Opinions were mixed as to whether the Kings’ lengthy pregame banner and ring ceremony distracted them for their lockout-delayed season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. Some said it did, some said it didn’t.
Everyone agreed a team worthy of defending the Stanley Cup shouldn’t have been knocked off course by a 30-minute pregame ceremony, even an emotional one that had been put off for four months by the NHL lockout. The Kings should have played with a laser-like focus.
“You’re going to make some physical mistakes in these first seven or eight games,” Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said after a 5-2 loss. “That’s just the way it is. I expect physical mistakes, but we have to be prepared mentally and at least give ourselves a chance.”
In the end, the Kings’ best players weren’t their best players against Chicago.
“Actually, from that standpoint, if you worked it backwards based on how you perceive your lines and how you perceive your defensemen, I thought Drew was outstanding,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of Drew Doughty, who played a team-leading 25 minutes, 48 seconds.
“I thought our fourth line … was pretty normal,” Sutter added, referring to Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan. “It was really physical and they scored a couple of goals on the forecheck, which you hope they get rewarded .”
The fourth line applied sustained pressure at least twice in the game, producing Scuderi’s goal late in the second period, a cross-ice pass from Fraser, and Nolan’s strike midway through the third period, off a centering pass from defenseman Matt Greene. Clifford picked up the second assists on each goal for his third career multi-point game.
The Kings’ top lines didn’t fare nearly as well as their muckers and grinders, however. Their second line of Dustin Brown, Simon Gagne and Mike Richards, for instance, were torched by the Blackhawks. Each finished with a plus-minus rating of minus-3.
“I think for the players, that’s something we learned — to see our rings and to see our banner going up — but at the same time, we probably weren’t nearly as sharp as we wanted to be as a team,” Brown said. “It’s one game, we’ve got to get back at it.”