Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kings dominate the Preds

Didnt get to this last night and know how when I dont do it get hate mail and the world stops spinning.

Before the game was wondering if we would see a rematch between O'Brien and Wayne Simmonds. Kind of sad we didn't but credit T Murray for his ability to keep players focused on the task at hand. I wonder if Simmonds has forgotten about it to be honest....same goes with Malkin.
Nashville always plays the Kings tough but they were a beaten dejected team last night.

Kopitars goal was a perfect shot. Browns goal was a soft on the goalies part even if it did partially deflect.

Congrats to Smyth and it may have been lack of observation on my part but it looks to me like he is having tons of fun on the ice. Between his animation on his assist on JWs goal the other night and the goal he scored last night he is clearly enjoying himself.

Had a father and son moment last night when Hip Jr said mid way in the second period "Maybe Kings will get the Shut Out." I then went on to explain the "Dont Tempt the Hockey Gods" theory. He understood. Fortunately the lone Nashville goal didn't happen until much later in the game and by that point his attention was focused on Lego Star Wars so he felt little to name shame.

Justin Williams-may be playing the best hockey of his career.

Westgarth- Not bad...not bad at all. He still hasnt picked up a fighting major yet but clearly not the liability old whats his name was.

Gotta love a team that is ahead 4-0 and still laying down to block shots on the PK.

Have to say that Nashville looked like a beaten dejected team all night. Even when down 4-0 they did nothing to spark any type of energy. Maybe just an off night or they just might be the team their record shows they are. Hard to believe Trotz is still Coaching the tea, after all these years and the indifferent success of the franchise.

That said I would have liked to see a bit more energy at the end of the 3rd to try and preserve the shut out for Bernier but thats a very small criticism in the big scope of things.

Scotty Bowman once said that he felt his team could win the cup if the PK and the PP were both in the top10. Kings PP has been brutal but actually in the middle of the pack at 18th overall and in the top 5 for PK. There is room for improvement but I think I will gladly exchange a mid pack PP for the Kings record. Case in Point- the teams ranked #3-5 for PP% are ranked no better then 8th in the conference.

Anyhow-Thursdays game will be much more a challenge with Dallas in town and the divisional rivalry and division lead at stake. So far so amazingly good. #3 overall in goals against. I'll take it.

The game itself was great in that we dominated and took control early and never relinquished control but after thursdays game against Tampa was, maybe anti-climatic is the wrong word, but certainly not nearly as exciting.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kings 4, Canucks 1-Dustin Brown 2 Goals and a great Idea

Very good to keep this ball rolling against a very tough Nucks team. Dont care what anyone says you can bet at the end of the year the Canucks will be at the top of the standings. Also keep in mind they're playing without Alex Burrows.....he makes a difference even though he is a punk.

Some thoughts-

Very surprised they didnt review the Stoll goal. It probably would have still counted but surprised they didnt at least take a look. That line is still playing very well and really all you can ask for....experience, solid d, offensive prowess, a little physicality-really all you could want in a 2nd line.

We talked during the LGK Talk Radio Show on who would be in the first scrap of the season and looks like that honor went to Wayne Simmonds. If you had money on Simmonds.....he paid 8-1 and we'll have to wait at least one more game for the payout on the daily double.

PP has got to be a concern. If there is a good element to it is that the trouble is simply getting shots on net and not entering the zone or moving the puck. Shoot the puck, crash the net, and keep it simple.

Mega Kudos to the Zeus line. They matched up against the Sedins all night and did a great job of spending the majority of the shifts in the Nucks end. And yes, the Sedins scored 1 that made it a nail biter for about 45 seconds but to be fair there are only a handful of lines in the NHL that can score that goal at the end of a hard shift.

Also some props to Ponikarovsky. He is looking much better and comfortable in his role. I am impressed by his willingness to ramp up the physical play and so far his ability to compete. And he broke up a play coming on the backcheck that warranted some props.

On a similar note though- tonight was probably the best game of the season as far as having the top 3 lines in a groove and contributing.

And another tip of the cap to Lombardi- Drewiske and Muzzin look like and are playing like NHL caliber defensemen. When Greene gets back our D is as good as any in the league. Maybe a stretch to think the best in the league but certainly in the upper percentile. Seems like yesterday we were suiting up Doug Houda, John Slaney, and Rob Cowie. On that same note-congrats to Muzzin on his first NHL point.

Have to love the fact that Doughty now has 2 highlight film plays against the Sedins breaking up 2 on 1s. Doughty finished -1 but that play and his skating is still amazing. Tonight he looked like he never got out of 2nd gear and was still one of the best players on the ice.

