Kings Earn Shootout Victory in Battle with Avalanche
Happy Holidays to all you Kings (and hockey) fans out there!
In a rare afternoon matinee at Staples Center, fans in Los Angeles were treated to a very well-played, hard-fought game between the rising Colorado Avalanche and the experienced Kings.
Martin Jones once again came up big a few times as the black and silver built a 2-0 lead on a late first period goal by Jeff Carter as the Kings crashed the net in the waning seconds. Justin Williams made it 2-0 with an excellent hand-eye coordination effort as Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov had the initial shot in his glove bounce up and Williams knocked the puck into the net out of the air as it danced just inches above the catcher.
The rest of the game ended up a struggle, as the Kings simply could not find that third goal that would have put the Avs away for good. Williams again had a chance in front after tipping a shot in from the point, but his rebound chance sailed up splitting the crease and caught the opposite side post and out.
Jarret Stoll ended up taking yet another penalty and the Avalanche executed a pretty passing play, as Erik Johnson beat Jones on a cross ice pass. Matt Greene was the only man left down low on the kill and was caught like a chicken with its head caught off, allowing the pass from one side get through clean to Johnson. When Greene is with the puck in front of his net, he makes me cringe similar to when Carl Gunnarsson of the Maple Leafs each and every time he is on the ice. Greene just seems to me as one of the few weak links on the Kings.
In the third period, the Avalanche eventually tied the game on another power play. This time, it was Mike Richards who was sent off for a delay of game covering the puck. Still, it was Richards who was hit from behind against the boards and hauled down by the Colorado player resulting in the ensuing play.
The first two periods of this game were well played by both teams. The officiating was also pretty solid as well. But in the third period, the officials somehow got off of their game.
The penalty to Richards allowed the Avs to get even, but the rest of the third period was filled with missed calls in which the Kings should have been given a few more opportunities with the man advantage as well, but unfortunately those chances were missed.
Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis were interfered with at the Colorado blue line twice, each play ignored by the refs. And as the Kings were buzzing around Varlamov, the Avs mercifully iced the puck on two separate occasions and got away with them both. The most obvious missed call came early in the overtime session when Jake Muzzin took a pass into the zone along the boards, was held back and hauled down by Colorado's Paul Stastny. Much to the chagrin of the fans and the Kings announcers, that play was also ignored by the refs and play continued. If Muzzin had gotten by, he could have been in on a two on one play which could have ended the game. Penalties in overtime really should not be called unless it is a blatant infraction that impedes a possible scoring chance or a "sure thing goal" if there is such a play. In this case, it was a play that could have led to a quality scoring chance, so an unfortunate break in favor of the Avalanche.
The game then went to a shootout, in which Anze Kopitar scored the only goal on a laser wrist shot high past the glove of Varlamov and Jones stopped all three Colorado shooters to give the Kings all six points in the standings so far on the four game homestand with one left to play Monday evening against the Dallas Stars. Winning the shootout perhaps served as a bit of justice after the amount of injustice the Kings received from the officials after the second period.
This Colorado team is a strong club with an even stronger man behind the bench in Patrick Roy, who always had the Kings number as a player, and still may have something special up his sleeve as a coach against them as well. Roy called a very late timeout at the end of regulation as the Kings had cleanly won a face off. It didn't matter much since the puck was won so cleanly, it slid down back into the Kings zone. However, I had never seen a timeout called that late as play is about to resume. Somehow, Roy was able to get the timeout as well as his young team was able to get away with several violations as the game winded down in the third period.
Still, the Colorado Avalanche are playing very sound hockey and responsible hockey. They play even better without the puck, and I am sure coaching has a lot to do with that as well as the confidence that seems to be flowing for the rest of the team. If this season's Jack Adams award is still up for grabs, it won't be long. If the Avs make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference after some ugly seasons in Denver rebuilding, then without a doubt Roy fills that void.
With Jonathan Quick on the mend in the next two to three weeks or so, it is going to be very tough for the Kings to send down Martin Jones. Since being thrown into action, Jones has put up numbers that even a Playstation video hockey game goaltenders cannot match, however some come close! Jones' play and even Scrivens for that matter will put some pressure on Quick to perform up to his standards even more so than in the past. If Quick struggles, then the Kings should perhaps look to give Jones more opportunities. This is why I hate really long-term contracts. Quick helped the Kings build into a strong defensive club and win the Stanley Cup. Jones is a 23 year-old kid who seems to be unbeatable at the moment and has so much upside. Tough decision. Glad I am not the one who will be telling the youngster he will need to pack his bags and head back to Manchester. So, you're unbeaten in eight games including a pair of shootouts with a goal average under 1 and a save percentage at nearly 97%...sorry. We will see you down the road!
But that's life.
And for Quick, that is the same deal. Play well, help the team win. Otherwise, on the shelf. Thanks for the Cup season and the Conn Smythe trophy for us...
In my opinion, the team must keep playing the hot hand. Let the goaltending battle begin!