Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ouch- A Painful Loss that seems like Old Times

This Hurts. Not as bad as Mcsorely's stick or a Craig Muni knee on knee open ice check-but this hurts. For us Kings fans any small amount of hope is generally followed by a sharp pull of the rug which sees is sitting on our backsides in a slight daze wondering what the heck happened. Last night was that whole concept wrapped up into one period of play. Let gets to it shall we?

Overall, The team played well enough to win. As a matter of fact though the Kings have dropped 4 of their last 5 they played well enough to Win almost every game. 3 of those losses of the 1 goal variety with the Kings having glorious chances to tie or win only to not be able to come up big. Probably the reason last night really stings because the elation of the comeback proved to short lived....12 seconds to be exact. It is not time to wave the white flag yet but certainly some players can be critiqued and this is as good of time as any to do just that.

Jack Johnson- I am of the belief that JJ should be paired with Greene or Scuderi and just let him run wild and jump in when he sees fit ala Mike Green. It's obvious he is a good skater with speed and offensive skills but on the D side, and I hate to use this term, but he is an outright trainwreck. He is a team low -13 on the season, debate the +/- stat all you want but O'Donnell is a +8 and Doughty a +7. JJ is the only full time Defenseman on the roster with a minus in that category.

And while I hate to blame a loss on one player-after the Kings rallied to tie the game up with less than 3 minutes left-WHY THE PINCH? At that point he simple needs to fall back and get the game into OT thus guaranteeing one point out of the game. Making matters worse is where he pinched and the entire situation. It wasnt as if his pinch would have led to a scoring chance for the Kings and by the same token falling back wasn't going to guarantee the Wild a scoring chance either. A baffling decision on JJs part that literally cost us a point in the standings.

Some good news-its clear that Ryan Smyth is getting back into form as is Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds has a level of tenacity on the puck that I am not sure I have ever seen from any hockey player at any level. He seemingly loves to battle for puck possession and more often then not whens that battle. A fine player to be certain.

Parse-He is clearly an NHL player and without question if not for Purcell's contract would have taken his spot on the roster IMO.

Purcell- Looks to me like Purcell just is one or two areas shy of what is minimum to be an NHL player. Oscar Moller is obviously a more complete hockey player IMO.

Kopitar- I would not be surprised to learn the he is nursing an injury. He looks like a different player and even noticed that his skating style has changed a bit with a lumbering type of gait. Regardless-when need our #1 to play like a #1 and right now he is not doing that.

Ivanans- When Boogard ran Smyth....action should have been taken. He doesnt necessarily need to go after Boogard but he certainly should have went after one the Wilds skilled players. Boogard did this same thing the other night against St Louis if Im not mistaken, where he threw a good hard check on a killed player and there was immediate action taken. I heard a quote from an old school NHL enforcer who said "you dont ask a guy to fight, you make him fight" meaning instead of lining up and asking to dance, you hammer someone on the other team thus forcing a reaction from the other team. Ivanans isnt cutting the mustard at this point and before we start asking for Westgarth-he is not ready for the NHL and if called up will most likely end up like Ryan Flinn with his wide open style.

Dustin Brown-I like the Captain....I really do. But when Marek Zidlicky wants to fight you drop the gloves and pound the crap pout of him. Zidlicky has never won a fight, is lighter and smaller- Being the Captain means dropping the gloves once every blue moon and while I like Brown throwing the big checks when the Captain drops the mitts then no one has a reason not to drop the mitts or at least raise the intensity level.

There are some other players who I just wont comment on at this Point but I will say its no accident that players currently being lambasted are also the same players on the bottom of the stats in key categories. At this point I would love to reacquire a Tim Gleason type player and get a veteran forward with some leadership who can score and fight like a Guerin or a Shanahan type player.

The bad news we're on a losing streak, the good news is we could have won most of the games. The bad news-next up is a back to back in Calgary and Minnesota and right now I am not sure there is a team in the league that can be considered a gimme considering the way we have lost recently. The Good News- Smyth will score against Calgary and Simmonds and Parse will prove the duo that wins the game in Minny.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What else can I say but......

A)When was the last time we saw this?

B)How sweet is this?

