The Kings have to win twenty-five more games to wind up with 94 points. They have only thirty-two games to do that in. That’s the math. Now, you probably don’t want to hear about that for one of two reasons. First, you’re from away and don’t care how this team is doing. Seeing them cellar-dwelling, you think to yourself, “That’s how they were for years.” You’re unsympathetic. After all, they have two Cups.
The other is that you’re a fan, and you don’t want to hear the truth. Why would you? It means that there’s probably nothing to play for this season, despite there being more than thirty games to go. But who ever said that the playoffs were everything? Maybe the games matter, even if the whole thing isn’t leading anywhere this year.
And maybe Coach Desjardins isn’t quite ready to concede. At least, that’s what he said after his team beat St. Louis 4-3 in an afternoon Martin Luther King, Jr. Day game in Los Angeles.
“As a coach, my job is to find ways to win. Like, I gotta find ways to win, and keep working at that. You know, it is, it is kinda surprising, because we haven’t played . . . I feel we can play better, and yet we’re still not totally out of it. It’s still around. We’ve got good goaltending, and whenever you have good goaltending, you have a chance, so if we do get a few things better, I think we can play better. I still think we have more, so, ah, but by that, we have had some time, and we haven’t got it going yet, but, you know, we have to stay on it.”
Against the Blues, the Kings had the benefit of two five-on-three power plays. They scored one power play goal. No point in critiquing a win, but this was on ten minors by the Blues which had them shorthanded for more than six minutes in total. LA in turn took just two minors. The Blues scored on one of those.
The hockey was wide open. Neither team played a lot of defense, in other words. The goalies were good, Quick especially. It doesn’t matter to him that he’s likely not going anywhere (except, if you listen to the gossip, away at the trade deadline). He was still willing to follow the puck across the crease to get a rebound, full splits on display. The puck went in anyway, but that moment is emblazoned in fans’ (and writers’) memories. This is what will take this guy to the HHOF one day not long after he retires. And they/we will remember.
The Blues got their contributions from MacEachern, Sundqvist, and O’Reilly. For the first of those fellows, it was his first goal of the year, the first of his five-game NHL career.
When it was all done, the Kings had erased a two-goal St. Louis lead with a power play goal just shy of mid-way through period two, and gone up by a goal, 3-2. They let the lead get away from them when St. Louis scored a power play goal of their own at six minutes of the third, but they regained the lead at about halfway through the third.
The coach commented, “I thought our response was good after we went down 2-0. We got a big goal near the end of the first. We talked about how we would respond. I think the group was pretty determined after the last game that they wanted a little more [inaudible] tonight.”
St. Louis came in a couple of spots ahead of the Kings in the West. That still made them seventh, to the Kings’ ninth, and thus not exactly a powerhouse.
LA got scoring from the proper guys: Doughty, Kopitar, and Toffoli, and they got the game-winner from Paul LaDue, a defenseman who potted his second goal of the year. Two assists went to Brendan Leipsic, whose second was a lovely pass threaded through the legs of Pietrangelo and right onto LaDue’s tape as he cruised down the slot.
Since Leipsic was picked up on waivers from Vancouver, he has eight points in 22 games. He had five in 17 games at the point Vancouver let him go.
LaDue described the goal by crediting Leipsic for the pass and saying that he was just shooting at the open space. It was a perfect shot, in fact, and it would have been a shame not to capitalize after the beautiful feed by Leipsic.
St. Louis outshot the Kings 36-29 and out-Corsi’d them 61-49. That’s Quick for you. On the other end, Jordan Binnington, kind of a good story for St. Louis in late days, was fine in net. He was given no help on the first and fourth goals. The second was five-on-three, and the third happened as Brown passed it to Kopitar who waited and held it wide and shot it in from close to the net. It was a two-on-one break.
All of those goal descriptions sound a lot like they were created by a team which plays offense pretty well, and that makes you wonder why the Kings don’t do this all the time.
Here’s Desjardins again: “We seem to play well when teams are playing good. Whenever a team is on a roll, we seem to rise and play good.” The question is, why can’t the Kings play consistently? Desjardins didn’t have an answer for that one.
Kopitar and Carter each had four shots for the Kings, while the Blues were led by Steen with six and O’Reilly with five.
The game was memorable in another way: the Kings, as they have done in years past, played Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech during the second intermission. The crowd responded with energy and clapping.
Wayne Gretzky’s birthday is this weekend. For more on him and some spectacular stories about his career, please pick up my book, Facing Wayne Gretzky.