Kessel Finally Lights the Lamp with Game Winner; Kings Throw in Towel
Maple Leafs 3 @ Winnipeg Jets 2; Kings 0 @ Nashville Predators 3
While the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the midst of a huge come from behind victory tonight in Manitoba, the defending champion Los Angeles Kings were pretty much throwing up the white flag after two periods of play in the Music City.
While the Kings mustered a grand total of 32 shots on Pekka Rinne, most if not all of those shots Rinne could have stopped in his God blessed sleep.
Now, LA fans can recall the relentless pressure from the Kings throughout the playoffs last spring. The team would bend at times, but never break. The boys wearing the crown shield, showing no mercy...
Where in the name of God has that gone? This team quit tonight in the third period. Even with a pair of power play opportunities, the offense could not generate any sustained pressure in the Nashville zone.
I will however, give some credit to the Predators, who played their game well all night, blocking shots and frustrating teams all over the ice from getting anything going. But tonight, the effort from the Kings was pathetic. LA is supposed to be the defending champs, putting constant pressure on opposing players and creating havoc all through the four lines dressed on ice. When Nashville did make a mistake, the Kings had their thumbs up their rear ends. For example, a poor Predator line change in the second period, in which Drew Doughty actually read well and threw the puck up ice to an open wingman Jarret Stoll. All the Kings could do was throw a weak wrist shot into the chest of Rinne.
God bless this team for finally putting everything together last spring, but this is getting worse instead of better. Right now, this group who achieved greatness not months ago, looks like they'd rather be golfing, or spending their last moments with the Stanley Cup. One of those things will be happened for sure soon if they don't get their act together, and the other they'll not see for a very long time.
I am very disappointed with the Kings so far this short season. Perhaps it is better for them to get their butts handed to them from now through April. Then they can come back in October, ticked off and ready to rock and roll again. After two sub par seasons in Chicago, that's what seems to be the case with them right now. Talk about showing no mercy! Lightning up Mike Smith and the Coyotes on their home ice for four unanswered goals in the opening period. There is no reason why the Kings couldn't do that to someone. Maybe Columbus at home next Friday? Thank God the Kings were able to play them this week!
Seriously, I really do not feel like staying up late during the week to catch the Kings game in LA for a 1-1 barnburner. Imagine just how hard it is sometimes being a teacher trying to stay up late during the week. 10:30 pm is my bed time man! Yet, watching the Kings over the years has become my version of Nyquil. Even last season, and the one before, when the team just could not score and get anything going. It always seemed as if the Kings were hoping and praying that Jonathan Quick would save them in the shootout.
And since coach Sutter won't even bother to give Jonathan Bernier a chance to give Quick a night off, they might as well trade him right now. This is even more ridiculous than the poor play from the team overall. Quick really does need a rest at some point. Either he finally does, or he'll get hurt. And if he gets injured, then let that entirely lay on the shoulders of Darryl Sutter.
Now to the good news tonight, with the young and energetic Maple Leafs finding a way to fight back and earn another huge win on the road. I wish they can play with that killer instinct at the Air Canada Centre most of the time.
I thought both the Leafs and Jets did a pretty darn good job controlling the puck in their own zone throughout the game tonight. Neither goaltender was really challenged until Pavelec faced some quality rubber near the end..
Both teams were able to strike their first tallies on rare shorthanded chances. Winnipeg took advantage of another poorly managed Toronto power play, that somehow got bunched up on the high slot allowing for the Jets to break the other way scoring on a 2-on-1 chance.
Tyler Bozak quickly returned the favor moments later, poke-checking a puck away from a Jet on the point, heading the other way and beating Ondrej Pavelec high glove side on an outstanding individual effort.
Andrew Ladd's tip-in from a slapper from Grant Clitsome at the point was a thing of beauty, similar to the goals scored in my NHL 2k3 game (which I still play and I still think it is the best hockey game ever made!). And although the Leafs kept pushing, it seemed for a while as if that great play would stand as the difference maker.