Brian Hayward; Hall of Fame Homer to the 10th degree

I said it years ago and I stand by my statement that one reason Duck's fans have such a skewed version of reality is that most of them, not all of them mind you but most of them, learned about the game of Hockey by watching and listening to not only the Ducks horrible play by play guy, but worse by Brian Hayward; who in a world filled color commentators blinded by their monolithic favoritism of the team they cover and a singular myopic view that their team can and has done no wrong-this Homer has managed to take the cake. Thus, season after season after hearing Hayward complain that any infraction committed by the Ducks was either a marginal call by the ref or an embellishment by the opposing player; and any time a Ducks player falls down the ref somehow missed the call has given Ducks fans an alternate reality that Mr. Mxyzptlk would be proud of.

Exhibit A-

Notice when Perry elbows the Wings player-Hayward makes a reference to legendary player Gordie Howe...as if Perry throwing an Elbow to the opposing players mush is good ole' fashioned hard nosed hockey. But when Perry turns away from the check of the oncoming Abdelkader, Hayward then complains that Abdelkader hit him in the back....in spite of the fact that Perry turns his back to the oncoming Abdelkader. Then to top it all off-when the fight is over Hayward belittles Abdelkader because either A)he is wearing a face shield or B)his shield happens to be a bit longer than then shield Perry wears. I honestly don't even know where Hayward was going with that line of dialogue but regardless-he was wrong either way.

Lest we think I am simply attacking anything Duck related....the Ducks radio guy Steve Carroll is fantastic. He to me, should be doing the TV side as well because IMO-he is an old school guy who calls a great game.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh What a Feeling; Kings Win in OT

What a fantastic time to be a Kings fan. I can honestly say without a doubt that this team has the most character and balance of any Kings team in over 15 years if not longer. Why I chose 15 years? Its a nice number.

Purcell- Great for Teddy P to contribute with the ice breaking goal. That said I still wonder why he is getting ice time on the 2nd Power Play unit. Not saying he sucks, should be traded, or beaten with a herring-just think there are other forwards in the lineup that could probably make better use of PP time.

Frolov-Said in the GDT that Frolov isn't playing poorly, but all the other forwards on the team are playing so well and so inspired that it makes Frolov's play magnified. Not too different then Jack Johnson looking like an also ran when he gets compared to Doughty night in night out. That said-Frolov game is getting better....he looks to be driving the net more frequently and going into high traffic areas.

Mega Props to Jim Fox on his call of Frolov's hooking penalty in the 1st. He took the time to explain why the refs are justified in making a call like that as opposed to whining and complaining about a ticky tack call like we certainly would have seen and heard from another color commentator across town who shall go unnamed. That said-There was a blatant high stick at the end of the 2nd on Scuderi that went uncalled as was the horrible call on Brown in the 3rd when-gasp......players actually bumped into each other. Its one thing to make that call in the first period another to make it in the 3rd in a tight game between two divisional rivals. Making matters worse was the non-call on what should have been a blatant interference call on Scott Nichol as Frolov went after a loose puck in the Sharks zone back in the 2nd.

I was pretty envious of the Sharks physical play, they were consistently taking the body all night long. I guess in the end it didnt pay off for them but I hope we say a day when the Kings can play that take the body style for 60 minutes....hopefully against the Ducks.

Ersberg-Glad to see him get the win but the Boyle goal was soft as was the 4th goal. Both goals should have been stopped IMO. That said on the 2nd Shark PP goal I cant blame Ersberg as much as the Kings PK for not boxing out the opposing players and taking the man as opposed to trying to dig out the puck from the scrum in the crease. Ersberg save% on the night was .882; Quick's save% on the season is .900; Kind of makes you think how good this team can be if we ever by the grace of god landed a truly elite top notch goalie....hopefully Quick can grow into it becoming one or Bernier can get a chance and make the most of it. That said-Ersbergs puck handling skills and decision making with the puck are certainly a notch above Quicks.

Ivanans- In the first Ivanans looked to challenge Doug Murray once or twice which is nice. Wasnt able to get him to go and Ivanans contributions are certainly debatable, but at least he was trying to make some noise.

Stoll- I have to think that Stoll is going to be a coach when his playing days are behind him. You can see by his interaction with the coach's and his demeanor in certain situations that he really has a grasp for the games technical aspects. Between him and Greene, who is a monster on D and a true warrior, the Visnovski trade looks better and better daily for the team. Stoll is now tied for 3rd on the team for pts and 2nd in goals. Which brings me to the next item...