3rd period the Kings really dodged some bullets...there was a sequence in the 3rd that literally looked like a comedy of errors but I guess its a sign of the teams improvement that these are few and far between and not ending as automatic goals for the other team.

Brown now has 3 goals in 4 games-not bad considering the 1st line hasn't really looked all that impressive nor shown any type of chemistry. I like the salute at the end of the game and mega kudos to Brown for suggesting and implementing it. Brown has shown more wearing the C then old whatshisname who used to wear #4 ever did.

Quick is still looking very sharp. Bob Miller reported that Quick lost 15 lbs over the summer and how he hopes to will boost stamina. I am no athletic trainer so not sure how it works but don't players generally lose weight over the long season anyhow? Regardless, he looks fantastic and provided the Kings keep the shots against down and can keep a sensible goalie rotation-I am very optimistic.

What to do with Kyle Clifford? I am 99% sure Schenn will not be sent down-another year in the Juniors probably wouldn't be the worst thing for him.

Gotta wonder in tight games late in the 3rd if we might see Schenn in for Lotkionov. Something to Ponder on....

Jack Johnson ended up +3 on the night....without looking at the record book I would imagine this might be a career high for him. On that same note it also emphasizes the quirky stat the +/- is as I dont think anyone would think JJ was rock solid in his own end. On that same note-when Greene gets back it will be nice that he can spell JJ in situations that er, uh, ahr, lets say not quite ideal for JJs unique skillset.

On some other unrelated Kings notes....

Watched a bit of the Quacks game. Perry finished with 3pts-but took a really lazy, undisciplined penalty in the 3rd that led to the Game Tying PP goal. Perry is approaching Sean Avery status as a player who will never get the benefit of the doubt from the Referees. Over the long haul one has to wonder what the overall benefit is-especially considering the Ducks defense is weak. Atlanta had 3 PP goals the game and won in the Shoot Out.

I hate the Yankees, then again I hate baseball. And while i'm exploring this stream of consciousness F Randy Jones for good measure.

I cant believe there isnt another game until wednesday. The next day starts a road trip that is going to be a real test- Phoenix, Colorado, Minn, Chicago, and Dallas...the real first challenge of the season IMO.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hear me now....

Literally, here me now when I host the next edition of LGK Talk!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

LA Kings preview for August

After being bombarded with Emails and PM's asking about my thoughts on the upcoming season I finally have the time to share my thoughts. Keep in mind this is subject to change with any looming trades and acquisitions so as it stands on the overcast morn on Saturday Aug 7th here are my thoughts.

There is an old adage in sports that's tired and hackneyed but rings true nonetheless in “If you didnt get better you got worse.” I heard it a lot in conjunction with the Dodgers before the MLB season started and it certainly looks in that case to be a real truism though I digress due to the fact that baseball sucks.

Overall, I do not see our current roster as being one that will improve by leaps and bounds as there are some legitimate weaknesses and the only wild card in mass improvement comes between the pipes and the hopes of maturity and growth will parlay into the “getting better” wildcard.

Lets get to it shall we?

Forwards- I still like our Forward depth and while the loss of the enigmatic Frolov may hurt in the goal scoring dept its not out of the question that Ponikarovsky may be able to fill that void as well as maybe, just maybe show some interest in competing nightly and thus if he has any warrior fighting spirit inside his Russian heart may be an overall improvement to the Forward core given Frolovs penchant for-well lets just say you will never confuse him with Darcy Tucker or Doug Weight on the effort scale.

The Wild Card here IMO is clearly Schenn. Lest us forget Schenn almost made the team last season being one of the last cuts in camp after playing very well towards the end of preseason. Schenn only went back to the Juniors to finish the season with 99pts and wearing the C for the Wheat Kings and a couple of other Canadian teams in international tournies. Looking at his Junior stats Schenn never took a step back as his point totals improved every year. Something to Note- of the 5 leaders in WHL regular season scoring 3 are now property of the Kings in Brandon Kozun, Jordan Weal, and Schenn at 5th respectively. With good speed and a hard, honest 2 way game Schenn could be the difference maker at forward and open the door for future trades and acquisitions. Having Schenn develop into the next Rod Brindamour certainly wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Also of note that of the Top 5 players selected in the 2009 Draft, only Schenn did not make his NHL directly team out of camp. With all of the above as a guide I would say barring Schenn punching Terry Murray in camp he has a very good chance to make the team if not an outright lock.

