Thursday, April 29, 2010

2009-10 Season Review: Goaltending

This will be the first-installment of my Season In Review.  My thoughts on each player's 2009-10 season and what to expect in 2010-11 from them.  I've also included my Fantasy Projections for fun.  In honor of Dean Lombardi; we'll start from the net out. 

The Kings goaltending this year was great at times and terrible at others. And when I say Kings goaltending; I really mean Jonathan Quick. Terry Murray admitted to possibly playing Quick too much to secure a high-seed in the playoffs. That decision hurt the Kings more than it helped them down the stretch and ultimately cost them in the playoffs.  

Read the rest after the jump...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Drew Doughty Even More Awesome

Drew Doughty was the Kings best player during the regular season and the playoffs.  He led all defenseman in scoring in the first-round. It's unfortunate that Norris Trophy voting took place before the opening round because he outplayed both of his competitors for the award: Duncan Keith and Mike Green.  And it sounds like Doughty was playing hurt.
"Doughty has been nursing quite a few injuries, actually. The biggest problem that he has right now, probably, is the sprained thumb, sprained wrist."
Sprained thumb? No Big.  Sprained wrist?  No worries.  He's a gamer.  Check him out yappin during Game Three...
"Keep yappin' buddy, keep yappin'. I got all day. Come down my way, come down my way. Come down here. I'll f''n hipcheck the (stuff) out of you."

Canada loves Drew Doughty too.  Check out his Inside Hockey profile on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada that aired during Game Two.  Another reason why Canada's coverage is superior to anything we get here; sorry Heidi. 

My Therapy...


Now that the season has ended so abruptly; blogging has become my way of dealing with the disappointment of losing Game One by inches, a blowout loss in Game Five and losing twice in the same series on home-ice when leading after two-periods.

The blog posts should come fast and furious for the next couple week so check back often.

Terry Murray = FAIL


“Maybe (I) played (Quick) a little too much down the last month. But at that point, I had already made a commitment to him, and maybe had backed away, a little too far, from Ersberg being able to jump in and get some rhythm to his game and give us those solid games that would have spelled relief for Quick. And I thought about that, long before we got to the end of the year."
MAYBE you played Quick too much?  MAYBE you backed too far away from Ersberg?  The season's over now.  Let's be real here.  Stats don't lie.  Read my take after the jump...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The RFA's...


The Kings have three RFA's that they have to decide what to do with.  Helene Elliot might actually give Parse and Clune a chance.  Read her comments and my thoughts on the Kings Three RFAs after the jump...

Helene Elliot Says Her Goodbyes


Let the speculation begin.  The Kings have nine free-agents going into the summer.  Six UFA's.  Three RFA's.  If it were up to Helene Elliot; she wouldn't want any of them back.  You can see what she says and what I think about the Six UFA's after the jump....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Not Much To Say

The season is over.  Inches away from a 2-0 sweep in Vancouver.  A period away from a 3-1 series lead.  Yet, the Kings are done in six games.

 The biggest reasons why the Vancouver Canucks are moving on to the next round: Roberto Luongo at one end and the Sedin twins at the other.
From the third period of Game 4 on, the Sedins were the dominant line in this series.  The pace of the game in the third period, the Kings could not keep up with the Sedins.
Let's be real here.  The Sedins were good but it was Bobby Lu who made the big saves when his team needed them.  His stacking of the pads on Frolov's breakaway in the third period of Game Four was a turning point of the series.  His glove save of Ryan Smyth in period two of Game Six was unfair.  He was truly The Captain.  

On the other end, Jonathan Quick did what I was afraid he might do.  The Kings rode Quicker into the ground and our playoff fate was sealed before the postseason even began.

On the bright side...

Who would've thought the Kings were a 100-point team going into this season.

Hey, let's be serious here. The sky's the limit for this Kings team. Led by 20-year-old Norris Trophy nominee Drew Doughty, this club is on its way to being a powerhouse, and the Canucks had better take care of business this season before it's too late. They may not beat this Kings club next time around.
The Kings will be back and be better for it. For the Canucks, the moment is at hand. This team was built to win now. Step 1 is complete.
The Kings and Canucks are two teams at different stages.  The Canucks time is now.  The Kings made their first playoff appearance in eight years.  They took a Canucks team that many picked to win the Conference to six games.  No shame in that.

