This Week in Kings (12/9/13)

I guess that loss to Calgary last week wasn't the end of LA's season after all, you guys. How about that?

It's tough to find things to say about a 3-0-0 week, you know? I mean, not that I don't enjoy it when my favorite hockey team wins all their games, because obviously I do, but there was a lot more to say about last week. Last week was like a car crash that you couldn't turn your eyes away from, or perhaps more aptly like a gasoline fire (haha, get it?). This week the Kings just, uh, beat every team they played. Ho-hum.

Now there were some interesting things that happened along the way, I guess. But the short version headline of this week's games should be something like: Los Angeles Hockey Team Really Good, Wins All Their Games. Just not as interesting as, say, "Los Angeles Hockey Team Somehow Loses to Terrible Calgary Hockey Team in Last 30 Seconds For Second Straight Game", y'know? Even though at the time that actually happened I wanted to poke out my eyeballs, it undoubtedly made for much more interesting copy. But we'll see if we can make the best of the Kings' perfect week. I'm sure there's some other teams in the Pacific that lost and thus can be made fun of (HAHA SAN JOSE).

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.)

-This was a pretty quiet news week for everyone's favorite hockey team, as the recent trend of "all quiet on the injured front" thankfully continued. Matt Frattin did return from injury in last Monday night's game against the Blues, but he's been averaging only around 8-minutes a night and hasn't looked close to the level he was playing at just before he went down. Meanwhile, both Matt Greene and Trevor Lewis look close to returning, as both will join the Kings on their upcoming road trip. Darryl Sutter seemed to indicate he believed Greene was closer than Lewis, but it wouldn't surprise me to see both of them play before the trip is over. Of course, it's tough to call either a huge loss given how they've played this season (Trevor has been effective defensively at times and at other times a liability, and the fact that he has less points than two of the Kings' three goaltenders obviously isn't very good), but it's always good to have more healthy bodies, I guess. Once Greene & Lewis are back that will mean the previously injury-ravaged Kings will be missing some goalie, I forget his name....

-In other Kings news, the Kings & Ducks both revealed their sweaters for the upcoming Stadium Series game. Reaction on the Kings jersey appears to be very mixed so far, but personally I like it a lot (other than that stupid LA shoulder patch). The all-gray thing is at least different (as opposed to YET ANOTHER BLACK JERSEY), the crown is a million times better than the "home plate" logo, and apparently the chrome-ness of the logo looks much more impressive in-person than it does in pictures (where it just looks, uh, not impressive at all, actually). Of course I would prefer to see some purple on there (the Kings' last home jersey/then 3rd/now nothing is still one of my favorite sweaters ever, and the "forum blue" throwback they use as the 3rd now is awesome too), but that's just a personal preference, and it seems like other than the throwbacks where it's necessary they want nothing to do with purple right now, so I didn't expect it anyway. There is one thing I'm sure we can all agree on though: the jerseys are a hell of a lot better than the Ducks' orange monstrosities. Even for a franchise well-known for having terrible jerseys, holy crap that thing is so bad.

-So hey, what's happening in San Jose this week? Other than a whole lot of losing, not much, actually, so here's a quasi-amusing article on Sharks coach Todd 'dad from the Wonder Years' McLellan putting his team through a "hard skate" before the Minnesota game in an attempt to break their modest two-game losing streak. How'd that work out?

-The Ducks also didn't seem to have much going on this week, so uh, refer back up to the whole thing about their terrible Dodger Stadium jerseys, I guess.

-I don't know if I should really report on this for fear of my readers dying of laughter, but the Phoenix Coyotes have informed the NHL offices that they're "prepared to host an outdoor game". Bwahahahaha. Just to be clear, I'm not laughing at this because of the weather or anything; the winter weather and high/low tempatures are pretty close to LA, actually. But here's the difference between LA & Phoenix: people actually go to the indoor hockey games in Los Angeles. It makes complete sense to reward a market that is currently in the midst of its fourth straight season of a sellout streak (even if on TV all these games don't always look completely sold-out, at the very least there's always a very good crowd at Staples), not to mention the fact that the Dodger Stadium game will also draw in Ducks fans as well. But an outdoor game for a team that announces 12,864 per game (which puts them, you guessed it, dead last in the NHL in attendance)? That is on-its-face ridiculous. Get your normal, everyday attendance up to something resembling respectability, then we can talk about hosting an outdoor game in Phoenix. Until then, this is among the dumbest ideas I've ever heard (yes, even dumber than HEY LET'S HAVE LIKE SIX OUTDOOR GAMES THIS YEAR WOO!).