Doughty- Doughty should get a Norris nomination this year. He is tied for 3rd as well with 24 pts and a +11 on the season. Is there any doubt that if Doughty was on the Leafs or the Canadians that he would arguably win the award? Doughty is 4th in scoring for dmen and tied for 1st in goals for dmen, tied for 5th in +/-.

There was a critical time late in the 3rd when the Kings were finally able to get possession of the puck in the Sharks and do a decent job of cycling the puck...something they weren't able to do as effectively as they did vs Calgary. You could see after that shift it switched momentum a bit. Hopefully we can see the increased forecheck and cycle tonight against the Jovanovski-less Coyotes.

Blake-Not to kick a guy when he is down but surely I cant be the only one glad that Blake isnt on our roster. He looks pretty slow out there and not sure if hes been like that all season but had a real hard time controlling the puck and keeping it in the zone on the Sharks PK.

Jones-11 pts in 14 games has him approaching Quincey like numbers. That said- he makes me nervous sometimes positionally and looks like players with speed can beat him to the outside. I would not be opposed to shuffling in Drewiske for Jones and O'Donnell as the season wears on. For big physical teams you need to play O'Donnell, for less physical team platoon Drewiske and Jones. As the year moves on this could really be a boost for the playoffs in terms on minimizing wear and tear.

How sweet to see both Kopitar and Brown end their goal droughts....and both in semi-dramatic fashion. Kopitar was rocked by a big hit and to me looked hurt-he was visibly slowed by the check and was gritting out the rest of his shift; when he gained puck possession I thought for sure he would simply dump it in and head for the bench, instead he decides to stay on the ice and scores a goal 5 seconds or lso later. I think that may be the definition of character for our Slovakian friend. As for Brown, he was playing hard and giving his all-maybe squeezing the stick a bit too tight but his OT goal had to have been sweet. Truth be told it looked like a soft goal that Nabakov should have stopped. Maybe it was the off speed/trickle off of Browns stick that made it a hard play. Which leads me to some numbers....

Sharks have given up 11 goals in 2 game against the Kings; against the rest of the NHL they've only averaged 2.31 GAA.

Kopitar hadn't scored in 12 games while Brown hadn't scored in 15 or so. In those 15 games the Kings actually went 9-5-1. How sweet is it that two of the teams top contributors can go into a prolonged scoring slump and the team can still finish 4 games over .500; with the majority of those games playing without Scuderi and Smyth no less?

Did anyone else notice in the post game celebration not only where the players jumping on Brown like they won the cup, but when they were skating to the dressing room Randy Jones was clearly animated, high fiving anyone in the proximity including Mark Hardy. It is clear to me that everyone in the dressing room has clearly bought into the team concept and I have said it before but this maybe the best group of players and characters buying into a system and team concept the Kings have ever had. All speculation on my part but even during the Gretzky era, players probably took an occasional night off figuring Gretzky would bail them out or could abandon the system entirely and simply try and get Gretzky the puck....and most of the time that probably worked. But its clear the guys on this team like each other, pull for each other, and are a tight knit bunch focused on the prize. Everyone in the Kings organization deserves credit from Lombardi, to T Murray, and the players themselves. I have said it before and I will shout it from the rooftops, the franchise is as strong as it has ever been-from scouting to development to management etc etc; This is a special time to be a fan.

Last item-it really bothers me that the Teams stellar play has to take place in a season where there in an Olympic break. As well and as consistent as the team has played the last thing I want is long rest breaks that could kill momentum or even worse-seeing Brown on the forecheck against Doughty. I mean of all years to have 2 prolonged breaks in the schedule for long suffering Kings fans I have to ask....Why Now?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Quick to the Punch Pt 2; Kings beat Flames

A few notes and a few off the top of my head. Lets do it.

I said when Smyth and Scuderi went down that we should be happy with .500 hockey. Without looking at the results of those games I sure they did just that if not topped by a game or two. Sure Smyth aint back yet but you could see what Scuderi brings to the table in the final minutes of the 3rd. He reminds me of a better version of Aaron Miller. Some complained about his contract but you could see when the game is on the line Scuderi is about as good as dman as you will find in the league.

The Cycle- I am loving the work of our forwards on this team. Cant recall the last time we had so many players not only with good speed-but can and willing do the dirty work to cycle the puck. Parse, Richardson, Simmonds, Fro, Stoll, Williams-all are very good and adept at the cycle and last night they created a lot of chances off of it as well as visibly wore down the Calgary D. Even Moller looked like he was willing and able to work the puck low. Hate to say it but-this is another sign that doesnt bode well for Teddy P.

