All posts by Mateo

Loktionov is living up to Kid Genius moniker

As has been the case the past three seasons, when the Kings are eliminated from the playoffs, I go back into hibernation and sleep off a long summer.

This season, I was treated to a brief glimpse of the sun, as the Kings actually played meaningful games in April. Even though they failed to make the playoffs, I’ve been watching from afar.

With no real rooting interest, I just can’t get behind any of the playoff teams. The closest team that I could muster up some small support for is Chicago. And that’s because I’ve always felt that the Kings are following the blueprint the Hawks’ have implemented. Build from within, encourage your youth to blossom and sign worthy veterans as character guys.

But the NHL wasn’t the only hockey that caught my attention this spring. The World Championships were interesting, because the Kings had several players on the U.S. team: Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson and Peter Harrold, as well as former King Patrick O’Sullivan. Team Canada named rookie phenom Drew Doughty to the squad, and Alexander Frolov was named to Team Russia. Last but not least, Michal Handzus played for his home team of Slovakia.

I actually caught most of the semifinal matchup between the U.S. and Russia online with no play-by-play. Which was sublime. Not that I have a problem with announcers, but it was like watching a game at Staples by yourself, with highlights bringing up plays/hits/saves of note. I felt  twinge of national pride to see the boys from the homeland take on the Big Red Machine. But that twinge subsided when Russia scored late to take the hard-fought game.

So now, other than the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s one more hockey tournament that has my attention as well: the Memorial Cup. And the reason is simple: a kid his coaches and teammates call Jimmy Neutron, right winger Andrei Loktionov.

In case you have no idea who Jimmy Nuetron is, he is a character from an animated show on Nickelodeon of the same name. Jimmy is sort of like the character played by Gabriel Jarret in the 80s Val Kilmer cult film, Real Genius. Jimmy Neutron is a super-smart grade schooler who is far advanced mentally of everyone else. It is this characteristic that reminded many of Loktionov.

According to a story in the Windsor Star, Loktionov was given that name by the fans of the Windsor Spitfires.

“The fans started that because he’s such a smart player on the ice,” said Spitfires right-winger Dale Mitchell, often Loktionov’s linemate and always his road roommate. “They put the comparison together with the cartoon.”

Nelson Emerson, the Kings Coordinator of Player Development told LAKings.com a similar point of view.

“You know, he is loved by his teammates, by the fans, by the coaches…they call him Jimmy Neutron, after that cartoon (Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius) about the smartest kid in the world,” Emerson said. “He comes up with what seems like magic, he is just a marvel on the ice.”

Now I can picture you sitting in front of your computer, mouth agape, feigning interest as you read this. “Big deal. Some prospect has a nickname, whoopty-do.” But Loktionov’s emergence this season has been exciting, especially his arrival here in North America caused such a stir.

If you recall, it was the drafting and subsequent signing of both Loktionov and fellow Russian prospect Vjateslav Voinov by the L.A. Kings that caused the upstart Russia-based Continental Hockey League to cry foul. The KHL accused the NHL of “poaching” their players, causing a mild brouhaha and strained relations with the Communist country. But nothing came of it, and both players joined clubs here in the U.S.

Loktionov joined the Windsor Spitfires and has had a decent season (24 G, 42 A = 66 pts) but has had a great post-season, breaking out with 33 points in just 20 games, enough to rank second in the league in playoff scoring. He helped lead the Spitfires over the Brampton Battalion to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL champions.

On top of that, Loktionov was named by RussianProspects.com as one of the top foreign-based prospects of the year, earning an honorable mention:

Prior the start of the playoffs, the season’s second best valuable player should have been considered Evgeny Grachev, but Loktionov’s stellar play in the post season is absolutely more worth. Curiously, the two players are facing each other in a tight OHL playoffs final series, which is seeing Loktionov playing solid, and Grachev losing a game because of a flu and not being that important. Plus Loktionov has been on the scoresheet in every match of the series. After a not easy start of the year, Loktionov has became a force in the OHL just to explode in the playoffs, in which he is the second overall topscorer.

Loktionov and the Windsor Spitfires now head to Quebec to play for the Memorial Cup in a round-robin tournament. And I can now imagine you, the reader, eyes glassy from reading this far, thinking to yourself “Why should I care about some secondary hockey trophy? The Stanley Cup playoffs are underway! We have two Game 7s on Thursday! Leave me alone.”

Fair enough, but the round-robin tournament starts on Friday the 15th, after all these Game 7s. The Spitfires actually play on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., when they battle the QMJHL champions, the Drummondville Voltigeurs. And while I can’t guarantee you’ll be able to actually watch the games (legally), I’m sure some of you are resourceful enough to catch a game or two. All the games are on the NHL Network, so good luck with that.

The Memorial has a such rich history that I won’t go into detail here to try and convince you to watch. (Click here for that…) But it is exciting to see one final Kings prospect battling for something this late in May. And maybe if the cards are stacked right, Kid Genius Loktionov will be vying for a spot on the big roster in the fall.

The Kingdom mourns another failed season

Sean O'Donnell #6 of the Los Angeles Kings battles for the puck with Matthew Lombardi #15 of the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on April 2, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)Game 76: Stars 3, Kings 2; Game 77: Coyotes 2, Kings 1

It took 77 games to officially eliminate the Kings from the playoff picture this season, and nothing is more frustrating.

I mean, last season was frustrating, but to be eliminated with five games to go… Man, it sucks worse than last season?

“Why? They have a better record than they had last season.” Granted, last season they had 71 points and so far this season, they have 73 points. But is it really something to be marginally better this season?

“But they’re a young team.” Granted, they decided to move ahead with the kids this season. But then, Lombardi decides to trade away one of his “prize” players, and suddenly it makes you wonder if the pressure’s not setting in.

This team needs to make the playoffs next season. Fans will not accept a seventh season without a postseason appearance. AEG could use the influx of playoff money as well.

Sorry, but I don’t feel like blogging now. Personally, I feel deflated.

AP: Morrison scores pair to help Stars end skid, beat Kings

“When you come off a long road trip, it always seems that you have a tough time getting into it in the first game at home,” Kings forward Justin Williams said. “But at this level of the game, it’s unacceptable for us to have a performance like that. It’s ugly, it stinks, and it won’t happen again.”

AP: Upshall’s late winner sends Coyotes past Kings

“I thought he (goalie Jonathan Quick) was our best player here tonight. We didn’t generate a lot to test their goaltender very often.”—Kings coach Terry Murray.

Yahoo: Team report

Thomas Hickey, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2007 draft, made his American Hockey League debut with Manchester on Wednesday and had two assists. Hickey recently completed his junior career with Seattle of the Western Hockey League.

LAKings.com: Royal Road Report: 17 and counting

“I think a lot of guys have the potential to play in the NHL and a lot of good skills. But that’s just part of playing at this level; it’s just competing every night. I think that’s the most important thing to learn for a young guy… You go out to win every night. Whether you play cards or whether you play hockey. That’s the goal of any sport you play is to go out there and be competitive and try to win games…”

They said it

“If we maybe came better prepared, we wouldn’t have had to play from behind or try and come back, and that’s something that we have to learn.” – Dustin Brown, Kings captain

Looking through purple, swollen eyes

A Queen Among Kings: R.I.P.: Coyotes 2, Kings 1

The hockey is terrible and it’s not like they’re playing opponents who are playing great hockey themselves. I’m not that excited to go to the Kings home game tomorrow but it’s the second to last game at Staples Center and I’ll make a half-assed attempt to milk it for all it’s worth.

Examiner.com: Kings playoff drought all but officially extended

If the Los Angeles Kings and their fans were entertaining any hopes of a last-minute run to the playoffs, they may have met their demise at Staples Center on Tuesday night as the Kings lost 3-2 to the Dallas Stars. It didn’t take long in the post-game aftermath for the captain and the head coach to put their fingers on what went wrong.

Peeping the dailies

Kings become victims of Predators’ playoff push.

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 28: Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings makes a glove save against Cal O'Reilly #48 of the Nashville Predators at the Sommet Center on March 28, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)Game 75: Predators 4, Kings 3 (overtime)

Quincey injured, Frolov gone, Stoll out for the season… The horizon is getting darker for the Kings’ playoffs hopes, as they seem destined to miss the postseason for the sixth straight season, the longest in franchise history.

Not that the Kings didn’t battle in this game. L.A. scored first on Brian Boyle’s goal, the first regulation goal in quite some time, and continued on through the second period. But then, Nashville battled back to tie then take the lead. But instead of curling up into the fetal position, the Kings fought back, tying the game on a Jack Johnson goal to send it into over time.

I’m sorry, but that interference call on Anze Kopitar in overtime was complete Grade-A bullcrap. Seriously, even Nick and Daryl just shook their collective radio heads on that call. And the resulting power play for Nashville proved to be the backbreaker.

