No question, center Anze Kopitar was the KIngs’ most-valuable player last season, and probably the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that. Etc., etc., etc. But the oddsmakers at Bovada in Las Vegas don’t like his chances to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP this coming season. Kopitar was only 10th on their list of potential MVPs, following the usual suspects, including the leader Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7/4 odds. Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning were next at 6/1. Kopitar was well back at 18/1.
Marian Gaborik scored two goals and Andy Andreoff had one, but the Kings lost a 3-1 lead in the third period of their split-squad exhibition game against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday at Staples Center. Nick Shore then supplied the winner in a 4-3 shootout victory for the Kings. Here are three things about the Kings’ exhibition opener:
If Gaborik and Anze Kopitar appeared to be in midseason form, it might have had something to do with a short summer after the Kings won the Stanley Cup in June. “It feels like we never left,” said Gaborik, who slipped behind the defense to score a second-period goal and then converted on a pretty give-and-go play with Kopitar while on the rush in the third. “I feel good out there.” Gaborik, Kopitar and Dustin Brown formed the Kings’ top line after they acquired him at the trade deadline last March. There’s no reason to think they won’t play together again this season.
Shore doesn’t have much of a shot at making the Kings’ roster to start the season and most likely with play for their American Hockey League club in Manchester, N.H. He showed some veteran poise when he scored the winning goal in the shootout, however. He seemed unfazed by the fact that there are no jobs available in Los Angeles and that his ticket is all but punched for the minors. “Everyone in the organization takes a lot of pride and being an L.A. King and the tradition they’ve had the last couple of years, it’s fun to be a part of,” Shore said. “Ever since I was drafted and even before that they started to turn things around. It’s really just a mindset, and it starts at the top and trickles all the way down.”
Martin Jones started in goal, with the Kings in no rush to hurry Jonathan Quick back into a game after he underwent offseason wrist surgery. Jones stopped all nine shots he faced in 31 minutes, 13 seconds before Jeff Deslauriers replaced him with the Kings leading 2-0 in the second period. That’s another good sign that the Kings’ goaltending is in capable hands. Quick isn’t expected to be held out of too many upcoming games, although the Kings are typically secretive about such things. The Kings also played J.F. Berube in the split-squad game Monday at Glendale, Ariz. Depth is a wonderful thing to have, especially in goal and especially for an organization that didn’t have enough of it over the years.
Here is the best of the best writing on the Kings from the opening weekend of training camp, starting with Los Angeles News Groups columnist Mark Whicker’s look at Stanley Cup playoffs hero Alec Martinez: http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20140920/alec-martinezs-journey-with-los-angeles-kings-becomes-legendary
My look at the moves the Kings’ rivals in the West made during the summer: http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20140919/anaheim-ducks-the-west-bulk-up-to-challenge-los-angeles-kings
Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at defenseman Drew Doughty and his goal of winning the Norris Trophy here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/kings/la-sp-kings-drew-doughty-20140920-story.html
Dillman also catches up with captain Dustin Brown here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/kings/la-sp-dustin-brown-kings-20140922-story.html
In the Orange County, er, Los Angeles Register, Rich Hammond previews the Kings’ No. 1 goal in Monday’s split-squad exhibitions with the Arizona Coyotes: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/kings-635851-monday-home.html
Marian Gaborik had this to say about his comfort level after joining Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and the rest of the Kings after a March 5 trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets: “The guys welcomed me warmly. Right away, I felt comfortable. That’s very important, to feel comfortable. To play along with ‘Kopi,’ he’s a great player … and then ‘Brownie,’ the way we clicked so quickly, it was great.”
Anze Kopitar, the Kings’ top-line center, finished second in voting to Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins in voting for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the forward who excels at the defensive aspects of the game. Bergeron received 1,283 points, including 112 first-place votes. Kopitar had 840 points, including 20 first-place votes. Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks was third with 624 points, including two first-place votes. Full disclosure: I voted Kopitar first and Bergeron second.
Here’s my ballot, cast in the middle of April:
Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby, PIT, Ryan Getzlaf, ANA, Claude Giroux, PHI, Semyon Varlamov, COL, Jonathan Toews, CHI.
Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty, LAK, Shea Weber, NSH. Duncan Keith, CHI, Ryan Suter, MIN, Zdeno Chara, BOS.
Calder Torphy: Nathan MacKinnon, COL, Jacob Trouba, WPG, Hampus Lindholm, ANA, Ondrej Palat, TBL, Frederik Andersen, ANA.
Byng Trophy: Ryan O’Reilly, COL, Matt Duchene, COL, Patrick Marleau, SJS, Tyler Seguin, DAL, David Krejci, BOS.
Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar, LAK, Patrice Bergeron, BOS, David Backes, STL, Jonathan Toews, CHI, Andrew Cogliano, ANA.
Las Vegas bookmakers Bovada don’t like the chances of Kings center Anze Kopitar winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward when the league announces its awards Tuesday. Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins is a 2/7 favorite to win the award, with Kopitar next at 11/4 and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks third at 15/1.
The mood wasn’t as dour or defeatist as one might have expected after the Kings fell behind the San Jose Sharks three games to none following a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3 on April 22 at Staples Center. The Kings refused to hold a pity party despite their dire situation.
“It’s pretty self-explanatory,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said calmly after the game. “We’re down 3-0. Every piece to this puzzle is going to have to give it their all. We’re going to have to come out and throw everything we have at them and see what happens.”
If there was one turning point for the Kings, one significant moment above all the rest in their road to the Stanley Cup championship, then this was it. If their defiance, their unwillingness to bend to the pressure or to accept defeat was rooted in one statement, then this was it.
Marian Gaborik slipped effortlessly into the Kings’ lineup after a March 5 trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He clicked almost instantly with center Anze Kopitar and began producing at nearly a point-per-game pace.
Gaborik scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 19 regular-season games and he had 21 points, including a playoff-leading 13 goals, in 24 contests before the Kings faced the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.
Now the question is how quickly will the Kings move to re-sign the 32-year-old Slovakian?The price could be steep since Gaborik’s last contract, a five-year deal he signed with the Rangers before the 2009-10 season, paid him an average of $7.5 million per season.
Gaborik certainly has proved to be worth every penny of a pro-rated deal that required Columbus to pick up 50 percent of his salary for the final one-quarter of 2013-14 after Kings general manager Dean Lombardi acquired him for Matt Frattin and two draft picks at the deadline.
“You want to be a complete army,” Lombardi said.
The Kings needed scoring.
They went into the playoffs as the lowest-scoring team of the 16 postseason qualifiers, averaging a meager total of 2.42. Thanks in part to Gaborik, they upped their average to a playoff-leading 3.50 going into Game 4 of the Final at Madison Square Garden.
Best of all, as far as the Kings are concerned, Gaborik and Kopitar have formed the dynamic scoring combination that was glaringly absent in what was a popgun offense before the trade. They have played together since Gaborik joined the team for a March 6 game against Winnipeg.
“Darryl stuck with us every since he got with us,” Kopitar said, referring to Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “It is a process, but it seemed like we clicked fairly good and fairly fast. Now it’s time to really bring it, obviously. He’s a big-time player.
“I’m sure it’s hard to come to a different team with different systems and different styles of play. You have to fit in really quick, and I just think everybody helping him out, you try to be in his ear, but at the same time you kind of want to lay off and have him do his thing. I think he’s done a really good job.”
Here’s a cool look from The New York Times at Manhattan Beach, hometown of many Kings players and staff: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/sports/hockey/la-kings-work-on-ice-but-most-live-on-the-beach.html?ref=sports&_r=0