A lot of hockey is difficult to watch these days. Blues games, for instance.
I remember that there was a time when I defended this matchup. That time was the 2013 playoffs. That time is long gone. These games are terrible.
The Blues have doubled down on their mediocre, defensive style. Despite a bundle of offensive talent spread throughout their lineup, the Blues are the unsalted white rice of hockey teams.
To make matters worse, they have a hilarious commitment to toughness, probably largely based on the fact that they won just 2 of 10 playoff games against the Very Large Kings in back-to-back seasons. Part of that is almost certainly based on being swept by the Kings in 2012, at the very least.
This was a standard Blues/Kings game. The architect of this matchup would be incredibly proud of this game.
What can be said for these games is that they are emotional, which I do appreciate. The teams play with a little bit of extra intensity, which is fun. It is just such a drag to watch these teams (mostly the Blues) play actual hockey.
Physicality will likely wrangle the headlines for this game again. Kyle Clifford wanted to fight a Blue but didn't. Luke Schenn laid out some other Blue. They're all nameless to me. I don't care about any of them. Jaden Schwartz is David Backes is Ryan Reaves is Brian Elliott. Who cares about these people?
At some point, one of the Blues scored. It was a goal, to be sure, which is surprising for these teams. Jim Fox was upset about the penalty call that led to it happening, and boy did he remind us of that all game long.
The game plodded on monotonously. Hit hit hit. Dump dump dump. Skate skate skate.
Gradually, the Kings did more of the hitting and dumping and skating on the Blues side of the ice. They did this despite losing Anze Kopitar to a "lower body injury." He did not return to the game at any point.
The second period dragged on much as the first, except without some nameless St. Louis Blue scoring a goal. At some point, Kyle Clifford hit the supposed "best" nameless Blue, but I couldn't tell you who it was. Valterri Tarantula? I think that's his name. Anyway, there was almost a fight again. A Blue got real mad, Kyle Clifford got real defensive, and the Kings got a power play.
Much like the rest of the entire history of this rivalry, nobody scored.
Thankfully, whatever the first two periods lacked, the final period had in large quantities.
Early in the third, during their fifth power play of the game, Jeff Carter raced into the offensive zone on the right wing. Tyler Toffoli lagged behind the defense to expose an open passing lane, which Jeff Carter drove the puck through cleanly. Toffoli instantly buried the equalizer.
At about the halfway point of the final frame, six seconds after Luke Schenn took a hooking penalty, Jake Muzzin rifled a clearing attempt into the stands to put the Kings two men down. Muzzin, who has been noted as intensely critical of himself in the past, carried an extremely pained look into the penalty box.
Clear. Clear. Big save. Clear. Muzzin exhales. Kings survive.
In fact, Kings thrive. At the end of the kill, Jeff Carter again revved up his engine and drove to the net in the offensive zone. His effort wasn't rewarded with a goal, but it did earn a Kings power play. However, they were unable to gain the lead with the man advantage.
Vigor laced the following few minutes. For the first time all game, the two teams exchanged more than just body blows. End-to-end they went. Clifford was robbed by some guy. Another guy failed to score on Quick. Still, the game continued at 1-1. Finally, overtime.
Fortune seemed to find the Kings when Kevin Shattenkirk fell on his ass like the St. Louis Blue that he truly is. Dustin Brown found the puck and a 2-on-1 with Milan Lucic. Brown coasted into the offensive zone before hitting Lucic with the (somewhat obvious) pass. Elliott read the play perfectly and flashed his glove to keep the game alive. The game didn't instantly turn on that dime of a save, but it would turn.
After a faceoff and a clear, the Kings took the puck back up ice. Alec Martinez joined the rush to make it a 3-on-2. Vinny Lecavalier either never saw him or opted against passing to him and shoveled the puck toward the net. Martinez never ceased his pressure, and when the Blues recovered the puck, they had a wide open road to Jonathan Quick at the other end of the ice. Jaden Schwartz jumped at the opportunity and raced up ice. Despite a valiant effort by Lecavalier, Schwartz was able to lift the puck past Quick and a pokecheck to wrap the game up for the Blues.
The hallmark of this road trip has been excellent effort with frustrating results. That is also the hallmark of every Kings team of my life until the playoffs start. Tonight was like the Capitals game was like the Devils game. The Kings played a good game against a good team but fell short.
This has turned into a disastrous road trip, not because I'm troubled about the prognosis on the Kings going forward, but because some disasters are natural and beyond control. On top of that, If Kopitar is injured, then he would be the second top six talent to exit the lineup since Staples Center began preparing for the Grammys. Rough, rough times.
On Saturday, the Kings will have another typically heavy game against the Nashville Predators. I expect a good effort. I hope they win. I need Anze Kopitar to be there.