Los Angeles Kings One Win Away From First Stanley Cup

  • Monday, June 4, 2012 5:13 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Tonight at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, the black-and-silver clad Kings dominated the New Jersey Devils 4-0 to put the franchise one game away from their first ever Stanley Cup with a commanding 3-0 series lead.

If the Kings hoist the Cup on Wednesday, there is no doubt 26-year-old goalie Jonathan Quick will be awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. Quick is putting together one of the greatest netminding performances in NHL history. And so many of his teammates have taken their game to another level during the Finals. Head coach Darryl Sutter took over mid-season when General Manager Dean Lombardi fired Terry Murray. Sutter has this No. 8 seed team playing with poise, confidence and a swagger that has them seem effortless and methodical in their domination of the top three Western Conference seeds in the Canucks, Blues, Coyotes and now the Devils.

If Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, and former Flyers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were not household names before this playoff run, they are Hollywood stars now. With Kobe Bryant and the Lakers out of the playoffs, the Kings are the toast of Tinseltown as they should be. The City of Angels is enamored with its hockey team and there is no doubt that if the Kings hang on for the Cup and hold that parade downtown, the entertainment capital of the world will put on a production like there has never been seen before in NHL history.

There hasn't been this excitement surrounding the Kings since 1982's Miracle on Manchester at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, when L.A. mounted the largest comeback in NHL playoff history after being down 5-0 to Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers. The Kings won the game 6-5 in overtime. And who can forget when Gretzky, who was in attendance tonight with his buddy Mark Messier and dropped the ceremonial puck, put Southern California on the hockey map when he was traded in 1988. Gretzky took the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993 when they lost to Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens.

Who could have predicted that the Kings would be one win from the Cup all these years after the late Hamilton, Ontario native Jack Kent Cooke was awarded the expansion franchise in 1966 (Cooke also owned the Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Lakers and built the Forum). I lived in the Los Angeles area for nine years and having attended many games at the Staples Center the past several years, I certainly couldn't have predicted this magical playoff run. The Kings always seemed to be missing those intangibles that separate good teams from championship teams. The Devils certainly know what that is given their glorious Stanley Cup-winning history.

I was living in Southern California when the hated cross-town rival Anaheim Ducks won the Cup in 2007. For Kings fans, when the former Disney-owned franchise based on a corny kids movie won the first Cup ever in the state of California, it was a punch in the gut. When I was in L.A., the Kings missed the playoffs from the 2002-2003 season to the 2008-2009 season (2004-2005 was a lockout year). They finally made the playoffs the next two years only to lose to the Canucks and Sharks in the first round.

The Kings of California are about to be crowned Stanley Cup champions and this former Angeleno is enjoying this magical postseason run.

Go Kings Go!

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L.A. Kings: Trouble in Tinseltown?

  • Friday, January 21, 2011 9:15 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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You know a franchise is in trouble when just before the All-Star Break the rumor mill is heating up about a big trade, a head coaching change and selling the team.

The focus should be on a successful first half of the season a year after making the playoffs for the first time in nine years. But the Kings are mired in a three-game losing skid, have lost nine out of their past 11 games, and are looking up at the top eight in the Western Conference. At 49 points they are in last place in the Pacific Division and are in 12th place in the conference -- five points behind eighth-place Colorado for the final playoff spot.

The Kings are going to need a big second half to make the playoffs after their unexpected struggles so far. The bad news just keeps piling up for the team:

-- GM Dean Lombardi is facing a steep $50,000 fine after apologizing for comments he made last night after the Kings' 2-0 loss to the Coyotes. Lombardi questioned the objectivity of league exec Mike Murphy following a Phoenix goal that went to video review. Lombardi said Murphy was not happy about being denied the Kings' GM job.

-- Left wing Marco Sturm has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, putting the spotlight again on the team's apparent deficiency at the left wing forward position. Talented rookie Andrei Loktionov is manning the first line next to Anze Kopitar, but L.A. Times' columnist Helene Elliot postulates that what is preventing Kopitar from reaching the next level is the lack of a veteran, creative, scoring left winger on the first line. That is one reason the Kings could be keen to make a trade soon.

-- The website L.A. Observed reported today that the Kings could be up for sale. Apparently ownership group AEG is shopping the team for around $350 million. AEG has been publicly pursuing an NFL stadium in downtown L.A. to lure a team back to the city. Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG, refuted the report to the L.A. Times later today, saying "We are neither looking at or in talks to sell. Very focused on the NFL."

