By Bobby Scribe.
Once per season, a sea of Kings fans storm Sin City and descend on the strip. They come not just for the casinos, shows, lights and decadence but to bring their passion, pride and powerful love for puck to the host who dares to extend an invitation.
This season, the MGM Grand again opened its Grand Garden Arena to the Kings and Avalanche. The arena accommodates boxing, concerts and other sporting events. On September 26, what was likely over ten thousand Kings fans with lungs to spare packed the arena to witness the twelfth edition of Frozen Fury.
The game was in all respects a Kings “home game.” Avalanche fans found themselves badly outnumbered and on the receiving end of boos and jeers. This writer was particularly amused by the pack mentality and teamwork that instinctively took over when Kings fans surrounded Colorado fans in the stands and directed their well timed and relentless “all in good fun” verbal assault on any man or woman who dared to dawn the “A” at the center of their jersey.
The first period displayed intense play by both teams. The Kings put more pucks on net but struggled to maintain consistent pressure in the offensive zone. Colorado took the lead in the first period on an odd goal by Wojtek Wolski whose pass deflected back to him. Wolski beat a surprised Jonathan Quick. The Kings, with just under a minute and one-half left in the period, tied it up on a hard Jack Johnson shot from the point that Alexander Frolov deflected in.
The second saw the Avalanche jump to a 3 – 1 lead on two goals by Darcy Tucker (not a typographical error). One could persuasively argue that any game in which Darcy Tucker scores two goals in one period isn’t a defensive gem and one would be right in that analysis of the Kings performance in the second period up to the third goal. Ryan Smyth did what he could to create a one man traffic jam in front of Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson but the Kings could not get shots through at opportune times. Meanwhile Jonathan Quick did not help his own cause by giving up rebounds he was unable to control, and which led directly to the Avalanche goal.
In stepped Wayne Simmonds. He surprised many fans last season with his strong play, passing and defensive skills as well as willingness to play a strong and gritty game along the boards. Management rewarded him with a full season with the big club as a rookie.
The talented and consistent right winger did not disappoint. While he did find himself in a few scraps in that rookie season, Simmonds appears to have added a whole new dimension to his on ice play – a Chuck Norris style of hand to hand combat. For the second time this preseason, Simmonds delivered a knock out punch during a fight. This game, Colorado center Matt Hendricks received the blow that left him weak kneed. Simmonds backed away and drew in a cocked right hand as soon as Hendricks went down. Before Hendricks managed to raise his head from the ice, with the help of a physician, a pool of his blood that took more than five minutes to clean up had formed on the ice surface.
The ten stitches and broken nose should be a stern reminder to Hendricks next time he even considers taking a cheap shot at Jack Johnson, the impetus for Simmonds’ fight.
An amusing moment followed when Kevin Westgarth’s line took the ice following the play and Westgarth skated toward the blood and eyed it with a sense of admiration.
Here is a video of the two fights.
Following the brawl, the Kings fought back as a team. Drew Doughty scored during a 4 on 4 and Anze Kopitar tied the game after he tipped in a Jack Johnson pass. The third period was a back and forth battle though the Kings had the momentum and Jonathan Quick did not allow Colorado to take it back with some game saving point blank saves. Kopitar, who was already having a good game, found an extra gear in the third. He used his speed to blow past defenders and opened up the ice for his wingers for some excellent scoring opportunities. One such opportunity caused an Avalanche player to cover the puck in the crease and led to a penalty shot. Kopitar was appropriately chosen for the task and he did not disappoint. A subtle move to the backhand opened up Craig Anderson’s pads just enough for Kopitar, to the sudden explosion of the arena, to slide the puck five hole and give the Kings the 4-3 lead. For one moment after the go ahead goal, Grand Gardens felt like the old Fabulous Forum.
Wayne Simmonds finished the scoring with an empty net goal at the last second of the game to complete a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
Kopitar, Simmonds, Doughty, Smyth (who had words with Adam Foote and not the “long time no see, hope all is well” type) and Jack Johnson were the standouts for the Kings. Quick came into his own during the last half of the game. Kopitar’s play was particularly fulfilling as his offseason conditioning showed its results, especially in the third period. The evidence was also apparent before the game as I saw him in the MGM casino signing autographs and he appeared to be much leaner than last season. Clune left the game with what was later labeled the always helpfully descriptive “lower body” injury. After the game, the fans inched, waddled and stepped through the arena past several blocked off exits. Everyone, as if we just concluded a theme park ride and found ourselves in the gift store, were let into restaurant row. I was amused by one adult fan who stood approximately 5 foot 4 inches tall and sported a Ducks shirt with “Perry” on the back. The always entertaining Ryan (known by many as “Duck Hunter” as is inscribed at the back of his jersey) walked up to said fan for a chat. While I didn’t hear what Ryan had to say, I assumed he was rationally explaining to the lost soul that to wear such a shirt at Frozen Fury while surrounded by over ten thousand fierce and somewhat petulant Kings fan may be sending the wrong message.
Go Kings Go!
Categories: L.A. Kings News