Monday, December 19, 2011

Kings vs. Leafs: Turning Over a New Leaf?

After the absolute embarrassment the Kings suffered in Detroit, Matt Greene led a huge team bitch session to discuss how awful things are right now. Maybe that's the reason the Kings played better tonight. Maybe it's because more than half the team is Canadian and they were playing their first game in Canada this season. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. The Kings came away with a much needed win against the Leafs -- final score 3-2.

Of course, being the Kings they didn't make it look easy. I only know what I hear Nick and Daryl tell me on the radio, but it certainly sounded like the overall effort was better. Although it still took a shoot out to get the job done.

Thank goodness this guy came through in the clutch.

What can Brown do for you? WIN GAMES!

There has certainly been quite a bit of discussion about Dustin Brown in the Kings blogosphere as of late, including that he should be stripped of the "C", he's not vocal enough and he's not enough of a leader on the ice. Based on his effort tonight, I think our fearless Captain still has some life left in him.

So do some other people.

And of course, there is our tireless true believer Bailey.

So the Kings are on their way home to a changed world as Daryl Sutter takes over behind the bench. Let's hope the changes are for the better. Practice Wednesday should be interesting....


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kings vs. Red Wings: Lowlights

It's no secret things are rough for the Kings right now. But even in bad times, a team can have some "highlights" -- just like these tonight:
  • First time this season the Kings have made a goal tending change midway through a game.
  • First time this season the Kings have allowed an opposing team more than 4 goals.
  • Worst scoring slump in team history (11 goals in 17 games).
  • A regular healthy scratch is now our top scorer with 2 goals in two games -- that would be Davis Drewiske.
No, this wasn't taken in Detroit, but the look on Greene's face says it all...
I know it's the Detroit Red Wings, but losing 8-2? We are in the midst of a total team breakdown right now -- plain and simple. Will Daryl Sutter be the answer? Will he start his tenure by bag skating this team until half of them are on IV fluids? Will we ever find our power play again? If the goals start coming back, will we remember how to play defense again?

Tonight, I've got no answers, Kings fans. Just hope that it gets better. It HAS to get better, right?

On to Toronto....


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kings vs Stars: Current Kings Not The Stuff Of Legends

Watching the Kings honor Bernie Nicholl's in this season's first "Legends Night," I couldn't helping thinking about the great irony of the evening. Nicholls holds the Kings franchise record for goals in one season with 70 and he's being honored by a team with a roster full of talent that can't buy a goal if it came gift wrapped.

Bernie showed why he is not only one of the great hockey talents to come out of this organization but an enduring fan favorite during his speech in front of a sell out crowd.

I'm sure the Kings will have video up online later, but there were a couple of things that stuck out for me:
  • He scored 70 goals. In one season. Can we bring this guy out of retirement?
  • He's the one being honored, yet the first thing he does is recognize Bob Miller. That's class.
  • He also said LA fans were the best crowds he ever played for, anywhere during his career. LA loves him back for saying that.
  • By far my favorite Bernie quote of the night -- "Wayne Gretzky filled The Forum and I entertained it." You still are Bernie. You still are.
If only the current version of the Kings was as entertaining as Bernie Nicholls and the boys from The Forum days...

Tonight's Kings 2-1 loss unfolded like practically every other game in they have played in December. The first period was marked by lackluster effort, and that's being generous. Not a lot of feet moving, little to no intensity overall. Penalties started early and stuck around the rest of the game. The pace of play picked up in the second and the Kings got on the board. The power play still didn't contribute any offense. Desperation finally set in during the third period and we finished up chasing the game and falling short once again. Man is this getting old.

  • Enormous props to Brad Richardson for delivering the one huge bright spot of the night (besides Bernie Nicholls himself) with his shorthanded goal. He earned a well deserved #2 Star of the Night. Maybe that will be enough to convince Terry Murray to leave him in the line-up.
  • I guess Patrick O' Neal is trying to be a hard-nosed sports journalist, but he just comes across as a real ass sometimes. For example, his first question to Brad Richardson during the first intermission --"Why does this team take so many penalties?" Credit Richie for handling that one graciously. I would have taken the microphone and punched O'Neal's lights out.
  • Jonathan Bernier had a solid outing in net and it was nice to see him get a start against a Western Conference team not from Nashville.
  • It really doesn't matter if Mitchy picked the fight or not -- Steve Ott is still one of the lowest hockey life forms known to man.
  • Mike Ribiero has an acting career in front of him when he's done playing hockey. If he keeps diving, he might need that back-up plan sooner than he thinks.
  • There were about 25 Stars fans in the building tonight, and somehow I lucked out and had 3 of them sitting next to me.

