Monday, May 21, 2012

WCF Game 4: What Went Wrong?

When the Kings came crashing back down to playoff Earth yesterday, I spent the walk home mulling over what had happened. Game 4 of the Western Conference final was probably the worst played game of the last eight, which proves just how high the bar has been raised for this team. They were far from terrible yesterday. They didn't seem to have quite as much jump in their step, passes just didn't connect as well -- everything was THERE but just a step off. In a playoff series with this much at stake and a desperate team as our opponent, that step, that second of hesitation is the difference between winning and losing.

But this post-season has been so magical for the Kings, such a sensible explanation for the 2-0 shut out loss just didn't seem to make sense in my frustrated brain. There HAD to be some crazy X-Factor, some rip in the space time continuum that ruined the Kings perfect plan for playoff domination. After rubbing the brain cells I had left together, I thought of a few reasons the Kings lost. They're all irrational reasons, but they all make me feel better than simply acknowledging the Coyotes played better.

  • It's Gary Bettman's fault. Isn't everything that's wrong in the NHL Bettman's fault?
  • One of these guys is to blame. I think we all know which one.
Hint: It's NOT the guy standing up.
  • Bikes. Way to many bikes.

  • I got kicked out of my regular warm up photography spot. Dustin Brown was confused and spent the rest of the game looking for me, worried I'd abandoned the team.
Um, who are you people and where is the regular crew?
  • Then again, Bailey is probably right. The Universe is to blame!

The good news is the Kings are still solidly in charge of this series and we've been here before -- in Round 1 against Vancouver. That turned out pretty well so I'm choosing to believe this will too. ON TO GAME 5!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

WCF Game 3: Everything Wrong Is Right Again

Things have been going well for the Kings lately, but as a Kings fan I have that deeply ingrained suspicion that terror is always lurking just around the corner. I am also superstitious, so when things go wrong with my well oiled game plan -- even little things -- I can panic pretty easily.

Game 3 had me worried because so many little things went wrong before the game.

  • I discovered I was out of eye black just as I was walking out of the house.
  • My warm-up watching buddies were running much later than usual.
  • One of my favorite ushers was missing from his normal spot.
  • I forgot to check in on Foursquare.
  • The 6 PM start meant that LOTS of people were running late and my seat buddies missed the opening puck drop.
  • And perhaps most worrisome of all, the Camachos frozen margarita machine was down and I couldn't have my lucky first period cocktail.

I found a Kings crew member as soon as I got to Staples and remedied the eye black situation. Then I spent some of my downtime before warm-ups chatting with Bernie Nicholls (yes, you read that right). But I still couldn't shake my vague feelings if impending doom.

As if determined to prove my theory correct about impending doom for the Kings, the Coyotes came out with a lot of speed and energy in the first period. The Kings weren't exactly chasing the game, but it was closer than it should have been. I went back to Camachos to see if the margarita machine was working and it STILL wasn't. Then they scored right at the beginning of the second period and real panic set in. THIS IS IT.

But if the Kings have proved one thing during the playoffs it's that panic isn't a word in this team's vocabulary. They calmly regrouped, tied the game and went on to take the lead on the way to a 2-1 win and a 3-0 lead in the Conference Final Series.

WHEW! Or is that phew?

Everything is going to be OK now.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

WCF Game 2 - Shutouts, Hat Tricks And Records, Oh My!

Wow. Just WOW.

Right now, at this magical moment in time, there is NOTHING this Kings team can't do.

Jeff Carter scores a natural hat trick.
Jonathan Quick earns his second shut out in this series.
Dustin Brown survives all manner of ridiculous, suspension worthy attacks by half the Coyotes team.
The Kings set a new record for consecutive playoff road wins and take a 2-0 lead back to home for Game 3.

The Kings play is a thing of beauty right now, but there is another beauty in the Kings organization as well -- the Kings official Twitter feed! So rather than give you my standard game recap, I thought I'd share the game through the mad genius of the Kings Twitter feed, which had me HOWLING with laughter all night (see what I did there...HOWLING...Coyotes, they howl....well, you get the picture)!

I do have a few choice words for the Coyotes as they head to Staples Center for Game 3.



Monday, May 14, 2012

WCF Game 1 - "Beat LA"? We Don't Think So!

Of all the teams the Kings have faced so far in the playoffs, Phoenix made me the most nervous. For all the comparisons drawn about the similarities between the Kings and their second round opponent the St. Louis Blues, in truth the Coyotes and Kings are more alike, at least this playoff season. Let's review:
  • Game-stealing goalie? Check
  • Good balance of young offensively talented and veteran shut down defencemen? Check
  • Game changing Captain? Check
  • Physical and gritty style of play? Check
  • Underdog no one in the hockey world expected to be in this position? Check
  • Winner of the first game in each of their respective series en route to the Conference Final? Check

Well Phoenix, I guess someone had to be a loser for once.

This is what White Outs do to people. There should be drugs to cure this...

In spite of how even the match-up appeared "on paper," the game was pretty lopsided, dominated by the Kings and close in score only because of two mistakes. Yeah, Quick let in a weak goal. It's going to happen once in a while. But he's a competitor and doesn't let that stuff get in his head, which is good because the press wouldn't let him forget it in the post game Q&A. And Drew Doughty continued to show his increased maturity, acknowledging his error that led to the Coyotes second goal and giving credit where it was due to a quick Coyotes forecheck. Dustin Brown and Justin Williams took a couple of ill-timed penalties, but the PK got us through that as well.

Bottom line? The Kings are so completely in the zone right now that it will take more than some crashing and banging and a good goalie to knock them off their game. Not the that Coyotes won't try in Game 2. But they're going to have to find a way to get the puck and get some shots off in less than 7 minutes to have a chance.

