My main goal for this week's, uh, This Week, is perhaps cutting back on the gargantuan length of recent columns. Last week's was really fun to write and I'm glad the few of you who managed to read through the entire thing seemed to really enjoy it (and though I didn't go through and respond to each one, thanks so much for the well wishes), but that was probably the apex of a weekly post that's stretching the bounds of readability. With only 3 Kings games to cover and unfortunately no live notes to share this time, the length should be down regardless. So without further ado, let's get right into it. And I'm sure you'll be quite shocked to see what the week's news was....
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.)
-Yes, this is literally a month straight of posts now where the big news from Los Angeles was MORE INJURED HOCKEY PLAYERS. Holy crap. I don't know if it's a gypsy curse or voodoo or what but I'd really like to see a single week pass without more Kings players hitting the injured list. Two players went down before Saturday night's game against the Avalanche, though the Kings also did get a player back as well. First of all, Trevor Lewis, he who cannot score, was put on the IR, at the same time Kyle Clifford was activated off it. Not the most devastating of losses there (and certainly from an offensive perspective I think you'd have to call that a net positive, actually, though he'll be missed on the penalty kill). A much bigger loss was Matt Frattin apparently being hurt as well, as it came just after a run of several good games in a row for him. He was slow to start this season after coming over from Toronto in the Jon Bernier deal, but seemed to finally find his niche recently, giving the Kings some much-needed depth scoring, and then just like that he's gone. The even more confusing part was once again Darryl Sutter's quotes on the subject. He seemed to indicate Frattin missing practice on Friday was a maintenance day, and then seemed as surprised as anyone by the news that he was actually hurt. The Kings later revealed that Frattin won't travel with the team on their next mini-trip, so that means he'll miss two more games (in Vancouver and San Jose) at the very least. There was also no real update on either Jeff Carter or Matt Greene, who both presumably won't be back this week either barring any last-second miracles. All these injuries meant the Kings shuffled their lineup again before the Colorado game, and it really wasn't for the better.
-In what I guess is technically news for both the Anaheim Ducks and the Kings, tickets went on sale this week for the Dodger Stadium outdoor game. As far as I can tell that's about the most interesting thing to happen involving the Ducks in the past 7 days. Yep. Ducks fans imploring people to "buy up the tickets before Kings fans snatch them!" (because they know they're desperately outnumbered, see) is pretty adorable. I bet they're like 30% of the crowd, at best.
-Unlike the Ducks, some interesting stuff actually happened to the Sharks, and here's a roundup of it all from Fear the Fin: Brent Burns finally came back from injury (I think the article actually just said "he's close", and then he did come back like a day later against Tampa, so good call guys!), Patrick Marleau crashed his Mercedes SUV (who the hell spends all that money on a Mercedes SUV?! you're spending 60k+ or whatever, get a damn luxury car and not a luxury off-road vehicle you dolt. or at least go for a Land Rover instead. anyway...) but apparently was alright, and Tomas Hertl was hilariously snubbed by both ESPN and the NHL itself in their early Calder talk. Oh, and here's an article about the Sharks' AHL affiliate getting dismantled by the Manchester Monarchs 4-1. Good vibes before the parent clubs meet this week, no?
-If there was any real news involving the Coyotes this week, I sure didn't see it. Plenty of articles like "MICHAEL STONE (who???) ANSWERS YOUR TWITTER QUESTIONS!" and "BOY THIS WESTERN CONFERENCE IS SURE TOUGH!" from the one newspaper that actually bothers to cover them, though. I would link to either one if I thought you might actually want to read it. Okay, fine, here's a Coyotes roundtable from Five for Howling praising the team's offseason moves. That's about as interesting as it got with the Yotes this week.
-You know what I bet you absolutely would enjoy reading, though? A Vancouver Canucks panic article! Yeah! Here you go, courtesy of the, uh, always-interesting Nucks Misconduct.