-The Vancouver Canucks lost Alex Burrows indefinitely to a broken jaw. Somehow they'll just have to make due without his zero goals, I guess.

-The Calgary Flames are preparing to play Boston this week, and that means it's time for retrospective articles about the Jarome Iginla trade. Apparently Iginla disagrees with people who say the Flames waited too long to trade him. Well, obviously. I mean, what is he supposed to say? "Yes, absolutely, I wish they had traded me years before they did, it became a living hell and I wasted the best years of my career on a totally inept franchise." I'm sure that would go over well.

-Consider the deck chairs on the Titanic good and shuffled. The Edmonton Oilers made a number of roster moves this week, starting with recalling ex-King Jason LaBarbera (due to the Bryz injury) and assigning defenseman Corey Potter to the minors on Monday. That was followed up by promptly recalling Potter back up two days later, along with Martin Manchin & Anton Lander, while assigning Denis Grebeshkov & Will Acton (if he had an i in his last name he'd be among my favorite players ever). If you can't even stick with the 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers it might be time to find a new line of work, me thinks.

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 2nd

-Los Angeles Kings 3, St. Louis Blues 2: This was one of those "the score was very flattering to the losing team" type games. The Kings controlled the game basically from the start, and only after they went up 3-0 did St. Louis make anything resembling a push back. Their first goal of the game didn't come until less than six minutes were left in the 3rd, and their second goal came with just 16 seconds remaining. Though they did get one last push in the offensive zone to give everyone that lovely "ARE THE KINGS REALLY GOING TO DO THIS???" moment that everyone who's been a fan of this team for more than a month must have had, the Blues really were never in this game when it mattered. It was very encouraging to see Tyler Toffoli return to the scoreboard with two goals after a brief dry spell (though much of that can be excused by very limited minutes), and Jarrett Stoll potted his third goal of the season as well. He's played better with Williams & Brown than I first expected when that line was put together, but almost anyone will benefit from Justin 'Mr. Corsi' Williams' play, I guess. (recap) (grades & analysis)(gamethread)

Tuesday, December 3rd

-San Jose Sharks 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2: I would just like to take this opportunity to plug maybe the best Twitter account of all-time.

-Vancouver Canucks 3, Nashville Predators 1

-Phoenix Coyotes 6, Edmonton Oilers 2: It's always nice when you get to start your road trip off with a bye.

-Los Angeles Kings 3, Anaheim Ducks 2 (SO): This was a weird game in a lot of ways. For the most part, the Kings utterly dominated the Ducks, especially in terms of puck possession (you can see all the numbers down below in the #fancystats section of course, but the Kings controlled a staggering 72.3% of all shot attempts at 5v5, even better than their two-thirds performance against the Blues before score effects took over). However, that massive Corsi edge didn't translate to anything close to an equally massive scoring chance edge, as Nick had the Kings with just a 21-17 edge overall and a 12-11 edge at 5v5. This was one game where you really could yell "SHOT QUALITY!", I suppose, since the Ducks were opportunists and turned their very limited possession into some really quality chances (the Getzlaf line was especially great at this). With that said, Jonas Hiller was obviously a big key for the Ducks even getting a point in this game, stopping 49 of 51 (!) shots to keep his team in it. But it was Kings rookie goaltender Martin Jones, getting his first NHL start, who ultimately stole the spotlight with his perfect 9-for-9 performance in the shootout. To his credit, Hiller stayed with him the whole way, stopping the first 8 Kings shooters, before finally giving up a goal to Dwight King, of all people, that ended up being the shootout winner. So the Kings closed out what had looked like a very tough back-to-back with the Blues & Ducks by taking all four available points. Considering they were coming off maybe their most disappointing loss of the year to Calgary, that's a hell of a way to bounce back. Oh and screw Corey Perry, he's an ass. (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)

Wednesday, December 4th

-Calgary Flames 4, Phoenix Coyotes 1: Speaking of disappointing losses to the Calgary Flames....

Thursday, December 5th

-Pittsburgh Penguins 5, San Jose Sharks 1: The Sharks were undone in this one in a seven-minute stretch early in the 2nd, as they went from being tied 0-0 to down 4-0 just like that. Antti Niemi had a bad night in the crease, allowing 4 goals on just 27 shots, and Anton Stalock came in and allowed another goal on just 3 shots. This was perhaps the most score-effected game in recent memory, as the Penguins were ultimately outshot 45-30 but still cruised to a relatively easy win. The victory came on a rare night of Eastern Conference dominance over the West, as they won 4 of 5 games (with the lone West victory being a St. Louis home win over the hapless New York Islanders), which still barely even put a dent in the West's massive edge in inter-conference play, of course.

