Was he serious? Was he joking? No one knows for sure. Actually, no one is ever sure what’s running around in the mind of Kings coach Darryl Sutter. Anyone who claims to know is a liar. Here’s what he said after the Kings dropped a 6-5 shootout decision Wednesday to the Ducks: “They’re a much better team than we are. They proved it last year, proved it again tonight.”
Here are the first few paragraphs of my recap:
It was fast and frantic and full of unpredictable twists and turns. The Ducks and Kings rocketed around the Honda Center ice Wednesday in their first Freeway Series game of the season. No play could be taken for granted, and certainly no lead was safe.
When it was done, the Ducks took a 6-5 shootout victory from the Kings in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 17,245 in a game that felt more like it should have been played in the glare of the playoffs rather than in the uncertain weeks of the fall.
Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler scored in the shootout for the NHL-leading Ducks (11-3-3) and backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera stopped Anze Kopitar after Marian Gaborik scored and Jeff Carter misfired for the Kings (8-4-4).
Here are three more things about the Kings’ loss:
First, two-goal leads are usually money in the bank for Jonathan Quick and the Kings. Not Wednesday. The Kings led by scores of 3-1 and 5-3, but couldn’t prevent the Ducks from rallying to force the game to overtime and then a shootout. Said defenseman Drew Doughty: “We always feel good with the lead. We have ‘Quickie’ back there. We have, I think, one of the best defense corps in the whole league and all of our forwards play pretty good ‘D’ as well. Whenever we have that two goal lead we definitely feel secure.”
Second, Quick was superb in goal for the Kings. That’s never a surprise anymore, but he was under siege for most of the night, facing 49 shots from the Ducks. Quick needed to make several jaw-dropping saves just to keep the Kings in front in the early going, and then again in the middle of the game. The Ducks poured on the pressure late and there was no chance Quick could work miracles. He needed more help than he got from his teammates.
Third, the Ducks beat the Kings at their own (winning) game. The Ducks possessed the puck for extended stretches and controlled the play. They never led during regulation play or overtime, but they played the right way. You know, the way the Kings play. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Ducks spent the offseason remaking their roster in order to be more like the Kings, who won Stanley Cup championships in two of the last three seasons. The question is how do the Kings counter the Ducks’ moves? Saturday’s rematch at Staples Center should be fun. Again.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter had this to say about free agent defenseman Jamie McBain, who signed a one-season, $550,000 contract with the club Tuesday: “There’s a lot to go over with him. It’s way different coming to this conference. The pace of play is way different. He hasn’t played on a good team. Big difference. Good kid. Good skill set. The next part is the game.”
The Kings made it official and announced they signed defenseman Jamie McBain to a one-season contract Tuesday, which means they won’t have to play with only five healthy bodies on the blue line when they face the Ducks on Wednesday at the Honda Center. The Kings were forced to designate suspended defenseman Slava Voynov as a non-roster player in order to sign McBain and slip him under the NHL salary cap. Voynov is suspended by the league indefinitely after he was arrested on domestic violence charges last month in Redondo Beach.
McBain will be paid the NHL minimum of $550,000 while he’s with the Kings.
The Kings and Ducks renew their mutual dislike for each other Wednesday at the Honda Center, which actually means fans of the teams renew their mutual dislike for each other. Some of the players, gasp, are actually friends off the ice. Others are teammates on Canadian or United States Olympic teams. As rivals, the Kings and Ducks are more like cousins who bicker occasionally during get-togethers at the holidays. At least that was the opinion of Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who said Tuesday: “What was in the dictionary for rivalry 15 years ago is not rivalry now.”
Here are the first few paragraphs of Saturday night’s recap:
Marian Gaborik scored his long-awaited, much-anticipated first goal of the season a little less than 10 minutes into the Kings’ 5-1 victory Saturday over the Vancouver Canucks. Then Jake Muzzin scored his first about five minutes later. Then Anze Kopitar scored his third about four minutes later.
In the end, the lifeless Canucks were a cure for what ailed the shorthanded Kings.