-I have an unsettling revelation for you: I lied to you. Earlier in this article, when I said the biggest Ducks news was tickets going on sale for their Stadium Series game, that was a lie. Yeah. Actually they were involved in a trade with the Calgary Flames, but I figured I'd save that for Calgary's section because absolutely nothing else happened involving the Calgary Flames this week. So anyway, the trade: Calgary sent Tim Jackman (who was in the press box for more than half their games; I guess the Ducks heard he's not good enough to play for the Calgary Flames and were like "WE NEED HIM NOW!") to the Ducks in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick. Okay. Come to think of it, I'm not a liar after all- tickets going on sale for Kings-Ducks outdoors really was the only interesting news of the week involving the Ducks!
-Finally, in Edmonton, the Oilers actually won three games in a row. I'm completely serious when I say that's not only the biggest news in Oil Country this week, it's probably the biggest news in the whole damn division as well. Re-read that again: the Oilers WON THREE GAMES IN A ROW. That is the definition of news.
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.)
Monday, November 18th
-Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Anaheim Ducks 1: That 4-game Eastern Conference road trip the Ducks were on ended the same way the entire trip had gone up until that point: with a loss. The Ducks went 0-3-1 on the trip, somehow not managing to win a single game in one of the most dominant years for the West in inter-conference play in NHL history. Way to go, Ducks!
-Calgary Flames 5, Winnipeg Jets 4 (SO)
Tuesday, November 19th
-Edmonton Oilers 7, Columbus Blue Jackets 0: Yes, you read that right. Edmonton started off what was easily their most successful week of their season (although, let's be real, a 1-1-0 week would have been in the running at this point) by thoroughly hammering a pretty awful Columbus team at home. They were lead by David Perron's four point performance (2 goals, 2 assists), elevating him to almost a point-per-game guy (18 pts in 20 games) while Magnus Paajarvi has, uh, a point in 7 games for the Blues. So I guess the Oilers won that trade, and god knows they need all the wins they can get right now. Way to go Oilers, I say unironically for maybe the first time in the past 5 years or so!
-Florida Panthers 3, Vancouver Canucks 2 (SO): Ouch. If you're looking for rock bottom for a struggling Canucks team, I'd say losing at home to the woeful Panthers would probably be it. It's not even like Tim Thomas stole the game for the Panthers, because Luongo actually had more work, stopping 34 of 36 shots (compared to 27 of 29 for Thomas). Thomas outdueled him in the shootout, stopping all three shots he faced, to complete the win in this weird, awkward 2011 Cup Final goalie rematch. Fun fact: it's the first time they've met since that Cup final, because when the Nucks & Bruins played each other only once the following season, Cory Schneider was in net for Vancouver. Unfortunately that's not the last time his name is going to come up this week.
-Los Angeles Kings 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 2: The Kings returned home following their highly successful 3-0-1 Eastern road trip, and promptly handled one of the top teams from that conference rather easily. They were helped big time by a pretty awful game from Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, who had been great for Tampa all year long (including in Tampa's own drubbing of the Kings earlier this season). It's tough to find much to complain about in this one: the Kings generated plenty of chances when the game was still competitive, out-chancing the Lightning 11-4 (!) through the first two periods. Tampa only made the #fancystats look closer than they were in the 3rd, where the Kings seemed to (understandably) let their foot off the gas a bit and the Lightning out-chanced them 6-2 as a result. But Ben Scrivens was once again there in a big way for the Kings, allowing just 1 goal on the 7 chances Tampa got on net (along with another goal that wasn't a scoring chance), and the Lightning never really got back in the game despite an early scare in the 3rd, as the Kings mostly coasted to their fourth win in a row. (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)
Wednesday, November 20th
-Columbus Blue Jackets 2, Calgary Flames 1 (OT): A day after watching their provincial rivals thoroughly embarrass the Jackets, the Flames welcomed them into the Saddledome and.....promptly lost to them in overtime. Oh well, I guess.
-New Jersey Devils 4, Anaheim Ducks 3 (OT): This was the Ducks' first loss at home of the season (so it probably goes without saying that they've still yet to lose in regulation at home).
Thursday, November 21st
-Colorado Avalanche 4, Phoenix Coyotes 3 (OT)
-Edmonton Oilers 4, Florida Panthers 1: So if the Panthers beat the Canucks but then the Oilers beat the Panthers, that means the Oilers must be better than Vancouver right? No? Oh well, it's still pretty funny.
