A very abbreviated Week 1 of the NHL season is in the books, and boy what a week it was! The first two days featured a grand total of eleven whole teams beginning their 2013-14 campaigns, which is more than a whole third of the league (way better than having, like, all or most or even half the teams play or something silly like that)! Then most of the other teams got going on Thursday, with only a few assorted loser-teams having to wait until Friday to finally get their NHL seasons underway. And now that this unnecessarily abbreviated and poorly scheduled Week 1 is over and done with, what have we learned about the NHL teams so far?
"Not much, small sample size." said everyone-not-from-Toronto. Well, yes. But indulge me anyway, fair reader. Because this is Week 1 of This Week in Kings, my new weekly recap series of all things LA Kings and the Pacific Division. We're going to be back here every Sunday recapping the week that was for the Kings and all their various Pacific opponents, looking at the standings, and then looking ahead to their next week in the NHL season. Or basically, "all the things you could easily do yourself on NHL.com, but with bad jokes!". YEAH! LET'S DO THIS THING!
This Week in News
(any big stories from the past week, both in LA and around the division. if there aren't any, maybe we'll just make some things up.)
-All the baby Kings got sent back to Manchester, and everyone was sad. Toffoli, Pearson, and Vey may be gone for now, but the small new place they burrowed into our hearts is here to stay. We miss you babies. :((((
-On the other hand, Jeff Schultz got waived (and cleared, duh) and got sent to Manchester too! Happy day! The only pylon on the Kings defense is the one....that was already there.....on our top pairing.....skating with Drew Doughty. Yayyyyyy.
-Hybrid icing got a shocking last-minute approval from the NHLPA, making it official on literally the eve of the new season. Some people were real mad about this, for some reason. Personally I've already stopped noticing it 90% of the time while watching games, so c'est la vie.
-Patrick Roy debuted behind the bench for the Colorado Avalanche, and while they're not a Pacific Division team, their opponents that night certainly were. And, uh, some stuff happened. Adrian Dater wrote that Roy had "no regrets" for his incident with Anaheim's ice-cream-enthusiast head coach, and I guess the guy who ranked the Edmonton Oilers as the best team in the Western Conference before last season would know a little something about regret.
-Speaking of those Oilers, they had kind of a rough week. We'll get to their wins and losses on the scoreboard in a second, but off the scoreboard, they lost their top two centers (or centres, if you'd prefer) before the season even started. What was their back-up plan? Why, moving (maybe) the best LW in the league to C and using a career minor-leaguer as their second-line center, of course. HOW CAN IT FAIL?! Also, Dallas Eakins is making them eat carrots or celery or something.
-Finally, the US federal government was shut down this week. This has nothing to do with the LA Kings or the Pacific Division or really hockey at all, but I just thought you might want to know. Also, it's a more interesting news item than anything the Sharks, Coyotes, or Flames were involved with. Yep.
This Week in Games
(here's all the games involving the Pacific Division from this past week. we'll talk about the LA Kings' games in great detail, while the rest will mostly just be scores, unless I have something to say about it. you'll also get links to Eric's awesome recaps and Nick's fantastic grades/analysis, which will expand on everything I'm saying in much greater detail if you missed any of them.)
Tuesday, October 1st
-Winnipeg Jets 5, Edmonton Oilers 4: In a strange twist, the Oilers mostly controlled the flow of play and heavily outshot their opponents in their season opener, but got a poor performance from starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk and lost anyway. This was of course celebrated heavily in Edmonton, because "moral victories", while not as good as "actual victories", are still better than "not at all resembling a victory", aka almost all their games for the past three seasons.
Wednesday, October 2nd
-Colorado Avalanche 6, Anaheim Ducks 1: Lol.
Thursday, October 3rd
-Washington Capitals 5, Calgary Flames 4 (SO): The first team to get an actual point in the Pacific Division was.....the Calgary Flames. Oh okay.