Parse-Really love what this guy brings to the table. Watching over the last couple of games you can see he plays with some intensity and grit that was never really reported in past scouting reports. Looks to me like he is really making the most of his call up. Would be very surprised to see him get sent down at this point. Looks as well like the chemistry is starting to blend with his line mates as well. And the fact he played hockey in Nebraska gives him brownie points.

Lets give some props to DL-last nights win would not have been a win without some of his acquisitions.

Looking at the trade of Visnovski for Stoll and Greene for instance. I liked Vis but the character that both Stoll and Greene bring is off the charts. We knew Greene is a 5th/6th dman who will occasionally scrap but his play on the PK is vastly underrated. Stoll won a ton of faceoffs, led the team in hits, scored the GW goal, and threw some nice props to the fans in his 1st star selection speech. Which brings us to Williams.

Maybe this is the flogging of a dead horse but Williams brings so much more to the table then Patty O. He can throw a check, take a check, make a pass, drive the net, work the cycle, etc etc. When that trade went down I thought the 2nd rd pick we made to get the deal done was too much but watching him play makes me think it was well worth it. And he certainly looks like the product of an illegitimate child of Dale Hunter and Bono.

Quick- Is he lucky or good or some combo of both? There are some games when any of those pucks would have trickled over the goal line....Im glad last night wasnt one of them. How rare of feat is it to only get 16 or so shots against Kiprusoff and still come away with a win?

Now some negatives or criticisms- Jack Johnson was pretty much solely to blame on the Glencross goal. For a guy who is as strong and well conditioned as he is, it looks like he is able to get out muscled and at this point in his development and it kind of makes sense. He was probably the strongest guy in college hockey and was used to being able to rub people out and use brute strength to make the plays-but in the NHL there are so many strong players that he needs to make an adjustment on how to play the bigger, stronger man. Do I bench him? No, I dont think so as overall the team is playing well. But-if he continues to make the occasional gaffe I certainly would think having him sit for a game to watch from the pressbox wouldnt be a bad thing-particularly since his spot would be filled with a competent Davis Drewiske.

Kings PP- The puck movement on the PP Goal was jaw dropping. I dont recall the Kings ever moving the puck like that....even going back to the Golden days. I hope we see more of that in the near future because it was brilliant.

Doughty- Gotta love the fact even Canadians are starting to talk about Doughty beating Phaneuf for a spot on the Olympic team. Mentioned earlier that Doughts play certainly makes every Johnson gaffe a bit more pronounced. The Poise on this kid is unbelievable. Funny to think as unhappy as we were when we lost the lottery and the Stamkos sweepstakes-Doughty may very well be the best player in one of the best draft years in recent memory. We can now switch our "would have could have" focus to last years draft and "what if" our way to think what may have been had we been able to pick 3rd and get Matt Duchene.

Can someone slap the director of the broadcast? I kept waiting for a replay of the Greene penalty in the 3rd but alas it was to no avail. I will give him props though-it was great hearing the refs/players on the live mic during the Richardson scrum. Ive said it 1000 times-if the NHL had some balls they'd mic every player and offer up everything warts and all with an alternate audio feed.

Im still flabbergasted reading some of the comments on LA Kings Insider critical of Terry Murray. I am not saying the guy is Scotty Bowman but I think there should be little doubt this is a well coached team. I mentioned before the season started that Terry Murray has always had teams that had huge point gains in the 2nd season with him as coach and it looks like it will ring true again knock on wood.

What a telling week and month this will be for the team. San Jose, Phoenix, and Dallas all in a weeks span with a Canadian Roadie after that with Van, Edm, & Calgary again, a long break(great for Smyths return hopefully) with the Yotes, 2 against the Wild, and Calgary one more time for good measure. Seeing Calgary so many times makes me long for the good ole days of the Smythe division when our division rivals were Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Hating Joel Otto and Jim Peplinski, Messier, Craig Muni, Garth Butcher, Jim Sandlak, and Winnipeg who never really had the hatable players but always seemed to have a rookie goalie you never heard of who managed to play like Terry Sawchuk every time we played them and Burton Cummings singing O Canada. Good times.

As always look forward to your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Quick to the Punch; Kings Beat Ducks

Always fantastic to beat the Ducks, one of the most satisfying things Kings fans can wallow is it not?

Lets get right to it.

