Sometimes a photo tells the story.
Sometimes a photo pisses people off, like this one did when I snapped it while yelling “Say cheese losers!”
Other times you just need to close your eyes, bow your head and appreciate a simple fact: that was fucking awesome.
There was a little kid sitting directly in front of me, maybe 7 or 8 years old, no more than 10, a Caps fan wearing a miniature Ovechkin jersey. He was highly amusing, cheering like a madman whenever his favorite player touched the puck, turning an annoyed eye my way whenever I opened my big mouth. After the Kings’ first goal, he grumbled. After their second, he pouted. After the Kings’ third, he began to cry. After the fourth, he made his dad leave for the rest of the period. He came back for the third period and tried to tough it out. The fifth goal, the nail in the coffin, proved too much as the wall of sound created by the raucous crowd at Staples sent him and his father away for good.
A piece of my heart went out to him. I have a hard time dealing with Kings losses as a well-adjusted guy in his mid twenties. I know older men who throw fits. I remember how impossibly tragic it was when I was a wide-eyed kid and my team lost when I was lucky enough to be taken to a game. So though I played my part in sending a father home with an emotional wreck of a son (he did not appreciate my yelling one bit), I offered some words of encouragement. I always love to see kids who love the sport with as much disregard for reason as myself. He was right to leave, I imagine the traditional chiding of the opposing fans that comes after their team is smacked around would have scarred the kid for years to come. Staples was a very loud and unpleasant place for Caps fans, young and old. As Bobby said after the game, there is a direct correlation between Kings’ goals and fan volume.
But what could whip up such a frenzy in the stands amongst people who only two days ago booed their team off the ice?
The game did not start off in a positive manner. In fact when I arrived 5 minutes into the first period, the Kings were down a goal and playing on their heels. But then that little kids’ idol, the great Ovie, made the mistake of laying out Drew Doughty. A fire was lit under the team’s collective ass that I can only hope doesn’t burn out until it’s time to play golf in June.
The Kings proceeded to have their way with the Caps. Forcefully and very violently. Some may call it rape, but hey, Vokoun was wearing a short skirt and asking for it. Their defense opened up large enough for a King-sized fist, offering up more passing lanes than a cheap hooker does STDs.
The new lines worked. Kopitar was renewed with the shifty tenacity of Williams to his right and Brown using his speed and size in wonderfully reckless fashion to his left. Dustin looks at home on the left. His numerous breakouts and breakaways were a testament to the strength of his game when he has a simple north-to-south mentality. The second line was the pleasant surprise of the game. If Mike Richards ever plays another game at wing, it will be a cruel joke. Dustin Penner must have smelt maple syrup in the Capitals crease as he drove to it with renewed purpose. Stoll wrought the fruit of his liberates skill, playing as good a game as he had this season. The forechecking, the net presence, the joy oh sweet exciting hockey joy.
The lines that did not change were able to pick up their games as well with the pressure taken off their backs by a legitimate top 6. Loktionov’s line harassed like the nagging insects they are, Richardson fighting the one on one battles like a champ, Lewis creating space with his speed and quick plays and Loktionov himself using his keen positioning to be an unlikely defensive stalwart.
And then there was the fourth line, the Kings best line in recent games and one that uses every second of time to its maximum potential. Fraser won 9 of 13 draws. Hunter was strong on the puck and constantly had an eye towards the net. I mention Kyle Clifford last among forwards as he was the best one on the ice. He wanted the puck on his stick every shift and created scoring chances of all shapes and sizes. That was playoff Clifford. That was the player who made Wayne Simmods tradeable. That was a beast of hockey player and one I desperately want to see more often.
It would be a shanda not to mention the defense. For a game where the Kings actually managed to score a bundle of goals, the defense was a true highlight. Drew Doughty, who started off the season as a liability, worked his way up to solid, had the kind of defensive game that makes your mouth drop and ooze saliva onto the poor guy sitting in front of you, or the dog on your floor, who is just happy he isn’t the only one drooling on the carpet. Willie Mitchell using his stick in magical ways and answering the bell for his own crushing hits by grappling with that rare kind of pussy, the kind no one wants, Jason Chimera. Matt Greene punishing forwards who dare work the boards behind Bernier.
And now we come to Bernier, who was the only part of the game that wasn’t excellent. Jonathan made several solid saves. The second goal he could do nothing about. What irony we witnessed tonight. Bernier has lost many games this season that he should have won. He has played fantastic only to see the team score even fewer goals in front of him than they do in front of Quick. Bernier has gotten the short end of an already shitty stick too often. Tonight was not one of Bernier’s good games. I will attribute it to his lack of playing time, a perfectly valid reason for a goalie to look uncomfortable. He was sliding into position and past it, resorting to the star fish on which Luongo has dibs and often caught fighting the puck. I don’t want to come down too hard on the kid, he earned a good victory against an offensively explosive team. I just thought it was interesting how tonight was the exact opposite in so many ways of Bernier’s previous starts.
Now Darryl Sutter’s real work begins. He has taken the defense to another level, inspired passion in our boys and now had his first true offensive outburst. I imagine the atmosphere in the locker room resembles the relieved pride and flighty swell of soul incursion an 18 old boy feels after his first experienced woman guides him through the web of passion. It is Sutter’s most important job to sustain that feeling, to ride this high and to infuse the sense of pride and confidence that is both a cause and effect of tonight’s win.
Should he steer this team down a direction that plays with such fire and skill on a regular basis, we will finally have the Los Angeles Kings team we have expected and for which we have longed.
Or we’ll beat
Phoenix Dallas again on Thursday 1-0. That works too.
Go Kings Go!
UPDATE: My best memory of Chimera.