Iain MacIntyre pronounces Kings dead

I don't know Iain MacIntyre, never heard of him, though for all I know I've read him and just never looked at the by-line until I had to, to see who wrote this remarkable column on the Kings/Canucks series. So if he's some kind of national treasure, I preemptively grovel in mortification. (In the sense of not really.) The column in question is 'The wheels fell off' Kings' chariot, from today's Vancouver Sun, which I'm guessing is a newspaper.

I agree the Kings sucked last night. That doesn't make MacIntyre's smugness couched in "perspective" any less irritating. Funny thing, though, the more I read, the more I felt bad for him. The article seemed infused with a pathos that had nothing to do with the Kings or this series or even this season, but had to do with the fact that he or the Canucks (or both) still haven't recovered from choking last season under similar circumstances. I started reading this column thinking he was just being a garden-variety dick, but by the end, I had the sneaking suspicion that the whole thing is one big prayer, 500 words-worth of negotiating with the Fates, or as it has been called in the past, "negotiating with yourself."

Now, let's parse [from now on, MacIntyre's article is in normal font without quotes; my comments are in bold, in brackets]:

[begin MacIntyre:]

The Los Angeles Kings' power play scored once. Yes, it was an unmitigated disaster. The Kings never stood a chance. [I don't even know what this means, except it's circular] Now, they've only one left. [unless we win.] It seems momentum is overrated, except when you don't have it. [It's as though the Kings said or believed that momentum was over-rated. Nobody thinks that.] After blowing three leads and surrendering four third-period goals to squander Wednesday what would have been a 3-1 series lead against the Vancouver Canucks, the Kings find themselves one game later in the same uneasy situation their opponents were a year ago. You remember the Canucks' meltdown on Madison. [I don't; oh, is that where the Canucks lost in the second round last year? I didn't know there was a name for the big choke. Down here we only name things that go well.] They were two minutes from taking a 3-1 second-round lead in Chicago last spring, then made a bunch of mistakes to allow Martin Havlat's tying goal. The Blackhawks won 2-1 in overtime and the Canucks never recovered. [tempted to add, even to this day...] They were tied on paper, just starting a best-of-three with home-ice advantage. But the Canucks were — to quote Alex Burrows — "rattled." The Hawks, whose sudden win was like a pardon from death row, lived life to the fullest after that, sweeping the next two games to send the Canuck into summer.

[So this is your premise: the Canucks folded like a cheap tent last year, blowing a game that would have given them a 3-1 lead, after which they freaked out and blew the whole series. The Kings blew a game that would have given them a 3-1 lead. Therefore, it's the Kings' turn to freak out and blow the whole series.

A few things leap out at me:

  1. The Canucks choked last year.
  2. The Canucks faithful are terrified of choking. Thus, the Bettman/Murphy conspiracy.
  3. If the Canucks lose this series, no matter what the circumstances, they will have choked.
  4. McIntyre is trying to get the albatross of their backs and onto ours. But:
  5. If the Kings lose this series, there's no choking because there's no loss of face for losing to the Canucks. The albatross is non-transferrable.
  6. This Kings team is a very different team from past teams, whereas Vancouver is essentially the same team that choked a year ago.
  7. There is nothing stopping last year's Canucks narrative from afflicting this year's Canucks. All they have to do is fall apart in the second half of game six, lose, and then never recover. Just like last year.
  8. This is of course exactly what everyone in Canuck-land is afraid of, which is why the urgency to give the curse to someone else.
  9. But it can't go to us, because we don't have their history.

This is the kind of mental peril the Kings exposed them to by frittering away Game 4 on Wednesday. Everyone in the Los Angeles organization knew it. Coach Terry Murray tried to talk his team away from the danger. Veteran players spoke. Yet Friday, when they needed a bold, confident, composed effort to prove they were undaunted by their setback and uninjured in spirit, the Kings had their meekest performance of the series and disintegrated. They lost 7-2.

[Yes, the Kings sucked. In almost exactly the same way the Canucks sucked in whichever game Luongo got pulled. Yet, momentum shifted, Luongo became the other Luongo, etc.. There really is no reason momentum won't shift back tomorrow night. (p.s. if the Kings win, it will have shifted back by definition.) There's also no way of knowing what will happen, no matter how much anyone tries to cast the narrative of the series this way or that. There will be bounces, and no-one knows which way they will go.

In the first minute of Game 5, Mikael Samuelsson easily bumped Drew Doughty off the puck in the corner.

[DEAR LORD, NO!!!! How far Drew has fallen!]

A minute later, on his first shift since Game 1, King Justin Williams blew snow rather than take a hit to keep the puck.

[Don't recall this, but it's true Williams has played poorly.]

The next 58 minutes were pretty much the same.

[I can see how that would fit with your theory. But it's not really what happened. If Quick had played like he did in game one, game five might have played out along the same lines. But it didn't. Anyway, Doughty never sucks and pretty much nothing depends on how well Williams plays, as game two and three attest.]

"That was about as bad as it gets for us," defenceman Rob Scuderi said. "I wish I could tell you it was one reason, but we just had a lack of discipline in our team structure. We played like individuals, and there's no way you can win like that."

[Exactly. Stick to the system. It's not about psychology. It's about discipline. Stick. To. System. I'm glad you included this Scuderi quote, because it means you get that.]

Or even compete against a team that has its swagger back.

[Never mind.