They're going to need a lot more than "Beat LA" t-shirts and chants to survive The Men in Black!

On to Game 2!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Kings - Blues Game 4: Winning Is AMAZING!

Experiencing something for the very first time is a unique combination of exhilarating and nerve wracking. You don't know completely what to expect or what you'll be feeling when it happens. Even if you have an idea from talking to people who have been there before, you can never be completely prepared for how it feels for YOU.

In my tenure as a Kings fan, winning like this is a "first time" experience.

Walking to Staples Center at 10:30 AM, I didn't feel especially anxious, but I was hyper-aware of every detail of the day. The cloudless blue sky. The crowds of people dressed in Kings jerseys having breakfast at Denny's and The Pantry. The balloons and music outside the arena. The color of the girl's nails that scanned my ticket as I walked in to watch and hope history would be made.

After the initial roof raising during player intros, things settled down for me emotionally and I didn't feel all that different from a regular season game. Then I watched the Blues skate out to start the 3rd period and pairs of their players clustered together, talking as they skated in circles. I new they were giving each other that pep talk I've given the Kings so many times in my head. "We're down but we're not out. We can do this. It's not over!" In that same moment I realized the Kings were 20 minutes away from eliminating them -- putting them in OUR old position for the first time. And in that moment I also realized I had no idea what winning would feel like.

The best comparison I can make is to getting your first kiss. You hope it will happen but don't completely see it coming, and you're taken aback for a moment when it actually does. Is this really it? WOW! Then the shock and disbelief sets in. Wait, is this REALLY HAPPENING? OMG! OMG! Oh crap, am I even doing this right? And when the shock and disbelief wear off, all you're left with is that warm, fuzzy feeling, followed by the desire to do it all again. Soon. VERY SOON. Then you find your way home, lost in your thoughts and thinking about nothing else the rest of the day.

As the shock and awe were wearing off, I was watching the Jumbotron through my camera screen as I was shooting video. As I watched, I was mesmerized by Jonathan Quick's face. He was holding back a smile that was part shit-eating grin and part tearful thank you as he wiped the sweat from his face.

And Quickie being Quickie, he thought of others before himself and thanked the fans on Twitter. All those beautiful emotions crossing his face turned into simple, heartfelt words.

No Jonathan. THANK YOU.
Our Kings were knights in shining armor as they vanquished old demons to the sheer delight of their fans. The curse of the afternoon game? Gone. Can't create enough offense? Done. Too immature and undisciplined to win at this level? Nada. Can't get out of the first round of the playoffs? Toast.

It was especially sweet that the final goal was scored by our fearless Captain Dustin Brown and assisted by both members of his "official" leadership team -- assistant captains Anze Kopitar and Matt Greene. Together, they weathered storms of criticism to bring this team together and kept their faith in each other and their teammates along the entire journey. Their dedication -- and that of the Kings faithful -- is finally being rewarded.

The journey to the ultimate prize is still a long one, but right now, for the first time it feels truly within reach. We are headed into uncharted waters and like the team we love, we must stick together more tightly than ever until we reach our destination. We've savored the sweetness of that "first kiss" and we want as many more as we can get.

I may not have known exactly what to feel when the Kings put the semi-final round on ice, but I did know one thing for sure. I knew the right way to celebrate -- with a pancake dinner.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Kings-Blues Game 3: I Love It When A Plan Comes Together!

All season long Kings fans have been waiting for the Kings best players to be our best players. In Game 3, it happened in spades and is a perfect example of how everything is coming together at the right time for this team in the playoffs.

  • Drew Doughty - One goal, two assists, awesome defensive play and a #1 Star of the Night.
  • Anze Kopitar - One goal (his second of the playoffs) and two assists.
  • Mike Richards - Well, is there anything he didn't do in this game? One hugely important goal en route to a Gordie Howe Hat Trick and the #2 Star of the Night.

The big guns were the big guns, but make no mistake about it -- EVERYONE chipped in and did their part. I spent huge periods during the game just watching in awe. Every read worked, every player was positionally sound. It was possibly the best played game by the Kings since....since.....I just don't even know any more.

What I do know is this. This team is a contender. We're up 3-0 in the series. We're a huge monkey on the back of the St. Louis Blues.


Other thoughts from The Queen: 
  • Jonathan Quick is a rock star. The building vibrated when he was announced before the start of the game. I actually got chills. 
  • I think Dustin Brown was saving his body during the regular season and not hitting as much because NOW he's crushing very thing that moves. Smart. Very smart.
  • I think the recent comparisons between Dustin Penner and a bear are accurate. Seems he hibernates during the regular season and only wakes up during the playoffs. He is a beast, after all....
  • Brian Hayward--GET OFF OUR ICE! And take your Anaheim Duck fowl stench with you!
  • I hate THIS almost as much as I hate Brian Hawyard. Bandwagon fans drive me crazy and we're actually encouraging MORE of them? Forget the bus and talk to me when you've been a fan for a while. 
  • Nothing more significant has happened on this day in Kings history than the birth of a dude no one remembers. Although the Kings did work in a Modry playoff stat. I think we need to spend more time in the playoffs from here forward. 

  • Thanks to the people who showed up to take my warm up seats and ruined my pictures. And exactly WHERE have you been all season?
  • The game intro video set to My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade was GENIUS. It reminded me how much I love that song and how much I adore seeing pictures of our boys as little tiny hockey players. Even as a kid, Drew was adorable and Quickie had swagger.

  • No one with the Kings entertainment staff reads Surly and Scribe. Davis Gaines has been absent the entire playoffs -- and I'm OK with that. Sorry Jacob....

Now, we just need to do it ONE MORE TIME. You know what to say, Kings fans...