While the Devils and Kings didn’t face each other many times this season, just twice and those don’t mean much now, these two franchises have a lot of links tying them together.
Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider broke down all the different ties that bind Los Angeles and New Jersey and we find out if there was such a thing as “long term money on the board” there’d be a whole lot of cash to get for both teams.
Here are a few of the more interesting potential story lines to look out for.
—- Ilya Kovalchuk turned down the Kings to sign with the Devils during the “Summer of Kovalchuk” in 2010.
—- Devils assistant coach Larry Robinson was the Kings’ head coach for four years and played for the Kings for three seasons. In his four years as coach, he took the Kings to the playoffs once in 1998 getting swept by St. Louis in the first round.
—- Kings defenseman Matt Greene and Devils captain Zach Parise were roommates and teammates in college at the University of North Dakota. It’s like Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis all over again, just not as cuddly.
—- Kings GM Dean Lombardi and Devils GM Lou Lamoriello are long time friends and confidants.
—- Willie Mitchell was originally a New Jersey Devil. Coincidentally, he first signed with Los Angeles the same summer Kovalchuk signed with New Jersey.
—- Peter Harrold and Alexei Ponikarovsky were both Kings just last season. They were clearly destined to be in the finals this season.
The most interesting one here is Kovalchuk’s place in the series. He’s been the focus of attention no matter what in the playoffs (15-year, $100 million contracts help that) but now he’s going against the team he spurned for the Stanley Cup. Hello intrigue!
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.”
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?