-Edmonton Oilers 8, Colorado Avalanche 2: The rebuild couldn't have gone in two more different directions for these two teams so far this season, even though Colorado's record has been the stuff of smoke & mirrors (a situation that's not exactly uncommon for them; remember 09-10, where they started off in a similarly unsustainable way, somehow managed to hold on for a playoff spot, and then got dispatched by the Sharks in 6 in the 1st round even after San Jose scored a goal on themselves to lose a game in overtime???). For one night at least, Oilers fans got a measure of comeuppance, and the Avalanche continued to slide backward. They fell out of a top three seed in the Central for the first time since basically the start of the season (though they do still have a rather staggering 4 games in hand on third place Minnesota), and now find themselves clinging to a Wild Card spot with Vancouver, with Phoenix only 3 points behind them. Given how insanely competitive the West is, I think they will be quite fortunate to cling to that playoff spot this time around, but we'll see.

Friday, December 6th

-Carolina Hurricanes 5, San Jose Sharks 3: While a loss to the East-leading Penguins isn't too surprising, I don't think anyone expected the Sharks to go just 1-2 on the Eastern swing of their 4-game road trip, given the quality of the club and the West's dominance of the East, but they did just that after dropping their second straight to the Hurricanes. The Canes were full marks for the win, actually outshooting a groggy-looking San Jose team 35-25, and the game was only as close as it was due to some substandard goaltending from the perennially overrated Cam Ward. But the third goal of the year from Carolina rookie Elias Lindholm broke a 2-2 tie with just 6 minutes to -play in the 3rd, and Eric Staal sealed it with an empty-netter to propel his team to victory.

-Anaheim Ducks 3, Chicago Blackhawks 2 (SO)

-Colorado Avalanche 3, Calgary Flames 2: Oh man they beat the Calgary Flames, take back everything I just said about the Avs sliding out of the playoffs you guys.

-Vancouver Canucks 3, Phoenix Coyotes 2 (OT): Because they are huge dicks, the Canucks couldn't just hang on to their 2-0 lead at home and avoid giving the Coyotes a point. They lead 2-0 with less than ten minutes to play in the 3rd, in fact, but then watched the Coyotes score 2 goals in a 2:21 span to tie the game, before an unassisted tally by Chris Higgins in overtime (nope, couldn't even go to a shootout) bailed them out somewhat. Still, not good for the Canucks to hand a team they're in an incredibly close race with for 4th in the Pacific & the second Wild Card spot a free point, especially given that the Coyotes still have three games in hand on them.

Saturday, December 7th

-Anaheim Ducks 5, St. Louis Blues 2: Here's a bit of an oddity for you: the Blues' overall record is a quite good 19-6-3, but 4 of their 6 regulation losses have come against the three California teams (2 to the Sharks, 1 each to the Kings & Ducks). They've yet to pick up even a single point against California competition. Now, of course, the three California teams are also occupying three of the top 5 spots in the NHL overall, so maybe that's not really too surprising. But still interesting given how good they've been against the rest of the league, no?

-Calgary Flames 2, Edmonton Oilers 1 (OT): So let me get this straight: the Oilers beat the Avalanche 8-2, the Avalanche then beat the Flames the next night 3-2, and then two days after that the Flames beat the Oilers 2-1 in OT. Okay, sure.

-Los Angeles Kings 3, New York Islanders 0: I'm sure I'm not the only one who figured out the Kings would find a way to lose this one; after all, taking 4 out of 4 points against the Blues & Ducks in back-to-back nights, having three days off afterwards, and then losing at home to the pitiful Islanders certainly sounds like something the LA Kings would do. But thankfully the Kings did much better with their garbage competition this Saturday than they did a week earlier, and after a bit of a slow start the Kings got a pretty goal from Anze Kopitar on a 1-on-1 play and then never really looked back. It was a weird game, because usually a team gets a lead and then ends up giving up more shot attempts and chances to their opposition as they attempt to hold on (there's even a term for it, you've probably heard of it unless you're part of the mainstream hockey media), but this game ended up going in the exact opposite way. As Nick laid out in his grades & analysis, the Kings actually went from slightly behind the Islanders in shot attempts up until that point to completely dominating it afterwards (16-15 Isles until the Kopi goal, 20-7 the rest of the way). As a result the Islanders finished with just 16 shots on goal, allowing surprise starter Martin Jones to cruise to an incredibly easy first NHL shutout. All the weirdness with Jones and the originally expected starter Ben Scrivens lead to an amazing post-game press conference with Darryl Sutter where he became so frustrated with the media's incessant questions about why Scrivens didn't get the start that he actually started interviewing himself. That man is, uh, something else, eh? (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)

