Saturday, April 9, 2011

Who Are Your "Best" Kings This Season?

As part of Fan Appreciation Night this evening, the Kings will also give out their annual team awards. I am not one of the privileged few that get to vote, but like most fans I have opinions on who should win. Here are my thoughts on the Kings best players this season.

Best Defensive Player 
(Forwards and defensemen are both eligible, as the award is for overall strong defensive play)

My vote goes to Anze Kopitar. His plus-25 rating is the highest on the team, and while the plus/minus stat doesn't tell the whole story, he was absolutely stellar on both sides of the puck this year. When he went out with an ankle injury, I predicted the Kings would miss him most on the defensive side of the puck since he was streaky in the goal scoring department. The Kings "Ironman" was a warrior protecting the puck all season long against some of the top lines in the NHL and more than earned this honor.

Best Newcomer  
(This player can be either a rookie or a veteran who joined the team last summer or during this season)

For me, no new member of the team did more top to bottom this year than Kyle Clifford. In his rookie season, he fought his way into the line-up and kept fighting all season to prove he belonged there. Whether it was with his fists or his stick, The Big Red Dog won the Kings fans hearts and left everything he had on the ice every night. He earned the respect of not only his teammates but some of the toughest customers in the league. I can't wait to see what this kid does in his first playoff appearance.

Best Defenceman 

I was really torn on this one, because Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene have all been incredible this season. In the end, the thing that made up my mind was remembering a specific penalty kill where Greene lost his stick and played almost a solid minute - ON THE PK - without it. The tenacious look in his eyes as he skated in front of Quick ready to throw his body in front of any shots coming toward the net is burned in my brain forever. He is a warrior and a leader, and he puts this team before everything else every night. There is only one Matt Greene, and we're lucky to have him.

Most Valuable Player 

While I agree there are a lot of great arguments for Anze Kopitar to be the MVP this season, for me no one has performed better when the chips are down than Jonathan Quick. During the roughest points of the season, he has carried this team on his back, stopped goals when the 5 other guys on the nice stopped skating and yet has always given credit to the team playing in front of him before taking any for himself. He's the most competitive guy in that locker room on any given night, and he'll do what it takes to win. Becoming the first goalie in franchise history to have back-to-back 30 win seasons doesn't hurt either.

So now that I've said my piece, who gets your vote for these awards?


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kings vs Coyotes: Two The Hard Way

Going into last night's game, the Kings were under substantial pressure to nail down a play-off spot. After laying an egg in San Jose Monday night, we still needed two points to qualify for the post-season. Two HUGE points.

No pressure, eh Cappy?

The Phoenix Coyotes needed exactly the same number of points to qualify for a playoff berth of their own. Staples Center had been kind to them this year. So had Jonathan Quick, who brought a career losing record against the Coyotes to the table. So we had our work cut out for us, and the Desert Dogs weren't going to let us get those points without a huge fight.

The Kings were far from their best during 60 minutes of regulation play and the Coyotes were the proverbial dog with a bone.  The one bright spot was The Big Red Dog himself. Kyle Clifford's game tying goal in the second was a study in hard work, grit and doing anything and everything to get the puck.

Don't worry Dewey. I got this.

Thanks to his incredible effort and a lackluster 3rd period, the tight-checking contest went all the way down to the wire in a Wild West style shoot-out.  Once again, the hero of the night was clutch number one goalie Jonathan Quick, who sealed the deal with a stop on Lauri Korpikosk.

Sorry bro...but I gotta poke check you....

They got it done by the skin of their teeth, but the Kings are FINALLY off to their second play-off appearance in two seasons!

The win put the Kings into fourth position in the West Conference standings, but they still need to fight to stay there. The regular season will reach it's wild conclusion with a home and home series Friday and Saturday against our arch rivals, the Anaheim Ducks. We need more points to secure our home ice advantage, so let's make sure we bring the noise at both games, Kings fans!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

You've Got To Be Kidding Me....

The Kings marketing department never ceases to amaze me. These folks have either the biggest cojones on Earth or the worst timing imaginable. 

On the heels of an embarrassing loss to San Jose, our play-off hopes still in jeopardy, I get THIS in my e-mail this morning:

FROZEN FURY TICKETS? Are you kidding me? How about we get this team to the play-offs first. I'm still nursing my hangover from last night...and it's not from the beer.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kings vs Stars: Bouncing Back

The Stars last visit to Staples Center was one Kings fan would love to forget. On March 7, the Kings lost a heart-breaker in a shoot-out, and all I wanted for this game was to avoid a repeat performance of that night. Coming home from a Kopitar-less 1-1 split on the road in Edmonton and Vancouver, no one really knows on a game-to-game basis what to expect from this team in the win-loss column.

What we do know to expect is that our boys will try their hardest. This time they got rewarded with a 3-1 victory to the thunderous applause of Kings fans at Staples. The Kings are now only 2 points away from clinching a play-off spot, and they improved their standing to 4th in the Western Conference.

While the Kings are still getting caught by that bad habit of giving away a goal within 2 minutes of scoring one, things are certainly looking rosier at this point than most people expected. Case in point -- here's what The Hockey News wrote about the Kings in their February 21 trade deadline buzz issue:

"Funny how history repeats itself. Last year the Kings faded down the stretch by relying too much on No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick. With backup Jonathan Bernier posting dismal numbers and fewer starts before the all-star break, the Kings may not even squeak in to this post-season unless another netminder can help."

This is the beauty of the last 2 weeks for the regular season in the wild Western Conference. No one really knows what will happen. You just hang on and enjoy the ride. If there is one thing you CAN expect with this Kings team, it's to expect the unexpected.

Some observations from my view in Section 119: 
  •  Scoring from the blue line was one of our assets last season. It's starting to happen again (finally), but the players to watch aren't Doughty and Johnson. They're Greene and Mitchell. Who's "just" a shut-down D-man now?
Scoring face, bebeh....

No helmet required.
  • Stars fans have some annoying habits. The worst is shouting "STARS" whenever the word comes up during the National Anthem. Apparently wearing your hair in a pony tail through a hat is also a requirement.

  • It was terribly depressing watching a warm up without Kopi or Willy. Kopi always butt bumps the glass is Section 102 and goofs around with Brownie. Justin Williams will normally skate by and block my entire camera lens with his gorgeous head. Neither one of those things happened yesterday.
Seeing this didn't help either.
  • Raise your hand if you miss THIS GUY. Didn't think so.
  • Of course, there was one BIGGER douchebag on the Stars bench.
And he sucks his finger...

But don't worry, Poni can help you take your helmet off...

The next stop on the Kings road to the play-offs happens Monday in San Jose.  Huge is an understatement for this one. The Kings are still looking for a shot to win the Pacific Division and they're currently second in the race, 5 points behind San Jose. A win would also mean clinching a play-off berth for the second year in a row. Deep breaths, folks. We can do this! Expect the unexpected....