Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Just like we all thought would happen, right? For all the hand-wringing in Los Angeles this season -- especially by Kings management themselves -- it looks like the band is ready to take the stage at the normal hour.
The Kings edged a very good Tampa Bay Lightning team 3-2 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive win, and if you're the Vancouver Canucks (67 points), Calgary Flames (67 points) or San Jose Sharks (66 points), you'd better check your rearview mirror and take notice of the muscle car speeding toward you with a pair of Stanley Cup rings attached to the front bumper. The Kings are charging late in the season just like everyone has waited all season for them to do, and it's downright exciting to watch.
read on for more topics from the ESPN crew...
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
Every year, the Los Angeles Kings hit the road for close to two weeks around the time when the Grammy Awards take over the Staples Centre. And every year, their task is essentially the same: Tread enough water to stay competitive, because all the Kings ever really have to do is make the playoffs, and then good things usually follow....
But this season is starting to look different – and maybe even a little desperate. The Kings, who went into Monday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets five points back of the final playoff spot (LA did win), look as if they are the ones who are wearing down – as if the cumulative effect of all that playoff hockey is finally catching up to them.
The road has been especially unkind. Last year, the Kings had the sixth-best road record in the league (23-14-4), which was identical to their home record. This year, they are 16-6-6 at home but 6-12-6 on the road. So they need to put together a winning streak in order to gain ground on the Calgary Flames, who are currently holding on to the second wild-card playoff spot in the West.
Reasons for the Kings’ struggles are varied.
No. 1 centre Anze Kopitar is not playing to the level he was a year ago, and his right-hand man from the 2014 playoffs, Marian Gaborik, has been injured and inconsistent, patterns that have followed him throughout his career. For the first month of the season, the Kings were carried by their That ’70s Line – Jeff Carter flanked by Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, all of whom had sweater numbers in the 70s. But they have cooled off since October; Pearson is out, likely for the rest of the regular season, and Toffoli is just back after recovering from mononucleosis.
Matinez won't return to the game, upper-body injury.
from Mark Whicker of the LA Daily News,
Clearly, Buffalo would demand silver and gold for Myers. It would gravely pain Bob Murray, the general manager, to give up Vatanen and Nick Ritchie, the power forward who was last year’s No. 1 draft choice. Centers Rickard Rakell and William Karlsson would be candidates too, as would incipient free agent Matt Beleskey.
But there comes a time to stop postponing the future. Especially when Myers would still be part of that future.
The Ducks won the Cup in 2007 They have won two playoff series since. Their two essential players, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, are right in the sweet spot, both turning 30 in May.///
So Lombardi would be wildly disinclined to trade Justin Williams, the Conn Smythe winner. But Williams becomes a free agent this summer, as does Jarret Stoll. Given that Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are tomorrow’s offense, and that everyone else either makes too much money or isn’t that trade-valuable, what else do you do?
The other scenario, hatched in Toronto, has the Kings getting Maple Leafs’ captain Dion Phaneuf for Richards in a big salary swap. Phaneuf played for Darryl Sutter in Calgary. Nothing else about it makes sense.
Give the Kings a week of wins and you can see another Stanley Cup coming to shore. But you’d rather be the team that trades because it wants to, not because it must.
from Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider,
On the surface, the Kings appeared to be in adequate spirits despite the drop-off in the standings. They’re aware of the situation they’re in. They’re frustrated, even if they aren’t always demonstratively so when speaking with reporters during off-day practice sessions.
But deeper down, given the seven wins in 25 games during the dog days of what was supposed to be a legitimate defense to their second title in three years, there’s clearly a simmering umbrage towards the season’s direction in what has been a cruel calendar year of 2015.
“I hear you people say it all the time,” General Manager Dean Lombardi said. “You don’t even have to be the general manager or coach to get a feel for a room, right? And you guys have been around long enough, and you can sense it. It’s weird. But you know what? It’s not weird, because 50 years from now with these brain scans and understanding of neutrinos, we’re going to find out that there is a scientific basis for that innate feeling we get that we can’t explain.”
Neutrinos aside, that innate feeling has been with Lombardi for a long time – even since the club’s six-game winning streak in October.
“Let’s get real here, this has been going on all year,” he said. “We’d show signs, like Chicago we played well. We played well in Boston, and it looks like we’re coming, and then we get this. This has been a year-long thing. This whole ‘flick switch’ thing is the kiss of death if you look at history. The only difference now is you’re in February, right, but in reality you’re seeing the same things.”
from Lisa Dillman of the LA Times,
The Kings have rarely looked so rattled in the Sutter Era.
Not only are they failing to protect third-period leads, the Kings are imploding with a series of mistakes at crucial junctures. They took a third-period lead with Gaborik's 17th goal of the season, coming on the power play at 2:19, but promptly lost the chance to make up ground in the playoff race.
"To be honest, the way we lost, it is what it is," Kings center Jarret Stoll said. "We lost two points. We had two. Then we had one. And then we got none. That's the bottom line."
You have to wonder whether the spectacular meltdown could have a lasting impact.
"We got zero points tonight," Stoll said. "Yeah, it's a tough loss. But we got zero points."
more on the 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers...
We’re obviously not the happiest group right now. We’re not playing well. We’re not winning games when we need to and need to start winning games quick. Now the mood has kind of turned into a little more urgent, a little more determined team and we’ve got a lot to play for every single game.
-Drew Doughty of the Los Angels Kings. Read more from Doughty by Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider.
from Lisa Dillman of the LA Times,
"Everybody [should] be on the same page, playing the system, playing 60 minutes and play every shift like we can," Gaborik said. "We haven't done that lately. We have to do that. We have to be more consistent and just play like we can.
"We know how to do that. We just have to translate it onto the ice."
Could hitting a crisis point like the Washington game be the jolt the Kings needed?
"We can't let it happen to this point where we have a game like that, especially in the position we are in right now," Gaborik said. "We need every point. We need wins, especially on the road. We need to turn it around. Everybody in here has to produce, myself. We need to be better."
Said defenseman Matt Greene: "We're down to crunch time. There's no waiting around anymore, waiting for things to get going, waiting for guys to find their game."
Two of the Kings' better games in the second half came after short breaks. They beat the Sharks following the Christmas vacation and rallied three times from one-goal deficits to defeat the Blackhawks at Staples Center after the All-Star break.
Their championship pedigree has surfaced. But not consistently.
from Helene Elliott of the LA Times,
The salary cap is of great concern to Lombardi, who is juggling numbers for several players who can become free agents after this season. Right wing Justin Williams, center Jarret Stoll and defenseman Robyn Regehr can become unrestricted free agents, while Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan will be restricted free agents. In addition, the Kings can sign center Anze Kopitar to an extension after July 1. His contract expires after next season....
“It’s a matter of how all these pieces fit into the puzzle,” Lombardi said Tuesday, after the Kings prepared for their game against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center. “Then we also have this whole thing with the Canadian dollar. I’ve been talking to other GMs about that. It’s a crazy way to run a cap. Do I need a stat guy or do I need a currency trader to figure this out?”
Lombardi said he and Jeff Solomon, the Kings’ cap expert, have talked to their players’ representatives about new contracts but the Kings have generally held off on going too far because they want to get a better idea of where the cap might fall the next few seasons. Lombardi also said he’s waiting to see if Mike Richards, who was waived and sent to Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League last week, can get his game back because Richards has five seasons left at a cap hit of $5.75 million, a sizable chunk of any payroll.
via The White House,
The President honors the 2014 NHL Champion Los Angeles Kings and the 2014 MLS Cup Champion LA Galaxy.
The event is scheduled to begin at 2:10pm ET.
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