The Los Angeles Kings are having a good December. For proof, here are some bullet points:
— They’re 9-1-0, with the only loss coming in Chicago after they’d play the night before in Ottawa. Which is to say, no shame there.
— They’ve outscored their opponent by a score of 32-13.
— Back-up (to the back-up) goalie Martin Jones (8-0-0) has three shutouts, with a 0.98 goals-against average and .966 save percentage. The 23-year-old has also allowed his team to win games it didn’t necessarily deserve to win, like on Dec. 11 against Toronto.
— Among the teams Los Angeles has beaten this month, some good ones: St. Louis, Anaheim, San Jose, and Colorado.
And here’s the crazy part — the Kings aren’t even that satisfied.
“I think we’re on the right track,” said Anze Kopitar, per LA Kings Insider. “Is our game as sharp as it can be? Probably not. But we’re collecting points, and that’s what it is this time of the year. You have to collect points, even though maybe you’re not playing the best hockey. The way this Pacific Division has been going, you lose a couple, you fall back in a pretty big way, so we just want to keep on going, keep plugging away, and we’ve done a pretty good job with that.”
L.A. will keep “plugging away” tonight when its hosts the Stars in its last game before the Christmas break.
While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.
Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–Loui Eriksson
Matt Beleskey–David Krejci–David Pastrnak
Jimmy Hayes–Ryan Spooner–Brett Connolly
Chris Kelly–Joonas Kemppainen–Zac Rinaldo
The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.
So, where is Krejci’s game now?
Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.
So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?
On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.
So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?
“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks