The Kings are just one win away from making the Western Conference finals for the first time since Wayne Gretzky helped them do it in 1993. A handful of superstars, some rag-tag veterans, and a hot goalie helped those Kings make the Stanley Cup finals. Sound familiar?
Much like that ’93 team, these Kings wear silver and black and as legendary play-by-play voice of the Kings, Bob Miller, tells Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times in her terrific retrospective on the Kings’ past, this Kings team reminds him a lot of how that ’93 team made their run.
“I was thinking that this year is almost similar to ’93, where people got hot at the right time and played well at the right time,” Miller said. “Because I don’t recall anything during the regular season where you thought, ‘This team could do it,’ especially with Gretz out for half of the season.”
You certainly can’t say at any point during this season you thought the Kings would be capable of a deep playoff run. They fiddled about through most of the year. They managed to play so poorly they got their coach fired (Terry Murray) only to have GM Dean Lombardi read them the riot act and bring in Darryl Sutter.
Now that they’re deep into the playoffs, the Kings look like the team many thought we’d see before the year started.
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown are playing huge. Mike Richards is playing hard at both ends of the ice while Drew Doughty is looking like the Norris Trophy finalist he was a couple seasons ago. Throw in some Jonathan Quick mastery in goal and you’ve got a team that’s playing perhaps the best hockey in all the playoffs.
Jonathan Quick must feel like he’s being hazed in Los Angeles.
How else can you explain Quick’s season without shaking your head in frustration for the guy? When you check out the NHL stats leaderboard, he trails only St. Louis’ Brian Elliott and New York’s Henrik Lundvist in both goals against average (1.91) and save percentage (.934) while being tied for first with Lundqvist in shutouts with six.
With numbers like that Quick could be (should be?) a Vezina finalist by the time the season ends. Unfortunately for him, his record would make you think otherwise.
After losing 2-1 in overtime to the Islanders this afternoon, Quick has more losses than wins this season sporting a 23-14-10 record. Losing 14 times in regulation is hard enough when you’re giving up less than two goals a game, but 10 times in overtime or the shootout on top of it? Brutal.
For what it’s worth, Quick’s staying upbeat about things as best as he can as he told Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider after today’s loss.
“We didn’t get two points. That’s what we came here to do, and we came up short. We’ve got to regroup. We have a game tomorrow. That’s the good thing about this league. If you didn’t play as good as you wanted to, you get an opportunity the next night. So we’re going to get ready for tomorrow against Dallas.’’
We’re sure that straightforward focus is something both his former coach Terry Murray and current head coach Darryl Sutter love about him, but Sutter and GM Dean Lombardi need to find ways to spark their team to scoring more goals. Having goaltending like this go to waste is virtually criminal.
“So…do you still need your house?”
We assume that’s not the first question Darryl Sutter asked Terry Murray when the former was hired to replace the latter behind the bench in Los Angeles. However, the topic must’ve been broached somehow, as according to LA Kings Insider, Sutter is now renting Murray’s pad.
For those who might find this odd, it’s actually not at all. Players do it all the time when they are traded, or sometimes even when they move teams during the summer.
Suppose it makes sense for both sides – Sutter gets a place to live and Murray doesn’t have to go out and find a renter. Still, it must be tough for Murray. Not only did Sutter take his job, now he’s sleeping in his house.
No truth to the rumor Sutter found a very aggressive cobra under the kitchen sink.
Before the season began, there were some prognosticators out there who thought the Capitals and Kings could wind up in the Stanley Cup finals. Yeah, oops.
After all, the Caps added Tomas Vokoun to a lineup that already had Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin. The Kings brought in Mike Richards and Simon Gagne to join up with Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick. What wasn’t to like? Obviously, there was a lot wrong with the designs both teams had.
Instead, both teams have struggled and fired their head coaches (Bruce Boudreau and Terry Murray respectively) while replacing them with Dale Hunter in Washington and Darryl Sutter in L.A. Meanwhile, neither team can get consistent. The Caps are still finding their way around while the Kings still can’t score goals with regularity.
As Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com notes, the similarities in the struggles for both teams are startling.
Both sides are still getting things figured out but at least the Kings have points working for them. Since Sutter’s takeover they’re 5-1-3. The negative person sees four losses there, but the hopeful fan sees points in eight of nine games. With how the Pacific Division is this year, points of any kind are huge. As it is, L.A. is just a point out of the playoffs while the Caps are two points back of Pittsburgh for eighth.
Instead of being Cup contenders, these two will be happy to make the postseason right now. High expectations create a huge burden for some teams and now it’s up to both of them to show they’re not cracking under the pressure.
In a move that’s been in the works for over a week, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi officially hired Darryl Sutter as the 24th head coach in franchise history today. Sutter will take over for interim head coach John Stevens tomorrow and make his Kings coaching debut Thursday in the latest installment of the Freeway Face-Off.
[PHT Notes: The Kings and Ducks have met three times this season. In the first and second meetings, the coaches were Randy Carlyle and Terry Murray. In the third, they were Murray and Bruce Boudreau. In the fourth, they’ll be Boudreau and Sutter.]
Because most identify Sutter with his latest — and disastrous — stint as general manager of the Calgary Flames, it’s easy to overlook the fact he’s been a highly-successful head coach. His 409 wins put him tied for 24th all-time (seventh among active coaches) and his teams have qualified for the playoffs in 10 of his 11 seasons.
One thing Sutter lacks, however, is familiarity with the Kings roster. He hasn’t coached a single player in the organization, though he does have some history with LA’s biggest rivals, the Ducks and Sharks. Sutter coached in San Jose for six seasons, working with the likes of Patrick Marleau and Teemu Selanne — the latter being Anaheim’s leading scorer this year.