The Predators had fresher legs, which proved to be the difference in the game. Curse these late road games. Who do I have to kick in the shins for the Kings to be home more later in the season? Tim Leiweke, come out and get your whoopin’.

Yeah, the signs are overwhelming that the Kings are done. Even Yahoo has stopped running game photos after the Kings lost to St. Louis last Tuesday. I’ve had to search long and hard for anything to post with the game recaps.

Another sign? The bloggers’ interest have all but evaporated, and I’m among them. I continue to watch every game, but it’s hard to find new angles to cover. The areas where they have improved are promising, but until they actually score more… If the Kings continue to score two goals a game the rest of the way, they’ll finish with 200 goals, the least amount in a decade. The last time they scored less was in 1998-99, when they only tallied 189.

• AP: Sullivan’s overtime goal gives Predators comeback win

“It was nice since I had a little bit of nerves coming in, so it was good to help out right away,” Brian Boyle said. “I think it deflected off of something and it was able to get up over his pad.”

• LAKINGS.com’s Royal Road Report: Johnson forces OT

You’ve got to keep going, these are playoff kind of games for us,” said Kings coach Terry Murray. “Playing against a team like Nashville, they’re showing their best and you have to be able to handle the intensity and the work and the pace of the game. When you learn how to work that way on a consistent basis it’s going to help you as you get to grow and to become a team next year.

• Yahoo: Team report

Much of the Kings’ recent struggles can be pinned to a lack of success on the power play. The Kings had only two power-play chances Saturday and did not score a goal. The Kings are now 0-for-12 on the power play in their last three games (0-2-1 record).

They said it

“I really like what we have been doing in third periods lately. We’ve been battling, finding ways to win games, to tie up games to get them to an overtime situation, and tonight was another example of that.”—Kings coach Terry Murray after Saturday’s overtime loss at Nashville.

Looking through purple-hued goggles

• A Queen Among Kings: 36%: Predators 4, Kings 3 (OT)

36% IN THE FACEOFF CIRCLE!!!!!!

From across the aisle, the Nashville view

• Tennessean.com: Another rally gets Predators a much-needed win

So there was at least some reason to believe the Predators’ evening might not be as taxing as some of their previous games.

That didn’t prove to be the case.
The Kings, despite playing their sixth straight road game, jumped on the Predators early, scored first and even led 2-1 going into the third period.

• On the Forecheck: Preds crown Kings in OT, 4-3

When they gave up a tying goal with just 1:04 left in regulation, the Nashville Predators had reason to fear a major detour on the road to the playoffs. A Steve Sullivan goal in overtime sealed the win, however, lifting them into 7th place in the West in front of a sellout crowd at the Sommet Center.

Peeping the dailies

Kings treading water as they pass last season’s mark

Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar (11) shoots the pucks past Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco (35) during the shoot out after regulation play of the NHL hockey game in Dallas, Thursday, March 26, 2009. The Kings won 1-0. (AP Photo/LM Otero)Game 73: Blues 2, Kings 0; Game 74: Kings 1, Stars 0 (shootout)

Lemme get this straight. 120 minutes without a goal? Are you kidding me? 52 shots, and not one tally? What in the Wide World of Sports in going on here.

Look, the NHL season is long, and the rigors of playing 60 minutes each game is exhausting. Never mind that the team is in each game they’ve played this season. They’ve had to learn an entirely new defensive mindset, grueling to say the least. A system that requires two-way play every shift. A system that is focused on locking down their opponents.

And it’s worked. In 2007-2008, the Kings had a 3.17 goals against average, and allowed the third most shots in the league. And their penalty kill? Don’t ask. This season, they’ve improved their GAA to 2.75 and are second only to the Sharks in shots allowed. And their penalty kill is ranked sixth in the whole league.

So why aren’t they in the playoffs? They are tired. Players are falling left and right. Alexander Frolov, the Kings’ leading goal scorer, is now gone for the rest of the road trip with the dreaded lower body injury. Jarret Stoll, the Kings’ best faceoff artist, had to be helped off the ice in the third period against the Stars. The rigors of the rugged system is showing their effects now.

To borrow an analogy from Fight Club… when they started the season, they were all blobs of cookie dough. Now, they are carved out of wood. I’m sure many of them are in the best shape of their athletic careers. At the same time, those players who have a lot of milage already on them may be subject to upgrades in the off-season. Either that, or they are going to have to hit the gym in the off-season.