-Los Angeles Kings 3, Minnesota Wild 2 (SO): The Kings got things underway in Minnesota, home of fans that apparently don't like it when you question their team depth and are really, really mad at Dustin Brown for some reason (and will tell you all about it with GIFs). It wasn't the Kings' best performance by any stretch, although Jonathan Quick was sure good, as the Wild had 17 scoring chances and scored on exactly one of them (yes, that means Quick allowed a non-scoring-chance goal to give us all painful flashbacks to his last regular season, although it was probably kicked in and shouldn't have counted anyway so there's that in his favor). The forwards did the best they could possibly do with Dwight King on the top line, which is to say "not very well at all", although Mike Richards had a nice game (+10 in shot attempt differential, which after his mostly-crappy season last year was encouraging!). Justin Williams was great too but he's always great so not exactly news, that. And hey, the Kings won! On the strength of a successful Jonathan Quick pokecheck in the shootout! Enjoy it, because I would virtually guarantee that won't be happening again anytime soon (a J. Quick successful pokecheck in a shootout, not a Kings win. I hope). (game recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)
-Phoenix Coyotes 4, New York Rangers 1
-San Jose Sharks 4, Vancouver Canucks 1: The first intra-Pacific matchup of the season was......a pretty weird one, you guys. First of all, the Sharks, a team that in recent history has had trouble scoring at even-strength but had great success on the power play, got 8 power plays in this game (EIGHT! what were the Canucks, like, DOING, exactly?!), failed to score on a single one of them, but scored four even-strength goals and won the game anyway. Even weirder, check out that score above this one. Yep, that's right, not only did the Canucks and Rangers swap coaches this offseason (the first time in NHL history two coaches have switched places in the same summer like that), but also both AV & Torts coached their first game with their new teams on the same night, nearly at the exact same time, and both lost by identical 4-1 scores. Life is weird.
Friday, October 4th
-Calgary Flames 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 3: Yep, the Flames are averaging four goals-per-game through their first two games, just as we all predicted.
-Winnipeg Jets 5, Los Angeles Kings 3: This was a strange game. For the first half, it was pretty much the LA Kings we all know and love: largely controlling play, somehow only scoring one goal, then letting the Jets tie it on a fluke softy. But they let the Jets hang around just long enough for the inevitable back-to-back meltdown, and the second & third lines especially were just awful from that point (actually the 3rd line was pretty damn bad even when the rest of the team was rolling, and in the game with the Wild, so that's already a bit of a concerning pattern). They made an attempt at a comeback after Quick got pulled, narrowing the deficit from 4-1 to 4-3, but an awful penalty by Robyn Regehr (perhaps out of jealousy for all the quality time fellow blueliner Matt Greene was spending in the penalty box) late in the game took away any momentum they might have had, and the Jets sealed it with an empty-netter. There were some positives though: the fourth line was pretty awesome, and the power play rocked. Building blocks for a non-exhausted Kings team to hopefully build upon once they come back for their home opener on Monday against the Rangers, yes. But holy crap that third line needs to be better. (game recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)
Saturday, October 5th
-Anaheim Ducks 4, Minnesota Wild 3 (OT)
-Vancouver Canucks 6, Edmonton Oilers 1: Back to "not at all resembling a victory" already, eh?
-San Jose Sharks 4, Phoenix Coyotes 1: Fun fact- these are easily my two most hated teams in the National Hockey League (I know, I know, Anaheim. they're third). So what do you do when those two teams end up playing each other? Simple: you root for something funny-bad to happen to at least one of them. And I would certainly categorize "allowing 51 shots against" as "funny-bad", so mission accomplished! Thanks Phoenix!
This Week in Standings
|1. San Jose||2||2||0||0||4||2||8||2||+6||2-0-0||0-0-0||WON 2|
|2. Calgary||2||1||0||1||3||1||8||8||E||0-0-0||1-0-1||WON 1|
|3. Vancouver||2||1||1||0||2||1||7||6||+1||1-0-0||0-1-0||WON 1|
|4. Phoenix||2||1||1||0||2||1||5||5||E||1-0-0||0-1-0||LOST 1|
|5. Anaheim||2||1||1||0||2||1||5||9||-4||0-0-0||1-1-0||WON 1|
|6. Los Angeles||2||1||1||0||2||0||6||7||-1||0-0-0||1-1-0||LOST 1|
|7. Edmonton||2||0||2||0||0||0||6||11||-5||0-1-0||0-1-0||LOST 2|
ANALYSIS: What do you want me to say when we're exactly two games into the hockey season for the entire division, other than "lol small sample size"? Oh early season: the only time of the year where "goal differential" actually matters as a tiebreaker, where you can get wacky things like the Calgary Flames second place in their division (hope everyone in the fake-cowboy-oil-wonderland remembered to take a snapshot on their phones of the NHL standings, because this will probably last all of two or three more days at the longest), and where I can comfortably say "it's too early" and really mean it. Of course, I will shout "it's still early!" in this space every week for the next three months if the Kings are still somehow in 6th place, but at least this week you can actually believe it.
