This Week in Kings (12/16/13)

Yes, I know it isn't actually December 16th. It's called "creative license", kids. And, uh, I use it a few more times in this post too, so strap yourselves in.

To be honest with you, dear reader, I seriously considered not doing this article at all this week. That's because I found myself in central Florida for most of the time this edition would cover (unfortunately not to do anything enjoyable), and my access to NHL hockey (as well as my ability to watch it at all) was greatly reduced. But in the end, my near-compulsive desire to have every single week of the NHL season covered won out (I really would like anyone interested to be able to go back and look at things on a week-by-week basis at the end of the year, y'know? even if "anyone interested" ends up being "just me", that's okay), and a day late, here indeed is the TWIK. If the mini-recaps are shorter and have even less to say that you can't read in Eric's recaps or Nick's grades, I apologize in advance.

The day late thing doesn't really matter at all, though, because for whatever reason, the NHL did not schedule a single game involving Pacific Division teams on Monday the 16th. So all of the standings information and the like are still accurate, even though it is indeed Tuesday and not Monday. With that short disclaimer out of the way, let's get right into things.

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.)

-After a few relatively quiet weeks on the injury front, we once again returned to MASH: Los Angeles in a big way this week. First of all, the good news: Trevor Lewis was activated from the IR and returned to the lineup against Ottawa on Saturday after missing nine straight games. You may notice that link also contains a note about Colin Fraser going to the IR to replace him. He left Wednesday night's game with the Leafs with what was believed to be a concussion, but did return to the ice yesterday. Here's a fascinating interview with Fraser on the entire concussion protocols, which is the first time I can recall seeing someone be so open about them. We'll see how long he ends up being out for.

-In more good news on the injury front, Matt Greene returned to the lineup Sunday against Chicago after being out for 18 games. He may have actually been ready to go as soon as Wednesday's game against the Leafs, but it was only an injury to another defenseman that actually got him back into the lineup. Willie Mitchell appears to have suffered a concussion from a hit by Chris Neil in Saturday's game against Ottawa, and did not play Sunday after leaving that game. The fact that he's already working out again would at least suggest the concussion is not as serious as his more infamous one (the one that ultimately lead to Vancouver walking away from resigning him, allowing Los Angeles to sign him in the first place), but concussions are notoriously unpredictable, so it remains to be seen how long he'll be out. Finally, here's a brief update on Jonathan Quick (if you remember that guy). The update is basically "there is no update", so uh, yeah. Huge thanks to Jon Rosen for his great coverage all season long, as he's done yeoman's work in keeping track of all these injuries and digging as deep as he can for information on them.

-In one last bit of Kings news, Martin Jones was named the NHL's second star of the week. In a week where the Kings' notoriously stingy defense and grade-A possession game were pretty far from their usual standards (although, to be fair, a great deal of that can be chalked up to score effects, at least in the Montreal & Ottawa games), Jones went 3-0-0 with a .972 sv%. The Toronto game in particular should stand out as 2 points he had the greatest hand in earning of any King.

-Not much going on in San Jose again this week, so here's an article about how the Sharks will likely try to resign all three of Thornton, Marleau, and Boyle. The rising salary cap would stand to help with that, certainly (it's probably going up from this year's $64 million to something around $71 next season, and that's BEFORE any money from the new Rogers Canadian TV deal kicks in). That's good news for the Sharks as well as the Kings, who both seem to be committed to spending to the cap for the foreseeable future.

-"It's time to take the Ducks seriously!" says this Sporting News article. While I respect the author, who is the managing editor of the excellent Canucks Army blog, I hope he can understand why some people may have trouble taking the Ducks seriously.

-Speaking of the Canucks, we could talk about how hot they are right now on the ice (although it's pretty hilarious when you scroll down to the standings later in this post and see how little ground they've made up even after winning seven straight games), but I know that's not what you're here for. You're here for video of the Nucks rookies singing with Sarah McLachlan, and as a man of the people, I am of course more than happy to oblige you.

