Los Angeles Kings One Win Away From First Stanley Cup

  • Monday, June 4, 2012 9:13 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks


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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Kings Will Be Back In Black For Years To Come

  • Sunday, April 25, 2010 11:00 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks


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.

Around The Rink: Leafs Shake Things Up

  • Sunday, January 31, 2010 8:08 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks


Leafs-Ducks-Flames in huge deal

Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke had seen enough.

The storied franchise has been mired in mediocrity in recent years and this year has been particularly bad with the Maple Leafs sitting second to bottom in the league with a record of 17-28-11 for 45 points.

Toronto aims to get back on the right track with this blockbuster deal pulled off Sunday -- Toronto gets defenseman Dion Phaneuf from Calgary and Stanley Cup-winning goalie J.S. Giguere from Anaheim.

The rest of the seven-player deal with the Flames includes right wing Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie to Toronto for forwards Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers and defenseman Ian White.

My opinion? This is a smart move for Toronto. They needed to shake things up and as the old saying goes -- defense wins Cups and the Leafs just added two stonewalls in back of their blue line. And Phaneuf has the ability to light the lamp often as well, which is always a plus with a defenseman.

Sale of Tampa Bay Lightning could come soon

The financial mess the Lightning face -- the NHL had to bail the ownership out to make payroll -- could soon be resolved, according to a report in the St. Petersburg Times.

The report says that talks are underway about selling the team to Boston hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik. The article says there is speculation that an NHL-brokered deal could happen swiftly.

Many Lightning fans are likely rooting for this deal because the current ownership is not very popular because of their non-hockey background and flashy Hollywood-type decisions such as hiring Barry Melrose as head coach. We all know how that worked out. On the other hand, Vinik is a minority partner in the Boston Red Sox so he knows about how to run a winning franchise. He also managed the Fidelity Magellan Fund in the 1990s so he is wise to the financials and would probably not get himself into a situation where he fails to pay his players.

But the most intriguing part of the story? The speculation from The Hockey News that Vinny Lecavalier may be traded in order for the team to cut costs. Lecavalier would have to waive his no-move clause. He is in his first year of an 11-year, $85 million deal. One potential place Lecavalier could end up is Los Angeles. To be continued ...

Caps aim for franchise record Tuesday

Speaking of the Lightning, the Washington Capitals beat them 3-2 in a matinee affair at the Verizon Center Sunday on a game-winning third period tally from Alex Ovechkin. The win was the Caps' 10th straight, which ties the franchise mark set in 1984.

The red-hot Caps have a chance to set the franchise record for most consecutive regular season wins on Tuesday when they face off against the struggling Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden.

And while Washington's explosive league-leading offense has propelled the team to victory after victory, solid penalty killing and clutch saves from Jose Theodore and Michael Neuvirth have contributed as well.

I've been saying for awhile that the Capitals are one shutdown defenseman away from being a Stanley Cup contender. I still believe General Manager George McPhee will be shopping for a veteran sacrifice-the-body-in-front-of-the-net blueliner to put the final piece of the puzzle in place for a Stanley Cup run.

The goaltending situation I believe to be resolved as this past winning streak has shown. Number one goalie Simeon Varlamov is nearing a return from injury and has been getting some important schooling from Caps goaltending coach Arturs Irbe. Varlamov is sure to match his high skill level with more maturity when he returns. That said, veteran Jose Theodore is playing his best hockey since he became a Cap, and rookie Michael Neuvirth has been playing solid under pressure. Plus there is highly touted prospect Braydon Holtby, who has been tearing it up in Hershey but has yet to play an NHL game. Needless to say, the future between the pipes for the Caps is a bright one.

Jonathan Quick with save of the year?

I expect to be watching a replay of L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick's unbelievable save on the ESPY Awards.

On Sunday in New Jersey, the talented young netminder was sprawled on the ice with bodies in front of him blocking his view when a Devil lifted the puck off the ice into an open net only to see Quick's glove hand rise up and snap the puck out of the air. All this while Quick's eyes were probably staring at the skate blade of one of the players in front of him. It was spectacular and one of the reasons the Kings rallied with two goals late in the third period to win 3-2 and go 5-0 on their road trip.

The Kings are certainly ready for the playoffs and could potentially ride their hot goalie deeper into the postseason than many pundits think they will go.

Here are the game highlights. Quick's spectacular save is at the 4:35 mark:

NHL Draft Spotlights SoCal Hockey

  • Tuesday, December 8, 2009 2:38 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks


The National Hockey League has crowned the Kings as host team for the 2010 entry draft -- the first time in the event's 46-year history that it will be held in the state of California.

The draft will take place from June 25-26 at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

And as an over eight-year resident of the Golden State, I say it is about time the league acknowledged its importance to the future of professional hockey.

There is a popular perception of California as some sort of hockey hinterland with all the sunshine and palm trees being more conducive to surfing than skating. And there is a trivializing of California hockey fans as too casual in some quarters of the Northeast.

That is simply unfair and the NHL knows it. That is why they chose L.A. for the draft.

