Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 34-33-10   Kings 28-40-9

PUCK DROP: 9:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

YOU HAVE SELECTED REGICIDE: They all hate us so we won’t list any of them

It’s funny. There are a fair few fans who wish the Hawks would have done what the Kings have done, no matter how unpleasant it would be to watch or experience. And you get it, because it would appear the Kings are going to have a top-two spot in the lottery, meaning they can’t drop any lower than three. Though it would be pretty sweet if they went through all this and ended up with the third pick in a two-player draft. I’d get a chuckle out of it, at least.

What’s even funnier is the Kings didn’t meant this. The Senators did, but the Kings definitely didn’t. They thought tye could build off their playoff berth last year. That’s why they signed Ilya Kovalchuk, who at 35 can only shoot and complain. I’ll give you one guess which one he’s done a ton more of this season. Anze Kopitar couldn’t ride the percentage wave any longer, and has returned to merely being a good player and a cautionary tale for Jonathan Toews. Jeff Carter combs his hair a lot. Drew Doughty has his mind on his money and his money on his mind and that’s it. Jonathan Quick is going to make sure that everyone realized he was never really that good by being terrible for the rest of his career. It’s so much fun!

Worse for the Kings is there’s not a lot here or coming that they can get excited about, except whatever they get in the draft. Carl Grundstrom might be a decent middle-sixer, as well as sounding like an itchy patch somewhere sensitive and funny. That’s about it. Alex Iafallo is probably a guy. Put it this way, when Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford are on your second line you are an affront to nature. Welcome to Kings hockey.

For the Hawks, with both the Coyotes and Avalanche getting points last night, as well as the Wild, they were basically putting more knives in the corpse of the Hawks. Like that scene in Escape From LA when Snake finds the first agent they sent it. But I guess the Hawks have to convince themselves if they run the table maybe possibly something could happen, so until you’re officially out you might as well go for it. Which should mean no lineup changes or alterations other than the defensive rotation and hopefully not having to bench Brendan Perlini again. But you never know with this outfit.

The last time the Hawks were in LA they might have put in their most uncaring, simply embarrassing effort of the season.They were supposedly back in it, needed a buzzer beater to get past the Ducks, and then simply looked like me going through Bumble at Staples Center. Hopeless, aimless, pointless. They could have done the same in San Jose on Thursday after losing their last chance, but they didn’t. So it would be really weird for them to lay an egg against one of the few teams they should probably be easily getting by. But again, you never know with this outfit.

Folks, I won’t lie to you. If you think there’s something amiss in your life if your Saturday night is centered around Hawks-Kings, I can’t convince you otherwise. It doesn’t mean disaster, but you might want to do a quick once-over about what’s going on with you. They have to be there. We probably do, too. You don’t.

 

Game #78 Preview Suite

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Kings 5-11-1   Hawks 7-8-4

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

NO MORE CALIFORNIA SONGS: Jewels From The Crown

It’s ok if you mourn the end of the Hawks Era. It can be a tough watch at times, especially when the memories of what a fine, oiled machine it was still so fresh. No team ever exits the spotlight gracefully, or at least it’s pretty damn rare. The fall is always painful. Especially in the callous world of the salary capped NHL, the tumble comes quick and the tide always wins. Maybe it was an impossible task set ahead of the Hawks, even without the mistakes they’ve made.

Then again, they could be the Kings.

It’s an interesting record. Since the Hawks last Cup win, they have three playoff wins. The Kings have one in the four seasons since their last win. They’ve missed the playoffs twice. And whereas the Hawks have tried to dance around their rebuild or collapse, the Kings have fallen face-first into theirs this year. Those days of Kobe and Kershaw wearing Kings’ jerseys are over, because this is a mess only identifiable by dental records. And given that it’s a hockey team, even that’s dicey.

They may provide a lesson in what happens when you cling too tightly to things that have past. The Kings for too long still tried to be a roving horde of barbarians that they thought won them two Cups, and watched as their team got slower and dumber while the league got faster and more skilled. Seriously, this outfit traded for Milan Lucic once. Firing the GM and coach is nice and all, but not if you’re not going to try anything new.