-As much as I don't like Shane Doan on the ice, as someone going through a very serious illness in my own immediate family right now, I really and truly wish him the best as he recovers from this still-unspecified illness. He's apparently still remaining home to get more rest at the moment, and from all the quotes about his weight and the like (as well as just the fact that he's been out this long, because when do you ever hear about illnesses that cost players more than a couple of games?) you definitely get the feeling it must be something pretty serious. Again, I hope you have a speedy recovery, Shane.

-In Calgary, the big news was obviously Brian Burke firing GM Jay Feaster as well as his assistant John Weisbrod, who I had honestly never heard of until I heard he was fired. To call this move "unexpected" would be one of the bigger understatements of the century, and now Burke, already the President of Hockey Operations, will take over as interim GM until a new one can be found. Reportedly ex-Dallas GM and former Stanley Cup-winning Flame Joe Nieuwendyk is considered the leading candidate for the position, and indeed the Stars have already granted the Flames permission to talk to him about the job. Of course there is also the possibility that Burke's pick for his next General Manager ends up being someone a little, uh, closer to home, let's just say.

-There was a smattering of news coming from the other struggling Alberta hockey club (is there any other kind?). First of all, prospect Linus Omark's has had almost a legendarily tenuous career with the Oilers since he was picked in the 4th round of the 2007 draft, and he told a Swedish newspaper that he had officially requested a trade from the team. He can do stuff like this in the shootout at least, but he hasn't shown much ability to do good things in, y'know, actual NHL hockey games. In other news, Oilers defenseman Corey Potter was suspended two games for boarding Anaheim's Nick Bonino. Finally, the Oilers' big defensive prospect Darnell Nurse has been putting up points in junior this year (to the tune of 32 points in 33 games), but that hasn't helped him evade the wrath of the boo birds, apparently for some sub-standard defensive play. Let's hope for the sake of hockey and general decency in general that his target for booing by the fans of Sault St. Marie only has to do with that and not with, say, his race. Some of you may dismiss that outright, but boy is it hard to understand why guys like PK Subban and Evander Kane seem to be so loathed by so many of their fellow NHL players for things that others get away with on a nightly basis. (And as far as fans go, let's not forget about that whole thing with Wayne Simmonds and a banana peel, either.)

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, December 9th

-Vancouver Canucks 2, Carolina Hurricanes 0

-Anaheim Ducks 5, New York Islanders 2

Tuesday, December 10th

-Los Angeles Kings 6, Montreal Canadiens 0: The Kings kicked off their tough stretch of 4 games in 6 nights, all on the road and in 2 back-to-backs, with a thorough throttling of the Montreal Canadiens. Here's how rare this kind of success for the Kings against the Habs has been: this was LA's first victory in Montreal since....wait for it....NINETEEN NINETY NINEEEEEE, and their first shutout against the Habs since, uh, literally the beginning of time. Carey Price found himself in two thousand zero-zero PARTY OVER OOPS OUT OF TIME, the Kings had a lion in their pocket (and baby, he was ready to roar), and the Kings decided that since they could die any day, they might as well dance (all over the Habs, that is). I apologize for everything you just read; I was dreaming when I wrote this, okay? DON'T BOTHER KNOCKIN' ON MY DOOR. (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)

-Phoenix Coyotes 3, Colorado Avalanche 1

-Boston Bruins 2, Calgary Flames 1: This was of course the "Jarome Iginla returns to Calgary" game, and Iginla was named the 3rd star by the Calgary media for, uh, absolutely no reason at all, actually (he had 4 shots and 2 hits in 21:36 of ice time). Iginla did get to do a couple laps after the game, which was kinda cute I guess, and it's not like the Calgary fans really cared that he helped the opposing team win anyway.