-New Jersey Devils 2, Los Angeles Kings 1 (OT): Mr. Eric hit this one right on the head when he titled his recap "another one of THOSE games", and if you've been a fan of this team for longer than, oh, a week or so, you probably knew exactly what he meant. Yes, it was one of those games indeed, where the Kings utterly dominated the game in almost every single facet and somehow lost anyway (thanks Cory Schneider! see, I told you that asshole's name would come up again). If anything I was pleasantly surprised to even see them get a point, which is one more point than they usually get in "one of those games", so yay for progress! Okay some hard numbers really quick: the Kings out-chanced the Devils 20-8 overall and 12-4 at even strength, beat them in shot attempts 76-38 (56-29 if you prefer Fenwick), and if you only wanna talk about plain 'ol shots-on-goal, they killed in that category too, 35-15. That's, like, thorough domination in almost every statistical category you can think of, except of course the only one that counts. Oh well. Like I said, at least they got a point, and at least they don't have to play Cory Schneider again anytime soon. (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)
-San Jose Sharks 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 1: Copycats! Well, whatever, we were scoring five goals against the Lightning back when it was cool!
Friday, November 22nd
-Calgary Flames 4, Florida Panthers 3 (SO): I guess Calgary is now also better than the Canucks, though not as good as the Oilers because they couldn't beat Florida in regulation. Yes, I'm using the Florida Panthers as my western Canadian measuring stick, shut up it's totally logical.
-Vancouver Canucks 6, Columbus Blue Jackets 2: Speaking of the Canucks, they went down early to Columbus when Matt Calvert scored his first goal of the season just 2:47 into the game, and I thought I was about to see something almost as hilarious as Vancouver losing to Florida. But the Canucks ruined it by tying the game off a Henrik Sedin goal with 16 seconds left in the 1st, and then exploding for three goals in a 2:10 span in the 2nd (yes, they scored a goal-per-43 seconds, almost). #lolumbus, I guess.
-Anaheim Ducks 1, Tampa Bay Lightning 0 (OT): That's only 4 less goals than the Kings & Sharks both scored against them. Good job, good effort Ducks.
Saturday, November 23rd
-Anaheim Ducks 4, Phoenix Coyotes 2: Last week I brought up how the Coyotes were getting pretty consistently outshot and riding both a hot shooting % and incredibly strong play from Mike Smith to a very, very good record, which seemed awfully unsustainable. Well, the Coyotes apparently agreed, because they played stronger in this one....at the same time Mike Smith decided to lay a massive egg. Smith gave up 4 goals on just 23 shots, ruining a strong effort from his team, who actually put up 44 shots against the Ducks only to get mostly stoned by Hiller. It was basically the Coyotes getting a taste of their own medicine. Oh yeah, and this was the Yotes' first regulation loss at home of the year, making the Ducks the only team left in not just the division but the entire NHL who's yet to lose in regulation at home.
-Chicago Blackhawks 2, Vancouver Canucks 1: Am I the only one kind of bored with this "rivalry"? This game was on NHL Network in the US and Hockey Night in Canada in GUESS WHICH COUNTRY, but eh, I'm just not feeling it anymore. They haven't met in the playoffs since the infamous 2011 DRAGON-SLAYERS series, where the Canucks managed to come about as close as you possibly can to blowing a 3-0 lead without actually doing it (winning game 7 in overtime) on their way to almost-but-not-quite winning a Stanley Cup. Since then, the Blackhawks of course have won another Stanley Cup, while the Canucks have won, uh, one whole playoff game. So forgive me if I don't exactly see this one as a clash of the titans anymore- the Blackhawks are certainly still a titan, but the Canucks are, like, TitanTV (some TVGuide rip-off I had never heard of until I decided to Google "titan" and see if anything funny came up): maybe pretty good at some point in the past, but kind of useless now (your cable box probably has a guide built in unless you're someone's grandmother), and in fact maybe even so useless you wonder how good they really were to begin with. So anyway, the Blackhawks won this battle of the titan vs. TitanTV, which is quite shocking. Let's move on.