Here are five reasons why -- besides the obvious influence Wayne Gretzky had on developing hockey here -- that California is the hottest spot for the coldest sport:

• The rise of the Los Angeles Kings is one of the best stories of the season so far. This young, exciting team with loads of talent, such as scoring leader Anze Kopitar, is second in the Pacific Division and is poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. And goalie Jonathan Quick put in one of his best performances of the season last night by making 26 saves in a 2-1 win at home over the Flames.

• The rise of the area around the Staples Center nicely coincides with the resurgent Kings. The L.A. Live complex includes ESPN's new West Coast studios, the Nokia Theater, restaurants, nightclubs, a movie theater, a Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriot hotel opening in February and other entertainment options that are turning the area into a West Coast Times Square.

• The Anaheim Ducks, despite their mediocre play this season, brought the first Stanley Cup to the Golden State in 2007 and turned a team based on a Disney movie into one of the most respected franchises in the NHL.

• The San Jose Sharks are one of the elite teams in the league and, despite a disappointing first-round playoff exit last year, won the President's Trophy as the the team with the best regular-season record. And this year they are on pace to win it again (they will have some competition from the Caps though -- after last night's victory over the Lightning the Capitals overtook San Jose for the overall points lead with 44, one point ahead of the Sharks).

• Hockey at the grassroots level continues to grow in California. According to NHL.com, since 2001 only five states have had more players in the NHL entry draft than California.

Kings On The Up; Ducks On The Down

  • Sunday, November 22, 2009 10:31 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks


At the quarter point of the NHL season there is an interesting role reversal taking place in Southern California.

Despite two recent losses, the once woeful Los Angeles Kings find themselves in second place in the Pacific Division standings with a record of 13-9-2 for 28 points. Meanwhile, the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks are facing something relatively new -- sitting in last place in their division at 7-11-3 with 17 points.

And the frustration in famously laid-back Orange County is perhaps finding its way into the stands.

Following a recent 4-3 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Honda Center, Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermeyer tossed his game stick into the front row after being announced as the number one star because of his overtime winner against the Bolts.

The stick was intended for a little girl, but instead a fight broke out which was caught on camera and became a viral video sensation. Pro skateboarder Mike Vallaly, 39, of Long Beach, was arrested for public fighting. Apparently he fought another dad in the stands for the stick that Vallaly claims was intended for his daughter.

Here is the video of the fight:

Now, while this is an isolated incident and in no way reflects the normally friendly and well-behaved Ducks fans, it is still reflective of a disappointing season thus far for the Ducks on the ice.

And it doesn't get any easier for Anaheim following their most recent 3-2 loss to San Jose at home. Their seven-game homestand continues as they face the red-hot Flames Monday night followed by a desperate Carolina Hurricanes and unstoppable Chicago Blackhawks who will have Marian Hossa back in the lineup.

The Kings are looking at the turmoil down south on Interstate 5 with the unusual position of being considered a potential playoff contender. There is genuine excitement at Staples Center that this will be the year the young, talented team will return to the postseason.

With the NHL's new top gun Anze Kopitar playing out of his mind and Jonathan Quick stonewalling the opposition most nights, there is good reason to believe the billboards across the sprawling city -- "Passion=Pride."

The Slovenian superstar is the current NHL scoring leader. Not only does Kopitar have 33 points (14 goals; 19 assists) through 24 games, but he also has a plus 5 rating in his third season as a pro. Kopitar was minus 15 his rookie year and minus 17 last year so this is an overlooked improvement.

Quick is standing tall in net with 12 wins, a goals against average of 2.79 and a save percentage of .894%.

Despite losing left winger Ryan Smith for a month with an upper body injury and Rob Scuderi for an undisclosed amount of time, the Kings are poised to end their six-year playoff drought and bring some of that Gretzky-era magic back to the City of Angels.

NHL News Recap: Kings Make Statement Against Pens

  • Friday, November 6, 2009 12:36 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks


If the Los Angeles Kings make the playoffs this year, they will look back at Thursday night's 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins as the pivotal turning point in the season.

Yes, L.A. was already riding a 5-0-2 run and looking very much like a playoff-bound team. But their biggest test of this young season was before a sellout crowd of black-clad fans at Staples Center -- some in Penguins jerseys, most sporting the Kings crown. That is because the defending Stanley Cup champs were undefeated on the road at 7-0.

So could the young, talented Kings match the gritty, playoff-hardened Penguins and snap their road winning streak? The answer was a resounding yes. Former Penguin Rob Scuderi and his teammates showed their mettle with a furious third period.

After Pittsburgh took a 2-1 advantage, the NHL's leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, tied the game in the final session with his second goal of the night, before Jarret Stoll scored the game-winning goal. Michael Handzus and Dustin Brown padded the lead later in the period.

Goalie Jonathan Quick played a masterful game behind the net with 32 saves. Quick robbed Billy Guerin, who was camped in front of the net and took a quick pass from Sidney Crosby. Quick made a spectacular save with his right pad while in the splits.

If anything the Kings sent a message to the rest of the National Hockey League that they are for real and that they believe they can make the playoffs this year.

The Chicago Blackhawks brought their fathers on a Western road swing this week. The hockey dads are accompanying their sons to Phoenix and Denver for games against the Coyotes and Avs.

So did the 'Hawks players put in the extra effort for their dads Thursday night or did they get a scolding after the game from their fathers?

Final score: Coyotes 3, Blackhawks 1.

Time for some drills at the backyard rink boys!