They also bought into fortune-stained results as reality far too much. Last year’s playoff berth was simply due to a magnificent Jonathan Quick season, which is not the norm or anything you should count on, and Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown shooting the lights out. No matter how much their fans bitched and whines that Kopitar should have been the MVP simply because no one stays up late enough to watch their dog-assed team, he was never likely to replicate that. And if he didn’t, he wasn’t taking Brown with him either. That’s what’s happened.

Jeff Carter is 33 now and looking it. Ilya Kovalchuk‘s style of impersonating waiting for a bus until a pass comes was never going to improve the team much, and it hasn’t. Beyond whatever this top-six is, and that’s clearly still very much a mystery, there’s simply nothing on the bottom-six. It’s more of the Kyle CliffordTrevor Lewis Axis Of Yuck that it’s seemingly been forever.

The real treat is at the back of course, where Drew Doughty got his money and seemingly doesn’t care anymore. He’s playing with something called Derek Forbort, not that it matters. Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin are starting to look like the remnants of that Big Mac you left on the coffee table at 3am last night and discovered this morning while guzzling gatorade. Dion Phaneuf is even more of a monolith than he was, which shouldn’t be possible but hey, L.A. is the land of fantasy and dreams!

Quick isn’t around to bail this out, which he’s only capable of once every four or five years. He’s out for a while. So is his backup Jack Campbell, which means they’ve brought Statler and Waldorf in to play goalie.

Robb Lake the GM seemingly has recognized all he’s built here is kindling (too soon?), and the sell-off might already be under way. This week he sent Tanner Pearson to Pittsburgh for Carl Hagelin, with Hagelin a free agent after the season. Whatever isn’t battened down should probably be sold at auction, so Muzzin, Martinez, Forbort, and Toffoli could and should be on notice. They’re the only ones whose contracts aren’t an atrocity.

For the Hawks, Marcus Kruger returns to the lineup after Brandon Davidson was informed that he’s hurt, replacing Dream Warrior on IR. SuckBag Johnson will sit. Alex Fortin remains out in favor of John Hayden. Sure. Corey Crawford will attempt to ride the momentum of Wednesday’s shutout, and against this decidedly broken squirt-gun of an offense you’d think that wouldn’t be too hard.

I don’t want to put too much on the Hawks, but there’s really no excuse to not get a regulation win tonight. The Kings are already getting the white flag out of the closet if not waving it already. They’re on their third-string goalie, maybe fourth. They’re slow and dumb, and the Hawks have done all right with the rare slow and dumb opponent you see in the NHL these days. As long as you don’t do anything too stupid, the Kings can’t really find a way to score enough to beat you. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.

 

Game #20 Preview Suite

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We really have to reach into the depths for our Kings Q&A. It’s best if you don’t know. Just know that he’s truly warped. 

Boy, your lot really sucks, huh?

Last Saturday, Sportsnet flashed a graphic that the five leading scorers on the Flames had more goals than the Kings have scored all season. In the two games since, the Kings have added one goal to their total of 34, which is also the season total of the quartet of Kane, DeBrincat, Toews, and Saad combined.

You mean Ilya Kovalchuk and his five goals weren’t the answer?

Where would this team be without its leading scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk? The answer is in exactly the same spot standings-wise, and possibly the same place points-wise, depending on how a theoretical Knifey Spoony against Lundqvist and three friends turned out. If you pretend the Kings have two additional Kovalchuks? Well, they would break the salary cap by over $12 million, but also finally pull into a tie for 30th in goals with Anaheim. The only unrealistic part of this scenario is imagining the Kings bringing in multiple players in one offseason.

Anze Kopitar has six points. What’s the deal there?

And only three of those six points were at evens, where his most common wingers are Alex Iafallo, and since his return from injury, Dustin Brown. Playing around with sortable categories on Natural Stat Trick, one notices that his current numbers are still above 50% (hovering around 52-53% for Corsi and Fenwick). However, they are mostly below either his rookie 2007-2008 season or his broken wrist 2016-2017 season. He’s 31 and it has become easier and easier to concentrate on just shutting his line down. But I bet if Eastern Conference writers stayed up to watch him play more often, he would have at least eight or nine points by now.

Does Rob Blake have any idea what he’s doing?

He knows exactly what he is doing: firing everyone under him before people realize this team is going nowhere. Was it really John Stevens’ fault after just 95 games?