-Edmonton Oilers 5, Carolina Hurricanes 4 (OT)

-New York Islanders 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (SO): Oh, like you really thought I was gonna let this one slip by without saying something. The Islanders had lost ten straight games before walking into San Jose and somehow beating the Sharks in a shootout, despite being outshot 48-28. This was San Jose's fourth loss in a row at the time, as the Sharks looked more like the team of the past couple of seasons (y'know, the one that consistently outshot their opposition yet somehow managed to lose a great deal of games anyway) than the dominant team that was carving their way through the league for all of October and parts of November & December. I'm sure they'll probably be fine long-term, since again they are still outshooting their opponents like crazy, but at least they're finally losing some games the way Kings fans are all too familiar with.

Wednesday, December 11th

-Los Angeles Kings 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 1: Speaking of losing hockey games the way Kings fans are familiar with, uh, sorry about this game, Toronto. The Leafs outshot the Kings 39-23 (!!!) and somehow still lost in regulation. Before you feel too bad for Leaf fans, it's of course worth noting that the Leafs made the playoffs last year and have remained in a playoff spot this year largely by doing the exact same thing to everyone else, so consider this game a bit of justified comeuppance. Also Jonathan Bernier really thought Jeff Carter might pass to Dan Carcillo on a 2-on-1, so he and by extension the Leafs deserved to get scored on, because there's a better chance of having long-term sustainable peace in the Middle East than that happening. (recap) (grades & analysis)(gamethread)

-Anaheim Ducks 2, Minnesota Wild 1

Thursday, December 12th

-Calgary Flames 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT): Boy, this Pacific road trip didn't go very well for Carolina, huh? Not that it's really going well for any Eastern Conference team this season, but the Hurricanes were a pretty hot team going into that game against Vancouver, only to go cold in a hurry.

-Phoenix Coyotes 6, New York Islanders 3

-Boston Bruins 4, Edmonton Oilers 2: Jarome Iginla's return to Edmonton went a lot better than his return to Calgary, as he scored 2 goals against the Oilers (granted, one of them being an empty-netter) en route to the Bruins' finishing off their sweep of Alberta (putting them in a rare class of Everyone But the Kings, I think). Oddly enough, he couldn't crack the three stars this time. I guess the Edmonton media is much less sentimental about him.

-San Jose Sharks 3, Minnesota Wild 1: The Sharks broke out of their slide by beating the Wild, who have been kind of spiraling downwards of late (4-5-1 in their last ten games) and are on the verge of losing their Wild Card spot in the West (Phoenix is just 2 points behind them with 3 games in hand, so we're close to having both Wild Card teams coming from the Pacific). On a related note, I'm not sure when I'm going to start adding the Wild Card race to my weekly standings feature- if anyone has a suggestion or preference for that, be sure to let me know. I'm thinking after the Christmas break, maybe?

Friday, December 13th

-Vancouver Canucks 4, Edmonton Oilers 0

Saturday, December 14th

-Calgary Flames 2, Buffalo Sabres 1 (OT): For some reason I always have an almost perverse interest in seeing two awful hockey teams go head-to-head, maybe just because of the "someone has to win, right?!" factor. This round went to Calgary, albeit in overtime. It's not even like one team drastically outshot the other one or anything (shots were 27-26 Buffalo), so it was seemingly just an even duel of two bad teams that took extra time to decide. Please don't take my interest in this game as having meant I actually watched it, however; even if I hadn't had my access to hockey vastly reduced this past week, I likely would have done no such thing. The only terrible-on-terrible matchup that I'm usually excited enough to watch is Edmonton vs. Calgary.