As for the other forwards on the roster I don't see anyone having a huge breakout season-as a matter of fact I would project last years stats to pretty much hold true this season as well with the only difference being Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds finished the season with 16 goals and 24 assists, had over 100 PIMS and +22. With only 2 NHL seasons under his belt apparently the sky is the limit with most projecting Simmonds to have a couple of 30 goal seasons ahead of him. Even a 20/20 guy who keeps up with the PIMS and energy is invaluable(think Scott Hartnell). Being able to consistently bring it and maybe officially earn a spot on the top 6 would be huge.

Other burning questions-can Smythe and Justin Williams play over 70 games? In Williams case can he play over 50?

On D I have some concerns-mainly in that the Kings only have 3 vets going into the season with the injury to Matt Greene and losing the toughness and vet leadership that OD provided. Last season at this time we were crowing about how there would be a huge battle for the #6 dman on the team with all other boxes on the roster being filled. Without question this is a huge step backward. Even with Greene you are still talking about the 5th and 6th spots on the roster hoping to be filled by rookies. As much as I hate Andy Sutton he would have been a solid pickup. Kind of funny how in todays NHL yesterdays hacks have become solid commodities. It wasn't that long ago that Sutton and Hal Gill type players were tossed around like the town tramp but recently have discovered a modicum of respectability amongst the NHL. I am still not sure why 1.5 million for OD couldn't have been matched by the Kings. In an nutshell, The High End of the squad with Doughty is elite-but until Greene gets back we really need to keep our fingers crossed that a lot of things will go right early in the season. Even with Green returning the last 2 spots are question marks and once again how hard would it have been to get Sutton or OD back as an insurance policy? I am a big support of Lombardi but the offseason work with the Dcorp may as well have been from the Dave Taylor playbook. On that same note-this will be the season Doughty will win the Norris. I still can't believe Mike Green got more votes.

Goaltending is the one area without question we will be better at. I will go to my grave wondering what may have happened had the Kings rolled with Bernier in the playoffs. Won't get into the debate but will say it will not surprise me one bit to see Bernier as the #1 goalie at the end of the season. Even if that fails to materialize it will be good to see someone be able to spell Quick and hopefully keep him at the 50-60 count of games and hopefully keep fresh for the playoffs....or even the final month of the season for that matter.

With all of the above considered the one area I am very concerned about is team toughness. We saw how Vancouver intimidated and physically dominated us in the playoffs and this off season we have not only not addresses it but certainly gotten worse in this area. While Ivanans was a mediocre enforcer, he could hang with anybody in the league. Westgarth is a question mark as far as hanging with NHL heavies. His fighting style is entertaining for sure and I have no doubt he will be more active and willing then the often times reluctant Ivanans. The question is-what happens when he gets tagged and ends up like Ryan Flinn? Its not all that unreasonable to assume the possibility. In this case scenario the Kings are banking on yet another unproven to pull the weight and should there be any unfortunate happening the team better have some type of backup plan of which right now I dont think there is. Sorry but when Westgarth is Option A-I am just not comfortable in this area given the way the season ended especially when Dallas is rolling with Burrish, Sutherby, Barch, and Ott and other Pacific teams are without question bigger and tougher. Can the Kings with Westgarth and Clune really expect to fare well in this area? I would not be opposed to us signing Arron Asham, Guerin, or Owen Nolan-not that any of these guys are a true solution or enforcers per se as much as at least we will have some additional balance in the physicality dept.

In a nutshell, I expect the Kings to get pushed around from other teams in the division. If I'm an opposing coach its a reasonable and sensible game plan. I expect that goal scoring should be roughly the same as last year barring Brayden Schenn from having a breakout rookie year in which he can score 15-20 goals. I expect the D to be the same if not slightly worse in the 4-6th spots on the roster. Those question marks may be offset by growth and maturity from JJ and Doughty. And I expect the goaltending to be better. So I expect similar results as last season with some of the losses being mitigates and offset by some of the gains. But at the end of the day at this point I can firmly say that the weaknesses of yesteryear simply have not been addresses to this point. To use a car race analogy- if a car loses a race because of a bad tire and you don't change or repair that tire you would a fool to think you would win the next race. To use a basketball analogy-if you lost a playoff series because you didn't have a big center to clog the lane you wouldn't expect to win the next series with the same center. Then again I digress because the NBA sucks.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stanley Cup Matchup Set-Hawks vs Flyers

Ive been neglecting the blog a bit too long. Maybe a case of being upset the Kings were eliminated in such a meek fashion; maybe I'm just lazy.

Anyhow, some cup related thoughts.

Nice to see Joel Quenneville finally get his kick at the can. Truth be told I always thought he was one of the best coaches in the league and always got the most out of what he had to work with.