-Colorado Avalanche 1, Los Angeles Kings 0 (OT): Boy I hope you enjoyed those 5 goals from the Kings in the Tampa game, because you got a whole one goal in the next two games combined from 'em. Anyway, I have a bone to pick with Jim Fox and a few others on the Kings broadcast who claimed getting a point in this game somehow "evened out" not getting two out of the New Jersey game. Yes, it's true that the Avalanche controlled play in this game, but Nick's chances through 60 minutes were 11-8 Colorado (8-6 at even strength): good, yes, but a far cry from LA's ridiculous chance edge in their own game. Second of all, go back and look at the collection of ten links Nick laid out in his grades & analysis of similar games to the NJ one, and I would even argue he's only beginning to scratch the surface there! I guess what I'm saying here is, look Jim Fox: when the Kings get a point (OR TWO PREFERABLY) in, like, twenty more games they get heavily out-played in, maybe I'll be ready to call it even. MAYBE. Anyway, the Kings mostly sucked in this game, Ben Scrivens was fantastic, and the only goal went in off Jarrett Stoll's head. Whatever. Yay nine-game point streak! (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)
-San Jose Sharks 2, New Jersey Devils 1 (OT)
Sunday, November 24th
There were only two games played and neither of them involved any of the Pacific teams (or any Western teams at all, for that matter). For shame, NHL, for shame. What am I supposed to do, watch.....ugh.....FOOTBALL?! I just threw up in my mouth a little even typing that.
This Week in Standings
|2. San Jose||23||15||3||5||35||14||79||52||+27||7-1-2||8-2-3||2-0-0|
|3. Los Angeles||24||15||6||3||33||11||64||51||+13||8-3-2||7-3-1||1-0-2|
Last week I described the Ducks' hold on the top of the division as "tenuous", and though it remains so right now, they did at least manage to hold onto it for another week thanks to a good 2-1-1 showing. They rebounded nicely after a disastrous road trip; problem is, they've played so many more games than the rest of the division (even Vancouver!) that they remain extremely catchable.
The Sharks had a short two-game week but won both of them to hold onto 2nd, just 2 points back of the Ducks with 3 games in hand on them. The Kings and Coyotes were the only two teams to move in the standings this week at all, as the Kings passed the Yotes thanks to a 1-0-2 week. Yes, as frustrating as those last two games were, the Kings still got into a top 3 spot in the division for the first time since, really, the start of the season. The Sharks & Coyotes do both have a game in hand on the Kings, but the Kings are only 4 points back of the Ducks for first place with two games in hand on them!
On the other side of the coin, Phoenix was this week's droppers. It's tough when you only have two games and even tougher when you get just one lone point out of them, so the Yotes fall out of a top 3 seed for the first time in many weeks. They do still have that game in hand on the Kings and are only one point behind them, and remain in a Wild Card spot pretty comfortably.
The same cannot be said for the Vancouver Canucks, who continued their awful homestand with a 1-1-1 week (their only win coming against lowly Columbus). That drops them to 1-2-2 on this six-game homestand, with the final game played against the Kings tonight. Even if they do beat them, a .500 homestand is probably not what the Nucks were hoping for. They're four points behind the Yotes for the second Western Wild Card, and the Yotes have two games in hand on them to boot. I know I've beat up on Vancouver a lot in this article, but I honestly can't believe they're this bad. We'll see if they can get things turned around.
At the bottom of the standings, brace yourselves: it was a good week for both teams from Alberta! The Flames went 2-0-1 (though it is worth noting both their wins came in shootouts), while the Oilers went 2-0-0! Even more amazingly, the Oilers actually shaved ten whole goals off their goal differential in just two games! They went from being a division-worst -30 last week to now only.....tied for the division worst with Calgary at a -20! Alright Oilers! I am not kidding, that's legitimately impressive!