• AP: Rookie Berglund scores twice in third as Blues beat Kings

The fading Kings are in a 1-5-1 slump and are 2-9-1 in their past dozen games on the road. They walloped the Blues three straight times earlier in the season, but this was the first meeting since Dec. 11.

•  AP: Kings blank Stars in goalless shootout

Williams was up next, and he gave the Kings the extra point when his shot trickled into the net after Turco appeared to make the stop. At first, the referees ruled no-goal, but they went to video replay, which showed the puck over the goal-line.

•Yahoo: Team report

Los Angeles has two goals in the past four games, both on the power play, and hasn’t scored at even strength since a 3-2 win at Boston on March 19.

They said it

“Obviously, he scores goals and, lately, we’ve been having trouble scoring goals. It’s one of those things where we have to learn to play in games like this when we don’t have one of our better players. It’s just another challenge we have to take on.”—Kings captain Dustin Brown, on the loss of wing Alexander Frolov to injury.

Looking through purple-hued googles

• A Queen Among Kings: Sofa King: Blues 2, Kings 0

There are about 10 games left and I’m just hoping the Kings don’t crash land to 15th place in the West, but I actually don’t see them ending in 14th as much of a stretch since the Blues have picked themselves back up and are in contention for a playoff spot. I just don’t understand why the Kings can’t have a season where they’re magically contending for the 8th spot in the last month of the season.

• A Queen Among Kings: Better Than Nothing: Kings 1, Stars 0 (SO)

• The Throne Room: Quick’s Outstanding Play Finally Rewarded With Victory

• Examiner.com: Kings hope shootout victory isn’t too little, too late

Peeping the dailies
Kings lose to the Blues

Kings beat the Stars

Kings’ playoff hopes continue to dwindle with a pair of losses

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 22: Matt Greene #2 of the Los Angeles Kings checks Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks back into the boards on March 22, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) Game 71: Penguins 4, Kings 1;
Game 72: Blackhawks 4, Kings 1

Screw March Madness, Kings fans are in the throes of March Sadness.

For those of us who work in the sports department in the newspaper business are absolutely hammered by college basketball coverage. That explains the lack of updates this weekend from me. Watching games, scratching names off my brackets, watching more games, getting more angry as more teams are eliminated from my picks, watching yet more games, becoming irate and swear never to pick a bracket again. Yeah, it’s been that kind of weekend for me.

Then again, after seeing the Kings get handed back-to-back beatdowns by the Pens and the Hawks, there no no escaping The Suck that was this weekend. With ten games to go, the Kings are all but mathematically out of it. Sure, there are a potential 20 points left to be won, and they are only 7 points back. But so many teams would have to falter, it’s almost more likely the Kings will retire Steve Carlson’s number.

With ten games left, all the Kings can do is possibly play spolier to some playoff teams. But other than messing with Vancouver and Edmonton, what fun is that? Dallas and St. Louis on on the bubble. Meh. There’s a home and home against Phoenix, in April. Yawn. Last game of the season is against the Sharks. Oh well.

So we’re now in that familiar state of flux. Not in the playoffs, and no shot at the top pick of the draft. As a Kings fan, what to do?  Maybe I’m gonna send away for that Rosetta Stone software and learn a language, like maybe French. Maybe I’ll finally get a rolling mat and master making sushi. Repaint the front gate? Ahhh, decisions decisions.

• AP: Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins to victory over Kings

“Los Angeles is a team that works hard on the road,” Sidney Crosby said. “It
was important for us to get the lead. We did that and kept it.”

• AP: Blackhawks end five-game slide, cruise past Kings

“Quick was really good for us,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “In a situation like this, when you’ve got a lot of desperation basically from both sides, Chicago played well. They beat us to pucks. We didn’t generate a lot because they we’re good.”

• LAKings.com: Royal Road Report: Tough debut

“We had the shots, but I think we didn’t go to the net as hard as we should,” Michal Handzus said. “There was a rebound there we just didn’t get to and those were the shots that we should score. They got those (rebounds) sooner than us … and they just took it from there.”

• LAKings.com: Royal Road Report: A Quick 28 stops

The teams had just one win between them over their last nine days entering Sunday’s match. The Kings had a 3-2 overtime win at Boston last Thursday while the Blackhawks came in winless in their last five, including two straight overtime losses.

• Yahoo: Team report

The Kings have not won a game on the road in regulation since they beat San Jose Feb. 19. Since then, they’re 2-8-1 on the road, and the victories came in overtime (Boston) and in a shootout (Minnesota).