Sunday, December 8th

-Minnesota Wild 3, San Jose Sharks 1

-Vancouver Canucks 3, Colorado Avalanche 1

This Week in Standings

Team GP W L OTL Points ROW GF GA Diff Home Away Last Week
1. Anaheim 32 20 7 5 45 18 101 84 +17 10-0-2 10-7-3 2-0-1
2. San Jose 30 19 6 5 43 16 101 75 +26 10-1-2 9-5-3 1-3-0
3. Los Angeles 30 19 7 4 42 14 79 62 +17 10-4-2 9-3-2 3-0-0
4. Vancouver 32 17 10 5 39 16 86 81 +5 7-5-3 10-5-2 3-0-0
5. Phoenix 29 16 8 5 37 12 94 93 +1 9-2-2 7-6-3 1-1-1
6. Calgary 29 11 14 4 26 9 78 98 -20 5-6-3 6-8-1 2-1-0
7. Edmonton 31 10 18 3 23 8 84 105 -21 4-9-1 6-9-2 1-1-1

After a quiet week last week, there were a couple of big moves this time around. At the top of the standings, the Ducks quickly took back the top spot in the Pacific with a very good 2-0-1 week. Of course, they were helped too by the Sharks having their worst week in quite a long time at 1-3-0, suddenly falling out of their habit of almost always picking up at least a point when they do lose. They've dropped three straight, but it's highly unlikely that streak will continue much longer given who their next opponent is (more on that later!). At any rate, returning home will also help, given their sterling home record. But they're starting to look a bit more vulnerable on the road, which is nice to see.

Our Kings remained in third despite having a perfect 3-0-0 week, because Pacific Division I guess. They are however only one point behind the Sharks now for 2nd, and the Sharks finally don't have any games in hand on them! The Kings are also three points back of the Ducks for the division's top spot, and do still have two games in hand on the Ducks (as do the Sharks, of course).

The Vancouver Canucks also had a perfect 3-0-0 week and finally overtook Phoenix for the 4th seed in the Pacific, and more importantly the 2nd Wild Card spot in the West. They're three points back of the Kings now for the 3rd seed, but like Anaheim the Kings do have those two games in hand on the Canucks as well, so the gap is perhaps a bit wider than it may first appear (of course, you have to win those games in hand and blah blah blah). The Coyotes didn't help their cause much with a middling 1-1-1 week, allowing the aforementioned Canuck coup. They have however played the fewest games of anyone in the division (well, tied with Calgary, but who cares how many games Calgary has played let's be real), and remain just 2 points back of Vancouver with 3 games in hand. But it's impossible not to notice how they've been sliding backwards of late (ironically while actually improving their shot differential and #fancystat problems, at least a little), and they really need to put something together soon, lest they be left in the dust by the top Pacific clubs.

At the bottom of the standings, Calgary built on that stunning win over the Kings last week to put together a good 2-1-0 week, giving them perhaps their first tiny bit of momentum in a long, long time. Of course, that still leaves them staring at an 11-point gap with Phoenix for fifth, but baby steps! Edmonton had a 1-1-1 week, which is, uh, pretty damn good for Edmonton, actually!

This Week in #fancystats

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

Kings 3, Blues 2

Corsi: Blues 47-Kings 44 (overall), Kings 41-Blues 37 (5v5, 47.1 mins), Kings 18-Blues 9 (5v5 close, 12.2 mins), Kings 13-Blues 4 (5v5 tied, 6.6 mins)
Fenwick: Blues 41-Kings 33 (overall), Kings 32-Blues 32 (5v5, 47.1 mins), Kings 16-Blues 6 (5v5 close, 12.2 mins), Kings 11-Blues 1 (5v5 tied, 6.6 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Regehr (+6), Toffoli (+5), Stoll/Willilams/Voynov (tied, +4). Worst: Kopitar (-3), Frattin/Martinez/Carter/Muzzin (tied, -2)

Kings 3, Ducks 2 (SO)

Corsi: Kings 103-Ducks 53 (overall), Kings 73-Ducks 28 (5v5, 45.5 mins), Kings 69-Ducks 28 (5v5 close, 42.0 mins), Kings 69-Ducks 26 (5v5 tied, 41.3 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 75-Ducks 40 (overall), Kings 55-Ducks 22 (5v5, 45.5 mins), Kings 51-Ducks 22 (5v5 close, 42.0 mins), Kings 51-Ducks 20 (5v5 tied, 41.3 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Carter (+26), King/Muzzin (tied, +25). Worst: Frattin (-1), Mitchell (+2), Clifford (+3)

