The Battle of California.
Defending champion Los Angeles Kings vs. perennial power house San Jose Sharks.
Three games into this epic series, none of the above are the main headlines. Instead, it is the officials who are throwing a money wrench into what should be a great series between two strong teams who have hated each other since the early 1990's.
After the Kings shut down the Sharks in game one, whistles took over for talent at the end of game two and also game three.
If the officials missed the delay of game call on Marc-Edouard Vlasic, then so be it. Perhaps the puck glanced off the shoulder of Jeff Carter and went out. Still, it was tough for any of the four stripes to see clearly, yet probably should have been ruled a deflection.
In the end, the Kings had to score twice to win the game.
On to game three, with Robyn Regehr being caught flat footed and hooked the heck out of Tommy Wingles in front of the net, who would have gotten a clean shot if he could have gotten a stick on a great pass from behind the Kings' net.
But the controversy returned just moments later, when Trevor Lewis dug out a loose puck along the boards on the initial penalty kill and led a two on one attack the other way with Mike Richards. Lewis had a step or two on Patrick Marleau, but instead of shooting the puck, he elected to pass across to Richards. After looking at the video, Marleau did not seem to do anything wrong, and if he pushed Lewis into Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, then it was a real minor shove. I did not see anything that looked like a push or shove from Marleau.
After last season's playoff run, it was the Canucks yapping about things, and then the Coyotes calling out the Kings before the series started. The Kings never said a word and just kept playing hard and finding ways to win.
The Kings are also a very smart team, who rarely jeopardize themselves. Like Dustin Penner said, Trevor Lewis is a smart player, who most likely would not do something to put his team in a bad spot. I think that when Lewis decided to pass instead of shoot put himself in a bad spot. Perhaps if he shoots, he gets a call on Marleau somehow. Drawing Richards in for a shot, then running into the goalie helped make the call stand.
Still, all of this crap started with the officials making calls late in games that are borderline, which in the playoffs, should not be a factor. Whatever happened to the unwritten rule for so many years and decades of the refs keeping their whistles in their back pockets and let the boys play it out? That sure has not been the case so far in this series. And the NHL should be ashamed for allowing two wrongs make a right.
According to coach Darryl Sutter, the last game, the Sharks were saying the Kings got the break, well not they got theirs...
Now let the boys play hockey.
Now about the Kings...this team needs to step it up in every way. Something must be wrong with Kopitar, and the puck to the mouth in game two did not help matters. One goal in over two months is just not going to get the job done.
Robyn Regehr is not Matt Greene or Willie Mitchell. Alec Martinez has played poorly most of the season, and looks a step slow. Perhaps he too has not fully recovered or has felt well since breaking his jaw overseas during the stupid lockout.
And lastly, the Kings are depending way too much on Jonathan Quick. Quick was great in the playoffs last year, but the team played so well in front of him, he did not have to come up with many of the spectacular saves he has had to come with thus far against the Blues and Sharks.
At the moment, I don't think this team is hungry enough to repeat as Stanley Cup champs, nor do I think they are all feeling that well after a very physical series against St. Louis. Losing Jarret Stoll due to another dangerous hit from Raffi Torres, who again tries to hurt players in playoff games also hurts the Kings face off numbers.
And shame on you Doug Wilson, for opening your fat trap after a tough call against your team in game two. You still got exactly what you wanted, and a gift five-on-three in OT last night. Seeing you jump for joy and cheer like a little girl who just got her first diamond necklace after Logan Couture scored on the make-up power play was sickening. And it is your own gosh darn fault for signing a classless player like Torres who earned that ridiculous suspension after taking a run at Marian Hossa during their first round series. You signed him, and you obviously thought a guy like that would not be a repeat offender? You truly are a moron!
So, thanks to Doug Wilson's mouth, this series has become a game of give and take with the officials, and has cost the defending champion a game. But perhaps the anger of the Kings will carry over onto the ice on Tuesday and see the true championship form on display once again.