Boring, Until the End

Commas matter. By the end of this story, you’ll know why.

A game with no score can be exciting, or it can be boring. Friday night in Anaheim, the Ducks took on the Tampa Bay Lightning in a game that was 0-0 until 5.2 seconds were left in OT, at which moment Ryan Getzlaf charged down the left side of the ice and muscled to the net to gather his own rebound and win the game for the home team. In the meantime, there were two fights, one more staged than necessary, and a ton of great chances that each goalie had to fight off. Exciting.

By contrast, here’s boring: two teams that don’t get going, take few shots, almost never test the goaltenders, and who don’t fight. (Not that I’m a big advocate of that, but when it’s necessary, and it represents passion and honest payback, that’s OK.) That was the game in LA a night after the Anaheim thriller. Colorado and LA put on a show of snooze-worthy proportions, with no organized attacks through almost two periods and just 35 shots registered in the two frames (only fourteen of those for the Kings).

Near the end of period two, things got a little more lively when a double deflection off of two Kings went awkwardly in on Ben Scrivens, forcing him to make a mid-save adjustment to get the puck with a leg. After that, the Colorado team’s strategy seemed to adjust some, to “just shoot it.” Andre Benoit came across the blueline, whirled around, and took a whack at the puck. Scrivens had that easily.

Then there was a three-way pass with PA Parenteau dishing the puck off and getting it back right in front for a shot. Scrivens again got in the way of it.

Meanwhile at the other end of the rink Semyon Varlamov was probably checking out the sweaters in the rafters, there was so little for him to do. (Those numbers, by the way, represent Vachon, Dionne, Taylor, Gretzky, and Robitaille.) He did have a little more to worry about as the second period unwound, with John Mitchell whacking his opposite Mitchell (Willie) around the neck and face region with his stick to earn himself a four-minute rest. The Kings, who have been just middling on the power play thus far this year (they came into the night fourteenth in the league; Colorado was twelfth), spent the first minute of the man advantage passing the puck around and hoping for a rebound after a shot aimed at the midpoint of the goalie’s blocker, on purpose it appeared.

But the second period ended as the game had begun, 0-0, and if the ticket price had been thirty bucks, of the twenty that two periods should have cost, only about seven were earned. OK, that’s completely arbitrary, but when you compare the action and effort made in the OC on Friday night, the difference was obvious.

Of course, all of that makes sense since the two teams do tend to be defense-minded. Colorado had scored 68 goals coming into the game, and the Kings 64. The Avs, starting the night in fifth in the West, had scored fewer goals than any of the other top six teams, and they were nearly 20 behind Chicago. The Kings were sitting with a whole lot of others at their number (five in total). Flip that to goals against and the story looks much the same. The Kings had allowed 50, the Avs 45. Colorado is WAY under the average in that regard, with only Boston in the league anywhere close (41). The Kings are on the very low side of average. Just for comps, Anaheim has allowed 63, the Hawks 69, and Phoenix 70.

So fans waited through the period break, thanking their lucky stars that the “frozen t-shirts” contest wasn’t being played on the evening, and hoped. Would that three minutes of power play remaining lead to a couple of goals?

Nope. In fact, it led to just one crummy shot. Five times on the kill, the Avalanche cleared the puck all the way down. It was bad enough that the Kings’ fans in the sold-out arena were booing before it was over. Yawn.

But that all changed with about five minutes to go in the third period. Willie Mitchell took a high-sticking penalty, and the Avs poured it on on the PP. Scrivens was brilliant, making three saves that will stay in memory for a long time. The first was a deflection that he got on his blocker and then a follow-up that he got with his trapper. The second chance was with the legs. The third was a slapper. With 5:12 left in the third, the score was still nil-nil and the shots were Kings 18, Avs 30.

Overtime meant the second 0-0 sixty-minute game in two nights in SoCal. The Avs had 2 shots by the end, the Kings one, and it was Colorado that took the win. The goal came when John Mitchell put the puck to Jan Hejda who gave it back to Mitchell. He sent it to Jamie McGinn, who shot and saw the puck go off a defender on a rebound and in.

After the game, Coach Roy said, “For the entirety, the whole sixty minute game, I thought it was one of our best games of the year, in fact, it was the best game of the year. I thought we had a lot of good chances. We had a good traffic in front of the net.” He also went on to compliment almost everything else from defense, to play on the boards. He also referenced the Stanley Cup win in ’93, interestingly enough. But he later said that it’s only twenty games in, and too early to make predictions. But he said the goal is to make the playoffs, since the team has missed four of the past five years in the postseason.

He said his team is both blocking more shots and driving more to the net than earlier in the year, and that generally the team is doing better than they were earlier on. “The goal in overtime is a good example. Some nights, Jamie McGinn might have passed, but he drove that net. Nice pass by Mitchell, and he scored. Unfortunately for them, it hit their own guy to go in.”

So the game was boring, largely, in that it wasn’t until the end that the good stuff happened. It wasn’t altogether boring, though. It was just boring until the ending third, or sixth. That each team got one point and Colorado two may have ameliorated that to a degree. That the goal was kind of weak might have disappointed some, but in the end, somebody had to win this thing, and given the chances and shots Colorado put up, it rightly was them. So if you like, it was boring, until the end. It was certainly not boring until the end.

Kings Notes

The team has Jeff Carter skating again, though there’s no definite news of his return date.

Buy my new book, Pond Hockey, for Christmas.

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