Right now, the Kings make playing a game look hard and absolutely not fun to watch. Hopefully a nice nine day road trip will be the antidote to what ails this team.


Kings Hair Problems: Coincidence? I Think Not.

As much as Kings fans were all happy to see Movember end, it hasn't been the best of times for the Kings in the injury department. Maybe I'm just superstitious, but I'm starting to think the Kings problems may have to do with -- hair.

Richards and Mitchell both mentioned some hesitation about shaving their moustaches. First game of December with no facial hair? BOTH injured.

Then Kopitar -- the Kings own Samson himself -- goes and chops off his golden curls before the Minnesota Wild game Thursday.

And what happened?

Kopitar, luckily, was not hurt. But LUCKY is the key word because that hit was U-G-L-Y. Maybe you don't see this near miss as a sign from the Hockey Gods, but The Queen does. Therefore, I issue the following proclamations to the hockey players in my Kingdom.
  1. Hair alteration of any kind is now FORBIDDEN in the Kingdom for the month of December.
  2. All razors, scissors and other instruments used to trim human hair are forthwith banned from the Kings locker room, chartered jet, hotel rooms and all other travel locations.
  3. Kings equipment management will issue Trent Hunter a Ryan Smyth mullet wig until he manages to grow hair of his own.
This team is supposed to be HAIRY folks. This has to be the answer! Because if it isn't, The Queen will have finished pulling hers out by the end of the season.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Do The Kings Need Right Now? A New Coat of Paint

When the latest crop of NHL coaching changes started with Bruce Boudreau in Washington, it of course got me thinking about Kings bench boss Terry Murray. Discussion had already been running rampant among Kings fans and the blogosphere for weeks about whether his time had come too.

I initially wanted to write a post drawing some parallels between the current Kings and the team coached by the last Murray fired by the Kings in 2006 -- Andy Murray. I reached out to my fellow bloggers with the idea of doing a blogger round table, got some tepid response interest but nothing ever materialized. Judging from the current crop of blogs this week, everyone was busy writing their own stuff and didn't want to answer the question I posed -- "Based on what you've learned from history and the Andy Murray firing, is there a chance Terry Murray could be shown the door before the end of the season?" Or at least, they didn't want their opinion recorded in my blog first. I'll crack the boys club one of these days, but I guess now wasn't the time.

Coaching history aside, here's what I think of the current Kings situation based on my view from Section 116 so far this season.
  • We are a more talented team than last season and have less to show for it at this point.
  • We're dead last in the league in scoring, which shouldn't happen with the amount of talent we have.
  • With the exception of making Clifford-Moreau-Westgarth the top line, I think Terry Murray has tried every other conceivable line combination (and even some inconceivable ones) to try to spark scoring and nothing has worked.
So what kind of options does that leave the Kings?
  • Getting more scoring though trade hasn't worked in the past, and since most of the teams with players of interest to us are built similarly (from the back end out) substituting players isn't like to spark the results we need. 
  • If you want to argue the system the Kings play is the problem, get prepared for AEG to fire the entire front office and coaching staff and THEN blow up the line-up, because that's what changing the system would take. Dean Lombardi built that system, Terry Murray manages it and the players we have drafted and developed fit it. That system starts at the top of the organization and goes all the way through our minor league affiliates so we're stuck with it unless something truly catastrophic happens. And look no further than Washington and Bruce Boudreau as a testament to what happens when you try to change the system a team plays in during the season (which they attempted in 2010-2011).

Although if you want a little taste of deja vu when it comes to cleaning house, look no further than this entry from Dean Lombardi's Wikipedia page:
Does any of THAT scenario sound vaguely familiar?

Now back to the Kings current situation and how to fix it. If you agree we have the right players and the system itself is basically solid but needs some creativity injected into it, you have to look at the coaching staff. Terry Murray is a fine hockey coach. He's on the verge of the 500th win of his career, which is no small feat in the NHL. He is a patient teacher and a disciplined man with an even temperament. After Marc Crawford, Terry Murray was exactly what a young, rebuilding team needed. Crawford proved that yelling and pushing hard on young players that are still learning their roles doesn't work, and Terry Murray was the antidote to that. But now that we have more experienced, talented players that know and understand their roles, is a teacher the right fit to get the execution we need? Probably not.