Kings have some questions going into the off-season.  I'll do my best to answer them for Dean Lombardi.  Check back soon. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

NHL Confirms: Doughty Is Awesome

Vote For Doughty
 
I compiled all the love that came pouring down on Doughty after the Kings trip to Toronto earlier this year.

I'd expect a whole lot more to be coming real soon after it was announced that Doughty will be one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy along with Chicago's Duncan Keith and Washington's Mike Green.

If I had to handicap it; I would say Doughty's Olympic D-partner Keith is still the favorite.  But keep in mind that Keith plays with Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell.  While Drew has to deal with the stone hands of Rob Scuderi and Sean O'Donnell.

Either way, great accomplishment and I hope the NHL writers realize how much he's meant to the team this year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To Kick Or Not To Kick...



Check out CBC's Hockey Night In Canada panel discuss whether or not Henrik Sedin's 3rd Period goal should have counted.  Mike Murphy comes on in the final two minutes to explain what he saw.

Leave it to Kelly Hrudey to defend the call...haha

I thought the Kings got a huge break with the call and won the game.

Bring on Game Four!

Am I Psychic?

When I previewed the series, I pointed out three keys: Special Teams, Matchups and Injuries.

And through the first three games ; special teams and matchups have absolutely dominated the series.
If the Kings can stay out of the box; it'll greatly improve their chances of pulling the upset.
OK.  So the penalty calls have actually been even whether Canucks fans want to admit it or not.  The Canucks have actually been on the PK twelve times while the Kings have been shorthanded eleven times.  The Canucks can't kill a penalty to save their lives right now.  The Kings are 7-for-12 (58.3%) on the man-advantage.
Mitchell and Johnson are defensive-minded agitators that win games.  Mitchell, Vancouver's lone shutdown defenseman will be missed against the Kings depth up-front.  Johnson may be Vancouver's most valuable penalty-killers.
The injuries to forward Ryan Johnson and defenseman Willie Mitchell have affected the penalty kill more than most anticipated.  Both players are extremely valuable pieces to Vancouver's PK and defense because of their willingness to sacrifice their bodies to make a play.  In the 2009 NHL playoffs, Johnson led the Canucks with 19 blocked shots in 10 games; Mitchell was 3rd with 15 blocked shots.

If you think I'm overplaying this blocked shots thing a bit much.  Here's one more stat for you.  In Game Three, Jonathan Quick made 25 saves; Kings skaters blocked an additional 28 shot attempts.
Coach Alain Vigneault will ride his top-four hard.  Sami Salo, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa all see over 20 minutes of ice-time.
Each Canucks defenseman has seen their ice-time increase nearly five minutes.  The Canucks depleted blueline has been forced to make adjustments all series.  Andrew Alberts, their sixth defenseman managed to rack up 23 PIM's in just over eight minutes of ice time through the first two games of the series.  He wasn't in the lineup for Game Three.

The Kings big-bodies have matched up well with the Canucks.  The size of Handzus, Modin, Kopitar and Simmonds have given the Canucks defense trouble in the series thus far.  The Kings have done a decent job of neutralizing Vancouver's speed and Jonathan Quick has made the saves he's needed to make to give his team a chance to win.

I think the Kings take Game Four and still see them winning in six games.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

(6) Kings v. (3) Canucks Series Preview

Simmer Is A Key To Victory
 
The Kings will take the series in six games.  And here's why...

Both teams are more similar than any fan north of the border would ever be willing to admit.
Both teams' forwards have great depth.  Both teams' defense have deficiencies.  Both teams' starting goaltenders have huge question marks entering the series.

Neither teams' penalty kill has been very good this season while both teams' power play has been superb.  I could give you all the numbers but Hammer's taken care of it already.

So how do they stack up...

FORWARDS: Advantage- Canucks

CANUCKS: The Canucks possess alot of depth in their forward core; led by Art Ross Award winner Henrik Sedin, who led the NHL in scoring with 112 points.  Henrik and his twin brother Daniel pose the biggest offensive threat to the Kings.  Vancouver's first-line of the Sedins and Alexander Burrows combined for 93 goals this season.  But the Canucks are much deeper than their first-line; the Canucks have one of the deepest top-nine's in the league.  Their second-line of Pavol Demitra, Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson could easily be the top-line for many NHL teams.  The Canucks boast six 25-goal scorers this season.  The team netted a 268 goals during the regular season, second only to the Washington Capitals.

