Imagine my excitement when I was called upon to recap a Kings-Predators game tonight. "Oh boy!" I said to myself (because, like 90% of bloggers, I am clearly quite in love with my own words). "A Kings-Predators game! Those are always so much fun!" The Los Angeles Kings hockey club, in what I can only assume was a personal gift to their humble recapper-for-the-night, decided to give me plenty to talk about. Namely, the fact that they were really bad at hockey. Let's get into it!
So the game started in auspicious fashion, with a defensive pairing of Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene on the ice. No, really, that happened. The pairings did mostly return to normal, although Greene/Mitchell would see some time together at evens again later on. The first period was positively electrifying compared to the usual Kings-Predators game, thanks mostly to the Kings allowing repeated chances to the Predators in the slot and the Predators taking a couple penalties. Though the play wasn't as one-sided in Nashville's favor at even strength as it would be later on, they did score the game's first goal, as Matt Cullen finally beat a sprawled, panicking, and (maybe) near-tears Jonathan Quick. Quick was laid out on the ice because the other five members of the Kings currently on the ice could never get to the puck, so after making several acrobatic saves (on Smith & Bourque), he was finally beaten by Cullen just outside the blue paint 10:33 into the first. Cullen somehow snuck away from the pile of humanity looking for the puck, only to see it come right out to him for an easy goal.
The Kings picked things up a bit after that goal, and wound up registering 7 of the last 8 shots-on-goal of the period to even up the once-lopsided shot count at 15-15. The final shot, though, would be the most important one. With under a minute left to play in the 1st, Jeff Carter & Kyle Clifford forced a turnover the Nashville zone, and Clifford passed it back to Mike Richards in the left faceoff circle. Richards made another amazing no-look pass to a waiting Slava Voynov at the top of the right circle, and he stepped into a nice wrister to beat Pekka Rinne, who as you'd expect had no time to set himself for it once after across the crease. And thank god for that goal, because boy did this game go downhill from here.
The second period started with eleven straight shot attempts from the Predators. Yes, eleven. It wasn't until more than seven minutes into the 2nd that the Kings even registered their first attempted shot--not shot on goal, attempted shot (though Justin Williams did manage to get one on net just fourteen seconds later). Needless to say, the Predators took it to the Kings for the vast majority of the period, out shooting them 11-5. Unfortunately for the Predators, despite this huge edge in shots and shot attempts, they couldn't find a way to beat Quick in the period. Quick made several amazing stops on the Predators, including a couple sequences that looked like summer reruns of the Cullen goal from earlier, except with the TWIST ENDING of Quick somehow keeping the puck out repeatedly. Quick was on his game, there's no doubting that. Even The Coach With No Neck knew it.
"We just couldn't find an answer for Jonathan Quick," Trotz said. "He made some incredible saves in the second period. I think if he didn't have a night like he did, we probably would have lit them up."
Indeed, sir. Indeed.
So if you missed the second period of this game, you didn't miss much, other than Quick being outstanding and Dan Carcillo actually attempting a toedrag (and succeeding!). Other than that, not much to speak of as far as the Kings went.
The third period was only marginally better. It only took five minutes for the Kings to register a shot on goal this time, instead of the seven-and-a-half it took in the second (progress!), but the Kings couldn't muster much. They could have easily pulled out their Ipads and started playing Candy Crush or something, because for all intensive purposes they looked like they were already on their flight back to SoCal. The exception to this was Jonathan Quick, thankfully, who continued to stop everything he faced.
Nearing the fourteen minute mark of the 3rd, the Kings did have one glorious chance to put this one away in regulation. While killing off a Doughty penalty (and it must be said, boy did Drew suck in this game for the most part), Mike Richards blocked a really stupid Ryan Ellis slapper from the point, and ended up flying down the ice on a shorthanded breakaway. But Ellis managed to get at least a piece of Richards with a diving swing, and Richards was unable to beat Pekka Rinne through the five-hole, so the game remained tied. The Kings finished the period with a modest 8-7 advantage in shots (thanks to five straight towards the end, starting with that aforementioned Richie breakaway), but as is becoming a running theme for them this season, wound up going to overtime.
And in that overtime, the Kings wound up having to kill a full two-minute minor, as Alec Martinez took a high sticking penalty 1:29 into the frame (so don't be surprised if we see Muzzin on Saturday). Thankfully for the Kings, the Predators power play did little with the always-dangerous 4-on-3 advantage, registering just two shots on goal. Neither team was able to score, sending this game to that favorite of casual fans** everywhere, the shootout.
In that idiotic gimmick, Jonathan Quick was able to stop all three Nashville shooters (even Matt Cullen's patented, deadly "skate slowly, do nothing, and fire a weak writer directly at the goalie's pads" technique), because as we've already established he was awesome tonight. He even pulled out that pokecheck of his again, and it totally worked! Wow! Meanwhile, Pekka Rinne stoned Mike Richards, got lucky enough to have Jeff Carter miss on him (or maybe he actually got a piece of it, I dunno tough to tell), but was finally beaten by Anze Kopitar, who went backhand shelf, perhaps as part of a viral campaign for the semi-popular hockey blog. Kopitar secured two points for the Kings that they had no business earning, which kind of annoyed me for a little while until I remembered how many times the Predators did that to everyone in 2011-12 (including to the Kings! several times!) while on their "Riding Ridiculous Power Play Shooting % Tour" that made everyone pretend they were a Stanley Cup contender. So yeah, screw those guys. Two points! Woooo!
Positives to take from this game include: the penalty kill, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar's crazy backhand move, Jonathan Quick, Mike Richards' no-look passes, Jonathan Quick, and also Jonathan Quick. Even getting his helmet knocked off his head repeatedly (no, like seriously on successive shots at one point, which I can't say I've ever seen happen before in all my years of watching hockey) couldn't stop him in this one! Negatives to take from this game were basically everything else, as the Kings got killed in the puck possession battle (out attempted 61-56 overall and 49-36 at evens) and gave up scoring chances by the boatload. Oh, okay, I guess there's one more positive you could take from this game: that's one of three Kings-Predators games down, and all three will be out of the way by December 28th! Hurray!
But for all my complaining about things like "puck possession" and "shot attempts" and "just actual shots on goal" and "playing competent hockey", the Kings did still get the two points, and wrapped up this road trip with 6-out-of-8. So life isn't all bad. Now they head home to face the Dallas Stars, aka they who finally knocked off the previously-undefeated San Jose Sharks (albeit in a shootout as well), this Saturday night. At least Jagr isn't there anymore, I guess. Still, I would venture to guess that it will take a lot better effort to deal with Dallas--who always seems to play the Kings tough--than they've showed in these past two games.
(**no, seriously, casual fans REALLY DO love the shootout. there's this hockey bar in NYC that will turn off their terrible music and put on the game audio just for any game that goes into a shootout, and the whole place gets really excited about it too. be afraid, friends, for THEY are.....OUT THERE!)