On the other side as much criticism as I have seen Peter Laviolette take over the years one could say this playoff run has thoroughly put him on the pedestal of arguably one of the greatest American Hockey Coaches of all time. Heck he could end up high on the list of all time greatest coaches period if the Flyers manage to win the cup. I mean to win the cup with Carolina and now have a kick at the can with the Flyers is very very impressive. And to see the Flyers not only earn a playoff birth in the last game of the season, the miracle comeback down 3-0 in the series against Boston, and now most likely playing the role of underdog-I just cant count them out.

On the Defense side of the equation-the Chris Pronger trade has paid off in silver dollars for the Flyers. I hate him but you can not deny the effect he has had on the Flyers.

For the Hawks, Duncan Keith is having a heck of a series and the Hawks first cup appearance since the Andy Griffith Show(actually since the late 80s but I wanted to use the joke) should most likely earn him a Norris. I remember the Hawks previous run and though it was years ago I can never forget the Hawks of that with Dirk Graham, Adam Creighton, Steve Larmer and others. Good Times.

Measuring the Captains....

Jon Toews has been a stalwart and consumate young professional but Mike Richards showed some moxie that I have yet to see in a long long time from a Captain. Sure you can argue Crosby or Sakic from a few years ago but those teams were very very good teams expected to win-Richards is literally carrying the team in all areas of the ice. Toews has the skill and the hands-but Richards has the heart. I am tempted to go on record with the old cliche of "Edge-Richards" but that would mean that I actually have to measure and compare all of the other areas of both teams and I am not sure I want to take that least not right now.

Goalies- I wonder what kind of odds you could have gotten in Vegas if you bet 20 bucks that the starting goalies for the Cup would be Antti Nieme and Michael Leighton you may have been looking at a retirement type payoff. Hard to even call this matchup with both goalies being wild cards and unknowns at this level. Either one could rise to the occasion or completely choke-and it literally could be either one which makes it impossible to even recap this matchup.

I won't go on record even picking a winner....I just want it to go at least 6 games and have at least one fighting major.

If the decision is based on Ex-Kings I am really pulling for Lappy over Brent Sopel and its clearly obvious these two didnt get where the are on their good looks.

Some other thoughts...

How great was it seeing the Sharks tank again? I am not really a Blake hater per se because by all accounts he is a really nice, cool guy. But I couldn't help but smirk a bit showing the bearded Blake wearing the C as the waning moments of the Game 4 sweep ticked of the clock. Will Doug Wilson get fired? Not sure and even though the GM doesn't always determine who wears the C you've got to wonder who decided Blake was the right given he never accomplished anything as a Captain.

As for Montreal-I am glad to see them ousted. Just do not like that french canadian style pomposity bloviating psuedo greatness. And in a healthy mix of "SandGate" and the screw job the refs laid on the Kings last year has never sat well with me. I will say this-Kirk Muller will probably be a head coach in the next 2 or 3 seasons.

Once again....lets hope the series goes at least 6 games and sees at least one fighting major.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Final Thoughts of the Season

Finally have some time to do my season finale closing thoughts. Its been the best of times and the worst of times and we can all take solace that with relative youth of the team and quality prospects in the system this is just the beginning and like the old Hermans Hermits song "Something Tells me I in for something good."

First I will address the playoffs. While some think we were outclassed or outplayed and 5 on 5 that may have been the case but consider that as the series went on the Kings did out shoot Vancouver. Over the 6 games the Kings outshot 3 times. The first game the Nucks clearly outshot the Kings and a 6 shot margin in Game 2. But afterwards the Kings outshot the Nucks in the next 3 games and seemed to balance the ledger a bit. The only problem was after game 2, Quicks save percentage plummeted. Blame Terry Murray for overplaying him. Its a very reasonable and apt criticism and deservedly so.

The Kings won game 3 despite Quicks .893sv% and afterwards saw Quick post an average .842 sv% over the last 3 games. Contrasted to Luongo who after a shaky start posted a .930 sv% in the last 2 critical games of the series.

Some of have mentioned how the goalies who played the most regular series games all missed the playoffs entirely or saw their teams fail to advance. Its not a coincidence and a very telling statistic. And the stat holds true provided you only use the top 4 goalies...if you look at the top 10 goalies in GP it breaks down to 3 goalies still in the playoffs, 2 goalies who missed and 5 out in the first rd.

Of the goalies out in the first rd who were Brodeur, Quick, Anderson, Bryzgalov, and Miller we can take a look at their SV% and determine where does quick fall in line with other 1st rd losers. Only a rare uncharacteristically bad performance by Brodeur saved Quick from having the worst performance of all goalies in the first rd.