I really, really like this "swagger back" sentence, because (1) it's so pathetic in its arrogance-as-choke-killing-antibody ("If the Canucks have their 'swagger,' the Kings don't even belong in the same building"); (2) the sentence literally applies to anyone. Who doesn't have swagger after a couple of wins? The Canucks had swagger, then the Kings had swagger, now the Canucks have swagger.

Yeah, so far this "swagger" sort of sucks as a superpower. Probably because it's retroactive. Having swagger after game five is nothing. You want to have it after game 7.]

After Friday, the Kings will have a hard time remembering what swagger felt like.

[You hope.]

"We talked about that," Scuderi said of the emotional rebound his team needed after Game 4.

[tricky! The placement of the quote so that it looks like Scuderi is agreeing with you about the aftermath of game 5, when he's talking about the preparation for game five.]

[...] But having been unable to muster much after blowing Game 4, it will be even more difficult to rouse themselves — to actually believe they'll win — after getting run out of the building on Friday.

[note to reader: to understand the intent of that sentence, you have to picture him doing a little dance and throwing chicken bones.]

The Canucks took the lead on Steve Bernier's open-netter at 8:50 of the first period — veteran King Sean O'Donnell took a wild swipe and missed the puck when a little composure was needed

[Actually, what was needed was not missing the puck.]

and — but for a three-minute, power-play induced blip — Vancouver never looked back. The Kings had little time in the attacking end, [yet were roughly even in shots] were second-strongest on loose pucks and around their net, second-fastest around their zone and apparently overmatched.

[Just as the Canucks were apparently overmatched in parts of game two and three and 2/3 of game four.]

They had no physical presence beyond Dustin Brown. Nothing. [Kings outhit Canucks 27-22] Even their power play let them down, scoring only once as the efficiency rating plummeted below .500. It generated both Los Angeles victories in this series [along with goaltending, holding shots-against down, PK, team defense, shot blocking and puck-possession], and unless it manages another 3-for-3 night in Game 6 Sunday at home it's hard to picture this series getting back to Vancouver for Game 7.

[Try. You can do it.

I'm of the opinion that essentially anything can happen in these last two games. Momentum and hockey voodoo being what they are, if the Kings win tomorrow, all bets are off. Everyone knows this. But because it's "hard to picture" the Kings winning tomorrow, allow me:

Murray changes up the lines a bit. Randy Jones is a scratch. Vancouver comes out all swaggery. Staples Center is, as they say, rockin'. Handzus gets the Sedin match-up. Quick plays well. It's a low-scoring game. Not many power-plays. The Sedins are held to few shots. Canucks start to get frustrated at so many stoppages, so many blocked shots, tipped passes. It's a tie or one-goal game at the mid-point of the game. The Kings aren't nervous because they have nothing to lose. The game comes down to an odd number of bounces in the second half of the game and the Kings get one more than the Canucks. Kopitar finally decides to show up and gets a key point. In the third period, every offsides, icing and non-penalty call is breaking the Kings way. Also, the crappy condition of the ice is making it hard for the Sedins to pass tape-to-tape (we will hear about this in the post-game interview). The Kings have a second chance to do the third period of game four, and this time they do it right. Series tied.

Could go the other way, too. Anything can happen. But the last thing it is, is hard to picture. Just like if I tell you not to think of a white elephant.

The Kings were so lousy that Murray ran out of goalies. He needed three, but having stuck to convention by dressing only two, had to re-insert yanked starter Jonathan Quick in the third period. Quick relieved reliever Erik Ersberg in time to lose a little more confidence.

[Just like Luongo lost confidence. Yeah, I don't think it matters. Once you've been pulled and then put back in, anything goes.]

How bad was it? Pavol Demitra was the worst Canuck forward through three games and on Friday he had three points and was better than any King. How bad was it? Canuck defenceman Andrew Alberts was cheered. Fans chanted: "Let's go Alberts! Let's go Alberts!"

[I wouldn't be too proud of either of those two. Inconsistent players are inconsistent. That's why they call them that. Sometimes they play well. Like in blow-outs when it doesn't matter. And the fact that they played well in the last game only makes it less likely they'll play well in the next one.]

If that isn't rock bottom for the Kings, they should hope they never see it.

[rock bottom for the Kings:

  1. Either of Marc Crawford's seasons (a.k.a. the Cloutier years). p.s. thanks for those guys.
  2. The last Andy Murray season where they lost more or less the last 12 games of the season and missed the playoffs, causing everyone to get fired.
  3. Any season involving Roman Vopat.
  4. Any season in which these were worn.

Not rock bottom:

  1. Finishing with the third highest point total in franchise history, with what is generally considered to be the most talented group of prospects, rookies and otherwise kid-like talent in the league, but losing 7-2 in a playoff game, putting the team down 3 games to 2. ]

Vancouver's best players have hijacked this series. [Actually, they just kicked ass for the last four periods.] Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Mikael Samuelsson, Sami Salo, Alex Edler and Luongo have been superior the last two games than [sic] the top Kings. [shockingly, the best players on the winning team were better than the best players on the losing team. This is frequently true.] When did King Jarret Stoll leave this series? [You're just tempting Fate with that. But, yes, in the last four periods, Stoll hasn't done much.] "I wish I could give you an explanation," Los Angeles defenceman Jack Johnson said. [but not about Stoll] "Pucks just kept going in. The wheels fell off in the second period." Of which game?

[I'm pretty sure the Kings have played well in every second period up until game five. Certainly, in game four, they made the Canucks look "over-matched," "rattled," "desperate," and also appeared to have "hijacked the series." Not that any of those words mean anything.]

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