For another way to look at the impact changing the coach and keeping the system, I give you a home remodeling analogy that occurred to me today. Let's say you've been looking around your living room lately and have decided you just can't stand it any longer. You don't even like spending time in the room any more because you're so depressed when you're there. But you check your budget and things are tight, so a complete remodel with different carpet, new furniture and all the fixings just isn't going to happen. You do, however, realize that a new color on the walls could be just the trick and your budget can absolutely handle a couple of cans of paint. So you shop around and decide to change your lemon yellow walls to a lovely shade of cornflower blue. And just like that, you're in love with the room again. Your movies are more fun to watch, you're cuddling with your significant other for the first time in ages and LIFE IS GOOD.

Speaking of paint, maybe the Kings should start with some new photo murals at TSC...

Sometimes a change of scenery is a spark that can make things happen. If Terry Murray is the paint on the Kings walls, maybe changing the color is the inspiration this team needs to get moving again. The only question is, what color do you pick?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kings vs. Ducks: Bobby Ryan Problems

Just before the Ducks fired Randy Carlyle and hired Bruce Boudreau, Bobby Ryan's name was all over the hockey blogosphere associated with trade rumors.

A number of Kings blogs mused about the kind of fit he would be for the Kings and what it would cost us. Personally, I always thought the chances of him being acquired by the Kings were extremely small. After all, why would we want to trade ANY of our players to the enemy? Isn't it bad enough they managed to get their webbed paws on Lubo? My sincere hope was that the Ducks would trade him to an Eastern Conference team and get him as far out of our hair as possible.

Tonight, I REALLY wish my prediction had been right since Ryan stung the Kings for not one but TWO goals en-route to Bruce Boudreau's first win behind the Ducks bench. But I'm a gracious loser, so I'm getting Bruce a little gift. He likes Crocs, right?

How about our Kings tonight? More of the same -- meaning not even close to good enough -- although there were some positives.
  • Slava Voynov is our hero. He single-handedly got us back in the game right at the end of the second period.
  • Justin Williams was SO OVERDUE for a goal it was getting painful to watch him trying so hard the last few games. AWESOME to see him break out of his slump tonight with a huge goal to tie the game.
  • The first period was god awful. Talk about 20 minutes of hockey we'd love to have back.
  • Jonathan Quick's stick handling had gotten a little better. It's still not good enough to use as an in-game strategy.
  • Nick Nickson cursed Quick by mentioning his league leading shut out record in the first period -- right before Bobby Ryan scored. I was an accomplice to the crime by virtue of posting Nick's comment on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Who knew the only trick to get Dustin Penner to play a better game was to get him back inside the Honda Center...

Let's hope the Kings can erase this nightmare from the memories and come back hard against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.


Monday, December 5, 2011

The Best Kind of Ice Skating Party At Christmas Is....

The kind that involves Ugly Christmas Sweaters!

I can't think of a better way to spend a Friday night, can you?


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Surf's Up, Kings Fans!

Are you looking to add to your unique collection of Kings memorabilia? Got the perfect Kings themed man-cave -- except for that one empty wall? If so, there is a very special item available on NHL Auctions as we speak that you NEED to check out -- and it has ties to a member of the Kings family!

How would YOU like to be the proud owner of a one-of-a-Kind custom Kings team-signed SURF BOARD?

This surf board is unique not just because it is signed by the entire 2011-2012 Kings roster and featured in the Kings Ice Crew Calendar, but also because a member of the Kings own family developed the idea for for board and helped make it as well!

Michael Timoney has been a member of the Kings Ice Crew for the past 4 seasons and the surf board was his idea. Kings Court caught up with Michael to find out more about this unique concept.

Photos courtesy of Michael Timoney

KC: How did the idea for the surf board come about?
MT: "I talked to my brother who was a surf board maker as a hobby, and I wanted to make a surf board to help raise money for the Kings Care Foundation. So I figured, OK the calendar, it's Los Angeles, we're known for our beaches, what better way to add to our Ice Crew Calendar than a surfboard to make it that much better? My whole plan with making the surf board was to make it like the brand new road jersey. Our road jerseys are new, a surf board is new and never been done. The goal was to get all the players to sign it and then sell it for the Kings Care Foundation."