-Los Angeles Kings 5, Ottawa Senators 2: Speaking of my lack of access to hockey, by the time I actually found a working stream for this game (uh, I mean, broke into someone else's house who had NHL Network, yep that's what I did please don't sue me NHL), the Kings had already scored 3 goals on two different goalies. Craig Anderson had a .500 sv%, which would be really good for a baseball player but is really bad for a hockey goalie, and Robin Lehner wasn't too much better, allowing 3 goals on just 22 shots. The Senators did put a brief scare into Kings fans (especially anyone who remembered that they rallied from a 3-0 deficit against LA earlier this season), getting back within a goal early in the 3rd, but Jarrett Stoll & Anze Kopitar would ultimately ice it with a couple of insurance markers. The Kopi/Carter/King first line more than lead the way in this one, with all three of them having 3 points (1 G, 2 A for each), and the Kings ultimately cruised their way to a perfect 3-0-0 record in eastern Canada. (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)

-Nashville Predators 3, San Jose Sharks 2: The Sharks' road record is looking more and more pedestrian by the day, as this loss in Nashville dropped it to 9-6-3. Once again, they heavily outshot their opposition (38-23, to be exact) and lost in regulation anyway.

-Carolina Hurricanes 3, Phoenix Coyotes 1: The Hurricanes were finally able to salvage something out of their Pacific road trip in Phoenix. Good for them.

-Vancouver Canucks 6, Boston Bruins 2: This was Vancouver's seventh straight win and one has to assume throttling the Bruins in their first trip back to British Columbia since Game 7 of the 2011 Cup Final was particularly satisfying. Boston's Brand Marchand, ever the gentleman, congratulated the Canucks on their victory in his own special way.

Sunday, December 15th

-New York Rangers 4, Calgary Flames 3 (SO)

-Chicago Blackhawks 3, Los Angeles Kings 1: I called the Kings being bad in this game pretty comfortably in last week's column, putting me on par with literally every other Kings fan on earth. Yes, they indeed sucked, and if anything the score was overly kind to LA given how utterly terrible they were. Ben Scrivens' stellar play in the last two periods to at least keep the score respectable wasn't enough for Darryl Sutter, though. If anyone had any doubt that Scrivens was more than a little bit unpopular in the room, I think that quote of his probably put it to rest. Calling him out for a bad first period when the entire team was godawful in all three is kind of ridiculous, so I wouldn't expect him to get too many more starts moving forward (unless Martin Jones becomes suddenly awful, I guess). Worth noting of course is that the Hawks busted a whole bunch of LA streaks in this game: namely, 18 straight games allowing 2 or fewer goals, 18 straight not allowing a goal in the first period (they allowed 3 in this one), and six straight wins. Oh well. (recap)(grades & analysis) (gamethread)

-Anaheim Ducks 3, Edmonton Oilers 2: While suffering through that humiliating loss to the Blackhawks, Kings fans everywhere briefly thought they might have a chance to at least laugh at the Ducks when they fell behind the Oilers early at home. But of course, being the Oilers, they wound up losing anyway, and the Ducks remain the only team unbeaten in regulation at home.

This Week in Standings

Team GP W L OTL Points ROW GF GA Diff Home Away Last Week
1. Anaheim 35 23 7 5 51 21 111 89 +22 13-0-2 10-7-3 3-0-0
2. Los Angeles 34 22 8 4 48 17 94 68 +26 10-4-2 12-4-2 3-1-0
3. San Jose 33 20 7 6 46 17 108 82 +26 11-1-3 9-6-3 1-1-1
4. Vancouver 35 20 10 5 45 19 98 83 +15 10-5-3 10-5-2 3-0-0
5. Phoenix 32 18 9 5 41 14 104 100 +4 10-3-2 8-6-3 2-1-0
6. Calgary 33 13 15 5 31 11 86 106 -20 6-7-3 7-8-2 2-1-1
7. Edmonton 35 11 21 3 25 9 93 120 -27 5-10-1 6-11-2 1-3-0

There was only one change in the standings this week, and I probably don't even have to point it out to you. But before we get to that, Anaheim did indeed hold onto the top spot for another week after posting a perfect 3-0-0 record. The Ducks certainly aren't running and hiding from anyone just yet, but going 5-0-1 in the past two weeks combined has given them a tiny bit of distance from the rest of the division for the first time in a while.

