Coming into this afternoon's Kings-Avalanche match-up, I was worried about the Kings getting caught in a trap game. I was worried about a 2 point win. So when we started the first period with a couple of goals, I settled in for an easy ride to the finish, confident the Kings had steered away from potential disaster.
I wasn't prepared for the sound of 18,000 plus fans becoming suddenly silent in the middle of the second period.
I didn't see the play happen. It was at the far end of the arena from where I was sitting, on the same side as my section but hidden by glass and people blocking my view. I glanced up at the Jumbotron to look for a replay and saw nothing. No music played. None of the players moved.
Then I got a text from a friend watching at home that simply said "Oh no. Please be OK." I still couldn't see, so I asked who, and as I waited for a response, hushed words rippled through the crowd. "Oh my God, Kopitar is down."
Anze Kopitar was playing in his franchise record 330th consecutive game when he caught his skate in a rut during play along the boards. He fell backward awkwardly, the skate stayed put and the portion of his leg above the ankle went the opposite direction. In a matter of seconds, his season was ended by a broken ankle. In those same seconds, the Kings lost the best player on their team. They lost little bit of heart in that moment too. The 4-1 regulation win we so badly needed was little consolation.
What this awful and unexpected development means for the Kings play-off chances is any one's guess at this point. Lines will get shuffled. Perhaps a call-up from Manchester's already depleted roster. Maybe this just means healthy scratches like Brad Richardson and Kevin Westgarth will have to find an extra gear they haven't shown so far this season. Everyone on the roster will be digging deep this time. There are no easy answers, no quick fixes. What we lost today is irreplaceable.
During my walk home from the game, it all seemed liked a bad dream. Then I started to think maybe the Kings suffer from a Gretzky curse similar to the "Curse of the Bambino" but in reverse. Do the Hockey Gods hate the Kings?
In an attempt to make myself feel better, I looked online for a parable or motivational story of some kind that would sum up the challenge in front of the Kings as they work to recover from this unexpected loss. Amazing the things you can find on the Internet. This one seems to sum up the situation perfectly.
One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally he decided the animal was old, that the well needed to be covered anyway and that it just wasn't worth retrieving the donkey. So he invited all his neighbours to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement, he quietened down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbours continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!
Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up.
On to happier things....
- Ryan Smyth finally got his scoring touch back and also got the #1 Star of the Night against his former team. That had to feel pretty good.
- Today was unofficially dubbed "Burger King Jersey Day" by those that chose to celebrate. I was not one of them, but whatever floats your boat, folks. Most of you have been Kings fans longer than me, so feel free to make up your own Kings-related celebrations. Had I been a Kings fan back in those days, I probably would have bought one of those jerseys anyway, because I'm that much of a homer.
- Did anyone notice our military hero of the night had a nameplate on his uniform that said "Cupcake" where the last name normally goes?
- Just when I thought Bailey had brought every genius prop available to taunt visiting goalies, he upped the ante -- a SIEVE. That is just pure mascot genius.
The Kings have a day off tomorrow to shake off the proverbial dirt and start climbing out of their own well. Their next stop is Edmonton on Tuesday. It's going to be a tough road ahead, but if a donkey is smart enough to escape, maybe we can beat the odds too.
GO KINGS GO!