I read earlier today that our entire first line would be a healthy scratch tonight. My first thought – that’s interesting but why? My post game impression of the move? Smart. Stripping down the team to its naked core by removing its top three forwards did two things: First, it magnified the remaining players’ performance. Imagine placing each of the rookies and one veteran in particular (I am looking at you Jarret) under the microscope. Each mistake was more apparent because the first line was not there to otherwise mask it or remove it from memory with the next shift. Second, it provided a fair and final opportunity for each of the rookies to be on the same stage at the same time to give their coach the last game impression before some may be sent to their respective junior team or Manchester.
The final score was 3-2 in overtime. The Kings played a good overall game. The Ducks just are not a very good team and when the Kings’ second, third and two fourth lines (one of them all rookies) takes the Birds’ alleged A squad to OT, that should speak volumes about what Duck fans have to look forward to this season – get used to the word “roast”, kids. I am actually disappointed we lost this game. We were in control through most of the three periods. If I must give credit to something fowl, I will do so to Hiller. He saved their butts tonight and played well, in an otherwise overpaid and overrated kind of way.
Let’s start with Jake Muzzin. He is a gem. Every game, Jake gets better. Tonight, I saw crisp passes stick to stick on the breakout. He connected the passes with his defensive partner or forward in stride. Smart in his own end, Jake used his size but left himself in position to avoid an outnumbered situation. I haven’t looked at the stats yet, but I will guess he played at or about 20 minutes tonight. I didn’t see him falter once, even under intense pressure on the penalty kill. Jake received good powerplay time as well and though he didn’t get on the scoreboard with a goal or assist, he kept the momentum alive by keeping the puck in and ensuring passes left his stick quickly to force defenders out of the box and moving laterally. Lanes opened. He snapped a couple of nice shots on goal. On any given night, if he continues to play like this, he will be rewarded with goals and assists.
Jonathan Bernier. If you could plan a polar opposite style from Jonathan Quick, Bernier may be it. Calm in net. No excess movements. Efficient. So square to the shooter at all times that pucks just bounced off his crest. His lateral movement isn’t as dynamic as Quick’s but it doesn’t need to be. Bernier was in position and gave the Kings a chance to win. Each of the three goals against him would have been a goal on any netminder the far majority of the time (nothing contained herein is intended as a compliment to the Ducks).
Before we go further, let me address this House of Horrors called the Honda Center and its residents. It occurred to me today of what this arena reminds me. You have seen zombie movies, right?
The era doesn’t matter. 70′s, 80′s, 90′s, present day, no difference.
Thousands of dead but risen beings walking around with peeled skin, black eyes, moaning and groaning while they seek to devour you alive…now, take away one feature and add another. Remove the intent to cannibalize. Replace it with said zombies devouring saturated fats and carbs as they get fatter and dumber. Now throw in several thousand Kings fans in the middle of it all trying to tolerate this horror and navigate through for over two hours and you have a Kings v. Ducks game at the Honda Center.
To my immediate left in section 201, row H were two ladies who proceeded to talk during the entire game about everything other than hockey. Multiply this madness by 1000 and I have little doubt that most Kings fans had to suffer through some form of this in one way or another. We also had the ugly kid 2 rows in front of me who kept trying to get a “let’s go Ducks” chant going while everyone, and I mean everyone, within ear shot of this chunk of a 9 to 10-year-old looked at him like he was some foreign exchange student who said something cute that nobody could understand. This reminds me…what is it with male Kings fans with female Duck fan mates? You know how many men with Kings’ jerseys I saw tonight holding a woman’s hand who was wearing a Ducks jersey? What the hell is wrong with you guys? Did they run out of intelligent women within a 20 mile radius of where you live? Have you lost your mind? You think you are being charitable? When you date, engage in courtship or marry a Ducks fan, you are a Ducks fan or, at minimum, a part of you that you may never recover has died.
For goodness sake, help the poor misguided soul to Staples Center, buy her a Kings jersey, point out to her (it is right in front of your face), the pool of ignorance within which she swims. If you cannot get it done or she refuses, then do the honorable thing and break up with her. Do it by text like Stoll did if you have to but just do it. You are engaging in a form of child abuse if you intend to breed. Do you realize that?
If you cannot or will not do the honorable thing, then at least have the decency not to hold her hand in public and ask her to walk behind you so the rest of us will be spared from the madness.
Back to hockey, Troy Bodie is a world-class pansy. Toward the end of the first period, he started to yap with Wayne Simmonds. Wayne promptly took his helmet off and was ready to go. Bodie conveniently found himself behind the referee while still talking trash. No effort to get away from the ref. No attempt to fight Simmonds who looked ready to feed Bodie his own teeth. Each player received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The only thing unsportsmanlike is hiding behind the zebras.
Trevor Lewis tries very hard out there. The problem however may not be effort but skill set. He is not a particularly good stick handler. He is strong and can bang bodies but two pucks in his wheel house from cross ice passes hopped over his stick and were shanked, respectively. He is a rookie and opportunities are not infinite. This is the time to shine or go back down and get better. The problem lies in his age. If he is sent down, I believe he must clear waivers. That is not good.
