 will be a pivotal game in this series, as the Rangers are going to throw everything they have at the Kings after suffering what can only be described as a demoralizing loss. LA needs to follow up their opening victory and snuff out any type of rebound performance from New York, especially with the series shifting to Madison Square Garden for Games 3 and 4, where the Rangers will undoubtedly have some extra jam in their favor.

 

Other Stuff and Things

-I was getting tired of everyone and their mother gushing about the Rangers speed heading into the series, but holy moley am I scared of their speed after watching Game 1. Their tenacity and quickness both out of their own end, on the forecheck, and in faceoff situations is terrifying, especially when your defense is not controlling the puck like the Kings’ were early in the game. Haglin, Kreider and Pouliot showed they can break a game open by themselves, and they nearly did in the first period. I’m not sure how to go about containing them, but it needs to be the top priority for the Kings heading into Game 2. Hagelin Ball and Chain

Actually I do have an idea.

-While I don’t think Ryan McDonagh is deserving of the all the incessant praise he was getting before and during the game, he is an extremely dangerous weapon on the blue line. LA is going to need to know where he is at all times, especially when the Rangers have sustained offensive zone time.

-Speaking of undue praise, the NBC crew’s East Coast bias could not have been more apparent last night. From Olczyk and Pierre’s fawning over McDonagh and lamenting over why he wasn’t a Norris finalist while simultaneously ignoring the similar plays Doughty was making, to Pierre’s attempts at antagonizing Sutter in the first period during their on-the-bench interview. Lucky for LA the broadcast crew doesn’t have any bearing on the outcome of the games, or else they would be in trouble.

-Sutter’s interview was another classic:

Pierre: “How is your start troubling, with all of your turnovers?”

Daryl: “We’re playing great as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr. Sutter can see what you are trying to do Pierre, and he does not like it.

-The power play. Woof. I know the PP has never been the Kings’ bread and butter but it can’t be a liability like it was last night. Zero shots over their first three opportunities, several odd-man rushes against and Hagelin’s shorty. It doesn’t need to be clicking at 50% but it can’t give the Rangers momentum every time it takes the ice.

-Willie Mitchell played phenomenal. He made a couple backcheck plays that made him look like he was 25 again, and he nearly scored on a cannon in the third period.

-Voynov played the opposite of phenomenal. He’s been fighting the puck for most of the playoffs, and the goal off his skate, while primarily a bad bounce, just adds insult to injury. He is long overdue for an upswing. If Doughty, Muzzin and Martinez can keep factoring in the offense and Slava can recover his game, look out.

-Everyone knows it is not a Kings playoff run until Greener is bleeding from the eyeballs. It is a playoff run now.

matt-greene-bleeding

Face Time Baby.

-This was neat.

-Game 2 is massive. If the Kings can go up two-rip then steal one at MSG, they take a 3-1 lead back to Staples for a chance to close things out at home. And we all know the Kings are automatic with a 3-1 series lead right? (Rimshot)

-See you on Saturday, Go Kings Go.

Kings look to take another step forward against struggling Predators

Photo Credit: NHL.com

Photo Credit: NHL.com

About halfway through Monday night’s game against Vancouver, the most prevalent thought among Kings fans both at Staples Center and watching from elsewhere had to be “here we go again…”  Los Angeles had played very well throughout the game, even dominating the play at times, but yet again found themselves down 2-0 in the late stages of the second period, unable to solve a familar foe in Roberto Luongo.

It was one of those games where the Kings were getting their chances, but weren’t getting any bounces; Jarret Stoll gets an incredible look in the slot on the power play and shoots it right into a sprawling Luongo.  Jonathan Quick makes a few of his trademark big stops, but then loses sight of the puck behind the net allowing Alex Burrows an easy wrap-around goal.  It was evident the Kings were playing well overall, yet they seemed snake bitten and it was beginning to look like they were going to come out empty-handed yet again.

Until the unthinkable happened.

The Kings scored a power play goal.  Jeff Carter’s tally with under five remaining in the second finally got LA and the Staples Center crowd something to get excited about, and put a dagger into the streak of utter futility the Kings were riding with the man advantage. Well they are still pretty futile, sitting 1 for 27 on the year but that’s still better than 0 for 27.

The Kings were now within striking distance, and Quick and the defense kept them there until Slava Voynov played the hero tying the game up with 44 seconds remaining in the game. Jeff Carter continued to carry the team during bonus hockey by scoring the only goal in the shootout, and the Kings earned themselves a huge two points when just about everyone was expecting zero.

It was a victory that showed an incredible amount of character from the black and white, as they truly never stopped coming at Vancouver, even when they were getting nothing to show for it. Now the Kings who are carrying an extra load of confidence and a two-game winning streak welcome a struggling Nashville Predators team, one that much like the Kings, are still searching to regain their clout in the West as they had a year ago.