Kings 3, Islanders 0

Corsi: Kings 51-Islanders 34 (overall), Kings 35-Islanders 23 (5v5, 41.1 mins), Kings 20-Islanders 17 (5v5 close, 27.0 mins), Islanders 16-Kings 15 (5v5 tied, 22.2 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 36-Islanders 24 (overall), Kings 23-Islanders 17 (5v5, 41.1 mins), Kings 13-Islanders 11 (5v5 close, 27.0 mins), Kings 12-Islanders 11 (5v5 tied, 22.2 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Mitchell (+11), Toffoli (+9), King/Martinez (tied, +7). Worst: Stoll (-1), Muzzin/Frattin/Brown (tied, even)

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 12/9 12/10 12/11 12/12 12/13 12/14 12/15
LA - @MTL (4:00) @TOR (4:30) - - @OTT (11 am) @CHI (4:00)
ANA vs.NYI (7:00) - vs.MIN (7:30) - - - vs.EDM (5:00)
SJ - vs.NYI (7:30) - vs.MIN (7:30) - @NSH (5:00) -
VAN vs.CAR (7:00) - - - vs.EDM (6:00) vs.BOS (7:00) -
PHX - @COL (6:00) - vs.NYI (6:00) - vs.CAR (5:00) -
CGY - vs.BOS (6:30) - vs.CAR (6:00) - @BUF (11 am) -
EDM - vs.CAR (6:30) - vs.BOS (6:30) @VAN (6:00) - @ANA (5:00)

The Kings embark on a four-game road trip tomorrow, and it won't be an easy one despite having three games against the East. They'll play it on two sets of back-to-backs, meaning they'll have a stretch of 4 games in 6 nights, and start out with one of the hottest teams in the NHL. The Habs are currently riding high on a 5-game winning streak and are 9-0-1 in their last 10, and though underlying numbers say they likely can't keep it up for much longer, there's of course no guarantee it has to end on Tuesday night against LA, either. The next night they'll play Toronto (so you have a good reason to follow that Twitter account I linked to earlier!), and here's hoping we get to see the Scrivens vs. Bernier showdown I think everyone is secretly hoping for (knowing Sutter though, I bet he plays Scrivens against the Habs and then Jones the next night in Toronto just to make everyone sad). After a couple days off, the Kings are in Ottawa against a struggling Sens team (enjoy watching that one at 11 am, Californians!), and then finish things off with a Western Conference Final rematch against the Blackhawks on Sunday. The defending champs have come back down to earth a little bit of late after yet another incredibly hot start to the season, but that's still an awfully dangerous team to be playing as your fourth game in six nights, so it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Kings get killed in that one.

The Ducks, on the other hand, have almost an amazingly easy schedule: three games, all at home, and with only the competitive Wild sandwiched between the hapless Oilers and the winless-in-nine-straight Islanders. You'd have to think the Ducks might be padding their Pacific lead big-time with a schedule as soft as that one, but the last time I thought they would coast they lost to such luminaries as the Florida Panthers, so who really knows. The Sharks' schedule is only marginally tougher, as they also get their turn to probably throttle the Islanders at home, followed by hosting that same Minnesota team. They then begin a 3-game road trip on Saturday in Nashville, that concludes next week with visits to St. Louis and Los Angeles.

The Canucks will conclude yet another 5-game homestand with three games, and unlike their last two homestands (which were pretty much disasters), this one is off to a fine start, as they're 2-0-0 already. They've got a suddenly hot Carolina team that they beat fairly recently back on the east coast, the Oilers, and then finally a 2011 Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Bruins to wrap things up on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Coyotes are in Colorado tomorrow night before coming home to host the Islanders and Hurricanes. Not exactly murderer's row there, either.

Over in Alberta, the Flames will have Jarome Iginla and the Bruins in town tomorrow, and then host the Hurricanes as well on Thursday. They'll then kick off a 5-game Eastern Conference road trip that will probably see the East put a few more wins on that inter-conference record, but it does start in Buffalo, so maybe that's one more win for the West? I dunno, whatever, I'm sure you won't be watching that game anyway. Hey, here's a weird fact for you: there's only two Pacific-on-Pacific matchups in the entire division this coming week, and they both involve the Edmonton Oilers, of all teams. Yep. The Oilers will host Carolina and Boston before heading off to Vancouver on Friday and then Anaheim on Sunday. Thrilling stuff.

So that's another week in the Pacific in the books. As always, see you next week.