Of course, that big move was Los Angeles taking over the second spot in the Pacific for the first time this season. The Kings did it with a 3-1-0 week, finally passing the Sharks. San Jose was overtaken after going a literally middling 1-1-1, which was at least an improvement on last week's 1-3-0 performance. Again, they are still outplaying most everyone they go up against even in this downturn, so it would be most unwise to count them out. But of note for the Kings is that they have totally closed the ROW gap with the Sharks, which at one point earlier in the year looked like quite the difficult task indeed. They are now two points clear of the Sharks while tied in that important category, though the Sharks do still have a game in hand on them.

The Vancouver Canucks had their second straight perfect week, once again going 3-0-0, and the fact that they still can't climb into the top three in the Pacific speaks volumes about how insane this division is. They are just one point back of the Sharks and do have the ROW tiebreaker on them, but the Sharks still possess two games in hand. The Coyotes at least kept pace with the Canucks a bit in fifth, going 2-1-0 to remain four points back with three games in hand, though that ROW tiebreaker is approaching quite the chasm now. As mentioned earlier, the real target with the Coyotes should be the Wild at this point, and they are only 2 points back of Minnesota for the second Wild Card.

Down at the bottom, Calgary followed up last week's 2-1-0 week with another good 2-1-1 showing, which has at least opened up a lead on Edmonton again to keep them out of the basement (a few weeks back the Oilers had narrowed that deficit quite a bit). The Oilers meanwhile have fallen off yet again after a few weeks of not-entirely-awful records, going 1-3-0 this week.

This Week in #fancystats

(all stats are total attempts, not percentages. thanks to extra skater)

Kings 6, Canadiens 0

Corsi: Canadiens 63-Kings 62 (overall), Kings 52-Canadiens 44 (5v5, 47.4 mins), Kings 16-Canadiens 14 (5v5 close, 11.7 mins), Kings 10-Canadiens 3 (5v5 tied, 5.0 mins)
Fenwick: Canadiens 47-Kings 43 (overall), Kings 35-Canadiens 31 (5v5, 47.4 mins), Kings 12-Canadiens 11 (5v5 close, 11.7 mins), Kings 8-Canadiens 2 (5v5 tied, 5.0 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Martinez (+15), Doughty (+13), Mitchell (+12). Worst: Regehr (-17), Voynov (-15), Fraser/Nolan (tied, -3)

Kings 3, Maple Leafs 1

Corsi: Maple Leafs 69-Kings 49 (overall), Maple Leafs 56-Kings 46 (5v5, 52.0 mins), Maple Leafs 50-Kings 38 (5v5 close, 43.2 mins), Maple Leafs 24-Kings 22 (5v5 tied, 22.6 mins)
Fenwick: Maple Leafs 49-Kings 33 (overall), Maple Leafs 40-Kings 30 (5v5, 52.0 mins), Maple Leafs 36-Kings 25 (5v5 close, 43.2 mins), Maple Leafs 18-Kings 13 (5v5 tied, 22.6 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Doughty (+4), Fraser/Carcillo (tied, +2). Worst: Voynov (-14), Carter (-10), Clifford (-6)

Kings 5, Senators 2

Corsi: Senators 65-Kings 48 (overall), Senators 56-Kings 41 (5v5, 47.5 mins), Senators 7-Kings 6 (5v5 close, 4.3 mins), Kings 1-Senators 0 (5v5 tied, 0.3 mins)
Fenwick: Senators 51-Kings 34 (overall), Senators 43-Kings 29 (5v5, 47.5 mins), Kings 6-Senators 5 (5v5 close, 4.3 mins), Kings 1-Senators 0 (5v5 tied, 0.3 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Stoll (+11), Williams (+10), Brown (+9). Worst: Richards/Clifford (tied, -15), Toffoli (-14)

Blackhawks 3, Kings 1

Corsi: Blackhawks 56-Kings 39 (overall), Blackhawks 47-Kings 27 (5v5, 49.0 mins), Blackhawks 4-Kings 2 (5v5 close, 6.0 mins), Blackhawks 2-Kings 0 (5v5 tied, 3.1 mins)
Fenwick: Blackhawks 49-Kings 28 (overall), Blackhawks 41-Kings 19 (5v5, 49.0 mins), Blackhawks 4-Kings 0 (5v5 close, 6.0 mins), Blackhawks 2-Kings 0 (5v5 tied, 3.1 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Doughty (even), Greene (-1), King/Kopitar (tied, -2). Worst: Voynov (-19), Regehr (-13), Brown/Nolan (tied, -8)

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.)