Finally, the hard work paid off once again for Toronto, as Nazem Kadri's initial attempt was blocked from the high slot, but Kadri did not give up on the play and won a loose puck along the boards throwing it around to Cody Franson on the far point. Franson then blasted a shot towards Pavelec, but like an eagle sweeping in for the kill came Matt Frattin, who masterfully got the blade of his stick on the shot and deflected it past Pavelec to even the score.
Don't stop there boys! After former Maple Leaf cast-off Alex Ponikarovsky got called for hauling down a Leaf, the camera then cut directly to Phil Kessel just before the face off. And before the Leafs TV commentators could overall dictate my words..."baby what a time for Mr. 81 to notch his first tally of the season!"
My prayers, and Phil's and all of Leaf Nation's were finally answered. With the Leafs breaking in fast on a 3-on-2 rush, Bozak made a drop pass back to Kessel wide open from the middle of the high slot, who then ripped it past Pavelec's shoulder top shelf for the eventual game winner. What great timing for #81's first of the season indeed, and hopefully it is the first of many to come for him in this short season.
My hat goes off to this guy. He has been playing so well so far this season, and really had nothing to show for it, at least not on the score sheet. Kessel still has been setting up plays, and making some perfect passes setting up his teammates for goals. The one pass to Kadri on opening night in Montreal comes to mind. But Kessel deserves some praise for his strong play. He has been arguably the most valuable player on the ice for Toronto so far, and has been exceptional in his own zone, breaking up plays, helping his goaltenders and blocking shots. With the goal tonight, and it also being the difference maker, now he can take a deep breath and really allow his talent to take over, as it usually has for him.
So, as the Leafs were putting the finishing touches on the Jets in Manitoba, I walked over to my television as the final buzzer rang at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. I then pulled down my shorts and farted into the screen, thus displaying my appreciation for such a solid effort from a team that calls themselves the "defending champs".
But that is the way it goes some nights. Maybe next time the Kings lay another egg on the ice, I'll just belch loudly and excessively at the TV.
My Thoughts of Tim Thomas Traded from Boston to NY Islanders:
I'll start by saying that I love Tim Thomas. I have always tried to model myself after him as a goalie. I love how he plays the game, and how he destroys his stick after giving up a goal in overtime in a losing effort. I always did the same thing. However, what in the world are the Islanders thinking? They traded for Lubomir Visnovsky, who does not want to play for them and still has not reported from Europe to be with the team. A few weeks ago, top prospect Nino Niederreiter requested a trade as well. Nobody wants to play for this team. Yet Islanders GM Garth Snow and company still do not want to listen to players, not even their own.
But the fact that Snow and his staff out on Long Island make trades for players who cannot help them at the moment's time is beyond stupid. Who knows if Thomas, who is currently suspended from play, even wants to play anymore. Sure he said recently he wished to return next season, but that was a member of the Bruins. Does he or will he ever suit up for the Islanders?
This organization has truly become the #1 laughingstock of the NHL. Even worse than Columbus. It hurts when you know nobody wants to play for your team. Perhaps, along with Columbus, the Islanders can also be discarded from the league. Problem is, that will never happen, especially with the newly signed CBA. So for the next ten years, fans have to keep hearing about how bad the Jackets are and why they have nobody in the seats during games and how every player assigned or dealt to the Islanders will do everything in their power to void that deal.
I am not sure if the Islanders move to Brooklyn in 2015 will help them at this point. It is a shame they are in this predicament, due to the storied history of the teams they had in the 1970's and into the 1980's with the likes of Billy Smith, Mike Bossy and the respected long time bench boss Al Arbour. How the once mighty have fallen, but right now everyone who is not an Islanders fan should be proud that their team is not as low as the Islanders are when it comes to respect.
I still want to give some credit to the current Islanders, who are playing quite well. Despite the whole lot of stupid going on with the Islanders brass, these guys are playing hard and deserve some praise...not Snow or the front office.