What does the immediate future hold? What should it hold?

The immediate future holds rooting against any hot streaks that pull them ahead of other bottom-feeding teams, or convince upper management not to make more drastic changes. Everything with a pulse should be traded, but the team’s most liquid asset is Carl Hagelin, whose best case scenario is being flipped for a fifth-rounder to a team looking for #SPEED. Their youngest defenseman, Paul LaDue, is 26. Dion Phaneuf is still signed until 2021. The immediate future does not look great, even with a big lottery win, so maybe it is time to revert to planting drugs on albatross contracts.

 

Game #20 Preview Suite

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It used to be tradition that playoff exits were complimented by eulogies on Puck Daddy. But with Wysh off in the Connecticut hinterlands and those who remain at Yahoo! being a bunch of Canadian giblets who take things far too seriously (and Lambert being angry and definitely not a Bruins fan), we don’t need them to do what we do best. So fuck it. We’ll eulogize all 15 teams that will eventually fall. And we take unique pleasure in getting to do the Kings first. 

Leave it to the Kings to play quite simply the most unwatchable series since the Lockout of  ’04-’05. There are snuff films that have been lighter fare than their four-game outhouse-cleaning loss to the Knights. If they’d offered this as a prop bet it would have been easy money. While they locked Darryl Sutter out of the dressing room multiple times and eventually kicked his muppet-gone-wrong face out because he made them play a style that would have broken Noriega, when the chips were down John Stevens went back to the only thing the Kings know. Dump, crash, rumble, back up, repeat. Except it didn’t work, and the Kings three goals in the whole series pretty much attest to that. But what three goals they were!

What’s infuriating about the Kings is you can find no better example of a team not learning a lesson from its own methods. Better than the Oilers or Flames or even Hawks. While the Kings were able to belch/fart/ralph their way to a Cup in ’12 thanks to a sweetheart draw and Quick’s .946, they won again in 2014 by beating the Hawks at their own game. They were fast. They were creative. They were lethal. They had Kopitar, Gaborik, Carter, Toffoli, Pearson, Williams shotgunning all over the place. Doughty, Muzzin, Martinez, Voynov (blech) were pushing the play from the back to a ridiculous pace. Nothing has ever come close to the sheer madness and coke-binge hockey (maybe literally) that was the ’14 West Final. The Kings got it, and did it better than anyone to win their second in three years.

And then they went back to their covered-in-dung ways, while the rest of the league went about trying to replicate what they had just done. Such brilliant moves as trading for Milan Lucic and/or Dion Phaneuf or Vincent Lecavalier or bringing back Rob Scuderi. It was like Homer telling the car designers “I need an immobile asshole here, here, and here!” The result has been one playoff win since. One.

The Kings are basically the obnoxious frat boy who did well in college with dumb sorority girls who didn’t know better (or were forced not to because all frat boys are rapists, SCIENCE FACT), but then met a wonderful girl right after and suddenly became a really good guy…until dumping her after reading Barfstool or a few months because she didn’t shotgun beers or something. And now they’re just the old guy at the same bar, not realizing it’s all over.

In the end, this is what Kings fans want, because it’ll give them more time to bitch about the individual awards their players won’t win. Not only do Kings fans feel aggrieved that Kopitar or Doughty won’t be taking home hardware, they’ll accuse everyone of lacking moral fiber who doesn’t think they should. I guess we shouldn’t expect anything else from a city that blows itself as hard as LA does about the industry they created and only they really care about. DiCaprio didn’t campaign as hard for “The Revenant” as these dinguses. Last week every writer east of the Mississippi received a tote bag marked “from TheRoyalHalf on behalf of Anze.” Next year everyone get ready for a “Trevor Lewis Should Win The Selke And If You Don’t Vote For Him You Killed Jesus” campaign.

The Hawks window may be over, but it didn’t slam nearly as hard as the Kings did. And no one in LA is going to miss them, because next year the Lakers might win 30 games. Also, Drew Doughty eats the homeless from Skid Row.

Everything Else

We found @atf13atf digging through our trash one day. Not for food, just because it was his thing. Turned out he was a Kings fan. As all the other Kings fans wouldn’t piss on us if we were on fire, he’ll have to do. 

