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Los Angeles Kings

Through a nail-biting postseason, why the LA Kings are still the favorites

The Los Angeles Kings are headed to the NHL Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row. This journey to the top of the West is a much different climb than the feverish ascension the team made last year en-route to winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
 
I have spent many nights staying up until the wee hours watching this team attempt to repeat as champions–a special thanks NHL for the 7:30 p.m. start times in the playoffs (sidenote: This is clearly the most mismanaged league of all the major four sports. The NBA understands that TV ratings are what make the league more money so when the Lakers are playing in the playoffs, they bump the start time up to make it slightly more convenient for fans out east. The traffic is a bitch in LA, and natives whine but they are in Staples for the 6 p.m. start. Get with it NHL, for my sake). I must say this is a completely different experience for the LA faithful.
 
The Kings have to scrap through games and series as a whole. They are losing on the road and flawless at home. For a fan base that watched last year’s pure domination throughout the playoffs, this postseason may be a bit of a nail biter.
 
Fear not, Kings fans. This team is still in position to challenge to be one of the first repeat Stanley Cup Champions since the Red Wings did it in the late 90’s. Here are the 3 things I’ve seen from the Kings this playoffs that will help lead them to hoisting the cup once again:
 
1. Jonathan Quick is still the best in the NHL between the pipes

     
  • Jonny Quick had a rough regular season. The back surgery he had after the playoffs last year slowed him down and not having access to Kings trainers during the lockout certainly did not help either. He played well enough to position the boys in black as a 4 seed this year but did not really hit his stride until April.
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We’re back everyone! A hastily-written 2012-13 NHL season preview

So, not so surprisingly, I’ve been somewhat quiet around these parts and though I’d rather not go into it, there was a really good reason why. That said, on Saturday at long last the puck will be dropping on the 2012-13 NHL season and there is just a ton of stuff to get excited about, to say nothing of the premier matchups (Chicago-Los Angeles, Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, New York-Boston) that we get on opening day alone.

However, given the consequences of the NHL’s work stoppage, rather than the full 82-course serving of a standard NHL season, we’ll be seeing a slap-dash truncated 48-game menu this time around. What’s even more wild is that the 48 games each team plays will be played entirely within a span of 99 days, which means less of a developed and cohesive performance all around and more of a frenetic breakneck scramble to make the postseason, which will be played out in full.

If anyone remembers last season’s 66-game NBA slate in which it seemed like the Knicks were playing about five times per week, this will be something like that. No one is entirely sure how different teams will respond to it, and as a result of the condensed schedule certain teams one might have expected to be title contenders (the Rangers, Detroit) might fall victim to exhaustion due to age or an aggressive style of play while teams not quite ready to make the jump (Edmonton, Florida) could take advantage because of their relative youth in the shortened schedule.

The important thing to understand, however, is that with only one other example of this situation to fall back on, no one is really sure how this will shake out, though if it ends the same way, I won’t really be complaining. Either way, it’s going to be kind of hard to predict who to bet on in the horse race, but because we need to fill these column inches, here is who might be Secretariat, and who might be Zippy Chippy.… Read more...

Watching YOUR…Los Angeles Kings: The Power of JUJU

Since the Kings have begun their playoff run, I have contributed to every single game they have won by providing my unique form of support…my juju.
Juju is what I define as the fan’s ability to impact games. Active fans of every sport can identify with what I am talking about. That feeling that if you just wear the right clothes and follow the correct routine, you can impact the team in a positive way. You can call it superstition, or stupidity, but you know what I call it.
I have been a believer in the power of juju for years. I started out watching Bruins and Lakers games on TV finding that if I sat in a particular spot on the couch, teams were more likely to win. The science behind these beliefs is inexact but based on personal experience; juju is a very real and powerful tool for any professional sports team.
It may be the longing to belong to a team or the desire to put my own energy into a game, but following the tenants of juju closely makes me feel more engaged with the game on TV and tied to any successes or failures. Just as a good fan should.

EMPLOYING THE RECENTLY PERFECTED JUJU FOR THE KINGS PLAYOFF RUN

What I wear: Old school Kings Sweater. I say old school because right after I invested in this jersey (the most expensive piece of sports paraphernalia I own) the Kings decided to switch to their smooth new black and white jerseys. I will also match the jersey with a pair of old basketball shorts (dark blue Nikes to be precise).  
Where I sit: My 55 inch LED flatscreen is surrounded by three couches aligned in a U-formation. I have found that sitting on the far right seat of the middle couch has been incredibly beneficial for the Kings fore-check.

