Like it or not, the game LA played against visiting Carolina on Sunday night IS Kings hockey. Low scoring. Intense. Featuring great goaltending. It’s like it’s the 1950s again.
A spectacular save at the end of period one made for something to talk about at intermission one. That, and a 0-0 period, which meant that the Kings, 4-6-0 and on a two-game losing streak, could come out for P2 with their hopes intact.
In fact, the fans cheered Quick as the period ended, when he made a save on Carolina’s Lucas Wallmark, and then another one. That second save was a sliding two-pad stack, Rogie Vachon-style. Goalies never do that kind of thing any more. Too positional, the game these days.
But Quick has never been entirely conventional, nor was he being careful, having just come back from knee surgery that kept him out of the lineup from October 28 to November 25. He missed 13 games. He’s been back for a week, having played in one prior to this one, a loss in Edmonton. In fact, get this: prior to Sunday, he had not yet won a game all year, in five tries.
His place was taken by Calvin Petersen, in the bench on this night, who sports a 4-4 record and a .929 save percentage. Also having played some goal this year for the Kings: Jack Campbell, now also on IR, and Peter Budaj, now back to the Ontario Reign to await another chance. He won for the AHL team Sunday, by the way.
The sick bay in LA has been full. Remember how the team got Ilya Kovalchuk in the summer to bolster the offense? Hurt. Or rather ill, or something. The bursa around his ankle was infected and surgically fixed.
Remember Adrian Kempe? He was supposed to start coming on offensively. Hurt. Day to day, upper body. He was a last-minute scratch. His absence made the Kings play seven defensemen, which Coach DesJardins said afterwards made for a lot of minutes for some centers, namely Kopitar (nearly 26 minutes).
How about Carl Hagelin, lately of Pittsburgh but now a King? Hurt. Hit by a shot in practice.
Trevor Lewis? Out since November 16th, lower body.
In fact, the team is so devastated that they took the somewhat unusual plan of dressing just 11 forwards and substituting with an extra defenseman, as noted. That is probably not the way to generate offense for a team which has scored the fewest goals in the league—56 coming into Sunday—and trails in goal differential to the entire league except Chicago, which is also a -26.
But that’s honestly misleading. The Kings are getting their chances, and the hockey they’re playing is not the slow, plodding affair that it seems like it might be given that sad goal number.
Against the Hurricanes, the offense picked up in P2. To cite an instance, Martinez came low and took a shot, got the rebound, and threw it out front again, only to see it go under a couple of teammates and past them to the corner.
But the Hurricanes were the ones really pouring it on. The shots were relatively even, starting the frame at 13-12 for LA and ending 25-20 for the home team. The chances were much more for Carolina.
Quick had to be spectacular to keep the game at nothings. He had Calvin De Haan coming down the slot with the man advantage. Save. He had the Hurricanes all around the net with eight minutes done. Nothing past him. He had a loose puck get to Lucas Wallmark in direct line of the net and a quick shot on him. Save.
Period three began much like P2 had, with a mini-scrum. This one was caused when Van Riemsdyk took exception to a Doughty hit and Austin Wagner came in in Doughty’s defense. No fighting ensued, and no penalties either way.
The game was still tied at zeros with five gone in the third. And then again, at ten. And fifteen. Along the way, Quick had stopped a backhand by Brock McGinn, diving over with his glove. He lost his mask as he went to the ice on his chest.
But the best three were in a row, as the Kings killed off a five-on-three. He came out on his knees to deny Jordan Staal. He made a leg save wide right on Sebastian Aho. And he did it to Aho again. Special netminding.
Then, with 2:13 left, Alec Martinez snuck down from the point—charged down, actually, skating right around the Carolina left winger—and buried a puck that came off of Brown, who slid it diagonally to Muzzin, who saw his D partner coming to the net and put it there. Martinez scored his second of the season.
They added an empty netter, Clifford getting it after he’d missed on prior. He rung the first off the post from a long distance, but got the second one when the puck came to him alone in the middle of the ice. He skated it into the net.
But make no mistake. This game, and victory, were all Quick, and in getting his first win of the season, he got his 50thcareer shutout. Fitting given how well he played. But he still wouldn’t talk about it after.
“I just thought as a team, we were able to get a win. And that’s what it comes down to.” Was this one special? “They’re all good. None of them are any better than any others. They’re all tough. As hard as any other game. Try to make enough saves to win games.”
He did credit the five-on-three kill (halfway through the third) as the key, but then turned right around and talked about his opposite netminder, Petr Mrazek, making a big save. “We were able to, uh, uh, get the one” was his summary.
IH asked Martinez about the goal. Did he know right off the faceoff that he was going to jump down there? “Uh,” he paused, “Not really. It was somewhat of a set play, but I wasn’t really su [stops]—um, somewhat of a set play but kind of a hockey read off of a play that we try to run sometimes.”
So are we back to the good old days, when Quick gets a shutout every night and the Kings score just one goal? Seems like maybe.
Martinez summarized: “Obviously, it was a pretty emotional one. If anything, you wanted to do it for Quickie, because Jonathan Quick was simply outstanding. That might have . . . . I’ve seen that guy play a lot of good hockey, and that game was certainly up there. If for nothing else, do it for him.”
Oh, just say it: this might have been Jonathan Quick’s most amazing performance ever. The game won’t mean much. His play sure did.
My hockey books might make great Christmas presents. Or my WW1 book, Mixing Memory and Desire: Why Literature Can’t Forget the Great War.