Quick-The 3rd Ducks goal was a scary as was the final 3 minutes or so. That said-Quick is 3-0-0 against the Quacks and nothing matters more then the W at the end of the game. Was Uber Surprised at the praise heaped on him at the end by Bryan Hayward whome Ill speak more about later. In the last 4 games Quick has a 1.99 GAA and a .93 SV%. Id like to say he found his grove but the last Ducks goal shows there is still some work to do but all in all-Touche Senior Quick.

Simmonds-As well as Quick has played the last couple of Games Simmonds has bar none been our best forward. His hunger for the puck and wont call it willingness-but eagerness to battle for the puck is amazing. Was reading on another forum where someone thought Simmonds may be a future Selke candidate. Im not sure how realistic that may be as much as we'd love to see it BUT- Simmonds with 8 Goals and 8 Assists on the Season is on pace to go at least 20/20 and at current pace would finish the year with 46 pts. The Perry penalty at the end of the game was a bad one to take but I can only speculate since the Ducks broadcast decided it wasnt worth of replay. I dont know what diet Simmonds has but I wish someone in the front office would put Frolov on it.

Richardson-I said between the 2nd and 3rd periods that Richardson looks like a much better player then Frolov right not. Making the case more was Richardson's goal which was scored with him in front of the net willing to take the abuse NHL players take standing in front of the oppositions net. It wasn't just that goal though-you can see over the last 10 or so games that Richardson's heart and effort have been there consistently. Hayward mentioned that when Corey Perry finished as the OHL's scoring leader Richardson was #3 in same said category. It still is the ultimate slap in the face that the Kings had not one-but two chances to draft Perry and instead took Tambellini and Boyle. On the bright side-had we drafted Perry we probably wouldn't have finished as low as we did 2 seasons ago and never been in the Position to draft Doughty.

Randy Jones- I'll be honest in that while sometimes I Jones tends to make me nervous in his decision making and I see him as a 5-6 dman he then manages to make the big play that wins the game for us. 8Pts in 10 Games is not too shabby and there are probably some teams who passed over him on the waiver wire that are kicking themselves right about now. That said- if & when Scuderi gets back our DCorp is going to be in fantastic shape.

Kopitar-The Scoring is not there but he is still driving and forcing opposing teams to adjust coverage. I'd like to say lets move Simmonds or Richardson to that line but why mess with a good thing when those 2 are playing well?

Brown- Don't know how many caught it but there was a moment when Brown was standing next Wizniewski and Wiz gives him a little shove and Parros then comes over-but instead of trying to rough Brown has a huge grin and says something to Brown as to which Brown gives him a big smile as well. Not sure what to make of it other then to think Brown & Parros were probably semifriendly during Parros's days on the Kings. I still like big George but you can tell much like Ivanans that they dont really like to fight they just know its their job. That said-while Brown is in a scoring drought there is nothing wrong with his play as he is still driving the net and creating chances. Would like to see him go back to throwing his huge checks though.

Frolov- Back to the game against the Hawks I was watching him and couldnt figure out if he was indeed loafing out there are that his skating style simply gives the appearance thereof. That said last night, I noticed A)he was frequently the last guy on the back check and B)his unwillingness to go into the middle of the ice. There was one play where the puck fell right in front of the crease and Hiller but Frolov took a bit of a detour going to the front of the net and couldnt pick up the trash.
I am a Frolov fan, he appears to be a nice guy without any baggage but its time to make that "trade for trade sake" move with him. Here is what I see happening- Frolov and picks gets traded for a guy with a big contract who is under performing which is always risky, Frolov gets traded straight up for a player in a similar situation with impending UFA status, or Frolov gets moved for picks and a player well below Frolov's skill level aka Paul Gaustad or some other type player.

Hayward-I noticed going back to last season that Hayward during Kings/Ducks game has really turned down the blatant homerism....so instead of being 11 on the 1-10 Homer Scale he turns it down to 8.5 or somewhere in the general neighborhood.

I said when Smyth and Scuderi went down that we should be happy to play .500 hockey until they get back and in November we went 7-6. Being realistic without our top shutdown Dman and without Kopitars Jari Kurri in Smyth-that's the hand we have to play. Provided an outright collapse-this is what we need to stay in the hunt. The Good news in December is that there are a couple of bad teams we will be facing in Minnesota, Edmonton, & St Louis-the bad news is we play a lot of divisional foes and Calgary not once, not twice, but 3 times.

As always look forward to your thoughts.