Another Game After ‘The End of the World’


The longest week in Kings fans’ recent memory progresses slowly.

We move on from hearing color bloke Jim Fox drop a few dozen decibels and words per second, Coach Terry Murray turning a new shade of pale and hockey pundits and some hockey fans thinking all the Kings’ horses and all the Kings’ men couldn’t put it back in the net again after Anze Kopitar had a great fall.

It’s kinda confusing to hear in one corner it’s all over, and then hear or read “hey, the Kings beat … Edmonton! They’re two wins from taking the Pacific from the Sharks!”

Hell, there’s talk of finishing second in the conference. Doom & Gloom are confused.

The rollercoaster season continues.

Tonight, here comes the Vancouver Canucks. The Canuckleheads have won 51 games since the season kicked off with these two facing off and the Kings getting a bit of revenge for the playoff boot.

We’ll see who rallies here. Ancient vet Ryan Smyth gets hot again? Michal Handzus picks it up? Oscar Moller? Somebody’s got to get the offense rolling with Kopitar and Justin Williams out. Sometimes, when a team looks at one guy to do everything and he goes down, the squad rallies.

Remember this: Williams wasn’t playing with the Kings when they tangoed with Vancouver in the playoffs last season. Wait, he was. He played injured through three games and wasn’t much of a factor. And LA nearly scared out Vancouver out of the playoffs.

Kopitar? Two goals, three assists in six games, -1, averaged three shots a game. Did have a game-winner. I tend to recall Michal Handzus in that series, and he had five points too. And Jonathan Quick’s early performances before fatigue and Vancouver jumped him.

So the playoffs without Kopitar will be tougher, yes, but there’s been a fattening on the other parts of the roster. Last season’s team was about growing up. Now it’s compete and contend. The Kings have gotten bigger and focus more on defense. And don’t forget, the Kings are “deep” and not because there are sharing the same building with the Lakers’ dude that is called the Zen Master.

Here’s some of the tasty bacon bits, comparing last year’s roster to the current one: Fredrik Modin, meet Dustin Penner.  Alexei Ponikarovsky is finding his groove again and doing “the little things” coaches and fans like, but dude just needs to find the net now (55 games, 15 points this season). Not that Alex Frolov was doing any better with the New York Rangers; he’s on the injury reserve and had 16 points in 43 games.

And rarely-used backup goalie Erik Ersberg is not comparable to Jonathan Bernier. Bernier (11-8-3, 2.46 GAA, .913 SV%) is finally looking like the goalie that would challenge Quick for the No. 1 seat when that was the hype.

And rested is Quick, who fell apart in the second half of the season. This year’s stats after the All-Star game: 11-4, 2.27 GAA, .918 SV%.

Finally, keep this in mind. DEFENSE wins Stanley Cups. So they say. Well, they being the New Jersey Devils since 1995, the ’93 Montreal Canadiens, last year’s Chicago Blackhawks (who often get compared to the current Kings team) and yes, those Anaheim Ducks from 2007. So keep your eyes on Matt Greene, Jack Johnson, Rob Scuderi, Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell and Alec Martinez. The Kings are third in fewest goals allowed, let’s see if they can continue to keep the scores down and win the 2-1 contests.

And if one (or both) of the Jonathans gets hot between the pipes, more the merrier.

Consider the opening period in Edmonton. An 18-to-6 shot differential between the Kings and Oilers to open the period ain’t nothing to sneeze at. Course, LA did allow Edmonton to get seven or so shots to open the second period, but that got forgotten when Dustin Brown found the net and the Oilers couldn’t.

Still, the Oilers are at the bottom of the food chain this season. It’s baby steps, baby steps.

But getting there.

This is the real first test in a world without Anze Kopitar. Sorry, some ludicrous disaster flick, “2012,” is on the tube in the next room. Still, who knows. The Vancouver and LA teams that skate on the ice Thursday may not be the same ones who hit the ice when the playoffs start. Mentally and roster-wise. And if Vancouver does open the playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks as today’s seeding indicates, the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals may be looking at someone else to wear that choke collar they’ve been cursed with. But that’s another team, another story.

Anyway, if you still feel negative about the loss of Kopitar, you can always try to see the sunshine from the gallows, as this video from the Royal Half does. My beef: if you’re going to spoof the cheesy NHL “History Will Be Made” commercials, follow its style. Still, the final tagline hits the nail on the coffin the pessimistic Kings fans have already shoved the 2010-2011 campaign in.

