The Kings’ victory Wednesday over the San Jose Sharks extended their mastery over their Pacific Division rivals to 11-0-1 in their last 12 games at Staples Center, including the regular season and playoffs. The Kings won all four games against the Sharks at Staples Center in their second-round playoff series last spring, underscoring the value of home-ice advantage during the postseason. The Sharks went 10-1-1 to lead the NHL with 21 points before losing to the Kings 4-3 in overtime Wednesday. The Kings could have fallen seven points behind the Sharks, but by winning in OT, they moved within four. The Pacific Division race is one that bears monitoring all season, if for no other reason than the team with home-ice advantage will have an edge in the playoffs.
What was it Wayne Gretzky said? “One hundred percent of the shots you don’t take, don’t go in.” Something like that, anyway. Anze Kopitar acknowledged getting some advice from Kings fans to shoot the puck. It’s happened now and then during an incredible stretch in which he’s hardly scored. Kopitar went the final 16 regular-season games without a goal last season, and then had only one in the first 13 games this season. Then he got a pass in overtime of Wednesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks and the fans bellowed, “Shoooot.” So he did.
The Edmonton Oilers went into Sunday’s game against the Kings as one of the NHL’s biggest messes. They gave up a league-high 48 goals through 12 games to start the season and were a dismal 3-8-1 after a 5-4 loss Saturday to the Phoenix Coyotes. Their goaltending was subpar, with Jason LaBarbera not exactly sharp as a tack. Richard Bachman was recalled from the minor leagues and he got the start against the Kings, and nearly earned a victory. The Kings took 48 shots at him, but got only one past him during a 2-1 shootout victory. Here are three things to consider about a game that very nearly got away from the Kings:
Some people can’t enough statistics. The Kings’ crack media relations staff came up with a few gems after Thursday’s wild 7-4 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. For instance, the Kings last scored seven times in a game in an 8-1 rout of the Vancouver Canucks on April 1, 2010. Guessing that was no April’s Fool joke.
There were a few more facts and figures, including:
He might be public enemy No. 1 among the less polished among the Kings fans, who rail profanely at him on his every visit to Staples Center, but Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan knows quite a bit about their favorite team. Here’s what he had to say after the Kings’ 7-4 victory Thursday over the Coyotes: “Getting the quick one on the power play gets them feeling good. You know it was only a matter of time before (Anze) Kopitar and (Mike) Richards got going and once they start feeling good, they’re a pretty good team.”
Kopitar scored a power-play goal in the game’s first minute, his first goal of the season. Richards also scored his first of the seasons. It wasn’t accurate to say the Kings struggled while Kopitar and Richards, the team’s top two centers went without a goal in the season’s first 10 games, It was a head-scratcher, though. Let’s see if the Kings move up the standings in the Pacific Division now that they have broken through with goals.
Tomorrow’s game story tonight …
Anze Kopitar skated into the attacking zone in the opening minute of the Kings’ 7-4 victory Thursday over the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center. He and his teammates were on a power play and they buzzed around goaltender Mike Smith’s net in search of an early goal.
Coach Darryl Sutter ranked Trevor Lewis as the Kings’ second-best penalty-killer after Anze Kopitar. It almost goes without saying that goaltender Jonathan Quick is actually the Kings’ best penalty-killer, what with his customary array of quality saves whenever the team is shorthanded.
“We have good penalty-killing because of our goaltending,” Sutter said.
Avoiding penalties is always the first step, though.
“You have to learn how to do that,” Sutter said of playing a hard-nosed but legal game. “It wasn’t a very disciplined team at one point, and if you look at teams that aren’t very disciplined the last few years, they have a hard time making the playoffs.”
Coach Darryl Sutter had a solution Wednesday to the Kings’ penalty-killing woes during Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames. Don’t take so many penalties. Don’t take them in bunches. Don’t make it easy for the opposition to get so many scoring opportunities.
The call might have seemed questionable to the referees in the Staples Center stands, but Kings center Anze Kopitar didn’t second-guess a hooking call that went against him and yielded the game-winning power-play goal for the Calgary Flames on Monday night.
“We definitely lost the special teams battles,” Kopitar said, referring to the Flames’ three-power play goals during their 3-2 victory. “Usually, when that happens, the outcome is not going to be very good. … We took some bad penalties, including myself. It was a stupid penalty on my part and shouldn’t have happened.”
Tomorrow’s game story tonight …
The San Jose Sharks won again Monday night, improving their NHL-best record to 8-0-1 to start the season. So did the Colorado Avalanche, pushing their mark to 8-1-0. The Ducks won Sunday, their seventh in a row after a season-opening loss to the Avalanche.