The Kings and Colorado faced off in LA on Wednesday night—weird for the LA team but necessary to be on US national TV—and this gave IH a chance to reflect on a couple of things.
First, the Avs seem lost in a way, their roster made up of nearly unrecognizable names—Bigras, Skille, Martinsen?—and nearly done’s—Iginla, Beauchemin. But they’re not a bad team. They sat in the playoffs at the beginning of the night, and for all the hope in Anaheim, the numbers are plain: Colorado has 57 points to Anaheim’s 51. So they’re hardly also-rans.
Kings fans remember the bad old days—bad for their team but of the super-powerful Avs—from the turn of the 21st century, when the Colorado team romped over the Kings in two playoff years consecutively, though truth be told, just making the playoffs back in those days was a blessing for the LA squad.
Look where they’ve gone since. The Avs briefly descended into obscurity before coming out of their funk last year with Roy as their coach. The Kings have won two Stanley Cups of four, and they’re every bit as likely to share the “three-times-lately” label with Chicago at the end of this spring as they are not to.
In fact, any game in the West these days, with about 30 remaining (actually more for the Kings—the Avs fewer, as they’ve played three more games than the Kings, but four more than the Ducks, just to put that earlier-cited notice of Anaheim into perspective) is really about, well, nothing much at all. It doesn’t matter who makes the playoffs, assuming that none of Chicago, Dallas, LA, and maybe St. Louis or San Jose, fall out. The Kings or Blackhawks are locks to make the Finals. Maybe Dallas. But the bottom three or four who venture into the post-season do so only to raise temporary hope and sell a few tickets and drinks. There’s no other point in their being there. So all we’re doing now is waiting to see if the inevitable happens. And it will.
That makes this LA-Colorado game just ‘nother game, though it did have its share of interesting moments.
The Kings went out 1-0 off a beautiful goal by Drew Doughty. He cruised into the zone as Kopitar spotted him and sent a puck cross-ice and off the boards. Doughty picked it up, cruised across the slot, and tossed a backhand behind Calvin Pickard.
The Kings went up 2-0 later the period. Then they went to their dressing room and took a strong sleep aid. At least, that’s what the second period looked like. They allowed a goal at 42 seconds and another one at 7:10. The first resulted from their running around in their zone. The second was off a long rebound by Quick. Not impressive. Coach Sutter was later to say that his team took 40 shots and that this should have been enough to get them a win. The comment was an offside reference to Quick’s goaltending.
The shots were 6-0 early in the period for Colorado, and ended at 9-7 for the Kings, with an aggregate number of 27-12, though the game sure didn’t seem that lopsided. The Kings, in other words, were able to get back into the game after a relatively weak second. They got a goal late to go up 3-2 by the fifteen minute mark of period two.
Jordan Nolan fought off a check with about five minutes left to shovel a pass across the crease to Dwight King. Of course I had in mind Sutter’s “It’s a 3-2 league” quote, so I went to the game notes, since this goal made it 3-2. Is this odd or what: the Kings’ last six games have featured at least one team or the other scoring three goals. Four of those times that has been LA. They’ve won three of the games 3-2. The other one they lost 5-3 versus Ottawa.
The third period, speaking of threes, featured two more goals by Colorado, the first on the power play. They tied the game with about eight minutes gone and went ahead with ten gone. The Kings pushed towards the end, even having the 6-on-4 advantage when Colorado took a late hooking penalty. No goals resulted.
Interesting factoids from the game: Jerome Iginla played 14:27 largely unseen minutes, though he did put on a burst at one point. He knocked a rebound out of the air, and Quick responded by knocking that shot out of the air with his stick.
Beauchemin saw 28:05 of ice time, hardly small minutes. His numbers were bettered by Erik Johnson with 29:29.
The Kings were playing their fifth game in nine nights, the Avs their fifth in eight. They had won four and lost one coming in, while LA had won two, lost two, then won the other night at San Jose. The Avalanche were trounced 6-1 in San Jose, a reason several players cited for their need to get back on track versus LA. Coach Sutter also mentioned this as a factor in why the visitors were strong.
The Avs have five players with 30 or more points. The Kings have three. The top producer on Colorado is MacKinnon, with 41 points. The top on LA, Kopitar, with 41. Mr. MacKinnon better start shopping for Ferraris if he can keep this up. Kopitar, as you know, is going to be making 10 million bucks a year starting next season.
Let’s not leave out matt Duchene, who has 42. Wonder what he’s driving?
In case they’re curious, Ferrari of Denver is in a town called Highland Ranch. One must assume that’s close enough to the mile-high city to cruise in for an oil change whenever one is needed.
On the opposite end is who doesn’t score. The Avs have three defensemen with no goals, including Bigras, Guenin, and Bodnarchuk, along with one guy with a single goal, Redmond. The Kings have just one guy with no goals, and he’s the aforementioned Nolan.
Matt Duchene said after, “It seems like every time we come here they shell-shock us, especially in the first. Tonight we were able to buckle down, and I thought we took control of the game after the first period and did a really good job.”
Indeed, they took two separate leads from the Kings and won on the strength of 19 shots on goal. “We loved our second period, and we hated our first. We rebounded really well after that first,” Duchene said later on. “We’ve been playing great hockey for a long time now. We want to make the playoffs. In this conference it doesn’t matter where you finish; it’s about getting in, because any team can win it.” I disagree, but time will tell.
Sutter was in quite the mood after the game, but he perked up when asked about Kings’ Hall of Fame announcer Bob Miller, who is having heart bypass surgery. “He’ll be fine. He’s a tough old bugger. All that hollerin’ he’s done over the years, a little bit of damage there, but he’ll be fine. He deserves a little time off. He was probably doing play-by-play from the couch tonight. And loud.”
Mr. Miller’s a great guy. He’s generous of spirit and always willing to chat. He’s the one who put the publisher of my Gretzky book in touch with me, so I owe him a heck of a lot. Here’s to a quick recovery. Go Bob go!