With all the scoring in the Canucks top-nine; they lack a true shutdown checking line.  Although, with players like Kesler and Burrows they've got plenty of grinders to matchup with.

KINGS: The Kings forward core relies on their depth.  The first line of Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams has been outstanding.  They've struggled a bit to find their stride since Williams returned from his broken leg but it's still by far their most productive line.  The Kings will need to rely on secondary scoring to win games: Brown, Frolov and Stoll are all capable of chipping in.  L.A. has four 20 goal scorers of their own; and six 15 goal scorers.

The Kings have a true checking line that every team needs come playoff time.  The Michal Handzus-Wayne Simmonds-Brad Richardson line will be extremely valuable in this series matching up against the Sedins.  The Kings forwards are a more physical group and will need to slowdown Vancouver's quick forwards.

DEFENSE: Advantage- Kings

CANUCKS: With injuries to Willie Mitchell, Sami Salo, Aaron Rome and Shane O'Brien; the Canucks blueline is hurting.  Only Mitchell is expected to miss significant time.  Coach Alain Vigneault will ride his top-four hard.  Sami Salo, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa all see over 20 minutes of ice-time.  While the Canucks don't have a game-breaker on the backend like Drew Doughty; all four of their top defenseman are capable of chipping in on the offensive-end.  The Canucks O'Brien and Andrew Alberts round out their defense and those two are who the Kings will look to attack. 

The loss of Willie Mitchell may be more important to this series than anything else.  Mitchell was the Canucks one true shutdown warrior-type defenseman.  He averaged 27, 25 and 22 minutes in the Canucks three victories over the Kings before their fourth and final matchup.  And we all know what happened then.

KINGS: Drew Doughty is a Norris Trophy candidate this year.  And after his performance in the Olympics; everyone knows what this 20-year old is capable of.  He's got enough gamebreaker potential to give the Kings the advantage.  Jack Johnson has been playing some of his best hockey of the season.  With shutdown d-men Sean O'Donnell and Rob Scuderi; the Kings defense is solid.  Matt Greene has been a warrior all season long.  Look for Greener to set the tone early.  The Kings may have just enough toughness and foot speed on their backend to slow down Vancouver's potent offensive attack.

GOALTENDING: Advantage- Canucks

CANUCKS: Roberto Luongo hasn't been good this season.  His GAA and SV% have are the lowest they've been since 2006, his final season in Florida.  He's been very pedestrian in March and April.  Many blame it on the Olympics but let's be real.  Luongo wasn't very good for Canada either.  His average performance was more than enough for Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash.  

The loss of defenseman Willie Mitchell and forward Ryan Johnson will hurt Bobby Lu.  Both players combined to block 164 shots this season even with Mitchell missing in action since January.  If Luongo can find his game; it'll be a short series for Los Angeles but Luongo's shown little reason to believe he'll find it soon.

KINGS: Jonathan Quick.  What is there to say that hasn't already been said.  He was searching for that elusive 40th win for what seemed like three weeks.  Quick has struggled in the final two months of the season very similar to Luongo.  

While Quick has set franchise records for games played and wins his statistics are very average.  His .907 SV% and 2.54 GAA are good for 26th and 14th in the league.  This gives the Kings hope; if Quick can make the saves he's supposed to make.  The Kings have a chance of pulling an upset here.  He doesn't have to be great just average will get the job done.  Similar to the Chris Osgood days in Detroit.  Average is good enough Big John.  Average will do.

Here's what Puck Prospectus has to say about the goaltender matchup
Though many fans remember Roberto Luongo's spectacular meltdowns of five and seven goals against in Game 2 and Game 6 of last year's Chicago series, they tend to forget that Bobby Lu gave up only 14 goals combined in his eight other postseason games. Perennially underrated for a great netminder, Luongo gives the Canucks an excellent chance to make some noise in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles has ridden Jonathan Quick hard. In fact, the 24-year-old faced nearly as many shots as Martin Brodeur, which is saying something. It was a puzzling strategy, as the Kings had highly touted Jonathan Bernier idling in the minors for most of the season. Were Quick a year younger, we'd peg him for a horrendous .864 save percentage in the upcoming playoffs due to that workload. Now that's cold.