Who is with me: I have been joined by my brother (Little Que-Ese) lying on the white couch to my left for 11 of the 12 Kings victories. He also has his own Juju (particularly how he places the blanket and which blanket he uses) and I respect the intensity he brings to watching the Kings.
Big and Little Que-Ese Starting Their  Unique Juju Stylings Early On
So to run a little experiment on how effective my juju has been during this recent NHL playoff run by the Kings, I went cold turkey. I didn’t follow any of the habits I had developed over the previous 11 wins and hoped the Kings would be good enough to win the Western Conference on their own.
I watched the Los Angeles Kings duke it out in a nail-biter with the Phoenix Coyotes ALONE. Little Que-Ese (LQ-E) has started summer school classes and has wrongfully prioritized mastering organic chemistry over helping carry our Kings to the Stanley Cup.
So I was alone on my couch when the following timeline took place:
1st Period

4:20 –  Taylor Pyatt tips-in the first Coyotes goal. I am not too nervous. I am wearing sweatpants and a white v-neck undershirt. I figure without LQ-E there, my juju will be useless even if I am wearing the appropriate gear.
11:13 – Anze Kopitar scores the equalizer. I am feeling a tad better but after the period I text friend of Mambino, Dangerous Dave “Fuck me, we look like shit.”
The period ends and I am still wearing my same outfit and *gulp* sitting on the white couch that runs the length of the front of my house. That’s right, not only am I missing my partner in juju AND not wearing my Kings gear, I am on the wrong couch. What happens next only confirms how close I came to costing the Kings a victory.
2nd Period
6:23 – Marc-Antione Pouliot scores a backhanded goal with an assist from “that punk Klesla” (TM pending). Kings look more aggressive to start the period but the Yotes are really bringing pressure in the neutral zone.

LA Kings Bandwagon Fan Crash Course Educator

As the Lakers unceremoniously went down 3-1 in their eventual loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, I quickly realized that like a lover scorned by a hateful broad, I’d have to find a new steed to hitch my wagons to for a sweet sweet rebound.

Enter YOUR…Los Angeles Kings.

I’m sure I’m not the only one. Los Angeles, like Boston, Philly or Miami, is a frontrunners town. Whichever of our teams that is in the driver’s seat, that’s the one we’ll readily and happily attach our interest to, regardless of whether we’ve watched a game this season, know the best player’s name or hell, even the rules of the sport. This is just how it is. Don’t blame me. I didn’t found the city.

Fellow Lakers fans (and even some of you Clippers refugees that may have found your way over to this glorious stink-free blog), I realize the spot we’re in. You want to keep the adrenaline going by rooting for a team in the playoffs, but yet, you don’t know a damn thing about hockey. Or maybe you know a bit, but you’ve been preoccupied with checking out Kenneth Fareid’s offensive rebound rate and the progress of the Kings wasn’t on the front burner. Look, I get it. That’s why we’re here.

I’ve exchanged a series of e-mails with MAMBINO ace hockey writer Pucklius, asking questions inn order that us bandwagon Kings fans might get a crash course in puck education. Let’s be honest; at the end of this, no one is going to mistake you for a pedigreed NHL fan born in the swamps of Calgary. However, you MIGHT just learn enough to have a passable conversation about possibly the only champions in LA this June. Onward!


For us casual hockey fans, it’s just “pretty damn cool” to see the Los Angeles Kings get so far into the playoffs. But from a hockey-head’s perspective, how unlikely is it that the Kings made it this far?

Well, I think you would definitely call it unlikely for several reasons, most notably that the Kings were the eighth seed and they had to face the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, but an eighth seed doing this well in the playoffs is not entirely unheard of. For one thing, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a long, exhausting and at times random slog. That means you’re going to see upsets and sometimes the curious bounce of the puck in an overtime game will determine who is moving on and who isn’t. In 2006 the Edmonton Oilers were the 14th of 16 teams in the field and they got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Carolina. You also need to take into account who is playing well heading into the postseason. If a team has had a great year and earned a high seed but struggled down the stretch, there’s no guarantee they’re going to play that well when more is on the line. Turning on a switch is difficult.

You also have to account for injuries and matchups. The Kings have gotten lucky with both this season. Vancouver was without Daniel Sedin, which was absolutely debilitating for its offense. That was a team that also, despite winning another Presidents’ Trophy this season, went all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final a year ago. That means the Canucks might have played as many as 20 more games than their opponent in the last calendar year with a far shorter offseason. That kind of exhaustion will have an impact sooner or later. If you look at the Islanders of the early 80s, they won 19 consecutive playoff series, which is patently absurd. They had four Cups in a row, but when they reached the Final in a fifth sea… Read more...

