By Surly Jacob.
Brayden Schenn likes it in Los Angeles.
He wants to stay, and he is going to make it very hard on Kings’ management to deny him. The 5th overall selection in the 2009 draft gave the proverbial middle finger to his junior eligibility tonight against the Anaheim Ducks with a two goal performance, earning him first star of the game.
Stopping 19 of 20 shots, hopeful goalie and 2nd star of the game Jonathan Bernier led the Kings to a 4-1 victory in an effort that was as confident as the score suggests. The lone goal against, scored by Saku Koivu, did little to stop the home team from securing their second preseason win in four games.
Beating the Ducks is always a joy and a pleasure, but what made this contest particularly thrilling, aside from the consistently cohesive team play, was that two of the Kings’ goals were scored right where they should be, in the blue paint.
The Kings shot out of the gate, carrying the play to the Ducks, who were without star forward Ryan Getzlaf. Just minutes into the contest, Ryan Smyth drew a hooking call against Koivu with a strong backcheck in the neutral zone. With two penalties in the opening period, Koivu looked right at home in a Ducks’ jersey skating over to the sin bin. On the ensuing power play, Williams coughed up the puck at the point, but recovered in his own end with a little help from Anze Kopitar.
Williams then dished the puck to a rushing Jack Johnson who blazed down the right wing, eluded a check and sent a centering feed to Schenn who put the puck past goalie Jonas Hiller’s right pad as he stood in the crease, just like an NHLer should, to give the Kings an early 1-0 lead.
Not to be outdone, in the second period Ryan Smyth scored the goal he was acquired to score. Smyth picked up a puck in the right face-off circle, quickly cut to the middle and, crashing the net, slipped a shot between Hiller’s private parts to put the Kings up 2-0. Soon after, the Kings found themselves on a 3-on-1 break, thanks to a strong defensive effort from Captain Dustin Brown. Rookie defenseman Thomas Hickey carried the puck in to the offensive zone, faked a shot and passed to Schenn, who roofed it over Hiller’s right shoulder as Brown crashed the net, for his second goal of the contest.
Late in the second period, Koivu scored the sole Duck’s goal from the slot off a centering feed from the goal line that was never intended for him, but was deflected by a sliding defender on to Koivu’s stick. The goal did little to boost the Ducks.
The Kings came out in the third period and protected their two goal lead with strong play in the neutral zone, holding the Ducks to just 6 shots and never allowing them to surge, try as they might. Kopitar put the game out of reach for the Ducks with an empty netter from his own blue line to end the game.
While he was not credited with a point, rookie defenseman Alec Martinez deserves a nod. He played a remarkable game, and though it was his penalty that led to the Ducks goal, Martinez skated with grace, often rushing the puck up the ice with blistering speed and poise.
Of course, there were some negatives to this game. Kopitar and Brown were less than spectacular. It was hard to notice Brown at times over the noise his line-mates Brayden Schenn and Kyle Clifford made. Kopitar was strong on the puck, but did little to generate quality scoring chances, his right winger Justin Williams spending the most time with the puck when the first line was on the ice. The Kings also were the benefactors of luck at times, watching an unhindered Koivu, who seemed to always be on the ice, whiff on an open net not once, but twice.
On a stranger note, there were only two fights during the game, which is far less than was predicted by those who looked down the roster before the game. Raitis Ivanans kept his gloves on, as did the much maligned Evgeni Artyukin. Kevin Westgarth got into a short scrap with George Parros, with neither fighter landing much a punch. Wayne Simmonds had a fight with Steve McCarthy that lasted all of two punches, both coming from Simmonds. The second of the two, an uppercut, dropped McCarthy to his knees, where he remained.
More cuts to the roster are expected tomorrow, but one must imagine the decision is going to be very difficult given the strong performances from Schenn and Bernier. This writer would not be surprised to see Schenn get a few games in during the regular season, as he did not look the least bit out of place on the ice at Staples.
The 11,995 fans in attendance certainly got their money’s worth, catching a glimpse of the future in Schenn, and the present in Smyth. We may be one week away from Frozen Fury in Vegas, but preseason or not, after a strong team performance tonight, we are ready to roll the dice on our beloved Kings.
Here are the highlights for the game, courtesy of Kingsvision.
Go Kings Go.
Categories: L.A. Kings News