David Van der Gulik

Avs take big step forward at Kings’ expense

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The natural reaction is to slack your jaw in amazement that the Colorado Avalanche opened up tonight’s game against the stingy Los Angeles Kings with a 3-0 first period lead.

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Instinctively, it’s hard not to saturate your attention on the Kings’ failings, much like we do with each Washington Capitals flop. The Avalanche looked awfully strong in what ended up being a 4-1 win in Steve Downie’s debut with the team, though.

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Perhaps the most promising thing is that some frustrating should-be stars lead the way. Semyon Varlamov hasn’t justified the heavy cost of the trade that brought him in, but he showed some of the brilliance that prompted the deal by stopping 32 out of 33 shots. Paul Stastny has seen his stock drop dramatically the last few seasons, but he showed a lot of zip in his step while scoring two goals and coming near a hat trick.

Downie wasn’t a huge difference-maker in his 16:20 minutes of ice time, but he still seems like a good grab for a Colorado forward corps that lacks some size and muscle.

This win makes the Western Conference playoff bubble look awfully interesting:

7. Phoenix: 69 points (30 wins, 27 in regulation/OT) in 60 games played
8. Los Angeles: 66 points (27 wins, 23 in regulation/OT) in 61 GP

9. Calgary: 65 points (28 wins, 25 in regulation/OT) in 60 GP
10. Dallas: 64 points (30 wins, 26 in regulation/OT) in 60 GP
11. Colorado: 64 points (30 wins, 23 in regulation/OT) in 61 GP

12. Minnesota: 61 points (26 wins, 21 in regulation/OT) in 59 GP
13. Anaheim: 60 points (25 wins, 23 in regulation/OT) in 60 GP

In case you’re wondering, I basically broke up the teams in three groups: in the top eight (7-8), just a step behind (9-11) and not totally out of it (12-13). Stay tuned tomorrow morning for a breakdown of the Kings’ playoff prospects.

Friday’s loss serves as ‘harsh lesson’ for Blue Jackets

Jasper Fast, Nick Foligno, Henrik Lundqvist
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Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.

Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.

Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.

The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.

“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.

Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.

The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.

“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”



Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards

The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?