Brodeur .876
Quick .879
Bryzgalov .907
Miller .926
Anderson .931

So looking at that stats of goalies eliminated-3 of them posted better the .900 SV%.

I said back in mid March "We cant take anything for granted given the history of the franchise and I am not willing to see the season slip away with the old "were standing by our #1" adage." Well upon retrospect-isnt that exactly what happened and we saw and the very result I predicted?

Dating back to the start of March through the playoffs Quick got us 6 wins in 23 starts. Thats about a .260 winning % and substandard for your average baseball players batting average. One didnt need to see Quick was faltering and laboring down the stretch. Once again you can certainly call out Terry Murray for his mishandling of the goalie situation. Its a very fair and reasonable critique of the coach especially in light of the fact that both Ersberg and Bernier played well when they got a chance to play. Basically Quick did not show up in the big game pressure situations. The 2 goals in game 6 of the playoffs pretty much said it with the softie given up to Bieska and the final GWG by Sedin where Quick wasnt hugging the post, wasnt prepared for the shot, and just plain looked shaky.

Getting merely Average play from Quick may have meant moving onto the next rd.
The good news is next year I expect Bernier to get about 30 games which should give Quick plenty of rest. If Quick falters and cant get the job done in pressure situations Bernier will be there to get his kick at the can. So far in the AHL, Bernier is 6-1 in the playoffs with a .949 SV%. Out of the top 15 goalies in the AHL playoffs-Bernier has faced the 3rd most shots so its not as if the Monarchs D is overpowering by any stretch.

Alas, and as so not to think I'm a Quick hater or bashing the goalie- it was a marvelous season and I'm a left with both good and bad feelings in that while we made a ton of progress I think it could have been so much more given how you could see the writing on the wall long before the playoffs even started.

Once again, "We cant take anything for granted given the history of the franchise and I am not willing to see the season slip away with the old "were standing by our #1" adage." And once again-isnt that exactly what happened and we saw and the very result I predicted?

Some other thoughts- I love the depth of the team and would not be surprised at all to see either Handzus or Stoll moved. Schenn is taking Brandon deep into the OHL playoffs and of the top 5 players taken in the 2009 entry draft only Schenn did not see regular NHL ice time. Given how well he played in camp last season I think its safe to assume the only thing keeping him from joining the ranks of the other top 5 2009 draftees was the Kings depth at Center. Additionally, Bud Holloway and Trevor Lewis are both putting up good numbers in the AHL Playoffs with 5 goals in 7 games...good enough for 4th and 5th best in the league. If one or both of those guys happens to take the next step and show they can play an NHL caliber game the Kings are really looking at a plethora of riches as far as young forwards goes.

On D as much as I would like to think Hickey may be ready to make the move I just dont see it as a safe bet given him being undersized, his justin williams like injury record, and the Kings D already being somewhat undersized. Best case scenario here is to acquire another big stay at home Dman to help provide some muscle. Id like to know what happened to Davis Drewiske along the way. I will end this with a scary thought that honest to goodness sends a shudder up the spine but I would not be surprised at all to see Randy Jones resigned. Why you ask? Because I was surprised to see him playing as much as he did considering how bad he played-given he is like a bad cough you just cant get rid of this just would not come as a shock whatsoever.

Oh well, another season down but brighter pastures ahead. It will be odd following the NHL draft without thinking which Top 5 pick we will be selecting this year.

For the rest of the playoffs I am pulling for the Hawks. Not so much that I am now officially a Nucks hater as I have always liked the Hawks as my #2 team. Speaking of Nucks while I do now officially dislike a great number of their players, some players I actually gained respect for. The Sedin brothers are world class and also earned my respect for their clean hard play and continually whining we saw from others on the Squad. Mikael Samuelsson gets my vote for the most underrated player in the NHL. He can play physical, has a great accurate shot, shows up to play in big games, and a proven playoff performer.

Best case scenario for me would be to have San Jose eliminate Detroit and then get Eliminted themselves in NHL playoff Survivor. Basically my hatred for Detroit is greater then my hatred for San Jose. Its the hatred trump card in all its glory.

In the East I was hoping we could have seen a Wash/Pitt matchup as to see 7 games of Ovechkin vs Crosby. Alas it was not to be. Next I was hoping for a Pitt/Philly matchup given the general dislike the two teams have for each other. That may or may not happen either. I really have no other teams in the East that I care about at all so my hopes were basically what makes the most interesting matchups.

As always, feel free to send your thoughts and I will end this with a Hockey Haiku

Kings DieHard Win/Lose
Ducks and theyre fans Continuouly lame
F Randy Jones