Dion Phaneuf?

Last week’s blockbuster trade with Calgary for Dion Phaneuf boosts an already strong defense featuring Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, and Rob Scuderi. Just over a year removed from being the Norris Trophy runner-up, Phaneuf turns the Kings from a team just sneaking into the playoffs into a legitimate threat. In fact, all of the Kings’ acquisitions this year have been home runs. Coming into the Olympic break, both Mike Cammalleri and Jussi Jokinen have 26 goals in 60 games. Even Phaneuf has scored 10 himself. It seems unlikely that the Kings would pass San Jose or Phoenix, but if they come in hot as a lower seed, they could be an early roadblock to the Blackhawks’ effort to return to the Western Conference Final.

What do you mean the Kings traded Cammalleri FOR Jokinen? And then lost Jokinen on waivers? They got Phaneuf from Ottawa and he sucks now? No Olympic break this year? The Blackhawks are 11 points out and there’s a team in Vegas? Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in 2010 anymore.

 The Kings have gone 6-11-0 since the turn of the year. What went off the boil?

Start 9-2. Follow by going 1-7. Win six in a row, then get swept out of the New York Metropolitan Area. Lose six in a row to start the new year, bookend the All-Star Break with a pair of Jonathan Quick dodgeball tryouts. Pass Go and collect free wins against Glendale and Edmonton, lose narrowly to Stanley Cup contenders in Tampa and Pittsburgh, while giving up a touchdown to Carolina in between. Add a few wins against Atlantic Division bottom-feeders, and some losses to Pacific rivals here and there, and you have the entire Kings season. It’s been a trip.

 

Are the Kings in the same spot with Drew Doughty that the Senators are with Karlsson? IF he won’t sign they have to move him, right?

As of right now, the Kings seem fully ready to park the Brinks truck in Doughty’s driveway, and he seems fully ready to sign for the delivery. If he ever left Los Angeles, he would probably need to find a new lawyer or three, among other things.

 

Things kind of went south on Alex Iafallo, didn’t they?

He started off the year looking fast, but shooting a hair over one percent. He finally broke through for a second goal around the start of December, before racking up minuses and eventually taking a few healthy scratches around the new year. In the past month, Iafallo is back to playing 15 minutes a night and has scored four goals with three assists.

 

What’s been the key to Kopitar’s bounce-back season? Hawks fans would be particularly interested in the answer…

Last season, Anze Kopitar started slow coming off a busy September with an Olympic qualifier for Slovenia and playing for Team Europe in the World Cup Of Hockey. On November 11, with only eight points in 15 games, Kopitar injured his hand in a game against Ottawa and kept quiet about it. A few months ago, Kings president Luc Robitaille described the effects of the injury on Kopitar: “He couldn’t shoot for three months. That hurt his numbers. The goals weren’t there because he couldn’t shoot.” The numbers back it up: four goals from the injury through February, and six goals in 19 games to close out the year.

 

Blackhawks fans better hope it’s that simple.

 

Where do the Kings go from here? If they miss the playoffs then it’s Blowup City, right?

At the risk of hoping the team doesn’t put too much stock into a four-game sample before the deadline (at Chicago and Winnipeg, home against Dallas and Edmonton), it’s still entirely up in the air. The Kings don’t really have a great stock of pending UFAs to sell, unless someone really wants Darcy Kuemper for some reason, so it would have to be a bigger piece (Muzzin? Martinez?). Of course, their huge acquisition might cost nothing: Jeff Carter, whose last game was the night of the most recent Cubs win, is set to rejoin the team at practice this week once the road trip ends.

 

Game #60 Preview

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 vs 

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
He Could Really Make It If He Just Got His Shit Together: The Royal Half, JFTC

As the Freakout Hell Bus Ride of 5 games in 7 nights comes to a close on West Madison tonight, the Hawks are looking to avoid losing their fourth straight game after having gone 1-1-2 so far, with the resurgent Kings now waiting for them as the capper.

 

Everything Else

Once again we had to dig up one of our favorite lunatics on Twitter to find out about the Kings. Follow Aaron @atf13atf.

The Kings sit atop the Pacific. They have a +19 goal difference. Anze Kopitar is a point-per-game again. Certainly much better than last year. What’s been the change? Is it simply the one behind the bench?