The Predators (1-2-3), will be just as desperate to get points as the Kings were a week ago, and its not like they haven’t been dangerous thus far, as three of their five losses have been in overtime.  Monster defensemen Shea Weber has had a rough time acclimating to life without Ryan Suter, as he has yet to register a point this year.  However convention would tell you that a streak like that is nothing more than an anomoly, and that the Kings had better keep an eye out for number 6 if they want to continue their winning ways on Thursday night.

The key for Los Angeles is to maintain the hunger and sense of urgency that has helped them finally put some wins on the board.  It would be too easy for them to see that Nashville is sitting below them in the standings and let an air of complacency creep into their game.  Instead, the Kings need to continue to improve as they have each of their last few games and realize that their opponent is fighting to stay afloat in the Western Conference and will bring their best effort.

The Kings have a huge opportunity on Thursday night to build on the momentum they established with their impressive win against the Canucks.  It remains to be seen if they are able to keep the train moving in the right direction, or if the Predators can put up a roadblock on the route heading back to the playoffs.

Well the world is coming to an end…

(From NHL.com) He’ll definitely lead the team in hits. Teenage pop star Justin Bieber has been offered a contract by the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL.

“Yes, we would play him if he was up for it,” coach Matt O’Dette told NHL.com. “I have seen video on him and he does have some hockey skills.”

According to the team’s website, “The Bakersfield Condors and Head Coach/Director of Hockey Operations Matt O’Dette announced [Tuesday] that they have offered hit-recording artist/RW Justin Bieber an amateur tryout contract for the upcoming 2012-13 season.”

Bieber, 18 years old, is described as having “soft hands, a good skating stride, and a devastating wrist shot capable of beating NHL caliber goaltenders.”

“He appears to be strong in shootouts as well,” the team’s website says.

“I would compare him to Mike Ribeiro, formerly of the Dallas Stars, whom I played with back in the AHL with Quebec,” O’Dette told NHL.com. “And Mike Ribeiro was a pretty good dancer, if I remember correctly.”

Bieber grew up in Stratford, Ontario, and has practiced with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Very rarely do you see this combination of skill and toughness,” O’Dette said on the team’s website. “We share a common Canadian heritage since we both hail from Ontario. I’ve scouted some video of him online skating with my hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and I think he could provide some elusive speed up front for us. Plus, he’s a right-handed shot which we’ve been looking to add. I think if we paired him on a line with (Robby) Dee and (Peter) Boyd, we’d be tough to beat.”

Bieber’s upcoming tour will be in nearby Fresno, Calif., on Oct. 5.

“So he could swing by for a tryout. And we’d be happy to have him,” general manager Matthew Riley told NHL.com.

Bieber, whose musical hits include “Baby” and “Boyfriend,” has almost 28 million followers on Twitter. A Best New Artist nominee at the 2011 Grammy Awards, he is ranked as the world’s third most powerful celebrity by Forbes, trailing only Jennifer Lopez and Oprah Winfrey.

“Plus, his sick flow will fit right in with a Condors team known for their style,” the website says.

Do I really need to say anything about this?  First the NHL is days away from shooting themselves in the taint for the second time in the last decade and now one of the next best leagues is giving free tryouts to pre-pubescent douchebags.  We are embarking on dark days for hockey fans indeed.

Anyone could sit down and write a whiny blog, complaining about how bad Bieber’s music is, and how this whole charade is a massive publicity stunt for the Bakersfield Condors and the ECHL, but I am going to try and take a different stance on this.

Consider me on board with this move.  I’d absolutely love to see the Biebs give up his luxurious, superstar lifestyle to settle down and play in BAKERSFIELD, aka the (insert crude and innapropriate object here) of America.  I’ve driven through Bako several times in my days playing in Fresno, (I loved that NHL.com thought it necessary to plug Bieber’s upcoming Fresno show, because obviously their readers were desperate to know the Condors’ newest star would be performing next) and the place doesn’t necessarily scream high class.  I would give Bieber a week living in Bakersfield before he either a) falls into a deep dark state of depression, b) Selena Gomez dumps his sorry ass because the Bakersfield mall doesn’t cater to her expensive tastes, or c) the first day of training camp comes and some meathead from the CHL mops up the ice with his dead, lifeless body.  I’m pulling for all three.

PS- I’m betting the house on either a massive down year or a suicide from Mike Ribiero.  You can’t have someone who is employed to coach a professional hockey team seriously compare your skills with Justin Bieber and come back unscathed.  He might as well cut his losses and call it a career… But at least he has his superior dancing ability to fall back on.