Something happened tonight that Kings’ fans haven’t seen in a long time.
In years past, such an answer would be acceptable. However, tonight was different. This season has been different. This writer, in particular, has felt a certain magic that has been absent from the Los Angeles Kings since the glory days of Wayne Gretzky. This team is good. This team is for real. And tonight, Kings’ fans everywhere got to see five special players sent off to compete for their respective countries at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Tonight marked the first time this season the Kings have faced the Colorado Avalanche. A team remarkably similar to the Kings in many aspects, the Avalanche have been considered quite the surprise this season. Riding the energy and hard work of such stellar rookies as Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, the win column has been piling up in Denver after only one short season in the cellar of the league. The Kings are in a similar boat, although one in which they’ve been astray in far longer than the Avalanche. Nevertheless, both teams now sit firmly in playoff contention in the thick of the western conference, yet the better team won tonight. Jonathan Quick posted his second shutout of the year, and more importantly, his 35th win. This not only ties a Kings’ franchise record, set by Mario Lessard before Quick was even born, but plants him firmly atop the entire National Hockey League in wins for a goaltender. As Hall of Fame announcer Bob Miller pointed out after the game, this is a remarkable statistic for such a young goaltender that is possibly being overlooked throughout the hockey world. Regardless, Quick posted the win and will be wearing red, white, and blue over the next three weeks.
Goals scored by the Kings came from former Av, Brad Richardson, Anze Kopitar (his 28th of the season, surpassing his goal total from last season), and Oscar Moller. The Kings set the tone early in the first period, thanks in large part to Rich Clune. After being pushed into Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson, and making sure the Vezina caliber netminder felt it, Clune decided to get acquainted with Colorado agitator, Cody Mcleod, landing two hard rights to Mcleod’s head. The pace was set at that point, and this writer quite honestly fell in love with Clune’s somewhat maniacal grin. The Kings followed Clune’s example, finishing every check and asserting their physical dominance over the Avalanche throughout the first period, but the score remained 0-0 as the buzzer rang. Early into the second, Rob Scuderi received a questionable five minute major for boarding, and the Kings were forced to spend a quarter of the period on the penalty kill. They responded by clogging up the neutral zone and generally giving the Avalanche no room. As the last second ticked off on Scuderi’s major, the Kings came alive. A little over one minute later, Scuderi himself fired a slapshot from the point, which Richardson deflected past Anderson to give the Kings their first tally of the night. It was all downhill at that point for the Avs. Early into the third, Kopitar zipped a wrist shot from the halfwall, a brilliant move we’ve seen far too often from the Solvenian Zombie, past Anderson to make the score 2-0. Minutes later, Moller received a pass with speed down the left wing, and sealed the deal for the Kings with a low hard wrist shot the squeaked through Anderson’s seven hole. Quick held strong for the shutout and Staples roared with approval.
The win puts the Kings only a point back, with a game in hand, from fourth place Phoenix. The Kings have a record of 10-1-1 in their last twelve games. The team came into this game with a mindset of righting some of the wrongs that ended in losses against Anaheim and Edmonton, and did just that. This team is learning. This team is growing. This team is for real.
Kings’ fans everywhere have bid adieu to Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, Michal Handzus, and Jonathan Quick as they head to the Olympics. More importantly, Kings’ fans everywhere get a chance to reflect upon how truly special this season has been. Regardless of how this very young and inexperienced team may fare in the playoffs this season, it is obvious they’ve arrived on the scene of the NHL. Kings’ fans have witnessed Kopitar go from NHL leading scorer, to nearly invisible, to dominant once more. Kings’ fans have seen Quick go from soft goals, to battling through mental adversity, to leading the NHL in wins. Kings’ fans have seen Doughty go from Calder contending rookie, to one of the top scoring defenseman in the NHL, to handpicked by Steve Yzerman himself as the youngest player on Team Canada, perhaps the greatest honor of all.
Magic is back at Staples. And boy does it feel good.
Categories: L.A. Kings News