Ponikarovsky does everything I wished of Frolov and he proved once again that you don’t have to be a big hitter to play hard physical hockey. Poni doesn’t so much pound you into the boards as he directs you there. His skating created time and space for both Handzus and Simmonds to operate. He backed opposing forwards off and let Zeus get to the front of the net. He didn’t contribute on the scoreboard tonight but he did all the little things you would hope to see from a third line left wing.
Kyle Clifford…the poster child for the expression, “what’s not to love.” He manhandled Sheldon Brookbank. If that fight would have gone for one more minute, the ice crew would have picked up up pieces of Sheldon’s face from the ice. In case you were wondering what caused that fight in the second period, it started in the final minute of the first. Clifford and Brookbank were behind Hiller (I had a close up view of it). Brookbank must have said something to Kyle because within a fraction of a second, Clifford snapped a jab to Brookbank’s face that whipped Sheldon’s head back and nearly knocked off his helmet. Sheldon was a little upset (I picked up a few choice words) but with every adjective he could throw at Clifford, Kyle kept smiling at him…which of course only antagonized Brookbank further. Speaking of Kyle, you all know what a huge man crush my boy Surly has on him, right? Well, guess who I ran into tonight or, better phrased, guess who sat right next to me at the game. Kyle’s second cousin, Jamie and his girlfriend (I am assuming here because I never asked), Chanel (like the perfume). Toward the end of the third period, I noticed these two being very quiet, never cheering when the Ducks scored but also not doing so for the Kings. Rather, between taking notes at each break, I heard idle chatter that sounded like a couple of shy Kings’ fans talking about the team. I introduced myself (as I am not shy) and asked them if they were Duck or Kings fans. Jamie responded, “we used to be Ducks fans but ever since Clifford came to the Kings, we have converted.” You know, it’s a beautiful thing. Jamie and Chanel have walked through the valley of the shadow of death and found their way to the light. Come to the light Jamie. It beckons you Chanel. Follow it to Figueroa and 11th. There, you will find the Mount of Staples. Salvation lies within.
Doughty is pressing. He is playing like he has a chip on his shoulder but not the good kind. He is being reckless with the puck and though we see flashes of last season’s brilliance, Drew is not the teflon of the 2009-2010 season. This is showing its ugly side through the penalties he has taken in the preseason including tonight. I counted three, one cross checking and two hooks. Each hook was the result of being behind the play. Is he out of shape? The hints of the fitness test results certainly point to that? Will this pass? Yes. Drew has no shortage of confidence or talent and I don’t see this lingering. Murray should however speak with Doughty to make sure it doesn’t fester any longer than necessary.
Jarret Stoll…there are just too many things wrong with his game to encapsulate it into a sentence. He and Williams look like two wingers out there and it’s not Justin’s fault. Stoll doesn’t bring the attributes a team needs from a 2nd line center on a consistent basis. He doesn’t bring the puck up the ice with control while providing space for his wingers. He does not play a two-way game each time he is out there. He coughed up the puck right in front of Bernier at the 11 minute mark of the second period, forcing Jonathan to make a terrific save. Jarret then followed that up with a lazy boarding penalty. He has little to no toughness along the boards. It’s frustrating to watch because I have seen flashes of that great hockey player he has been in the past and should be now.
Williams, on the other hand, was all over the puck, looking for anything loose that may create an opportunity. He was rewarded nicely with a goal when Hiller fumbled at his goal line in the third.
Jack is earning his MF status. A nice wrist shot in the third was the exclamation point on a terrific game filled with aggressive offensive zone pressure, and effectively quarterbacking the powerplay. If you had to nitpick, you could point to the first goal. His positioning was not the best but that first goal was a combination of a few things that went wrong. Perry should have been destroyed the moment he came within five feet of Bernier. The second goal by Getzlaf cannot be placed on Jack because a forward must back check in that situation.
Brayden Schenn. I have found one area that needs immediate improvement. Faceoffs. In fact, while killing penalties, the Kings were down right terrible at winning faceoffs. Fortunately, with Brayden, I have nothing but praise for his game in every other facet.
Handzus and Simmonds had their typical solid game. Wayne is looking to generate more offense. I can see his evolution before my eyes. A consistent 25 to 30 goal scorer is right around the corner.
Loktionov is as sneaky as they come. It is fun watching him with the puck because, unlike most players, I rarely have any idea what he is going to do. When I think he is going to shoot, he passes. When I see a potential drop pass or one back to his defensemen, he gets a hard shot on goal. I don’t know if he will make the team this year. My guess is that Brayden is ahead of him due to Schenn’s physical intangibles but I see potential in Lokti that I didn’t see before and that should bring a smile to every Kings’ fan face.
I could write for hours on tonight’s game. Despite the distractions, I felt in the zone, watching the play, players and the puck. Alas, all good things…or in this case, this crazy article, must come to an end though not without…