KC: How long did it take to make?
MT: "We did the Ice Crew board and the Bailey board both at the same time and they took like a week to make them both. It was really hard to do."

KC: Are both surf boards featured in the Ice Crew Calendar?
MT: "Yes they are, both the Bailey and the Ice Crew one, and then the Bailey one is also autographed by the whole team."

KC: How much money are you hoping to raise?
MT: "I would love to get in the thousands! I would love that actually."

KC: I don't know much about surf boards, so what are the dimensions? Is it a short board or a long board?
MT: "It's a short board. The height is, I believe,  6' 1". You could surf on it but it's autographed so I don't know why you would do that!"

KC: What did the players think when they were asked to sign a surf board?
MT: "I wasn't there unfortunately to get to see the autograph signing, but I'm sure they were probably pretty stoked!

If you're interested in this one-of-a-kind item, you only have 8 DAYS left to bid! Get on over to the NHL Auctions site using this link.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Kings vs Canadiens: Out of Sync

When things aren't going your way as a hockey team, you have two choices -- give up or battle through it until things turn around again.

The Kings chose to battle today and I am proud of them for that. It was a losing battle, but sometimes that's just how it goes. Especially since the Kings came into their contest with the Montreal Canadiens this afternoon with a whole lot of strikes against them.

Strike 1: Mike Richards on injured reserve
Strike 2: Willie Mitchell out of the line-up
Strike 3: Suddenly shuffled lines because of Strikes 1 and 2
Strike 4: An abominable record on weekend daytime games
Strike 5: A 12:30 PM start

That's a lot to overcome and the Kings played like it. Try as they might, the chemistry just wasn't there with the lines. Passes were off the mark and positioning was just a step off at times. Dustin Penner and Davis Drewiske had understandable rust to shake off having not played for weeks.

Jonathan Bernier had a fairly long lay-off as well, then he goes in behind a team that is out of sync. It's hard to point fingers too much in that kind of situation. There were obvious mistakes in a few key situations, but as a whole I give the team points for trying. We could have done much worse than a 2-1 loss.

The only thing that made the outcome hard to stomach was the absolutely lousy officiating in the last 5 minutes or so of the third period. The Kings did a very good job staying out of the box tonight, but sadly the refs saw the need to even things up in Montreal's favor late in the game. If there are fingers to be pointed at anyone, pick a zebra -- any zebra.

Other observations:
  • Big props to Dustin Penner for shaking the gorilla off his back and FINALLY scoring a goal. There are still plenty of monkeys left until he proves tonight wasn't just a fluke, but he's off to a good start.
  • I thought Bernier played well except for that first goal. With the Kings on the penalty kill, he probably should have been playing deeper in his crease. Instead, I think he was trying a little too hard to help and got caught at the front of the blue paint. Lesson learned.
  • When Doughty got nailed along the boards early in the first period, I had a panic attack. Thank goodness he got up and was able to play the rest of the game, including assisting on Penner's goal. Don't even THINK about criticizing my favorite for not being tough enough.
  • Why do Eastern Conference goalies all look like male models?
  • Daryl Evans interviewed some Twilight fans recently and commented that Dustin Brown looked a little bit like a vampire because he was missing so many teeth. I think he's right.

  • I'm not sure where our National Anthem singer came from, but he did a very nice job. It's refreshing to hear a traditional version of the song every once in a while. Bonus points since he did the Canadian National Anthem en francais. Maybe the Habs brought him along on the trip.
  • Speaking of the Habs, I am typically disgusted by their fans. Booing OUR National Anthem, the darn "Ole, Ole!" chants, and generally drunken and obnoxious comments have been my past experience when they have visited Staples Center. Tonight, they were actually tolerable for the most part -- except for the 4 dudes 2 rows behind me that talked smack the entire game. At least there was no booing or chanting. You folks are welcome back next year.
  • THIS never gets old.

The Kings have a couple of days off to regroup before they head down to Anaheim Tuesday, then return to Staples Thursday night to face the Minnesota Wild. Hopefully we can find some offense before then -- and get some new zebras.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Kings vs. Panthers: A Costly Victory

The big story in Los Angeles as the Kings took on the Florida Panthers was the wind. Inside Staples Center, it was more like a hurricane hit.