THREE KEYS TO VICTORY FOR THE KINGS

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Kings and Canucks Powerplays rank sixth and seventh in the NHL.  The Kings can't afford to put Vancouver on the man-advantage.  Both teams penalty kill is below-average; the Kings rank 20th (80.3%) and the Canucks rank 18th (81.6%).  If the Kings can stay out of the box; it'll greatly improve their chances of pulling the upset.

MATCHUPS: Both teams create alot of their offense off the cycle.  The Sedins love to play give-and-go along the boards.  It'll be up to Simmer and Zeus to limit their movement along the boards.  Doughty and Scuderi will be relied on heavily to stop their forwards from entering the zone with speed and slowing them down in the neutral zone.  The Kings cycle is also a huge weapon offensively.  The Kings ability to possess the puck along the boards will be extremely valuable against the less-physical Vancouver defenders.

INJURIES: At this point of the season, every team is dealing with injuries.  The Kings are healthy but the Canucks are missing two key players: Defenseman Willie Mitchell and Ryan Johnson.  For a team to be successful, a team needs all 18 skaters to be contributing in their own way.  Mitchell and Johnson are defensive-minded agitators that win games.  Mitchell, Vancouver's lone shutdown defenseman will be missed against the Kings depth up-front.  Johnson may be Vancouver's most valuable penalty-killers.  Neither of them will be available this series.

CLOSING STATEMENT: Yes, alot of the Kings roster has never been here before but nearly have our roster has been.  The matchup of Luongo vs. Quick is being over-hyped.  It'll come down to which team's better defensively.  While the Canucks have alot of players who can score, the Kings checking line will prove to be the difference.  Southern California hockey fans should remember how valuable the Niedermayer-Pahlsson-Moen line was for Anaheim during their 2007 Stanley Cup run.

Playoff hockey isn't about scoring goals but preventing them.  The Kings forwards are better defensively and the Kings blueline is stronger.  Quick will need to find his game and I think he does just enough to win the series.  KINGS IN SIX.

Don't believe me...here's Puck Prospectus insight on the series.
Los Angeles Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks
Historical chance of an upset: 35 percent
Closest equivalent:
The 1992-93 Canadiens, who upset the Quebec Nordiques 4-2 with a weaker power play than Los Angeles.
The Kings are a little bit above average both offensively and defensively, which is a good sign for pulling off the upset. They have a terrific power play, but their penalty killing is just a touch below average. In Vancouver, they're facing a strong offensive team that's almost as good defensively, with a power play certainly potent enough to reduce the chances of an upset.
In the 10 closest historical matches to this series, only twice was there an upset: once by the aforementioned 1992-93 Canadiens, and the next season by the Canucks over the Calgary Flames. The good news for the Kings is that both those teams went on to the Stanley Cup. While it doesn't appear that Los Angeles has a better chance of an upset than anyone else, there's at least some precedent that the Kings could go deep if they do pull it off.

Playoff Predictions: Western Conference



No Player's Facing More Pressure Than Nabokov In San Jose

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Here's how I predicted the West at the start of the yearI only got five out of the eight playoff teams.  And only got one matchup.



(1) San Jose Sharks v. (8) Colorado Avalanche

Yes, the Sharks could find themselves upset again in the first-round but I think they take care of business this year.  The Avs are a good young team with surprising depth but San Jose is too loaded at every position.  The Sharks advantage in high-end talent will come up big in the end.  San Jose may struggle a bit but their talent will win out over the feisty Avs.  SHARKS IN SEVEN.

(2) Chicago Blackhawks v. (7) Nashville Predators

I've never believed in the Preds even when they had Peter Forsberg a few seasons ago.  I'm not going to start now.  I respect what Barry Trotz does every year getting his Preds into the postseason but this won't be the season they get out of the first round.  Chicago's goaltending is a huge unknown but their team makeup even without Brian Campbell is among the best in the league.  Nashville could make it interesting but I see Chicago taking the series easily.  BLACKHAWKS IN FIVE.

