I am all for the competitiveness of sports. I am an athlete myself, and I am a fan. So I understand the drive and the overall mental state and desire that goes into beating an opponent. Without that drive and will to succeed we wouldn’t have the big hits, highlight reel goals or great comebacks that hockey offers up on a nightly basis. But now might be a nice time for Los Angeles Kings players, and most other NHL players and teams to take their foot off of the gas.
The Kings played the San Jose Sharks last night. The game was another installment in the bitter rivalry between the two California-based franchises, which always serves up a hard-fought and high intensity affair. This was all apparent when Kings defenseman Drew Doughty threw a heavy hit in the first period and missed the rest of the game because of an upper body injury resulting from the hit.
Here’s the kicker. This was a virtually meaningless game for the Kings. They are all but locked up in the third seed in the Pacific Division and are waiting to see if they will be playing the Sharks or the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. Now the Kings could lose Doughty for any amount of time because of a play in a game that will have no affect on their overall standings, that would be a bit sad.
Look, I know what everyone is thinking now. The Kings need to play so they don’t look soft. They needed to play hard in order to send a message to the Sharks just in case they play each other in the first round. There are plenty of reasons why the Kings shouldn’t roll over for any team down the stretch and that’s not what I’m asking for. I’m just saying maybe they should take their foot off the gas a little, don’t go for that big hit or don’t go full speed in the corner with someone on you, stuff like that.
The Chicago Blackhawks and their fans are at wit’s end because of late season injuries to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane that could sideline them into the playoffs. Both of those injuries were sustained on plays that involved much more contact than Doughty’s. Imagine Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter take a big hit in the corner that sidelines them well into the playoffs in a game against the freaking Edmonton Oilers, just days before the playoffs. Yea, I would cry too.
Look, losing a player of Doughty’s caliber at anytime of the season would be a detrimental hit for any team. But at this point of the season, with the playoffs less than two weeks away, a play like this in an otherwise meaningless game for the Kings could cost the Kings a shot at the Cup, or at least hinder their chances greatly. Do we really want our Kings or any star players for that matter going out and screwing over their shot at the playoffs this late in the season?