Next Stop to Stanley: Kings vs. Coyotes Preview

(Que-Ese is struggling with computer difficulties, so I’m posting on his behalf. Skynet is taking over)
Well folks, here we are. The Kings are who we thought they are and even better than I thought they could ever be against the Blues. Turning in the most impressive playoff series in franchise history, the Kings are playing the best hockey in the NHL right now.
The Blues were supposed to be a team built similarly to the Kings in every way; Strong defense, stronger goal keeping, and timely scoring. And yet, the surge that is Dustin Brown’s epic playoff physicality once again set the tone of a suddenly confident hockey club.

To put it simply, the Kings got Swag.

 
Now we turn out attention to Phoenix, a team who arguably is playing the second best hockey during these playoffs (sorry Eastern Conference, I’m a Pacific Division homer). They are doing so largely on the back of their goaltender and solid scoring from players all the way down their bench. Sound familiar? That’s because even though the Kings and Blues were similar on paper, the Kings and Coyotes have gotten to the Western Conference Finals by playing almost identical hockey.
Let’s do a quick comparison for those not watching the last few weeks.
Playoff stats
Kings Goalie Jonathan Quick – 1.55 GAA, .949 Save Percentage, 9 games, 274 Shots
Coyotes Goalie Mike Smith – 1.77 GAA, .948 Save Percentage, 11 games, 400 Shots
15 players with at least one goal for the Kings
13 players with at least one goal for the Coyotes
This is obviously not the most comprehensive comparison but it certainly proves the point that both teams are succeeding under similar formulas. The Kings beat down the Canucks using an aggressive fore-check. The same strategy was employed effectively by the quick Defensemen for the Coyotes against Nashville. 
The Coyotes even have many personal ties to the LA Kings. Their coach, Dave Tippett, was an assistant coach with LA under Andy Murray. The Coyotes backup goalie, Jason LaBarbera, used to don the black and white, and Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall’s son got called up from the AHL to practice with the Coyotes.
Point being, this series is going to be close and its going to ratchet the intensity up a whole lot. My three keys to the upcoming games:

1.       DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE

Phoenix has guys like Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle, who Jonathan Quick has called “very skilled defensemen who like jumping up in the rush.” These are the kind of players the Kings have not faced thus far in the playoffs. The Coyotes will rely strongly on Yandle to create from the back, taking advantage any offensive pressure the Kings apply.

That being said, I still think that LA’s defensive group will wind up winning this series. Slava Voynov has been playing well beyond his capabilities and Willie Mitchell is playing about 20 years younger than his birth certificate. That pairing, along with the seasoned playoff experience of Rob Scuderi (2009 Penguins Cup winner) and a rejuvenated Dustin Penner (granted, not a defenseman, but all of a sudden the enforcer we all have been looking for, and a spark on the new second line of Penner-Richards-Carter) point to a slight advantage for the Kings.

2.       THE BIG MO

The Kings have never been here before. This is the farthest a Kings team has been since the days of Gretzky. Yes, that team was in the Stanley Cup Finals, but those same finals used to be the third round. As the rag-tag assortment of youngsters and old farm hands (see Jeff Carter, Willie Mitchell) come off almost a week of rest, can they continue the momentum they gained from a serie
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Next Stop To Stanley: Kings vs. Blues Preview

As we noted before, the Kings are who we thought they are. After destroying the dreams of Vancouver’s children, the boys from LA turn their focus to the St. Louis Blues.

If Vancouver was supposed to be the offensive Goliath of the playoffs, providing a serious threat to the Kings, the Blues are the defensive equivalent. Besides the Blues, there was no other team in hockey that played defense as well as the Kings. Both teams are made up of strong defenseman and Goalies who play with supernatural abilities. Many, including Kings Coach Daryl Sutter, are calling for this series to be one of the lowest-scoring series of all time. 

While I think this certainly will be a series with tight play on the defensive-end, I believe goals will come at a greater clip than expected. The Kings found an offensive rhythm in the Canucks series that should carry over even against the large bodies of the Blues.


Many will point to the Kings 3-1 record against the Blues in the regular season as a sign that this will be a cakewalk. However, the wins earlier this season do not count for squat as the Blues were playing without a healthy Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen. These two players provide a huge offensive kick for the Blues and will change the dynamics/matchups for the series. My predictions will follow below but first the Mambino 3 keys to the Kings-Blues series.


1. Goaltending

Jonathan Quick is the best goalie in hockey. Sure the statistics may say otherwise but no keeper has done more with less than Quick. He played out of his mind this year under two different coaches and singlehandedly kept the playoffs hopes alive for the Kings. He is going to meet his match with the duo of keepers from the Blues.