It seems to me that all these off-ice distractions could be resolved by one thing: winning hockey games. This team is too talented and has made too much progress to not rebound from this slump and make the playoffs. So will the playoff appearance last year be a blip on the radar for a perennial losing organization? Or is this slump the blip on the radar for a once-proud franchise in the middle of a rebuild that will turn them into eventual Stanley Cup contenders?

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NHL Draft: Edmonton Invades Los Angeles

  • Sunday, June 27, 2010 12:18 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Not since Wayne Gretzky moved from Edmonton to Los Angeles has there been so many Oiler jerseys seen in Southern California. With the first pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center, Edmonton picked forward Taylor Hall and gave hope to fans of the worst team in the league.

"I’ve been an Oiler fan all my life and this is the first time in franchise history they’ve had a first-round pick and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to watch them pick first," said Edmonton native John Plaisier, who was drinking beers with his friends at the fan festival at L.A. Live before the draft.

The fan fest included a chance to try on the hockey gear and jersey of their favorite player, a puck shooting area, a beer garden, the opportunity to play the latest version of 2K Sports' popular NHL videogame franchise and a street hockey game for the tykes in the crowd. It was great entertainment befitting the entertainment capital of the world.

The doors to the Staples Center opened at 2 p.m. -- a full two hours before the draft began -- and there were already long lines to enter the arena -- a testament to how popular ice hockey is in Southern California.

For two days at least, the Lakers took a backseat to the Kings as was evident by the Kings jersey on the statue of Magic Johnson in front of the arena. The Oscar De La Hoya statue and of course the Wayne Gretzky statue were also wearing Kings jerseys.

Once ticket-holders entered the arena they were treated to an opportunity to take their picture with the Stanley Cup and every individual trophy. Some fans waited in line for up to an hour to snap a picture with the holy grail of hockey.

While as expected there were many Kings and Ducks fans filling the stands, every other team was represented as well. There were Pens fans with Crosby jerseys, Caps fans with Ovechkin jerseys, Bruins fans, Flyers fans, Maple Leaf fans, Avalanche fans. You name the team and fans were represented at the draft. It was a shining example of how geographically diverse Southern California is that every fan-base in the U.S. and Canada was represented.

And while the boos from Kings fans drowned out Gary Bettman when he announced it was Anaheim's turn to draft, Bettman was booed himself when he was introduced. The commish seems to be booed in every NHL arena in America. The National Hockey League is going through a golden era right now and is the most exciting it has ever been so why Bettman gets the wrath of the fans all the time is a mystery. When Sidney Crosby -- who was sitting at the Pens table on the war room floor -- was shown on the video screen he was booed almost as loudly as the Ducks and Bettman.

Seeing all the Ducks and Kings fans was a reminder of how this rivalry is so good for the game and Southern California. And seeing so many California-bred prospects drafted shows how much youth hockey has grown in SoCal. It was especially rewarding to see Long Beach native and fourth-ranked forward prospect Emerson Etem chosen by Anaheim in the first round with the 29th overall pick.

Other Cali players drafted included Beau Bennett, Jason Zucker and Taylor Aronson.

And while Canadian prospects dominated the top of the draft, the Americans set a record with 11 first-rounders and a total of 59 players overall.

Chris Robinson drove up from Laguna Niguel to see who the Ducks drafted and was impressed with L.A.'s hosting job.

"I think it’s perfect," Robinson said. "It’s good exposure for the league and there’s a lot more hockey fans in L.A. than you’d think."

More pictures from Friday's first-round festivities at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles:

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The Hockey Stop Skates East

  • Tuesday, June 22, 2010 12:37 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Next month I am moving from the land of the Kings and Ducks to the place the Capitals call home.

After nearly nine eventful years covering hockey in Southern California I'm heading back to my hometown of Washington, D.C. where I will continue to post the latest news and analysis from the world of professional hockey.

It's been a wild ride reporting on hockey here in SoCal. Until I lived here for a while I had no idea how popular the sport is in this "non-traditional" market. There are so many Californians who came of age during the Gretzky era and have instilled the love of the game in their children that hockey will continue to get bigger and bigger here. Plus there is a constant influx of people from cold climes such as Canada, the Midwest and Northeast who bring their love of hockey here.

