DESPITE LOSING 3-1 TO THE COYOTES, ITS GOOD TO BE BACK
Where to begin.
One would think the game is the thing to talk about, and I will, but not yet.
Walking into Staples Center for the first time after the long offseason is a treat. I was late. I missed the first 10 minutes of the game and the first Phoenix goal.
I didn’t miss the fans.
Though the crowd was sparse, the passion was there. Where else I can yell “Go Kings Go!” for 2 solid minutes and be greeted with applause and camaraderie instead of a straight jacket? Nowhere.
Its good to be back.
To all my Kings’ brethren, particularly those in and around section 315, I missed you.
To the Kings on the ice, I missed you too.
The game itself was a bit lackluster. Phoenix, being a highly skilled but rather soft team, did not present the kind of wild affair we heard against Colorado last night. They did, however, present a challenge for our boys in purple and black.
Going down early 1-0, the Kings struggled to get the offense going. I saw good things from the new look first line. Al Montoya saved himself from embarrassment with several nice saves of Kopitar’s wrist shots. Ryan Smyth looked strong, as did Dustin Brown. While there is some chemistry there, the top line did struggle a bit to find their step.
Chalk it up to the defense, or lack thereof.
Unfortunately, its time for some criticism, as is the case with most losses.
Drew Doughty made some spectacular plays. He also looked like he wasn’t taking the game too seriously. I utter such condemnation because of a lack of hustle. Sure, Drew made some patented beautiful rushes up ice and through the opposition. He threw some big hits. He also left Willie Mitchell out to dry on several plays. Particularly on the Coyote’s third goal, an empty netter, in which Drew casually glided behind his own blueline, seemingly neglectful of the fact that Mitchell was under intense pressure from two Coyote forwards. The result was Drew just barely being in place to receive a pass from his new partner on defense and subsequently bouncing his own pass of a Coyote shin, resulting immediately in an empty net goal and a nail in the coffin of the Kings’ first game in front of the home town crowd.
Jack Johnson…. hmmm. Jack Johnson should be a forward. I am aware that the new Terry Murray offense requires the defenseman to pinch low and pinch often. However it does not require Jack to forecheck so often. Regardless, Jack forechecked more often than he hung back. 2-on-1 rushes against were regular on Johnson’s shift. I have to hope that this will not continue when there are 2 points at stake.
Jonathan Quick was all over the place. Caught out of position on several plays, and giving up some all too juicy rebounds, the game winning goal should not have found its way behind the goal line. As Bobby said to me after the game, the goal was Labarbera-esque. The shot came from Quick’s left, at the goal line, and somehow found its way behind the Kings’ #1 netminder. In the stands, fans cheered for the save until they saw the referee pointing emphatically behind Quick.
OK, now that the negativity is out of my system, I can rave about what I liked.
Andrei Loktionov stood out. He played twice his size, often fending off numerous, larger Coyote skaters along the boards. While he had trouble getting his shots off, his skill around the net was clear. Smart is the name of Loktionov’s game.
Oscar Moller is bigger, and he is playing bigger. It would appear that the days of Oscar being easily muscled off the puck are, for the most part, over.
Trevor Lewis was a hound on the puck. He made a few stupid plays, but overall I thought he had a strong outing.
Brayden Schenn scored the Kings’ lone goal. Schenn is a tough player and it showed. Without fear Schenn battled all night along the boards.
Richard Clune did the only thing he does. I’ve decided I don’t care to see him on the Kings’ roster.
Kyle Clifford may have had a strong game had he been able to play in most of it. Clifford missed 19 minutes of the game after receiving a penalty for unsportsman-like conduct, another for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct as result of the instigator. Clifford goaded, punched and threw the larger Paul Bissonnette to the ice before laughing his way to the locker room.
To be perfectly frank, I had trouble following the game. Not because of the beer, but rather because I so enjoyed being back with my brothers and sisters in puck. Save for one incident, that saw a nimrod with a buzzcut try to intimate me into not cursing around his niece and nephew, it was an absolute pleasure being around those as obsessed with the Kings as I. Back to the nimrod with a buzzcut, I have a few things to say on the subject of cursing at hockey games. I do not do it intently. Foul language is a part of my repertoire and when the swell of emotion washes over me, I can only apologize after the fact for the things that fly out of my mouth. However, I always muse at people who have no qualms about their young children watching big sweaty men punch each other in the face, but find mere words to be uncouth. Or should I say ‘wrong’, seeing as ‘uncouth’ is a word I doubt this particular jockstrap of a human, and his ilk, can comprehend.
Back to the game.
The loss is unimportant. The aberrant performances from Johnson and Doughty stand out but are hopefully just that, aberrant. For the most part, it was clear the Kings’ were playing their first game together. Doughty was often looking over his shoulder to see what Mitchell was doing, a momentary hesitation that will wash away with games played. Lines such as Clune-Lewis-Simmonds and Clifford-Schenn-Moller were understandably unaware of each others tendencies in game situations. This game brought my question from yesterday to the forefront; how valid are the opinions we draw from single preseason games?
Insinuative, at best.
I want to finish on a note about Jacob Muzzin. This kid is very close to being ready for the NHL. His game is rounded, and his head is screwed on straight. While he did not display anything spectacular at either end of the ice, he was invisible except when doing something positive. He was mostly visible. Do not count Muzzin out. He will have a career in this league.
So, the Ducks are next, and I can’t wait to yell and scream and hoot and holler and give Anaheim fans some good old fashioned razzing. The Kings’ may have lost this game (as well as the other radio-only game in Phoenix) but there is only reason to rejoice.
I know I promised you a proper post game report, and you will get one, once I witness a proper game.
For now, Kings hockey is back, and that is good enough for me.
Go Kings Go!