The Kings’ 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks was a clunker by any measure, as far as the defending Stanley Cup champions were concerned, but it still produced the highest TV ratings for NBCSN for any game starting after 9 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone, with the exception of last January’s outdoor game between the Kings and the Ducks at Dodger Stadium. The Kings and Sharks averaged 446,000 viewers for a 0.31 household rating and a 1.13 rating in Los Angeles. The top ratings by TV market in the United States were: the Bay Area at 1.40, Boston at 1.34 and then Los Angeles at 1.13.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter had this to say about pulling Jonathan Quick from Wednesday’s loss to the San Jose Sharks and replacing him with backup Martin Jones to start the third period of a game the team trailed 4-0: “I didn’t pull Quick because of his performance. Like I said, I don’t like pulling goalies in the first game of the year, or ever, but at that point in the game, it’s not Jonathan’s deal, it’s Jonesy’s deal.”
FYI: Quick gave up four goals on 27 shots.
Jake Muzzin sat out of the Kings’ season-opening loss to the San Jose Sharks because of an unspecified injury. Muzzin, one-half of the Kings’ top defense pair along, was hurt earlier in the week. His status for
Sunday’s Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz., remains uncertain.
Brayden McNabb took Muzzin’s place in the lineup and played a regular shift alongside Drew Doughty. McNabb’s plus-minus rating was minus-1. He played 23 minutes, 27 seconds. Doughty was a minus-1 in a team-leading 27:28.
Like several of his teammates, winger Kyle Clifford didn’t like the way the Kings started their season-opening game against the San Jose Sharks. He wasn’t crazy about the way they finished off a 4-0 loss, either. Here’s more from Clifford:
“We’ve got to do a better job. We’ve just got to come out better. We can’t use (the pregame Stanley Cup championship banner-raising ceremony) as an excuse as professional players. We should be ready when the puck drops. I think we just need a little more structure and a little better mindset. No bite to our game.”
Kings defenseman Alec Martinez, the hero of the team’s Game 7 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals and their Game 5 win over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, knows about pressure situations. He didn’t believe the Kings delivered when needed in their season-opening game Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks. Here’s what he had to say:
“We obviously didn’t have the start we were looking for. We can’t come out like that against a hockey club of San Jose’s caliber, or anyone in the league, quite frankly. We weren’t ready. We just didn’t come out the way we needed to.”
Here’s some of what Kings captain Dustin Brown said when asked if the Stanley Cup championship banner ceremony distracted the team during Wednesday’s loss to the San Jose Sharks: “We just didn’t play well. We weren’t very sharp moving the puck, coming out of our zone. It was hard to move it up the ice. We got stuck in our defensive zone. I think we’re just disappointed in the two points we lost.
“That’s what it comes down to, really.”
Here are the first few paragraphs from my game story:
“The Kings raised their second championship banner in three seasons to the Staples Center rafters Wednesday night. Team captain Dustin Brown held the Stanley Cup high overhead as a roaring sellout crowd bellowed like it was June 13 all over again.
“Then somebody had to go and spoil a perfectly good party by dropping a puck onto the ice and starting a new season. Then the San Jose Sharks had to go and stick the puck in the back of Jonathan Quick’s net. Again and again and again and again.
“Tommy Wingels scored two goals and the Sharks earned a very small measure of revenge after last season’s playoff ouster at the hands of the Kings, taking a comprehensive 4-0 victory in the regular-season opening game for both teams.”
Here are three impressions about an uneven opening game:
First, the Kings turned in clunkers after each of their championship banner-raising ceremonies. They have been outscored 9-2 in losses to the Sharks on Wednesday and to the Chicago Blackhawks two seasons ago. So, what’s the answer? Not winning a Stanley Cup? Not celebrating it? Maybe the Kings could have the Lakers come in and talk to them about how to handle the distractions of such a ceremony. Then again, there aren’t many (any?) Lakers left who remember what that experience is like.
Second, the Kings have miles to skate before they can even think about recreating their incredible run to the Cup last spring. It was a long, slow process last season and it will be again in 2014-15. Patience is the order of the next few days and weeks, and maybe even months. Fans, players, coaches and reporters must realize it’s a process.
Third, the Sharks are pretty good. They’ve been humiliated by their playoff loss to the Kings last spring and they have plenty to prove this season. Don’t expect them to fold at every opportunity. Their collapse from a 3-0 series lead in the first round last spring was quite a pratfall, one they’ve been reminded of for, oh, probably every day since April.
Can the Kings maintain their focus during the regular season?
If the Kings have proved nothing else in recent seasons, it’s that the regular season doesn’t mean a whole lot. After all, they finished third in the Pacific Division and sixth in the Western Conference last season and had home-ice advantage in the playoffs only during their victory over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final. They won three consecutive Game 7s on the road, no small feat. They didn’t seem to mind playing away from home in any circumstance, defying conventional wisdom.
In the end, the Kings won’t be playing for the Presidents Trophy as the team with the best regular-season record. They want to play for the Stanley Cup. The Presidents Trophy takes too much work and is nothing more than a consolation prize teams sell to their season-ticket holders after the club doesn’t win a championship. At least, that’s the Kings’ theory. Team captain Dustin Brown mentioned it recently, and he probably won’t be the last member of the team or the coaching staff to talk about it.
Will the Kings be healthy enough to lead the playoff race?
Goalie Jonathan Quick and forward Kyle Clifford underwent wrist surgeries and Jarret Stoll had hip surgery during the offseason, signs of the toll a grueling regular season and an extended playoff run can exact on professional athletes. All three are sound and will begin the regular season on schedule. Injuries are always a concern, particularly for a team that relies on its physical play to win games. The Kings appear to have the depth to withstand various routine bumps and bruises in the season.
Luck plays a great role in a team’s success. Good teams avoid injuries, or at the very least they manage to use their depth to patch together a lineup that’s good enough to keep winning. There’s not a big drop-off. Bad teams get injured and there aren’t enough quality players to fill the void. The Kings appear to have plenty of depth, both on their roster in Los Angeles and at their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H. Any questions about the organization’s depth should have been answered by the likes of Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli during the playoffs last season.