They said it

“When you’re down 4-0, you have to keep working at your game, and that is really important when you’re in that situation. We’re a young club that has to figure that out.” – Los Angeles coach Terry Murray after the Pittsburgh game

“We hung in there and had a chance after getting our
power-play goal. Then, they got their lucky third goal, which banked
off the boards and both posts to go in.” – Kings captain Dustin Brown, after the Chicago game

Looking through purple-hued goggles

• The Throne Room: From disappointment, to excitement, and back again

A playoff berth isn’t impossible by any means, but it is extremely unlikely. Regardless, this season has been a success in relative terms. Many thought the Kings would be worse than last years team. One point behind last years’ totals with 11 games left, it seems safe that we will pass that. I think the team will finish within one game, give or take of the .500 mark and end the season with around 80 points.

• A Queen Among Kings: Unnecessary Hit; Penguins 4, Kings 1

With just a few seconds left in a game that you’re winning, is it really necessary to take a shot to someone’s head? Well, Evgeni Malkin thought it was. He gave the cold shoulder to Wayne Simmonds and the whistle blew to end the game. I’m not even upset about the loss. Who gives a shit when someone’s head is involved? Who cares if it’s the league superstar hitting a rookie’s head? In this case, every single Kings fan whereas every Pittsburgh fan probably cheered the hit.

• A Queen Among Kings: A Poor Outing: Blackhawks 4, Kings 1

The poorest stat from this game was that the Kings only had 15 shots in the entire game, which wasn’t surprising at all considering the way the first and second period were panning out. They had 5 shots on net in each period, the Blackhawks ended with 32 shots, and I just wasn’t impressed with anything in this game. Things finally picked up when Doughty scored on the PP at 16:54, but nothing else happened for my boys.

From across the aisle, the Pittsburgh view

• Post-Gazette: Penguins make it three-in-a-row with win over Kings

• Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Pens topple Kings to extend points streak

• PensBurgh: BEAT LA… The Penguins did, 4-1.

• Empty Netters: Penguins 4, Kings 1

From across the aisle, the Chicago view

• Chicago Tribune: Chicago Blackhawks end 5-game winless streak, beat Los Angeles Kings

• Chicago Sun-Times: Sharp scores twice as Hawks end five-game skid

• The Fifth Feather: Blackhawks 4, Kings 1

• Second  City Hockey: Hey … I remember this feeling

• Hockee Night: Looking Sharp: Hawks 4, Kings 1

Peeping the dailies

Kings snatch two points from the Bruins’ clutches

Boston Bruins' Dennis Wideman (6) battles Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty (8) for the puck in the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 19, 2009, in Boston.Game 70: KIngs 3, Bruins 2 (overtime)

Earlier this week, when NHL.com ran a poll on their homepage, asking fans to select their choice for the Calder Trophy, Drew Doughty was nowhere to be found. The rookie defenseman was omitted in favor of Patrik Berglund, Steve Mason, Pekka Rinne, Bobby Ryan, Kris Versteeg and one of the Kings’ opponents Thursday night, Blake Wheeler. Apparently, being the leading rookie scoring defenseman in the league with the highest time on-ice time doesn’t count.

But he made sure that East Coast-biased media got a taste of Doughnuts, scoring the tying goal with less that 2 minutes to go in the third period, then assisting on Dustin Brown’s overtime goal to help the Kings scratch out an overtime win. Doughty led all skaters in time on the ice yet again, playing almost double than “Calder hopeful” Wheeler, who finished the game with nothing to show for his effort, other than sweaty socks.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll keep banging that drum: Drew Doughty MUST be considered as one of the top contenders for the Calder, the MVP award for rookies. You can try to explain to me why some of these other players might come close to Doughty, but you will have to admit that none of the players mean as much to their individual teams as Doughty does to the Kings.

NHL.com, you should be ashamed. All you did was open up ESPN’s Rookie Tracker and put the top four skaters and two goalies up, without even thinking that there’s been a front-runner all season. A player who has helped turn around of the the league’s most under-achieving squad, allowing them to turn the page and start changing the culture of the franchise. How can you not mention Doughty’s name in any conversation about Rookie of the Year?

The Calder was last presented to a defenseman back in 2002-03, when it was awarded to Barret Jackman, when he was 21. He had 19 points and 190 penalty minutes. And had already logged six years down in the juniors and minors before breaking into the NHL. Before that, it was Bryan Berard, who at 48 points at age 19. Both players show the absolute wide spectrum of what a defensman could be: from a stay-at-home blueliner to a high-scoring threat from the point.

