(This article was originally published by me as a guest author at the site called “Surly and Scribe”)
On February 25, the Kings were in 10th, had gone 2-6-2 over their last ten, and the surging Ducks were only 4 points back. Even though the Kings were tied in points with 8th place Dallas, the Kings seemed more likely to be overtaken from behind (nice image, huh?) than to challenge for the Division Title.
At that time, the penalty kill was floundering, the Power Play was totally unplugged, and the scoring at even strength was DeadFuckingLast and dropping. So, in an article entitled, “Is it Over Yet? The L.A. Kings And The Impetus Of Impotence…” I wrote this:
“I have to feel that the Kings are about to break out. Maybe not tonight, but in the next 12 to 15 games… Dustin Brown will score, Kopitar will shoot, Richards will dog on the backcheck and grit some goals in with jaw-clench strength alone. Scuderi will pass, even in the O-zone. Doughty will find a way to handle guys in his corners…Voynov will play over his head…Martinez will make Drewiske maintain the #8 position in a 7-man depth chart. Williams will button-hook the opposition into a permanent dizziness…we are gonna go 8-2-2 over the following dozen. Then, we’re gonna be within 3 points of San Jose going into that final two-game series. We’re gonna score 6 goals in one game, twice. We’re gonna go 2 for 3 on the power play and do a run of 35 straight penalty kills. We’re gonna score two goals in the final minute and win games in OT. We’re gonna make the playoffs in 4th or 3rd, we’re gonna go into them hot, and then we’re gonna win the first round. Waiting for the punch line? Sensing sarcasm? Actually, no. I am optimistic. ”
It seemed counter-intuitive at the time; the article’s perspective was that of a fantasy, and even said so. At that time the Kings desperately needed an epic run, and the fact is they produced it immediately. They beat Chicago 4-0. I said Brown will score: Brown got a hat trick. I said the Kings would go 2 for 3 on the Power Play; the Kings went 2 for 3 on the Power Play that very night (and also 6 for 6 on the Penalty Kill), plus they went 2 for 4 against Anaheim three games later.
I said Voynov would play over his head; Voynov and Doughty were within 4 seconds of equal ice time at even strength and on the Power Play, yet Voynov had three shots and was a Plus 1 while Doughty had zero shots and finished even. In that game, Voynov played over his own head and Doughty’s, too.
I said the Kings would kill 35 straight penalties; sadly they ended up only going 33 in a row. I was so far off; dammit, nobody’s perfect.
I said Kopitar would shoot. We all know he did, so much so that he has now suddenly developed quick hands and a “wrong-footed” wrist shot that is rightfully compared to Joe Sakic’s on the rush. Ironically, it seems attention to footwork has led to better hands for Kopi.
I said Scuderi would start making passes instead of just dumping it back down the boards; for a bit, he did, but it seems even some dreams are just too much to ask for. But back to the good: as hoped, Martinez has seamlessly taken much more ice time, Williams has button-hooked his way into a scoring binge and Richards’ game has come around.
Best of all, these positive changes do not seem in any way temporary.
Last night against Boston, the game was a good game. I am proud to be a fan after the effort. The Kings turned the game around, even after the collapse, late in the third period. It was a valiant effort, a loss but one with a fighting chance to win it. Doughty blew a play, and for that matter also had a terrible first period. In the fantasy I thought Doughty would “find a way to handle guys in his corner” but I should have also included handling pucks near our blue line. But Doughty overcame, with that pass to Fraser. Quick let in a goal that he wants back, but like Patrick O’Neal said, Boston won the game on a legal kick-in.
The point is that the team played through it all, overcame and nearly tied it up. Add in Voynov’s chance, the save on Carter, the post from Brown: this was not a game where the Kings looked bad. They just lost.
Still on that list of things I fantasized about are the two times where the Kings score 6, score in the last minute twice and win in OT. I dreamed, or so I thought, that the Kings would go something like 8-2-2 over a 12 game span; at one point they were 9-3, same points total, and since that article the Kings are 10-4 and won both the Bettman points in shootouts.
Of course, all the things I fantasized about were just guesses, at best, and were actually just wild hopes. That they almost all came true is just dumb luck on my part, but the result of terrific effort, improved play and excellent leadership by the Kings players and coaches. With two games against Edmonton and one against the Wild, the Kings have a real opportunity to claim the Division. And it now seems that if, as I “predicted,” the Kings are going to be within 3 points of San Jose going into the final home-and-home against them, then we are going to be the team holding the three point lead.