 It probably is just the personnel behind the bench, both a combination of new voices (Offensive Coordinator Pierre Turgeon) coming in and old voices going out (such as Sutter, and Davis Payne who is now in charge of the Sabres’ 30th ranked power play). Stevens has been an assistant since the Terry Murray years in 2010, but finally gets his shot to run things. In a league where every team tries to win every game 2-1, Darryl Sutter’s attempts to win every game 1-0 had grown stale.

 Dustin Brown – 21 points. What kind of god allowed this?

 When the team went through eastern Canada a month into the season, every article about Brown (and Kopitar) concluded that they each looked like a piano was removed from their back. Alec Iafallo, definitely someone I’d known about before training camp ended, has been a revelation with a bunch of scouts saying they missed him. I’m sure Brown’s 13% shooting (and especially Kopitar’s 19%) to come down a bit, but at least their contracts look somewhat above water again.

Who is Adrian Kempe?

 Called up last season to try and get some scoring going, which was ultimately useless when Sutter played him about 90 seconds a night. Not to be confused with his brother Mario Kempe, Darcy Kuemper, or Matt Kemp. Looking good so far this year with Toffoli and Pearson.

 The Kings have gotten yeoman’s work out of Jonathan Quick. Certainly full health is a part of it, did the rest of barely playing last year also contribute? Have you noticed him doing anything differently?

 A wise man named Cieslak once said, “Book is out on your goaltender. He’s only gonna stop between 90 and 95 percent of shots faced. The league knows all about it.” Quick, who’s been much closer to the 90% than anyone expects for oh, half his career now, is sitting at his same .929 from 2011-12. I guess having an intact groin helps these guys.

So is this start for real or are the Kings riding a top line and their goaltending brilliance and will crash down?

 Their shooting percentage is above average, ish, even with Jeff Carter out for still another couple of weeks. The goaltending has definitely carried them a bit, but the games don’t look over if they go down 1-0 in the second period. They’re certainly watchable again, a marked improvement over even the Cup years.

Prediction: J-F Berube shuts out his old organization. I redeem my giveaway Chick-Fil-A coupon this week after the Kings take the required five penalties.

Game #27 Preview

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There was a time when Dustin Brown was one of our favorite players. He was a true bowling ball of a forward who could give you 25 goals. When rumors popped up of the Kings looking to deal him and the Hawks at least kicking the tires, our glee rose to a near dangerous level.

It didn’t happen, and then Brown’s feet fell off, and he was basically nothing more than a construction horse with elbows. He couldn’t get there, and all he could do was cross-check, elbow, and high-stick his way into anything of note. The only memorable thing he’d done in years was nearly ruin Tomas Hertl’s career before it had a chance to really take off with a wandering knee.

And that’s how it’s supposed to happen. A power forward only has a short window of usefulness, before the miles and bruises combine to reduce them to an angry traffic cone. You’re supposed to look like Milan Lucic now. Or Corey Perry now. Or Scott Hartnell now.

So what the fuck is this? Brown has 21 points already. He hasn’t had more than 36 in a season since ’11-’12. He has 10 goals already. He hasn’t had more than 18 since that same season. This is not how it’s supposed to go. Players like Brown are supposed to get old and decrepit so we can laugh at them and make up for the years of longing and jealousy we had. Brown is depriving us of that this year. They’re supposed to get bought out and wash up in Arizona or Florida or Vancouver and fill out their days being a step behind the play and scoring the one goal in a 5-1 loss in January.

The one thing we can hold onto is that Brown still has four years left after this one on his ridiculous $5.8 million per year contract, and is still a buyout candidate down the line. Brown should be taking notes from Marian Gaborik, who’s been nothing more than a reverse-ATM for a few years now. This is bullshit.

Follow the script, Dustin.

Game #27 Preview

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For the last two straight seasons, the Stanley Cup champion has been able to emerge with the chalice in spite of the fact that their respective power plays bordered on abominable. In 2011, the Bruins were able to withstand having an only 11.4% conversion rate on the advantage, and last year’s Kings were only marginally better at 12.8%, both historically bad percentages. And unfortunately for the Blackhawks, this year’s Kings don’t appear to be tempting fate by trying the same method that had worked the previous two seasons.