This Week in #fancystats
(all stats are total attempts, not percentages. thanks to extra skater)
Kings 5, Lightning 2
Corsi: Kings 57-Lightning 36 (overall), Kings 42-Lightning 29 (5v5, 43.5 mins), Kings 12-Lightning 6 (5v5 close, 13.2 mins), Kings 12-Lightning 6 (5v5 tied, 12.9 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 49-Lightning 32 (overall), Kings 37-Lightning 25 (5v5, 43.5 mins), Kings 10-Lightning 5 (5v5 close, 13.2 mins), Kings 10-Lightning 5 (5v5 tied, 12.9 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Doughty (+15), Muzzin (+12), Vey (+9). Worst: Martinez (-7), Mitchell (-6), Carcillo (-5)
Devils 2, Kings 1 (OT)
Corsi: Kings 76-Devils 38 (overall), Kings 52-Devils 30 (5v5, 48.0 mins), Kings 51-Devils 29 (5v5 close & 5v5 tied, 46.9 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 56-Devils 29 (overall), Kings 37-Devils 22 (5v5, 48.0 mins), Kings 36-Devils 21 (5v5 close & 5v5 tied, 46.9 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Brown (+15), Williams (+14), Doughty/Kopitar (tied, +13). Worst: Stoll/Carcillo/Frattin (tied, -2)
Avalanche 1, Kings 0 (OT)
Corsi: Avalanche 50-Kings 44 (overall), Avalanche 40-Kings 31 (5v5 & 5v5 close & 5v5 tied, 46.0 mins)
Fenwick: Avalanche 44-Kings 29 (overall), Avalanche 35-Kings 21 (5v5 & 5v5 close & 5v5 tied, 46.0 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Toffoli (+2), Martinez (+1), Kopitar/Carcillo (tied, even). Worst: Voynov (-7), Muzzin (-6), Stoll (-5)
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||@VAN (7:00)||-||@SJ (7:30)||-||-||vs.CGY (7:00)||-|
|ANA||-||@DAL (5:00)||-||-||vs.CGY (1:00)||@SJ (7:30)||-|
|SJ||-||-||vs.LA (7:30)||-||vs.STL (1:00)||vs.ANA (7:30)||-|
|PHX||@NSH (5:00)||-||@MIN (5:00)||-||-||vs.CHI (5:00)||-|
|VAN||vs.LA (7:00)||-||-||@OTT (4:30)||@NYR (11 am)||@CAR (10 am)|
|CGY||-||-||vs.CHI (7:00)||-||@ANA (1:00)||@LA (7:00)||-|
|EDM||vs.CHI (6:30)||-||-||@NSH (5:00)||@CBJ (4:00)||-||@DAL (3:00)|
The Kings hit the road for a brief 2-game road trip to start the week, facing the struggling Canucks and then the always-dangerous Sharks. Even with an injury-depleted lineup you'd have to think they could handle the Nucks unless they suddenly turn things around, but beating the Sharks in San Jose may be a nearly impossible task at this point. At least they get to come home to play Calgary on Saturday.
For once the Pacific Division is well-represented in the light game days, as the Ducks @ Stars game on Tuesday is the NHL's only game of the night. Anaheim will then welcome in the Flames for a Black Friday matinee game on Friday before jetting off for San Jose on a back-to-back Saturday night. At least the Sharks will be on game 2 of a back-to-back as well, but all their games this coming week will be at home (completing a 5-game homestand that already started). They've got the Kings, Blues, and Ducks, certainly not an easy week by any means, but the Sharks are so good at home you'd have to give them a decent shot to do pretty well (those bastards).
The Phoenix Coyotes have an all-Central week, as they'll face Nashville & Minnesota, both on the road, before welcoming in the defending champs at home on Saturday. Meanwhile, Vancouver finishes up that disappointing homestand by hosting the Kings tonight, and then begin a 4-game road trip Thursday in Ottawa (Heritage Classic preview, raise your hands if you care!). The afternoon eastern affair with the Rangers is perhaps one to circle, since it's the John Tortorella return to Manhattan (and Alain Vigneault against his former team as well, of course). Their week ends in Carolina the next day.
After some highly successful weeks against some very, very weak competition, the Alberta teams could both be in for rude awakenings. Calgary will host the Blackhawks on Wednesday then hit the road to face the Ducks & Kings on a very tough back-to-back. The Oilers meanwhile put that 3-game win streak to the test when they host the Blackhawks tonight, then hit the road for meetings with solid Nashville & Dallas teams. In between is a trip to Columbus, and as bad as the Jackets have been you'd have to think they'll be ready to go in that one, looking to avenge that 7-0 embarrassment from this past week.
So that's another week in the books in the Pacific. Enjoy your (American) Thanksgivings everyone!