After one period of pretty boring hockey (with the exception of that first goal) and two where the Panthers actually woke up and played for a while, the Kings secured a much needed 2-1 win in regulation. They also lost the man who is currently their best player on the ice.

And this guy, who I think you'd all agree is pretty important in his own right.

Granted, it's not the devastation the Kings suffered last spring, losing Anze Kopitar to a severe ankle injury. But it certainly doesn't help the plan to get the Kings solidly back into a play-off position either. Maybe these two shouldn't have shaved the moustaches....

The biggest disappointment about the Kings performance was their inability to keep their foot on the gas pedal. After they scored on their second shot of the game, they should have increased the tempo, scored 3 more goals and buried the Panthers by the end of the first period. Instead, they brought the intensity level of their game down to Florida's level and coasted -- until the Panthers showed some life and the Kings started taking penalties. You know how the story goes from there.

Until this team learns to bear down HARD on their opponents, we're going to see the same story in a lot of games. Dean Lombardi talked at the beginning of the season about learning to win. The Kings are still studying up on that concept.

Other post-game thoughts:
  • When you're playing a team that makes Kevin Westgarth look REALLY fast, you know it's a slow game. My man gets around the ice pretty well, but he's no Slava Voynov, after all.
  • Jose Theodore always  looks so lonely out there. I felt bad for him getting scored on so early, but girls love him so I'm sure someone will make him feel better before the night is over.

  • Oh, hi Marco Sturm. Glad to see you're back on the ice with more regularity, and finding the net to boot! Don't be sad Quickie won't let you score.

  • THIS is how bad things happen in hockey....

  • Jonathan Quick was the #1 Star of the Night, stopped 41 shots, had an assist AND almost ate a Panther for dinner. WHAT DOES THIS POOR GUY HAVE TO DO TO GET THE MEDIA TO SAY HE'S AN ELITE GOALTENDER? QUICK FOR VEZINA, DAMMIT!!!!

With two players down, the Kings face their own personal Kryptonite next -- a Saturday afternoon game! Against the "Ole, Ole!" people from the north that speak French. Yay! I hope Jonathan Bernier has a Superman suit underneath those pads....


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ducks Hire Boudreau: Is The Tank Really Empty?

Unless you've been in a coma for the past 24 hours, you've probably heard our hockey neighbors to the south made a few MINOR changes to their organization last night.

Only 40 minutes after the Ducks 4-1 win over the Habs, Ducks Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray cleaned house behind the bench, firing Coach Randy Carlyle, two assistant coaches and their video coordinator. Then he made the truly shocking announcement that Carlyle's  replacement would be none other than former Washington Capitals head Coach Bruce Boudreau -- who was just fired from his job 3 DAYS AGO.

Boudreau certainly comes with great credentials for the job. When he was fired by Washington, I briefly thought about what kind of match he would be for the Kings in the event Terry Murray found himself suddenly unemployed. After all, Boudreau coached the Manchester Monarchs for four years as part of his stint in the AHL so he has some ties to the Kings organization. He won the Southeast Division four times with Washington and took them through 3 consecutive play-off appearances (yeah, they choked in all of them, but the Kings aren't exactly in a position to throw stones there).

Then I thought about the time I saw him run the Caps through a hard practice at Toyota Sports Center on New Years Day 2010.

Bruce was NOT happy...not happy at all

My first thought was "This man yells so much he must wear out his voice so he can't speak in regular life." My second thought? That half our guys would be puking their guts out from exhaustion after one practice with Gabby. He definitely made a Terry Murray practice session look like a garden party.

Everything Boudreau does he does with 150% effort at 300% volume. When discussing Boudreau's firing, Caps GM George McPhee stated Bruce had "emptied the tank" with the Caps, and in spite of doing everything in his power just couldn't get them going anymore. Which begs a question. If you're Bob Murray (or Dean Lombardi) and trying to get your team moving, don't you want someone with something left in the tank behind your bench?

Don't get me wrong. Boudreau seems like a very nice man. I watched a practice once in Washington a couple of years ago and he was kind enough to stop and pose for a nice photo with my friend. He even smiled.

NHL coaching jobs obviously don't grow on trees, so you can't blame Boudreau for wanting to work and do what he loves. But maybe a step back -- a chance to refill the tank -- would have been the better move to make for both Bruce Boudreau AND the Ducks. Only time will tell. But one thing is for certain -- the Western Conference just got a lot wilder. And a WHOLE LOT LOUDER.