The Avalanche Outshine the Kings of Nothing
Photo by Michael Martin (Getty Images)
Oh, Los Angeles Kings. If only we could play you 82 times a year. You are so loveable, so tenacious, so...crappy. Alas, we only get to enjoy your company four times a year (other than the playoffs, that is *giggle*). So, my dear Kings, I will be waiting with anticipation for our next - and, regretably, final - meeting on January 21st. Until then, fare thee well, my friends. Fare thee well. [thanks to pookie for pointing out my typo there]
The Avalanche obliterated the Kings 6-1 in front of some enthusiastic Pepsi Center fans (and about 4,000 empty seats). While there were some good things from the Avs - such as Chris Stewart's first goal, some exceptional goaltending from Peter Budaj and, you know, scoring 6 goals for the 2nd time in just over a week - the real story here was the way Los Angeles played (terribly) and the way they reacted to said play (like babies).
Kings goalie Jason LaBarbera was awful the first time we played LA this year (a 4-3 Avalanche win) and he was every bit as dreadful last night...with the added bonus of having his defensemen play even worse in front of him. Statistically, the Kings are one of the better defensive teams in hockey. Not last night.
The festivities started just over three minutes in. Ruslan Salei's hard shot rebounded off the boards to the left of Hanna-Barbera. He tried to corale the puck but it got tangled in his feet. He and two of his defensemen tried desperately to find the puck, but Tyler Arnason got there first and poked it through the goal crease where Marek Svatos was there to make a slow-motion sweep into the net.
After the goal, Kings coach Terry Murray threw his 4th line onto the ice. If you recall, that's exactly the dick move he pulled in the last game, resulting in the John Zeiler boarding play on Adam Foote. With Zeiler on the ice, Tony Granato countered with the Laperriere line. I'm sure it was purely coincidental that Lappy - the center - lined up at left wing in front of Zeiler. Perhaps Chris Stewart needed some faceoff practice. At any rate, Zeiler and Lappy dropped the gloves, and it was a hell of a fight - both guys landed some bombs. Kudos to Lappy for doing his job, but also kudos to Zeiler for answering the bell (for his part, he told Adrian Dater that he wasn't trying to hurt Foote).
That might have been it for the antics, but that pesky Milan Hejduk ruined everything by scoring just 27 seconds later. It was a botched play by the Kings defensemen behind the net, and Paul Stoss-Knee (as the Kings play by play guy calls him) made them pay. About 8 minutes later, Cody McLeod crushed Derek Armstrong into the corner boards. It was a hard, clean hit that knocked Armstrong to the ice (and ultimately out of the game). While Armstrong was down, the Avalanche kept the play going and McLeod ended up banging it home. And the rout was on.
The Kings started to play a little better, but a dumb interference penalty by Drew Doughty put the Avs on the PP early in the 2nd. On the ensuing powerplay, Milan Hejduk collided with Patrick O'Sullivan, causing O'Sullivan to catapult himself to the ice as if he had heard an air raid siren. At full speed, it looked like incidental contact. In slow motion, it looked like what it was - a missed interference call on Hejduk. And, of course, the Avs' Ryan Smyth scored just seconds later. All of a sudden, the Kings weren't just pissed off with themselves - now they were victims of bad officiating. Boo hoo.
The Kings competely uraveled when Cody McLeod scored his 2nd of the game a couple of minutes later. Down 5-0, it was time to act like babies. Kings thug Raitis Ivanans chased down McLeod immediately after the goal. Poor McLeod didn't even get a chance to celebrate his goal...so he did so at his earliest opportunity - right after he was escorted to the penalty box. Look, Cody, I get the whole red-headed temper thing, but seriously? How is that helping? Ivanans wanted McLeod to fight, but it wasn't happening - you could see McLeods say "I'm not going to fucking fight you. Why would I fight you?" from in the box. So, the Kings took matters into their own hands and started taking little cheap shots on the Avs - LaBrea Tar Pit took a swing at Hejduk as he skated by, Michal Handzus ran into McLeod after a whistle, Jaret Stoll ran into David Jones from behind with no puck in sight. Frankly, although the Stoll shot was the only really obvious non-call, I felt the refs were really making a mistake by swallowing their whistles. With the bad blood between these teams, the game out of reach and the Kings in full on thugz-for-life mode, it could have easily gotten out of control (you can't help but remember the Bertuzzi game in such situations). Thankfully, the Kings all got doses of Ritalin during the 2nd intermission and things quieted down for the rest of the game.
Congratulations to Chris Stewart on his best NHL game so far. Stewart assisted on the 2nd McLeod goal - really, he made it happen, forcing LaBlahBlah to turn over the puck behind his net. A little later, and 30 seconds after coming out of the box, Ian Laperriere broke Stewart free with a controversial hand pass. Stewart was all alone on Bambie - his first shot was stopped, but the rebound went right to his stick. That's goal #1, Chris - hopefully the first of many in an ugly Avalanche unipron. Kings analyst Jimmy Fox said that the hand pass should have been whistled down, but since Kyle Quincy tried to play it (and hit it with his stick), the refs waved it off. Which makes sense, except in the replay you can see both the ref and the linesman watching the play, and neither made any sort of signal whatsoever. I thought you could make a hand pass from your own zone regardless of where the pass ended up, but Fox said that since Stewart received the pass in the neutral zone, it would normally be whistled. Whatever - missed call or good call - it was nice to see Stewart get rewarded for his strong play in the game.
As I mentioned above, the Avs scored 6 goals for the 2nd time in just over a week. And, they got a goal from each of the four lines, another cause for celebration. Still, we shouldn't get too carried away - the Kings were that bad. And there's a couple of tough opponents coming up on the schedule.
The lines in this game were the lines that Granato ended with against Vancouver, except that Hensick, McLeod and McCormick actually got to play. Stewart played left wing on a line with Lappy and Jones.With the game in hand after two periods, the 3rd and 4th lines got most of the ice time.
Marek Svatos (or, if you are Jimmy Fox, Shvatos) left the game in the first with a back injury. And apparently Brian Willsie has been place on the IR, because he no longer is being listed as a scratch.
- Last night's game came exactly 1 year after the 9-5 blowout of the St Louis Blues. Let's make sure we have a game on December 9th next year.
- Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth both have 3 goals against the Kings this year.
- The Avs continue to be worse than awful in the faceoff circle, winning just 32% last night.
The Avalanche will now have their easy button taken away - Chicago comes to town on Friday and the Wings visit on Monday.
After some pushing and shoving, an animated McLeod taunted Ivanans and the Kings, shouting and pumping his arms. Surprisingly, no fight between the two happened the rest of the game, probably because referees appeared to sternly warn both benches no more shenanigans would be tolerated. Plus, McLeod admitted, the massive Ivanans is "a little out of my league" as a fighter. - Adrian Dater, Denver Post
McLeod had his first two-goal game, scoring his second of the night on a backhanded shot in the second period. He glided into the corner following the goal and lifted his hands in the air, only to be greeted by an agitated Raitis Ivanans of the Kings. The two exchanged shoves before both were sent off to the penalty box for roughing. - AP
Thankfully the Avs proved they didn't need me rooting for them every night as they finally did the unthinkable: win a game by more than a goal. - Shane Giroux, Avs Talk
Svatos, who scored a first-period goal and has three goals and three assists in the past six games, will be re-evaluated today. - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News
"Everybody knew it was going to happen," Laperriere said. "I'm pretty much the closest to his size. I respect him a little bit more now by responding to the challenge. The way he plays, he's going to have to do that for the rest of his career because he plays on the edge. He crossed the line the last time." - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News
[The Avalanche] were very tough on the Kings’ defense around the net. The addition of Chris Stewart obviously helped in that kind of area. But David Jones is also starting to really take the puck to the net with consistency now, and that’s helping wear down opposing D-men a little I’ve noticed. - Adrian Dater, All Things Avs
Well that sucked. There's not a whole lot you can say after a game like that other than, "Wow." Well, you can say a lot of 4-letter words too, but that's not constructive. - Rudy Kelly, Battle of California (welcome to SB Nation, guys)
You can't accuse the Kings of not having any fight. That's about the only thing they did have tonight: a fight - Rich Hammond, Inside the Kings