I started out covering the now defunct Long Beach Ice Dogs minor league team for a community newspaper called The Beachcomber and what struck me the first time I entered the Long Beach Ice Arena was how many fans were in the stands and how passionate people were for this scrappy Montreal Canadiens affiliate. It was a pleasure writing about the ups and downs of the Dogs.

But the passion in Anaheim for the Ducks and L.A. for the Kings is something I'll never forget. Despite the stereotype of laid-back and apathetic sports fans in Southern California, the Kings and Ducks followers are some of the most loyal fans in the entire National Hockey League.

It was incredibly exciting living in SoCal in 2007 when the Ducks brought the first Stanley Cup to the Golden State. And it has been awesome witnessing the rise of the Kings to playoff contenders.

There is also a very active grassroots youth hockey community across California that is going to breed some future NHL players. That is one reason why the league decided to locate this year's NHL Entry Draft at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. I'll be there this Friday for the first round and will be live-blogging the event so check in to The Hockey Stop this Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for instant draft results for each team.

I will also miss playing street hockey every Sunday with my crazy Canadian buddies as part of the Hangover Hockey League. We started out playing on the basketball court at Veterans Park in Westwood and then alternated between roller hockey rinks in North Hollywood and Mar Vista. I usually went home after a game bruised and sore for the next week but it was all worth it. Good luck to all my street hockey comrades!

While I'll be blogging from the draft this Friday, if my blog posts are less frequent the next couple of weeks it is because I'm busy preparing for my move. But as soon as I'm settled in D.C. I'll be ramping up the posting again.

There are a couple of stories of note from today's news.

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer, 36, retired today after 18 NHL seasons. The Norris and Conn Smythe Trophy winner is the only hockey player in the world to win the Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold Medal, World Championship, World Junior Championship, World Cup and Memorial Cup.

Also, the NHL released the 2010-2011 regular season schedule. Click here for each team's complete 82-game schedule.

Lastly, a reminder that the NHL Awards will be televised live from Las Vegas on Versus tomorrow evening at 7:30 p.m. EST/4:30 p.m. PST.

Kings Will Be Back In Black For Years To Come

  • Sunday, April 25, 2010 7:00 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Despite being eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs tonight by a more experienced Vancouver Canucks, the Los Angeles Kings have a lot to be proud of this season and much to look forward to in the years ahead.

After a nine-year playoff drought, this young, talented group will be battling deep into the playoffs for many years to come, thanks to a smart rebuilding effort reminiscent of the building blocks a few other teams started putting in place a few years ago that are now paying dividends, namely the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

All three of these teams tasted the bitterness of early playoff exits before gaining the experience and supporting cast to make runs deep into the postseason. Pittsburgh already won a Stanley Cup last year and the 'Hawks and Caps hope this is their year to do the same.

So keep your heads up, Kings fans, although I know it is tough right now with the pain of losing to a team you very well could have defeated. But it wasn't your year. It's too early for that. The Caps learned a hell of a lot from the sting of losing in Game 7 two years ago to the Flyers in the first round and in Game 7 last year to the Penguins in the second round.

Now Washington knows how to handle these situations and hopefully come out on top this time.

And Los Angeles will know too. That's because Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Alexander Frolov, Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Michal Handzus, Wayne Simmonds, Jack Johnson, Matt Greene and the other Kings on this all-star roster got their first taste of the playoffs and once you get your first taste of the NHL postseason you live to return and eventually hoist the greatest hardware in professional sports -- the Stanley Cup.

History Will Be Made

  • Wednesday, March 31, 2010 1:46 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Not excited about the playoffs yet?

The National Hockey League's new video spots airing on television and the internet should get the lamp lit for puckheads nationwide who aren't yet feeling the April Anarchy to come in two weeks.

Despite the Kings coming down to earth of late, the excitement is still building in the City of Angels for their expected return to the playoffs after years of mediocrity.

But I'll be flying from my adopted city of L.A. to my hometown of Washington, D.C. to see the Capitals compete in the first round.

I'll be at the Verizon Center rockin' the red for the first two games in mid-April so watch out for updates on The Hockey Stop as the NHL's top team begins the quest for its first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Here are the videos to get you in the mood:

History Will Be Made -- Mark Messier



History Will Be Made -- Ray Bourque