Doughty is 18, and already has 23 points. If you had to pick a spot between those two points on the defenseman curve, he’;d be right smack in the middle, a player who can do both. You can’t deny the maturity of the kid, with his steady play and inate hockey sense. And look at the players that made NHL.com’s “Calder Favorite” list: Mason and Berglund are 21, Ryan is 22, Versteeg and Wheeler are 23 and Rinne? Well, he’s almost the same age I was when I finally got my B.A. from Cal State Fullerton. These guys aren’t rookies, by any sense of the imagination.

Doughty for Calder. Enough said.

• AP: Brown’s OT goal caps Kings’ comeback win over Bruins

“Whether we’re on the road or at home, teams are coming up against us and it’s almost like they’ve got the upper hand already,” Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said, “because they’re the more confident team.”

• Yahoo: Team report

The Kings bucked a couple of negative trends with Thursday’s victory. They had been 3-23-4 when trailing after two periods, 2-16-5 when trailing after one period and 5-22-7 when allowing the first goal this season. The Kings also had an 0-5-1 record in their last six road games.

• Royal Road Report: Brown wins it

They said it

“They’re the best team in the Eastern Conference. To be able to play with them like that and outshoot them and end up winning the game in overtime just gives us a lot of confidence.” – Drew Doughty, Kings defenseman

More Kings observations

• Frozen Royalty: Los Angeles Kings Have Much To Learn, Much To Look Forward To

Yes,
it is time to write the epitaph for the Kings, who will miss the
playoffs once again in the 2008-09 season. The big reason? Their lack
of consistent play, in large part because of their relative youth and
inexperience.

• Examiner.com: Are the Kings facing checkmate?

After
all, even the most optimistic of Kings’ fanatics are probably feeling a
little disappointed. And it isn’t even in the fact that the Kings lost
to the Nashville Predators 4-3 at Staples Center on Monday night,
marking a third straight loss overall and ending a three-game home
winning streak. Their mood probably has more to do with how they lost.

• Press Box Perspective: Time to stop believin’

Unfortunately for NHL fans in southern California, the
only hockey team in the area making the playoffs this year might just
be the Ontario Reign. In good news, the arena is beautiful, prices are
lower, and parking is free. The down side, of course, is that all the
NHL playoffs may have to be on TV or require travel for those who live
in southern California. There is the possibility that the
not-so-distant future will have both the Kings and the Ducks in the
playoffs, though. The future looks bright for hockey fans in the
LA/Orange County area.

• Inside Hockey: Problems at Left Wing for Kings

• Inside Hockey: Kings are set at Right Wing

Looking through purple-hued goggles

• A Queen Among Kings: Never Would Have Guessed: Kings 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

Two games ago, they played the Nashville Predators (a bubble team in the West) and they couldn’t pull out the win. Last night they played the Boston Bruins where they were up and down and all over the place in terms of passing, shooting, and teamwork in general. They managed to get the win in overtime (3-2), but wow, it was a shaky game for the Kings.

• Battle Of California: Last game of the season

The Kings play the Boston Bruins tonight, who are… good?  I don’t know what happened in Boston this year, but for some reason I think every single person on their roster exceeded expectations.  Who the hell is David Krejci and why does he have 63 points?  Dennis Wideman has 44 points?  They’re probably going to have 6 20-goal scorers this season and have a few more players that could join that club if they get hot.  And yet, absolutely no one is going to pick them to win the Cup.  They’re the Utah Jazz of the NHL.

From across the aisle, the Boston view

• Boston.com: Bruins let Kings take over

The loss underscored some ugly truths about the Bruins. They’re playing scared. They’re downright polite when they take leads. They think twice about turning in 60-minute efforts. And they’re not committed to being as hungry and desperate as their opponents.

• Cornelius Hardenbergh & The Hockey Blogging Adventure: WHAT THE HELL BRUINS

Overtime time. The bruins for some awful reason are trying to get it to the shootout. I don’t know why, it doesn’t make any sense what the hell is going on with this team why are the L A KINGS more successful in February and March than the Bruins? Shit.

• Hub Hockey: Really? Bruins Lose To The Kings In OT

It’s totally between their ears at this point. They have the talent, I know they have the drive and desire, but they were tighter than hell in the third last night, in contrast to LA’s “what the hell, we got nothing to lose” approach.

