Ninety-two years ago, a war that had claimed 10,000,000 lives ended. The ceasefire happened on November 11, 1918, which is why the day is commemorated around the world as Remembrance Day. That matters simply because it does.
But thematically, the idea of war, and the notion of 11/11 mattering, connects to the Kings-Stars game played Thursday night in LA.
The Kings were without two key figures. Willie Mitchell, a defenseman, is out with a broken wrist, and Alexei Ponikarovsky with a broken hand. Jake Muzzin, who started the year with the NHL team, was recalled from Manchester to fill in for Mitchell. In the latter’s slot on the third line was Brad Richardson, up from the fourth line. And taking his slot with the muckers was Trevor Lewis, who was in his fourth game of the year.
After the game, defenseman Matt Greene’s face told the story of what had happened on the ice. He had a fat lip, cut, and a red sore on his cheek. His demeanor was calm as he recited the events of the evening, but his summation was clear.
“Sometimes, you’ve gotta play in the trenches; that’s how it goes,” he said.
Whether he knew it or not, Greene was invoking a World War I metaphor. The fight between Austro-Hungary and Germany and the other side—chiefly France, England, and the countries of the British Empire—was a mobile war for only a few months. Then each side dug in, literally. They spent the next four years in a line of zig-zag trenches, rarely moving forward or back except in certain key moments. One of those was the battle of the Somme, begun on July 1st, 1916, and costing five thousand British lives. On the first day.
The action on the ice Thursday night created more than its fair share of casualties too. The two teams combined for 91 penalty minutes and was roughly balanced out between the two sides. One of the sets of fighting majors doled out happened, to get back to the Great War metaphor, at 11:11 of the third period. It was for a fight between Mark Fistric and Wayne Simmonds. It came along with a minor to Richardson, for cross checking Trevor Daley behind the Dallas net.
Why had he done that? Because on his way to the net, Richardson had been high-sticked by Daley, an infraction that was not called. In anger, he had slammed Daley into the boards to the left of the Stars net. He then skated back up the ice at the left hash marks and was mugged in a scrum which resulted in Simmonds and Fistric fighting.
The end result of that plus a holding penalty to Justin Williams just after was a 5-on-3 power play for Dallas. The Stars poured on the shots, and Jonathan Quick had his best couple of minutes in what is a remarkable year so far for the Kings netminder. He made saves on high shots and low ones, and he dove right to left at one point with his glove outstretched only to see a shot sail wide.
That penalty episode took place after the Kings had already secured a 2-1 lead, on a goal by Justin Williams at 6:51 of the third period. It was his seventh, tying him with Dustin Brown for the team lead. Brown had scored his seventh at 6:13 of the opening stanza.
The Kings then sat on that goal until late in the opening when Stars forward Jamie Benn tied things up at 1-1 at 17:04. There was no scoring in the second, and LA ended the scoring on the night late in the third (17:12) on a power play goal to seal it, 3-1. Their final two goals were on the power play. They allowed none when shorthanded, extending their streak of not having allowed a PP goal all year at home.
The nastiness was not over for the night, however. With four minutes left, Adam Burish hit Drew Doughty from the side, boarding him and getting a five-minute major penalty along with a game misconduct. The hit was with the shoulder, but the angle put Doughty head-first into the boards.
“You have to battle for it,” Kings coach Terry Murray summed up afterwards.”Guys jumped in in hard physical situations and if you had to fight, you did.” That sounds exactly what a commander of troops might have said in 1915, when it was “over the top and the best of luck.”
With the night’s battle ended, each team now retreats to its own side, with no man’s land metaporically represented by the distance between California and Texas and by the time until these two squads meet again. Oddly enough for teams that meet six times, that won’t be until mid-January but you can be sure that the two teams will be ready with a sophisticated arsenal of weaponry, or at least with a serious grudge to settle.
Private (later Corporal) Archibald Philip Kennedy survived his four years in France as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. I honor his service today—he was my grandfather.
The Kings will likely send Brayden Schenn back to Junior, but have now played Kyle Clifford in his tenth game of the year. He saw just 4:50 of action, but had a fight with Brandon Segal after he had made a hit which resulted in a boarding penalty (two minutes).
Clifford is, according to local press reports, playing about where he will slot into the organization. He’s a third- or fourth-line kind of player.
Schenn is hoped to be a second line center at worst, and he’s not likely to get enough time in a leading role this year with the NHL club.