Any later in the season, the Kings’ win Thursday night would be nothing more or less than a straightforward move up in the Western Conference standings.
That special feat deserves its due. It’s not every day that two teams in a dead heat in the standings play each other in a “four-point game.” The Kings have done it twice in the span of two days now, and won both times. In the process they’ve moved up three spots in the standings to fifth.
But my story for tomorrow’s editions — if you got the late edition — focused on the trade deadline, and the man whose two-goal game raised 26 eyebrows in the Staples Center press box. (We journalists aren’t much good at math, but I’m assuming that the credentialed scouts from 13 NHL teams had two eyebrows apiece.)
Wayne Simmonds says he isn’t worried about the deadline, meaning he’s either a cool customer of the Edmonton Journal or he doesn’t read the Edmonton Journal at all. I don’t know how many teams were asking about Simmonds prior to his two-goal game against the Wild, so let’s call that number x. Dean Lombardi might have 3x teams asking about Simmonds between now and Monday, given that 3x 29.
Really, I’m not good at math. Corrections welcome.
Perhaps the lesson from Thursday’s game is that, with the right linemates, Simmonds can be more than just an energy-line forward, for the Kings or whomever his next employer is. Maybe because of Anze Kopitar’s mere presence, Simmonds had plenty of space to fire off both of his goals from a very sweet area of the ice. But he also had the right amount of English on those shots to get them past Kings killer Niklas Backstrom. That wrist shot looked impressive.
Any earlier in the season, and a two-game sequence like Wednesday and Thursday’s could inspire “team-of-destiny” talk. The Kings won by scoring three goals on a season-low 18 shots in Anaheim, then got a 160-foot goal by Kopitar to seal the victory against Minnesota. Defense and goaltending being equal (and they usually are around here), those things just don’t happen.
But the trade deadline is the one point in the season when fans expect their team to upgrade their personnel. Now is not the time to be looking at destiny to carry a team past the first round of the playoffs, but rather the best available forwards on bad teams with attractive contracts.
So the trade rumors will persist, “destiny” and 160-foot goals be damned. That’s why a two-goal game by Wayne Simmonds can’t simply come and go without counting the number of scouts credentialed for the game.
A few more notes:
Terry Murray on Marco Sturm, who had one assist, one shot on goal, and two giveaways in 13:18: “It’s coming. … I’d like to see more from him and I will see more from him.”
Jonathan Bernier allowed a sort-of bad goal to Eric Nystrom, but really it was an amazing goal by Nystrom. He didn’t see Brent Burns’ goal, or at least overplayed it as if he didn’t see the shot coming. In the bigger picture, the good news is that he’s adapted to being a backup. Bernier has stopped 155 of 165 shots in his last six games for .939 save percentage (Jan. 15 to Feb. 24)
Drew Doughty had his third game-winning goal of the season. He now has five goals in his last 10 games.
If you got an early edition paper (Whittier, looking at you), you’ll read a lot about Bob Berry. A fiery coach for the Kings once his playing career ended, Berry seemed to get a little emotional after receiving a warm pregame ovation tonight.
Baron Davis got traded to Cleveland today. I don’t know what he did to deserve it, but I can’t help but feel bad for the guy.