This week was supposed to show hockey fans where the two SoCal teams were heading, and most people figured that that was in different directions. The Kings and the Ducks play two common opponents this week: the New York Islanders and Boston.
The Kings were supposed to prove that their rebuild was for real, that their veterans-and-youth approach was bearing fruit. The Ducks were supposed to show that, despite flirting with a playoff spot, they were still more flash than dash and not a team whose young people could carry them.
Sure, sure, that’s all fine, and it was proven true when the Isles lost to the Kings 5-2 on Saturday and beat the Ducks 4-0 on Sunday.
But the experiment started to go awry when the Bruins came in and beat LA 7-0 with never a whimper that would suggest the SoCal team had a chance. That happened on Monday night.
Sixty-one seconds in, Jonathan Quick of the Kings allowed a bit of a softie to get through him from a distance. That was by Jake DeBrusk. He wasn’t done. Later in P1, he added another. As period two got going—barely, since it was at 53 seconds—he finished his hat trick. After one from Patrice Bergeron and another from Taylor Hall, Eric Haula got two goals in period three.
The lead was, and the eventual win would be, 7-0 for Boston. The Bruins were marginally outshot, 32-34, and they did damage on their PP, going two of three. This despite the Kings having surged into the 90th percentile in PK work over the past couple of months.
From the start, the Kings didn’t have a lot of jump, though Quick made at least one spectacular save, turning upside down and sticking a leg out from under his body, but even that didn’t get his team inspired. Nor did a fight that Brendan Lemieux had with Trent Frederic.
The Kings were riding a five-game win streak, 8-1-1 in the prior ten games. They now go to Dallas for another test, then Columbus and Buffalo. Boston will await them on Monday in their home arena. How many points more LA will have, and how much or little their playoff position is solidified as a result, will be interesting to see.
Tuesday, the Ducks get to show the Kings up when Boston turns up in their arena. Maybe the Bruins will be suffering from the back-to-backs. Maybe they’ll clean the Ducks’ clock. Who knows, though it will be interesting if the Ducks win and the whole equation of what was supposed to happen versus common opponents is turned inside out.
Still, you have to ask yourself—heck, this isn’t even the best team in the East. Nowhere close. So how would either California team stand a chance facing the quality of the East, which most would agree is in that Southern belt where Carolina’s Hurricanes and Florida’s Panthers and Lightning reside? It would be like last year’s playoffs, and the one before that, where a sitting duck makes the Final and gets whooped. And yes, I say that as a native Montrealer. But that’s way ahead of time. They need to make the playoffs first, then get by a bunch of good-but-not-great teams in the Western Conference.
Some consolation might come from the fact that some of those thought untouchable are not so anymore. They would be Minnesota in the Central and practically every team in the Pacific, given that all of those from position two (LA) to six (Vancouver) are currently on losing streaks or have just lost their most recent game. Calgary, leading the Pacific, won ten in a row recently, lost, now has another streak started. Do either of the Ducks or Kings have anything to match them with, should they end up contesting for the Division in the second round?
To put a brighter spin on things, the Kings would play Vegas if today’s positions held, formerly a scary prospect but not so much now, given some goaltending shakiness on their part. Then Calgary would await, unless of course Calgary faced off against Edmonton and lost. That would happen only if Edmonton shook off their own goalie woes and overcame the transition to playoff hockey that their speedy style has not, so far, shown itself capable of finding a path for.
Oh boy. This is going to be interesting, especially by contrast to the East, where the playoffs have been largely set for at least a couple of weeks now and the spectacle has become the unlikely situation in Montreal.
Jonathan Quick was spelled after five goals on 19 shots. The Kings at the time had the same number of shots on Jeremy Swayman in the Boston net.
The seventh goal by Boston left Quick’s replacement, Cal Petersen, out to dry, with back-and-fourth passing finally yielding an open net.
The good news on the sixth goal? It was Haula’s 100th. At the pace he’s now going, he’ll hit 500 in another 2000 games, or about in 2047.