So let’s rally. Between periods or after tonight’s win/loss/Bettman decision, you might want to read:

– The Kings’ PR staff breaks down the race for the playoffs, adding that the six games that remain on LA’s itinerary are all against teams vying for playoff spots. Or in the case of Vancouver, comfortably resting in them. “Detroit had a meltdown over St. Louis losing 10-3 at home last night. The Kings are now just four points behind Detroit with a game in hand on the Red Wings, so a hot finish could help the Kings get to as high as second in the West (we’re nothing if not optimistic around here).” Easier said than done, but hey, if it did happen, morale might climb in the Kingdom. 

– Yahoo blogger Greg Wyshynski gives Kings fans five reasons to keep on believing, and summons the spirit of “Animal House” in the process:

"“What? ‘Over’? Did you say ‘over? Nothing’s over until the Kings decide it is! Was it over when the Red Wings bombed Cole Harbour? HELL NO!”(“Red Wings?” “Forget it, he’s rolling.”)(“Cole Harbour?” “Crosby’s hometown. Forget it, he’s straining to keep this hockey-relevant.”)“AND IT AIN’T OVER NOW. ‘Cause when the going gets tough [Insert roughly 30 seconds of patriotic instrumental music] … the Anze-less get going! Who’s with me!? Let’s go! Come on!”To further paraphrase Senator Blutarsky: What the [expletive] happened to the Los Angeles Kings fans we used to know?Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts?Where’s the confidence that even without Azne Kopitar’s points, power-play ability and overall MVP performance, the Kings aren’t going to be a first-round bye for a higher seed or have their playoff bubble burst?Sure, Kopitar is done for weeks with a broken ankle. Yes, Justin Williams(notes), the second-leading scorer, is also shelved with a bum shoulder. But is that any reason for every single Kings blog to publish the same down-goes-Anze photo and surly lament about the team’s misfortune?Hell no!What you need are five reasons to laugh in the face of despair and realize that the Kings aren’t done yet. To quote Leslie Mann in “Knocked Up”: “We’re going to be positive. Positive, positive, positive.”"

In another spot, Wysh also puts Ryan Smyth as the No. 2 guy he’d like to see lift a Stanley Cup for the first time. The 35-year-old Smyth is at 1,063 games and 87 playoff contests without a ring. 

– The Battle of California also did a “keep positive” spin. What caught my eye before the Edmonton game was the first item RudyKelly mentioned:

"1) Trevor Lewis. The former first-rounder is the most obvious beneficiary of Kopitar’s tough break, moving up to the 2nd line with Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown. Lewis has had an OK season thus far, tallying 10 points on the year from the 4th line. Is he good enough to play top-6 minutes? No. But it’ll be good for him. I see Lewis becoming a “Todd Marchant In Anaheim” type, good for 20-30 points a season while getting top penalty kill minutes, but he could always turn into more if, like Terry Murray said, his head catches up to his feet. He got a goal and an assist in the 3rd period of the last game after he was moved up to Smyth & Brown’s line, so he’s off to a good start. It’ll be fun to see if he can continue that."

Trevor’s numbers from Tuesday: a pair of assists and +2. Good start.

– If there’s anyone who can rally Kings fans, it’s the blokes at Jewels From the Crown. And Quisp has his take on the panic attack Kings fans and the media have been stewing in. Great breakdown on the Kings’ situation and comparisons with last year’s team. And then there’s this to consider:

"But I don’t believe any part of the narrative that Kopitar and Williams are somehow the equivalent of Crosby and Malkin, or Ovechkin, or pick your own favorite franchise player(s) who got injured.All due respect to Anze Kopitar, but he’s an up-and-coming, potential franchise player. He’s not a franchise player yet. He’s a two-time 30, three-time 20 goal scorer who has some sweet moves, plays good defense, logs big minutes and has a lot of room to grow."

  – It’s a bit dated (they thought Kopitar would be back) but Surly & Scribe wrote up a short fan fiction piece on the Kings trekking through adversity — and the playoffs.

– And if you want another pipe dream scenario, but more closely rooted to the current playoff race, try’s assessment of how the Kings could finish second in the West.