Everything was going so well.
The first period against the Vancouver Canucks, the Kings first true test of playing without Anze Kopitar & Justin Williams, saw fast and furious action at both ends of the ice. The Canucks keep a pace no team has been able to match for the duration of the season, but for atleast one period, the Kings took them stride for stride, culminating in a beautiful play by Drew Doughty, rushing down the right wing and finding Kyle Clifford with a pass all alone in the slot. Luongo didn’t have a chance.
Then with -0.3 left in the period, the Canucks found daylight behind Jonathan Quick. The goal didn’t count, coming right after the buzzer, but the smell of blood was in the air.
The pace of this game never let up, it only intensified. The speed of the game finally caught up to Doughty, when he attempted to recreate his first period heroics not once, but twice in the second frame. With little less than 5 minutes to play, Doughty’s ability to thread the needle failed him. Gliding to his left, switching point positions with Willie Mitchell, Doughty sent a soft pass across the middle of the ice to Trevor Lewis, who never had the opportunity to receive what could have been a very pretty play. Instead, Viktor Oreskovich picked off the pass at the blue line, blazed through the neutral zone where he found an unencumbered birth defect some people call Daniel Sedin. The league’s leading scorer took a quick step to his right, shot to his left, and the game was tied. There was little solace in Doughty sending him to the ice a split second later like the Raggedy Ann doll Sedin so closely resembles.
Doughty was not done biting off more than he could chew.
With 10 seconds left in the period, Doughty sought comeuppance against the Canucks, only to have it hurled right back in his face. In a move mirroring the one that led to his earlier assist, Doughty hustled end to end down the left side of the ice, thinking incorrectly that the Canucks did not have time to rush back the other way. But time they had and time they did not waste. Though Drew made his way back to position at the last second, Christian Ehroff received a pass in the high slot and whipped a shot by Quick to give the Canucks the only lead they would need with just 0.9 seconds remaining in the second.
The third period was a struggle. The Kings finished the period with no shots. Kyle Clifford, who had sent a puck through Luongo in the first, only sent his forearm through Chris Tanev’s shoulder blades, good for a five minute major and a game ejection. Considering the Kings were down by only a goal when Clifford was unceremoniously escorted off the ice (something that would change a minute an half later with Ryan Kesler’s 5-on-3 goal), many will look to pin the loss on Kyle’s massive shoulders. I for one, quite enjoyed Clifford’s hit, even if it wasn’t the smartest play. It was nice retribution for the unpenalized play in which Aaron Rome nearly put the Kings another center short. We won’t talk about Rome’s dirty hit, the one where he shoved Michal Handzus in the most dangerous area of the ice when Zus was not only without the puck, but already engaged in a battle with another player. The one where Zus went flying hard into the boards and looked as if he might not get up. The one that tells me Rome is too slow and stupid to pick up his own man, preferring to poach the checks of another. The one that exemplifies what a disrespectful douche Rome is and always has been. No, we won’t discuss that hit.
Instead we will say C’est La Vie. The Canucks clinched the President’s Trophy, an honor that in no way affects the Kings. The Kings did not fall back in the playoff race as the Dallas Stars lost as well. We will say that the Kings played a hell of a good game against a team that the “smart money” (also known as the pessimistic self-preservation prerogative) said should easily mop the floor with our Anze-less team. We will say that we do not blame Doughty’s two errors, as these things happen when a young played pushes the envelope, one we are very glad Drew is talented enough to sign, seal and deliver most of the time. We will say good on Clifford for showing the Canucks that we are not to be taken lightly in the physical department, that we are sick of watching our players go down and that unnecessary and unchecked aggression will not stand, man.
We will say that the game on Saturday against the Dallas Stars is the much more important game.
We will say that the Stars will be flying out of Los Angeles with their heads hung low and their own playoff hopes diminished.
We will say that we forgive those two fools in mucous spandex outside the Canucks penalty box for their antics, as it is not fair to hold the mentally disabled accountable for their own actions.
We will say, again and again, GO KINGS GO!