• Bruins Blog: Final, Kings 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

“Maybe if we got a goal on the power play, it would change things and get momentum,” said Michael Ryder. “When we didn’t score early in the game on a couple power plays, they got the momentum and started taking it to us.”

• TheBruinsBlog.net: At least the faceoffs were phenomenal

• Stanley Cup of Chowder: B’s Game Notes: Kings 3 Bruins 2 OT

Peeping the dailies

Is this further proof of the SI Cover Curse?



Bruce K. Hollingdrake, the owner/editor of thehockeywriters.com, posted this Sports Illustrated cover dated April 8, 1968. It adds fuel to the debate of whether there is a Sports Illustrated Cover Curse.

This was the Kings first season, and they were faced off against the Minnesota North Stars. The Kings had home ice advantage, and had beaten the North Stars two straight games. Then SI ran this cover, of a sprawling Terry Sahchuk attempting a sliding save on the Rangers’ Orland Kurtenbach and Reg Fleming. Why they chose a shot of the Kings vs. Rangers, rather than L.A. vs. Minnesota is beyond me. The headline makes it sound L.A. was actually in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Kings traveled to Minnesota, where the North Stars took the next two games, 7-5 and 3-2. They travelled back to L.A., where the Kings squeaked out a win in Game 5, then back to Minnesota, where they took North Stars to overtime in a deciding Game 6. The Curse kicked in at the beginning of overtime, sending the series back to L.A. The Kings lost Game 7, in an absolute drubbing, 9-4.

There was some residual effect on the Rangers as well. They fell to the Blackhawks in 6 games, proving The Curse knows no boundaries.

I could be flippant and state something to the effect of “And thus, the Kings were off and running for 40 more years of frustration and grief for their fans.” But I won’t. Too catty. I will simply point to Exhibit A and blame the magazine for cursing the Kings in this one instance. The Kings returned to the playoffs the following year, and made it to the second round of the playoffs.

But this is more damning evidence that appearing on the SI cover brings bad mojo. Have you seen other examples of the SI Curse on other hockey teams?

Kings can’t finish it out, lose third straight

H0ckeywood Tonight

I love Human Guinea Pig Inflatable Ball races. That is all.

Kopitar was the Man in the faceoff dot in the first, winning 80% of the drops. Then he lost 5 out of 9 faceoffs in the second. He needs to improve that in the third.

It’s back and forth, before Jack Johnson gets two minutes for interference.And on the penalty, Bailey the mascot is down by the ice. Since tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, he is Bailey O’Bailey, and is dressed in a neon green t-shirt. He immediately tries to rile upo the crowd by hammering on the ice, when a Nashville player skates by. First, he just pounds on the glass. Then he leaps up and follows the guy. Finally, Bailey hauls off and kicks at the glass, hard, much to the delight of the Staples crowd. And if he doesn’t feel that in the morning, I’d be surprised.

The Kings kill the Johnson penalty, but the Predators are playing classic slowdown hockey. Do you know who hates slowdown hockey? Zeus. And you know what he does? He has the puck behind the net, skates out, and fires toward Pekka (…snort). The puck deflects off his pad and in the back of the net, as Staples Center erupts. Several chants break out on the resulting play, as the fans finally make themselves known.

The Bailey shananigans continues, as he bounds down the aisle, carrying what appears to be a pie. He taps a Predators’ fan sitting on the aisle on the shoulder, then smashes him right in the face. If the guy wasn’t a plant, I’d be surprised there isn’t a lawsuit filed. He got h-a-m-m-e-r-e-d. It was impressive.

Anze Kopitar checks J.P. Dumont into the boards awkwardly, then stands there looking worried. Then gets knocked back to reality by a Nashville defender, as Anze skates off. No penalty is called, but you could tell Anze had no intention of hurting the guy. He’s still new to this gritty, D-oriented system, and I’m sure he felt bad. However, Dumont was miling it a bit, as some of the Predator scratches sitting next to me were cracking up at Dumont’s performance of just poised there, feigning injury. They help him off the ice as play continues.

Ryan Jones puts Nashville back on top, thanks to a miscommunication of defense. Quincey thought someone had his man, but that one was all his. And we’re getting to crunch time.

Murray pulls Ersberg, just as Steve Sullivan gets a penalty. 6-on-4 for a minute, as the Kings hurry to get one back. Pekka (…snort) stops play with 22 seconds left. Murray takes a timeout to give his players some time to recoop and formulate their next plan of attack. Handzus, Brown, Kopitar,  Quincey and Frolov are out there to take the faceoff, but Nashville pulls it off, handing the Kings their third straight loss.

