Big on Defense

by | Feb 27, 2015

What’ new in LALALand? The Kings traded away a first-round pick (if they make the playoffs this year) and a prospect (Roland McKeown) for a defenseman to shore up a blueline weakened by suspension (Voynov) and injury (Martinez). The new West Coaster will be Andrej Sekera, a 28 year-old who was until a day ago playing for Carolina.

He was on his way to LA for their game versus Ottawa on Thursday evening but got delayed due to weather. He got to Los Angeles later in the day, readying himself in advance of a road trip that starts in Anaheim Friday then takes them to Winnipeg and Edmonton on Sunday and Tuesday.

Sekera is a left shooter, and he has the ability to play both sides of the ice, which allows him to slot in in a way similar to the missing Alec Martinez, according to media reports published this week. He played in Buffalo earlier in his career, for seven years in fact, and lest you think, “sure, just another European player,” note that he spent two years playing with the Owen Sound Attack after he was drafted by the Sabres in 2004.

It was also reported that the trade was not a matter of the Martinez injury per se, but rather something that the team had been considering all year after losing Voynov.

Sekera met the media between periods Thursday night wearing a jacket with peak lapels and a purple checked shirt. What? You don’t care about that? But if he suddenly showed up in a track suit, then look out (Evander Kane).

So what’d he say? He’s happy to be on a contender. He’s anxious to have Marian Gaborik, fellow Slovak, as a roomie. He’s currently living in a hotel, but he doesn’t need much to live just “a little water, oxygen.” He also is anxious to work with Regehr once more. They were together in Buffalo.

IH asked him if he had given a list of teams to the club, and he said no, he had no such clause in his contract.

One surprising thing—he looks much smaller than you might expect. If I had to pick a position for him based on physical size, I’d immediately say “right wing.” He’s Trevor Lewis’s stature, if you want a comparable on the Kings. Actually, Voynov was playing at 6’0” and 194. Sekera is that height and 200, as listed on I’d put him not an ounce over 185, and even that, with wet hair.

He’ll be immediately pressed into service, if for no other reason than that Doughty is playing a ton of minutes and is, according to one scout I spoke to on Thursday evening, worse the more his minutes head over 30. Of late, he has logged plus-30 twice in the last six games, and hit 30 exactly twice more and three times in the last seven games. Put this another way: the only time Doughty has had less than 28 minutes since nearly three months ago was December 6th, when he got 24 versus Arizona.

As for the Kings, they had won eight games in a row coming into Thursday’s play, and they were obviously hoping to extend this streak, which has them back in the playoffs, and to tie a club record to boot. This is the fourth time in club history that they’ve won eight in a row, and nine is their record. As I detail briefly in the notes below, the streak is now over.

So here’s a puzzler: goalies are far weaker on the second night of a back-to-back. This is a statistical fact. Jonathan Quick has played in 52 games now, given that he started against the Sens. The Kings play Friday night against Anaheim in a conference game which, you would assume, they feel is a must-win and which might be a tougher game to take than that against the Senators.

Further, Ottawa’s goalies have a combined five NHL starts this year, all for Andrew Hammond, because the second guy, Chris Driedger, has exactly no NHL starts in 2014-15. Heck, he doesn’t have any NHL starts in any year, and Hammond has just one prior to this season. Thus you would think that Ottawa is a considerably scaled-down threat compared to the Ducks.

So why, oh why, did the Kings start Quick? Is he going to play every game for the rest of the year? Is his body going to say that’s OK? He was, it must be noted, kneeling in his crease in the breaks at the five-minute marks (when you at home are watching commercials). Perhaps he’s always done that, but I don’t recall it as a usual feature of his game routine.

And will he be pressed into service again in Anaheim? Quite likely, given that the Kings scrape the bottom of the playoff race in the West and that they need to win pretty much every game they can until somebody else starts losing and drops out of the race.

In a day, fans will see. But the two SoCal teams are quite happy to have seen the end of the Senators, who combined for four goals in two nights to take two wins away.


About the game itself Thursday night: there were a number of penalties called in the first two periods. Neither team got much flow going, and the shot total at halfway favored LA by just a few, 17-13. But that didn’t account for the puck ringing off the post off the stick of Curtis Lazar just prior to the halfway point of the period. It was off a turnover by Justin Williams coming out of the LA zone.

Later in the frame, another puck, this one off the stick of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, went through Quick and off the far post. Still no score, though the Ottawa goalie had had to make a couple of fine saves, one on Dwight King, the other on Trevor Lewis on a rebound.

Ottawa also got two point-blank chances on Quick late, one off of Bobby Ryan and the other Mike Hoffman. He held on tight to the second one. The Kings then countered with a shot that Stoll knocked down and forced to slide across the top of the crease. He fell-dove over the goalie to try to get a stick on it but could not.

As the game wore on, the Kings surged, recording a total of 35 shots including 11 in the third period, but they couldn’t defeat goalie Hammond, who now has recorded to shutouts in a row and has thus blanked opponents in one-third of his NHL games. This despite a late chance when the Sens had a penalty. They were shorthanded for nearly the last two minutes of the game. It ended 1-0.


Big news: My new book, Facing Wayne Gretzky, is reviewed (very well) in the March 9 edition of The Hockey News. This is huge for me.

Follow me on twitter @growinguphockey. Thanks.

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