Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Entering the game last night, both the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche were on a two-game winning streak. Unfortunately, the Aves were able to finish the game ahead by one goal (4-3). I’m actually not upset with this loss. It could have been a lot worse when you think about the many “efforts” from last season. I love the games where the Kings go to the wire fighting; they didn’t let up but just couldn’t get the tying goal. This game reaffirmed that I hate Ryan Smyth and could just do without him. Send him to the Eastern Conference please. We don’t want his kind here.
I have to start by giving props to the second PP unit. Oscar Moller recorded his first NHL goal by shooting the puck at Peter Budaj who looked like he had the entire short side covered. I haven’t seen the replay on my DVR yet, so I’m not even sure what crevasse Moller found but it must have been perfect. High fives all around.
I think the funniest instance of the game was halfway into the first period when Alexander Frolov drew two penalties on one play. I knew I loved him for a reason. In the neutral zone, he stripped the puck away and got across the Aves’ blueline while getting slashed, continued on, and then drew another penalty (holding) but ended up missing the shot opportunity. I was really happy with this play because it was when the Kings were shorthanded on a Jarett Stoll holding penalty. The Kings are still 100% on their PK, and each penalty they take makes me more nervous. I want them to be the last team in the NHL to give up a goal while on the PK.
Speaking of Stoll, his faceoff percentage was stellar last night at 75% and Michal Handzus continues to impress with a 76 percentage. The hits are getting dished around by almost everyone on the roster. Matt Greene led the charge last night with 5, but the most interesting announcement came during a commercial break, but I wasn’t paying 100% attention so I may get the details of the foundation confused. It was announced that Dustin Brown will be donating $50 to the Kaboom Foundation for every hit he doles out this season, which the Kings will match once the season ends. I’m assuming he will get more hits this season than last (311), but let’s just equate that out. 311 hits multiplied by $50 equals $15,550. So he’s committed to, at the least, donating that amount, which I think is awesome. By the way, my Brownie jersey came in and it is beautiful.
Jason LaBarbera played the first two periods letting in some pretty soft goals especially in the second. I’m afraid to look at his GAA from last night but it can’t be good. He played 29:41 in net while letting in 4 goals on 14 shots. I think what amazes me more than that was that the Kings were able to hold off the Aves to just 16 shots over 60 minutes while getting 29 shots on Budaj. I was very impressed with their defensive work in the first period. But the second period seemed to show the Kings unraveling, which eerily reminded me of the second period of the game against Carolina. This is best illustrated by the shots on net; the Aves had 10 in the second while the Kings had 7. The first and third frames had the Kings getting more rubber towards Budaj.
Erik Ersberg made his season debut getting the third period to himself and seeing just 2 shots. There were definitely points at which I inhaled my breath sharply, but I’ll have more confidence once he starts a game from the beginning. He didn’t look terrible; but anything was better than Barbs at that point, which I hate saying. Something else I don’t like saying is that over the past two games, Matt Moulson’s TOI has been dwindling. He only played 13:35 last night, which I definitely noticed. I’m unsure what’s going to happen with him on the top line since Patrick O’Sullivan looks pretty good on the second line with Stoll and Moller. Another player who saw a severe drop off of TOI was Tom Preissing. He only had 9:38 on the ice, but I guess this makes sense now that he’s on the 3rd pairing. Conversely, the top four saw a lot of ice with Greene seeing a lot of glass as well. He was checked into the boards at one point and shattered the glass. This didn’t result in a momentum shift in the game; I just wanted to point it out.
[Update:] So apparently my assumption of Preissing limited ice time was real, but it wasn't because he was doing poorly. Here is a quick note from Rich Hammond. Hopefully it's nothing serious!
A milestone was achieved by the roster’s youngest occupant, Drew Doughty. After getting completely undressed by Smyth in the second period (“Welcome to the NHL, Drew”), Doughty got hold of the puck, burned through the Aves, and got his first NHL goal that went unassisted under Budaj’s glove, far side. It was a beauty of a goal, so congrats to him. The goal could have easily been an ugly, redirected shot, but Doughty wasn’t having any of that. He got his first goal in dramatic fashion with a rush of his own. I know he’s only 18, but if you want to see a smooth skater who can pivot and turn without breaking momentum, just watch him. He’s so graceful on his skates, and, yes, I’m completely stroking his ego.
The most nerve wracking moment of the game came at the very end with less than 30 seconds to go with the Kings down by one. The faceoff was being taken in the offensive zone with Ersberg pulled. The Kings had 6 forwards for the last shift: Stoll taking the faceoff, Handzus, Anze Kopitar, Brown, Frolov, and Sully. Budaj was probably peeing himself facing that much fire power for the last shift of the game. Unfortunately, Stoll didn’t win that faceoff and the Aves were eventually able to clear the puck. I wasn’t upset over this loss to the Aves. If anything, I’m happy they lost this way. They fought their way back after a less-than-stellar second period, and ended the game with a huge effort. One of the last charges into the offensive zone saw the Kings skating across the blueline four across with dramatic flair. If nothing else, my boys are very entertaining.