Final score: Predators 4, Kings 3

Another late goal finds the Kings down by a goal

H0ckeywood Tonight

The Kings start the second period, as Wayne Simmonds gets the gate for hooking 25 seconds in. It’s a frsutrating call, especially after the Weber goal. And a wide-open Joel Ward finds himself the recipient of a brilliant pass from Dumont to put the Predators up by one goal. The crowd at Staples just throws up their collective hands in disgust.

There must be a soft spot in the ice right at the middle of the ice near the Preds’ blue line. Several players have had blowouts and have fallen to the ice, in what appears as a lack of traction. Let’s see if the refs monitor the situation as the ice deteriorates throughout the night.

In what can only be termed the Phantom Zone line, Gauthier, Ivanans and Westgarth all share a shift on the ice. I could almost feel the planet’s gravitational pull shift a bit, as I await some sort of physical confrontation on par with General Zod, Ursa and Non in Superman II. You know the pain is gonna come. Does this constitute “appointment” fighting? If the game continues to tilt in favor of Nashville, all bets are off.

Jarret Stoll gets yanked for shooting the puck over the glass, as the Preds take back to the ice on the PP. This time, the Kings kill the penalty, and they get a sustained stay in the Predators’ zone, until Koistinen gets called for hooking. And it’s Ted “Don’t call Me Teddy” Purcell with a power play goal to tie this game at 2-2.

But the excitement is quickly muted, as Steve Sullivan scores at the top of the slot to lift the Predators 3-2, with less than two minutes left in the second period. Again, a late goal sucks the life out of Staples, as we head into the third.

Second period: Predators 3, Kings 2

Kings allow Predators to tie it late on the first

H0ckeywood Tonight

The Kings host the Nashville Predators in what has become the most important game in the season. How overplayed is that term? I mean, every game is important, and since the Kings haven’t still been in contention this late in the season since 2001, there is indeed a sense of urgency now. But, I wouldn’t say it’s the most important game in the season. They are still mathematically in the race, and a loss won’t bump them out. So, whenever you hear “most important game of the season,” just do what I do. Nothing.

Sean O’Donnell and Drew Doughty start, along with Calder, Handzus and Simmonds, who gets a rousing round of applause after his impressive game Saturday against San Jose. A surprise, (at least to me) was the start of Erik Ersberg, coming off a 38-save game against the Sharks. It looks as if coach Terry Murray will reward the hot goaltender, as the upcoming schedule is just brutal.

Shea Weber gets put in the box for tripping, as the 12th-ranked PP unit takes to the ice. Problem is, the Predators are ranked third in the league on the PK, and they prove why by killing Weber’s penalty handily.

Brown checks J.P. Dumont slightly into the boards, and was met by a vicious roughing call by Jerred Smithson. Stoll, Handzus and Purcell have an impressive shift, with crisp passes and a shot on net, that trickled through the crease. But Pekka Rinne (…snort, Pekka) maintains his cool and knocks it away.

Kyle Calder then gets called for hooking, and the Kings PK unit takes to the ice, ranked 8th in the NHL. The Predators, who are tied with the Oilers for eighth in the Western Conference Monday night, have the second-worst power play coming in. The Kings easily handle the penalty, and play resumes as Calder skates off the ice. The line of Kopitar, Brown and Purcell have some success keeping the puck in deep, but still haven’t clicked yet.

A funny thing at Staples, the scoreboard reads the Kings have 20 shots to Nashville’s 2 at the second TV timeout. And not just at center ice. To my count, the Kings have 4-5 shots. They fix it after the Ice Girls, adorned in green t-shirts exit the ice. That’s right, it’s St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow… huh. I rarely drink, so it’s lost on me. Maybe I’ll celebrate with a Shamrock Shake after the game.

The Frolov, Stoll, Harrold line have several nice attempts at Pekka (…snort), but the D was there. Not so next shift, when Brown’s shot deflects off Pekka’s stick, then off the post, skittering behind the goaltender. Kopitar swoops in and tallies his 25th goal of the season to put the Kings up 1-0.

I like the resiliency of Purcell on that top line. He keeps getting a ton of attention when he has the puck, but he has shown the poise the Kings need on the wing, getting the puck back to the defensemen or to Kopitar whenever pressured.

With 14 seconds left in the period, Weber shoots one past Ersberg to deflate the Staples Center crowd.

First period: Kings 1, Predators 1