Wait. This is all backwards. With the season just underway, the LA Kings started in a 0-2 hole. Most people had them as a good candidate to build on last year’s playoff berth and strong showing.
The Anaheim Ducks, who almost always get off to a dreadfully slow start, won their first game, albeit in OT, and so gave their supposedly fellow non-playoff team, the Seattle Kraken, a standings point. They don’t care about Seattle, who most people think will be no threat to any other Pacific or Western Conference team for playoff spoils.
Speaking of those Kraken, they got their point on Wednesday, then ran up the freeway to face LA and got two more on a strong defensive effort and by a 4-1 score. The last goal was into an empty net, you should know.
Things on the Left Coast are definitely not starting out like most people think they’ll end up. Of course, a week is just a week, and both LA and Anaheim headed out on the road after those initial games, LA for five games and the Ducks for five as well, so that should be a test, and perhaps a series of events which will lead each team to their expected path.
In fact, the first Anaheim road contest saw them demolished by the Islanders, 7-1. The second one had them dropping a game to the Rangers, 6-4. They let the Rangers get up by two, tied it, and then saw New York run away and hide. The Kings got into a high-scoring affair with Minnesota—as if either of these teams was a likely candidate for that kind of game—and prevailed, 7-6. They then turned their attentions to Detroit and squeaked out an OT win. They were cruising in regulation when Arvidsson lazed an empty-net puck to the cage and ended up having it stripped by Larkin of Detroit from behind. Detroit tied it susequently, but the Kings scored in OT, Danault on a broken play-pass across the front that ended up bouncing in off the goalie. Probably justice was done in this case.
So what did we notice this week?
Not that this is causal of their losses, but the Kings started Jonathan Quick in each of the first two games. On Tuesday night, he was good, and not to blame for the final goal scored with under thirty seconds left in the game off a defensive mistake. But to me, he seemed tired, a little uncoordinated almost, as the Tuesday home opener trailed into the third period. And who would blame him for fatigue—he faced 51 Vegas shots in the game, on a team that prides itself on a complete game and which played that way all last year. He was back in net versus Detroit in game four. Cal Petersen took the six-goal hit in the Minnesota game, not a great statistical start for him.
LA also made a major march to the penalty box, taking five minors on the opening night. They allowed zero shorthanded goals despite this, though neither did they score with the man advantage on three tries. They had seven penalties against the Wild, but the Minnesota team was equally sloppy, so put that down to a game where discipline got left at the door and the score reflected the fact. Against Detroit, they took four minors and saw the Wings take the same number.
This season is starting out like last year, when LA opened the campaign 1-5-1 before finding themselves. After their season-opening loss to Vegas, they would lose again in game two, played Thursday versus Seattle. The shots were more in the normal range, with just 22 for Seattle. Quick got all but three that he was between the pipes for.
The Ducks, of course, started Jon Gibson to open the season. He was sharp, stopping 44 shots of 48 versus the Kraken to keep his team in there with the score eventually being 5-4 for Anaheim. You’re going to hear this a lot this year: “If only Gibby,” as they call him, “were not in there . . . .” Well, on opening night at Honda Center, he was, so he wrote the story his way. Seriously, though—48 shots against? Give the man some help, Anaheim. He was spelled after two periods against the Islanders in season game two, and once again in the cage when it came time to play the Rangers in game three. He let in five goals in two periods, and was spelled again. That’s less him than the team in front of him, of course.
On the scoring side, another question was definitively answered (read that as facetious—it’s week one, for crying out loud): Troy Terry will reprise his 37-30-67 point season last year. He started with two goals, including the game winner, and one assist, as Anaheim opened their campaign. Three points puts him on Gretzky pace. He had four points after two games, and five after three. Oh, this is magical. Maybe.
Let’s not read too much into that, but more meaningful might be that the Ducks came from 3-1 down and 4-2 down and scored the final three goals in the Anaheim season opener. It would be but a memory as they waved goodbye to the Rangers’ game on the wrong end of a 6-4 score. Six to four? Either number of goals used to win you an NHL game. Scoring is up, you might know.
So the SoCal fans are, after seven days of hockey, kinda showing to be more what they were expected to be now, with the Ducks way off the pace and the Kings clawing out some results that will likely put them in a playoff position come April. But that’s a long time away, so don’t expect anything to be this way over the intervening months. That’s why they play the games, after all.