St. Louis has played with the pair of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak minding the nets. Elliott started the season as the backup for the Blues but wound up having a ridiculous, league leading, 1.56 goals against average. Elliott only played 38 games to Quick’s 69 (Quick managed to be second in the league with an equally ridiculous 1.95 GAA and a league leading 10 shutouts), but still proved his worth throughout the regular season. Halak is nursing a “lower-body injury” (see: sprained ankle) and will likely be ready to return by game 3 at the latest. This means the matchup will likely be Quick-Elliott in St. Louis.


The series outcome will undoubtedly be decided by how well Quick plays. If he continues to stop pucks like the 405 stops traffic nobody can beat the Kings. Read that sentence again. The Kings will stand on Quick’s shoulders as far as he can carry them.


2. Oh Captain, My Captain


Dustin Brown is my captain. He proved in the last series that he is the spark the Kings need to get rolling. With a stat line of 4 goals-1 assist-5 points in 5 games, Brown utterly dismantled the Canucks. He is going to be facing a more formidable Defensive group with the offensive Alex Pietrangelo paired alongside Carlo Colaiacovo.

The Blues, unlike the Kings, received a consistent offensive spark from their defense during the regular season. Though the Kings can look to Drew Doughty as their best offensive threat on defense, the Canucks showed how effectively teams can swarm the wily Doughty. It will again fall upon Brown to help keep the fore-check running strong and create gaps, keeping the pressure on the Blues goaltenders. It was certainly surprising to see the two shorthanded goals Brown scored last series but that type of heads up pressure from the Captain is going to be needed to keep the Kings heading deeper into the playoffs.


3. Staples Center Shittiness 


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They Are Who We Thought They Were: The LA Kings

Nobody pays any attention to the NHL until the playoffs. There are a whole lot of sports that Americans find more enjoyable…until the playoffs roll around and hockey FORCES you to pay attention. This year’s playoffs are no exception and many across the country are finding out about a secret that some Los Angelenos have known for years; there is a hockey team in LA named the Kings.

Hockey is sort of a big deal in my family (translation: my grandparents are from Canada). My grandfather used to have season tickets to the Kings when they first came to Los Angeles in the Forum. Ultimately, he moved on to being a more American-American and spent his hard earned cash on season tickets with the Dodgers. But this Canadian blood inside me has left me with a passion for the game and the expertise to explain to you, the somewhat playoff hockey fan, who the hell these Kings are, why they are playing out of their mind, and why I think they are going to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup in a few short weeks.


How we got here:

For the last 3 seasons the Kings have languished in the very competitive Pacific Division of the Western Conference. As a result of a long term rebuilding program instituted by General Manager Dean Lombardi, the team is stocked with home-grown draft talent. Heavily investing in tough minded defensemen, Lombardi has assembled a team that runs on a defense-first philosophy. The former coach of the Kings, Terry Murray, fired mid-season this year, fit perfectly into the defensive model set forth by the GM (he was a defensemen during his time as a player in the NHL). Though never a strong scoring team, LA found itself qualifying for the playoffs 2 out of 3 years under Murray by their grit and a handful of timely goals. Having a great base of quality young players that included the likes of Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jack Johnson, Wayne Simmonds, Jonathan Quick, and Dustin Brown, The Kings were ready to make a run out of the basement of the West.

Then came 2012. This was finally the season that AEG (Kings owners) would allow Lombardi a little leeway with spending money outside of the draft and bringing free agents that can score onto the squad.

Lombardi tried everything to bring a true scorer to the team. He signed Mike Richards to a long term deal, traded for Dustin Penner, and brought Jeff Carter over this season at the trading deadline to try and spark an offensive outburst. He also fired Coach Murray and replaced him with veteran Stanley Cup-winning coach Daryl Sutter. The cards of the deck were set and yet the Kings still couldn’t score consistently.

Fortunately, the low scoring boys of LA had the best goaltender in the league on their side. Jonathan Quick had more shutouts in 2012 than any other keeper in the NHL and oftentimes found himself winning games that saw little if any offense being provided by his forwards or defensemen. Having Quick behind the goal gave the Kings a chance to make it to the playoffs given a bit of luck and some timely scoring.

Who we thought they were:

Having top line scorers in Carter, Kopitar, and Richards, the Kings should have coasted to a Pacific Division title. We thought the combination of the young core and the newly acquired former all-stars should have pushed them over the top.

Instead, they spurted and stopped in great heaves of offensive production. There appeared to be something missing from the formula and it came in the form of leadership. Dustin Penner is known as a hot head (he had back-spams this season from eating pancakes), Jeff Carter was a renowned drinker during his days with Philadelphia, and Mi

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