(3) Vancouver Canucks v. (6) Los Angeles Kings

KINGS IN SIX.  Over-analysis to come.

(4) Phoenix Coyotes v. (5) Detroit Red Wings

The Coyotes 2010 season has been amazing and something to be celebrated but let's be real.  The Red Wings are finally healthy and hitting on all cylinders.  Jimmy Howard is a huge question mark but he should be able to provide the average-goaltending Detroit needs to get past the Coyotes in the first-round.  Chris Osgood was never asked to steal a series and Howard won't be asked to do it here.  Make the saves he's supposed to and the Wings win this series easily.  RED WINGS IN FIVE.

Playoff Predictions: Eastern Conference


Ovechkin & The Caps should have their way vs. the Habs


EASTERN CONFERENCE

I predicted six out of the eight playoff teams in the East.  Unfortunately, none of them in their correct seeds.  Although, I did predict a Flyers/Devils first-round matchup.

(1) Washington Capitals v. (8) Montreal Canadians

The Caps are on a mission.  Washington's wide-open style actually works to Montreal's advantage but Halak will have to steal this series.  Ovechkin and Co. will be too much for the Habs.  CAPITALS IN FIVE.

(2) New Jersey Devils v. (7) Philadelphia Flyers

There's something to be said about a team earning their playoff birth on the last day of the regular season in a shootout.  The Flyers may have a bit of momentum on their side going into this series.  Both team's have a great group of forwards but the Flyers defense is superior with Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timmonen.  The Devils have the advantage in net with Martin Brodeur looking to avenge his embarrassing performance in last year's postseason.  And as they always say, goaltending wins series.  DEVILS IN SIX.

(3) Buffalo Sabres v. (6) Boston Bruins

The Bruins are short-handed playing without their number one center Marc Savard.  The Bruins are led by Vezina favorite and Olympic hero Ryan Miller.  Rookie Tuukka Rask has been equally good for Boston who has struggled to score this season after the departure of leading-goal scorer Phil Kessel.  Watching two giants on the blueline for each team should be fun to watch; as the Bruins' 6'9 Zdeno Chara goes up against the Sabres' 6'8 Tyler Myers.  Either way, Ryan Miller won't let Buffalo lose this series.  SABRES IN FIVE.

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins v. (5) Ottawa Senators

Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled to find consistency all year but the Penguins are just too deep.  With Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar healthy; the Penguins attack is too strong for the Senators short-handed blueline in a seven-game series.  The Pens will take this series easily.  PENGUINS IN FIVE.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sorry!

To my handful of visitors out there in cyberspace...

Sorry for not blogging lately.  I've been working on trying to get all my Kings photos in one spot.  And I can proudly say I've done it.  I uploaded them all to Shutterfly for your viewing pleasure. 


It's been a roller coaster ride for the Kings but bottom line...

Kings are in the playoffs.  BACK IN BLACK.

I plan on getting back on the blogging once all the playoff matchups are set this weekend.  So please comeback for that.

Let's GO KINGS!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Thank You & You're Welcome!


Eight Goals?!  I'm speechless!

The Kings came to play.  Henrik Sedin was lost without his twin brah.  And the Kings capitalized on their chances with a little help from Bobby Lu. Jonathan Bernier played well enough for the victory (although the two goals shortside were  a bit disappointing).

Roberto Luongo was bad.  In his defence, he was probably five goals bad.  Not eight.  A few pucks actually bounced the Kings way and they took advantage overwhelming the Canucks.

Dustin Brown fed off all the support and love I gave him in my last blog post; Netting his second career hat trick; capping off a four point night for the Kings captain.

And the Kings 5-on-3 PP!  Did anyone see how they set it up?  No more UMBRELLA!  Overload.  Overload!  Overload! 

I saw good movement and some nice backdoor chances created.  Didn't score but it looked alot better than before.  I'm pretty sure Terry Murray and Jamie Kompon are loyal readers.  So you're welcome, guys!

Since Calgary beat the Avs tonight.  They're now tied in points.  The Kings CANNOT clinch versus the Ducks.  Hammer has the breakdown.

Can Yooooou DIG it?!

Here's a few shots I took of the Canucks warming up.  I tried to rush over to snap some shots of Bernier but it was too late.  Oh well.  Next season!