This Week in #fancystats
(all stats are total attempts, not percentages. thanks to extra skater)
Kings 3, Wild 2 (SO)
Corsi: Wild 48-Kings 46 (overall), Kings 35-Wild 30 (5v5, 45.0 mins), Wild 29-Kings 25 (5v5 close, 35.8 mins), Wild 13-Kings 6 (5v5 tied, 9.9 mins)
Fenwick: Wild 34-Kings 26 (overall), Wild 21-Kings 18 (5v5, 45.0 mins), Wild 20-Kings 11 (5v5 close, 35.8 mins), Wild 7-Kings 3 (5v5 tied, 9.9 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Williams (+12), Richards (+9), Kopitar (+7). Worst: Stoll (-13), Lewis (-10), Mitchell (-5)
Jets 5, Kings 3
Corsi: Kings 67-Jets 59 (overall), Kings 47-Jets 40 (5v5, 41.9 mins), Kings 29-Jets 29 (5v5 close, 28.5 mins), Kings 27-Jets 23 (5v5 tied, 22.0 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 52-Jets 45 (overall), Kings 35-Jets 31 (5v5, 41.9 mins), Kings 22-Jets 21 (5v5 close, 28.5 mins), Kings 21-Jets 16 (5v5 tied, 22.0 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Fraser (+11), Muzzin (+10), Kopitar/Williams (tied, +9). Worst: Lewis (-13), Stoll (-11), King (-8)
So the Kings were probably lucky to win against the Wild and unlucky to lose against the Jets, all things considered. I guess it really does even out! (Note: "all things evening out" principle does not apply to the New Jersey Devils.)
Next Week in the Pacific
(this is exactly what it sounds like: the next week's schedule for all 7 Pacific Division teams. all times are pacific because, um, duh.)
|LA||-||vs.NYR (7:30)||-||vs.OTT (7:30)||-||@CAR (4:00)||-|
|SJ||-||-||vs.NYR (7:30)||-||@VAN (7:00)||-||vs.OTT (7:30)|
|CGY||vs.VAN (5:00)||-||-||vs.MTL (5:00)||-||vs.NJ (6:00)|
|VAN||@CGY (5:00)||-||vs.NJ (7:00)||-||vs.SJ (7:00)||-||vs.MTL (7:00)|
|PHX||-||-||@NYI (4:00)||-||@DET (4:30)||@PHI (4:00)||-|
|ANA||@WPG (5:00)||-||-||-||vs.NYR (7:00)||-||-|
|EDM||-||vs.NJ (6:30)||-||-||vs.MTL (6:30)||-||@TOR (4:00)|
ANALYSIS: All teams in the division have at least three games (except lazy 'ol Anaheim, who only has two), with every non-fowl-based-team coming in at exactly three except for the Canucks (who have a four-game week to look forward to). Our Kings will have their home opener against the Rangers on Monday, who are coming off a bad loss to the Yotes in Phoenix's home opener last week and will likely be in a bad mood as a result (they should also be well-rested, having not played since that game on Thursday). The Kings will then welcome Bobby Ryan back to SoCal for a game with the Senators on Wednesday, before jetting off to the east coast to start a four-game road trip against the Hurricanes on Friday (that trip concludes next week with games against both Florida teams & Nashville). Overall, you would have to call this a very winnable part of the schedule for LA: get through the Rangers & Ottawa at home, where the Kings were dominant last year, and then you have the Ghost of the Southeast Trio to look forward to. We'll see if it works out that way in practice.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Pacific: SJ has another game with the Canucks sandwiched between home games against those same Rangers & Sens, Calgary will try to see how long they can keep 4-goals-a-game up with a tough-looking week, while the Canucks have that aforementioned four-game-week with most of the same teams mentioned. Phoenix meanwhile is on an Eastern road trip of their own, as they'll be at the Islanders on Tuesday followed by a back-to-back with New Atlantic Detroit & Old Atlantic Philadelphia. Those lazy Ducks just have Winnipeg on Sunday followed by the latest home opener in the NHL (other than the MSG-facelift-delayed NYR home opener) also against the Rangers, on Thursday. Finally, the Oilers have New Jersey and Montreal at home before taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs next Saturday, and be prepared for the Canadian hockey media to explode if the Oilers are still winless and the Leafs are still unbeaten heading into that Hockey Night in Canada game. I can almost picture the articles in my head now....
So that's the week that was, as well as the week to come. Hope you had as much fun reading this as I did putting it together. Until next week!