Team 12/16 12/17 12/18 12/19 12/20 12/21 12/22
LA - vs.EDM (7:30) - vs.SJ (7:30) - vs.COL (1:00) -
ANA - @DET (4:30) - - @NJ (4:00) @NYI (4:00) -
SJ - @STL (5:00) - @LA (7:30) - vs.DAL (7:30) -
VAN - @MIN (5:00) - @DAL (5:30) @CHI (5:00) - vs.WPG (5:00)
PHX - @MTL (4:30) - @TOR (4:00) - @OTT (11 am) -
CGY - @BOS (4:00) - @DET (4:30) - @PIT (10 am) -
EDM - @LA (7:30) - @COL (6:30) - vs.STL (7:00) -

Yes, yesterday already happened, but as you can pretty clearly see by looking at the above chart, not a single Pacific Division team played (the same will be true again on Wednesday, oddly enough, marking the first week I can recall where no Pacific team plays two of the days). The week gets underway for the Pacific tonight, for all intents and purposes, and LA's week sees them home for three straight to start a four-game homestand. Tonight they'll host those hapless Oilers, who are as good of a candidate as any to take their frustrations out on after the Chicago game. Thursday they'll welcome in the Sharks for an enormous showdown of the second- and third-place teams in the division, and here's hoping that whole "the home team always wins" thing holds up for at least one more game. Finally, the week concludes with the dreaded Saturday afternoon game, as the Kings host the Colorado Avalanche.

While the Kings are playing the first three games of a four-game homestand, the Ducks will do the exact opposite, playing the first three of a 4-game Eastern Conference road trip. Their results out East have been inexplicably pretty bad (remember them losing to the Florida Panthers? yikes), going totally against the West-over-East trend that we just saw the Kings uphold. However, their competition is not all that great: the Red Wings, just in time for the HBO cameras, can't seem to score any goals (they have 2 goals in their past 3 games, and no that's not a typo) and are missing both Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, the Devils are the Devils (i.e. a pretty damn great possession team who for some reason can't score to save their lives), and the Islanders are just plain awful. Not hard to see them going 3-0-0 again this coming week.

The Sharks, on the other hand, have a more difficult week. They're on the road in St. Louis and Los Angeles to start (though at least they've had a pretty good record against the Blues of late) before coming home to host a Dallas team that is underestimated at your own peril. The Canucks meanwhile hit the road for 3 games following their highly successful homestand, taking on the slumping Wild, the Stars, and the Blackhawks. They'll complete their all-Central week by welcoming the Jets into Vancouver on Sunday.

Phoenix will take the road the Kings just traveled, hitting Eastern Canada to play the Habs, Leafs, and Senators (they even play Ottawa in the afternoon, just like LA did!). The only difference here is the Yotes will play the Sabres as well (the Kings, if you recall, got that out of the way weeks ago when they played the Isles/Devils/Rangers instead) on Monday, finishing up their road trip.

The Flames have had a pretty decent start to their own 5-game Eastern road trip, going 1-0-1 against the Sabres & Rangers. Exactly one week after he came back to Calgary, Jarome Iginla will now welcome his old team into his new home on Tuesday. The trip then finishes up with games in Detroit and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, their provincial rivals are in Los Angeles tonight and Colorado Thursday, before wrapping up their week by hosting the Blues on Hockey Night in Canada.

That's all for this (belated) week. See you next week!