It hasn’t exactly been an easy season for either the Los Angeles Kings or the Chicago Blackhawks, but when they meet up at United Center in Chicago tonight (8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN) they come into the game with different mindsets.
Los Angeles comes in playing some inconsistent hockey. They’ve lost their last two games and seven of their last 11. In that jumble of games they’ve also got a three-game win streak mixed in. With that frustrating mix of wins and losses, you can see why the Kings are in a battle to get in the playoffs.
The guy who’s the key to victory for the Kings? None other than Mike Richards. L.A. is 17-3-5 when Richards gets a point and while there’s a host of other talent there, Richards is apparently the guy helping make things happen.
Anze Kopitar hasn’t been too bad himself lately as he comes into tonight’s game on a six-game point streak. Even if Marcel Dionne doesn’t like how he’s played this season, he’s handled the criticism well. Fortunately for them they’ve still got Jonathan Quick in goal to save them.
Quick’s season has to have been frustrating for him as he’s 27-19-11 (technically three more losses than wins) but has goalie stats that put him in the top five in the NHL including a goals against average of 2.00 on the nose. You wouldn’t think getting more than two goals a game would be hard for a team with Richards, Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Dustin Brown but even with Carter added to the mix things have still been inconsistent.
Chicago, on the other hand, has been playing well even in spite of not having Jonathan Toews out there for them. While Toews is out of tonight’s game, the Blackhawks have been getting great play in goal from Ray Emery. Emery will be starting his fifth game in a row as he’s wrestled the starting job away for the time being. His solid play has helped Chicago stay above the fight for playoff spots in the West.
Helping make Emery’s life easier is Marian Hossa who comes into today’s game scoring points in bunches. Hossa has 10 points in his last 13 games and he along with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane have been picking up the slack in a big way since Toews went out with a concussion. They’ll all need to be on point tonight to score goals on the defensively stingy Kings.
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.
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?
Despite owning two Stanley Cup rings, there are a healthy number of people who aren’t wild about Jonathan Quick.
Those people might feel validated through the Los Angeles Kings’ first two games, as he followed a rough loss to the San Jose Sharks with a true stinker against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.
Sometimes a goalie has a bad night stats-wise, yet his team is as much to blame as anything else. You can probably pin this one on Quick, who allowed four goals on just 14 shots through the first two periods.
Things died down in the final frame, but let’s face it; slowing things down is absolutely the Coyotes’ design with a 4-1 lead (which ultimately resulted in a 4-1 win).
A soft 1-0 goal turned out to be a sign of things to come:
Many expected the Kings to roar into this second game after laying an egg in their opener. Instead, the Coyotes exploited Quick’s struggles for a confidence-booster, which included key prospect Max Domi scoring a goal and an assist.
It’s worth mentioning that Mike Smith looked downright fantastic at times, only drawing more attention to Quick’s struggles.
After a troubled summer and a failed 2014-15 season, Los Angeles was likely eager to start things off the right way.
Instead, they instead will likely focus on the fact that they merely dropped two (ugly) games.