When the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks play each other, drama tends to ensue. Despite it being Game 81 for the eliminated Kings and Game 82 for the Hawks, who saw pretty much everything go right for them this season, today was no exception.
OK honestly, you’re probably just here to reminisce about Bob Miller and how he changed your life over the last 44 years of his outstanding career. For his part, the Kings’ longtime play-by-play man shared amusing and delightful anecdotes, including how he came to be nicknamed “Steam-O.” Just promise you’ll hold it together until we finish talking about the hockey game that occurred this afternoon.
On the ice, the Kings actually came out with a decent jump and held the Hawks without a shot on goal for five minutes in the first, racking up four of their own on Corey Crawford. So naturally it was Jonathan Toews who broke the tie early and scored on Jonathan Quick. Because of course. Prior to that, Quick had actually made several good saves in tight on some of the Blackhawks’ most dangerous players, earning an annoyed look from Marian Hossa.
The rest of the first period was close with Kings getting a few good looks and Crawford turning them all away. Jonny Brodzinski was a bad boy and accidentally high sticked Jordin Tootoo. Kings, who had the fourth best penalty kill in the NHL coming into the game, killed it off successfully with nary a whisper at the net and even generated a shorthanded rush chance led by Trevor Lewis and Anze Kopitar. Lewis shot the puck wide, but his team remained excellent in stifling any chances, not allowing the guys in white to set up. Beyond that, the period wasn’t terribly memorable.
During the intermission, Fox Sports West played highlights of some of Bob’s best calls, including Jarret Stoll’s overtime game-winning goal in 2012 against the Vancouver Canucks. Pat Sajak, Jerry Bruckheimer, Cuba Gooding, Jr. were among the celebrity well-wishers welcoming viewers to the second period.
LA looked pretty good starting the period but because Patrick Kane is who he is and Jake Muzzin has become the epitome of what’s wrong with the Kings this season, Kane drew an early slashing call. This power play actually looked far more dangerous than the first one did but all hail Quick for keeping his teammates in this one. Jeff Carter had a late shorthanded breakaway but Crawford read his countryman like a book and denied the bid.
Crawford later tripped Kopitar during some relatively heavy pressure. The man-advantage for the guys in grey was uh not great. It looked okay at first but then Drew Doughty broke his stick going for a one-timer and it was kind of a mess after that, though credit should be given to Chicago for collapsing down low in the home plate area.
Just a few minutes later, Doughty tripped John Hayden in the neutral zone. No, I have no idea who the heck this guy is either. Google says he’s American and honestly, if that isn’t the most frat-boy-jock name ever, then it doesn’t exist. Carter had another chance shorthanded but couldn’t quite get past Crawford, though his shot almost seemed to surprise the Chicago netminder, who bobbled the puck for a moment. Nick Shore and Trevor Lewis were fantastic on the kill, ensuring the deficit stayed small.
After a quick commercial break, Bob delighted fans at home with a tale of Kings coach Bob Pulford when the team was in Montreal in the 1970s and Rogie Vachon’s apparently illegal stick. The current rendition of the Kings kinda flailed on the ice and couldn’t get a single thing going at all. So, it was a bad period in that they took two penalties. But, they didn’t give up any goals and bonus: two more wonderful stories from Bob.
During the second intermission, more videos of commendations for Bob, including comments from Bruce McNall (former owner), Daryl Evans, and Nick Nickson played. The inductee in five different Halls of Fame also read his letter to the fans.
As the third period began, Bob mentioned that 44 years ago, his first Kings game was a shutout loss to Chicago. Fortunately, history did not repeat itself. Tyler Toffoli tied the game up with a one-timer from the blue line on the power play after Adrian Kempe used his speed and drew a hooking call on Dennis Rasmussen. Great puck movement led to some holes opening up, allowing Toffoli’s long bomb to beat a heavily screened Crawford. Fun paradox: As Fox mentioned on the broadcast, Bob started in 1973 and the goal was scored by #73.
Other stuff happened on the ice in the five minutes following the power play, but then there was a stoppage in play, and during what ordinarily would be a TV timeout, Staples Center played a tribute to Bob, who was understandably emotional.
That Bread guy, Artemi Panarin, made things interesting when he scored on a particularly sloppy Kings shift. Everyone in grey was running around and no one had marked him. Team USA’s Women’s National Team recently showed why those backdoor plays can be so dangerous when you allow them to happen. Six minutes left in the game, it seemed the writing was on the wall. After all, it’d happened all season long. Why should today be any different? Well, this is Hollywood after all. And a script written for royalty is the only way this would truly end.
Jarome Iginla almost tied the game at 16:26 but he hit a post. Because of course he did. Naturally, in the most dramatic way, all of this set up one of Jim’s wishes—Dustin Brown scoring. Just over a minute left in the game. Hawks are playing like hell in the offensive zone. Precious seconds tick away. Kings can't pull the goaltender until there’s a break and finally, it happens. Carter gets a breakaway, Brown hops on the ice and ties the game 10 seconds later. And it earned an ecstatic reaction from the afternoon’s honoree. On Bob Miller Appreciation Night, these radioactive cockroaches said “never die” and willed an ending befitting a big screen, complete with big stars coming through at big moments.
Off to overtime went the game, where Los Angeles shines brightest, where their 23-6 record leads the entire National Hockey League over the last two years. It didn’t take long. Less than 30 seconds in, Doughty won a puck battle against Toews, sending Carter on a breakaway before joining in for a 2-on-1. Carter deftly pulled the puck onto his backhand before sliding it over to his defenseman whose wrist shot beat Crawford for his 11th of the year.
Postgame, there was a special moment for Bob.
Bob Miller hung up his headphones at Staples Center for the final time. He gave us all special moments over his lengthy 44 year career complete with iconic moments that none of us will ever forget. Thank you, Bob.