Robyn Regehr couldn’t play because of an injury suffered in Friday’s practice. Slava Voynov was banned for the ninth consecutive game, serving an indefinite suspension imposed by the NHL after his arrest on domestic violence charges last month in Redondo Beach.
Since salary-cap issues made it impossible for the Kings to seek replacements for Regehr and Voynov from their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., they were forced to dress only five defensemen for Saturday’s Pacific Division showdown with the Canucks.
Here are three additional things that stood out:
First, Gaborik’s goal was the first hint of his presence this season. Is that too harsh? Well, he was the Kings’ leading goal-scorer with 14 during their charge to the Stanley Cup championship last spring. He was the key piece to their postseason offensive surge, too. He has been injured for all but seven of their 15 games after signing a mammoth seven-year, $34-million contract to stay in Los Angeles. All things to consider when assessing his lack of production to start this season.
Second, Drew Doughty’s minutes have increased because of the Kings’ lack of healthy and eligible bodies in their defense corps. He played 29:46 Saturday against the Canucks. That’s a ton, especially this early in the season.
Third, the Canucks were surprising pushovers in their first visit to Staples Center this season. They didn’t score only Chris Higgins ended Jonathan Quick’s shutout bid with a goal at 12:07 of the final period. The Kings built a five-goal lead before Higgins struck on a centering pass from former L.A. forward Linden Vey. In the end, it was a disappointing showing by the surprising Canucks (10-5-0).
Dwight King scored the KIngs’ only goal during a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday at Staples Center. Brock Nelson countered for the Islanders, who also got shootout goals from Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. Jonathan Quick robbed former Kings defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky from point-blank range after an excellent cross-ice pass from another ex-King, Thomas Hickey, in overtime.
Here are three things that stood out about Thursday’s defeat:
First, the Kings sorely missed winger Justin Williams, who couldn’t play after suffering an eye injury during their victory Tuesday over the Dallas Stars. Williams’ place on the Kings’ top line with Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik was taken by Jordan Nolan, a grinder who works his tail off but doesn’t have the scoring touch. The Kings couldn’t say when Williams might be back in the lineup. They hoped they would have to play without him for only one game. With goals at a premium, the Kings need all the offensive help they can get at this point in the season.
Second, Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin said it best when asked how the Kings can generate more scoring chances and more goals. “Instead of trying to look for cute plays on the outside, putting it (the puck) on net and driving it,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting pucks to the net.” The Kings played far too often on the perimeter. When they did drive to the net, King scored on a pinball deflection off a centering pass from teammate Mike Richards only 3:49 into the game.
Third, it’s obvious by now that the Kings are skating with targets on their backs. It comes with the territory as defending Stanley Cup champions. You could see from the opening minutes that the Islanders were not content with a split of their games in Southern California. They got two points in Anaheim on Wednesday and were determined to secure two more Thursday in Los Angeles. The Kings should know by now the rest of the league wants to knock them off their lofty perch. Thursday’s game was simply more evidence of it.
Kings captain Dustin Brown scored only his second goal and recorded just his second point in 13 games to start the season when he tallied during Tuesday’s victory over the Dallas Stars. The Kings expect more from him, although coach Darryl Sutter said Thursday he seen some improvement in Brown’s game recently.
“I think the last two or three games we’ve seen a little bit more of Dustin Brown,” Sutter said after the Kings’ morning skate Thursday in El Segundo. “Not because he’s scored, but more of that forceful game that we need out of him. The question gets asked often about Brownie, but Brownie has had success by playing a very certain way. That’s the way he has to play. When he gets away from playing that straight-line game, then he struggles. When he’s on that straight-line game and being a forecheck guy and a penalty-killer for us, then he’s really effective.”
Kings forward Justin Williams won’t play Thursday night against the New York Islanders at Staples Center after suffering an eye injury in the closing moments of Tuesday’s victory over the Dallas Stars. The stick of Dallas’ Brendan Dillon clipped Williams, who left the ice immediately to seek treatment.
“Get better every day and when he’s ready to play, he’s ready to play,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after the team’s morning skate Thursday in El Segundo.
Jordan Nolan skated in Williams’ spot on a line with Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar during the Kings’ morning skate. Sutter also reunited That 70s Line after splitting up Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli in Dallas.