March 28, 2011
"What? 'Over'? Did you say 'over? Nothing's over until the Kings decide it is! Was it over when the Red Wings bombed Cole Harbour? HELL NO!"
("Red Wings?" "Forget it, he's rolling.")
("Cole Harbour?" "Crosby's hometown. Forget it, he's straining to keep this hockey-relevant.")
"AND IT AIN'T OVER NOW. 'Cause when the going gets tough [Insert roughly 30 seconds of patriotic instrumental music] … the Anze-less get going! Who's with me!? Let's go! Come on!"
Where's the spirit? Where's the guts?
Where's the confidence that even without Azne Kopitar's points, power-play ability and overall MVP performance, the Kings aren't going to be a first-round bye for a higher seed or have their playoff bubble burst?
Sure, Kopitar is done for weeks with a broken ankle. Yes, Justin Williams(notes), the second-leading scorer, is also shelved with a bum shoulder. But is that any reason for every single Kings blog to publish the same down-goes-Anze photo and surly lament about the team's misfortune?
What you need are five reasons to laugh in the face of despair and realize that the Kings aren't done yet. To quote Leslie Mann in "Knocked Up": "We're going to be positive. Positive, positive, positive."
1. Barring a Total, Epic Collapse, the Kings are Going to be a Playoff Team
According to Sports Club Stats' metrics, the Kings have a 4-percent chance of finishing in ninth place. Which is so say they have a better chance of finishing third in the conference (7 percent) than out of the playoffs (although probabilities obviously don't factor in catastrophic injuries). The Kings play three games at home and four on the road, although one of those road games is at Anaheim. Tough last week with two against the Ducks, San Jose on the road and the Coyotes at home; but it's going to take a hell of a tumble to miss the postseason.
There's no question Kopitar's the MVP for the Kings this season … until you really look at what Quick has done in his 54 stats. That 2.19 GAA .919 save percentage and six shutouts aren't an aberration. He's give up two goals or less in six of his last eight starts. Best of all: We love redemption stories. Quick gave up 21 goals in six games to the Vancouver Canucks last postseason, with a putrid save percentage of .884. You think he wants another shot in the playoffs? And let's not lose sight of the fact that he can control pucks with his mind.
3. The Kings' Secondary Scoring Isn't Terrible
Losing Kopitar and Williams is losing 47 of the 351 goals the Kings have scored this season, or roughly 13 percent 207 goals the Kings have scored, or roughly 23 percent. (Ed. Note: Apologies ... notes fail.) There's no replacing that, but the Kings aren't exactly barren when it comes to offense ... if their depth can pick up the slack. From Crowned Royal:
With a few exceptions, the burden of success is now on the shoulders of players who have often been inconsistent this season. When Kopitar and Williams weren't scoring, games were likely lost unless Quick stood on his head or the team simply shut it down on defense.
Now, these players must figure out how to put the puck in the net without them, while keeping it out with even more proficiency than before. The latter will be a matter of bearing down and fighting for every inch of ice. The former will require all of that heart combined with every drop of skill Terry Murray can squeeze out of his remaining roster.
Ryan Smyth(notes) has eight power play goals. Dustin Brown(notes) is having his best goal-scoring season since 2008. And hey, maybe this would be a good time for Dustin "two goals in 12 games" Penner to get his ass in gear, having gone scoreless in five games and with one goal since March 7.
4. The Defensive Suffocation Theory
Terry Murray isn't exactly Jacques Lemaire, and not just because his skin tone makes Jacques Lemaire look Brazilian. But he's a realist who knows how to manage assets on his roster, and this could be a chance for the Kings to circle the wagons if they can't play the same brand of hockey they were with Kopitar healthy. From the LA Times:
Murray said he considered becoming more conservative but will stick with the current structure. "You might tweak it as you move through it and see how things go over the next couple of games," he said, "but we'll stay with what we've been doing and just push the importance of every play and the consistency of performance."
The blue line remains stacked and the team has several forwards that know their way around a defensive assignment. The Kings are seventh in the League in scoring; maybe it's time to accept that winning 2-1 games is still winning.
5. The Wounded Animal Theory
You want to believe the Kings will react like the Penguins have without Crosby. You want to believe that this moment is one in which the chemistry and the cohesion in the lineup will overcome the losses on the stat sheet and in leadership. That "one shift at a time" will become an effective mantra rather than an expected cliché at a time like this.
Surly and Scribe, one of our favorite Kings blogs, has a scenario spelled out in which the Kings make the playoffs, advance in the playoffs and hang tough until their stars return. The root of the term "fanfic" is fan fiction, and we imagine the majority of Kings fans will view this as such. Call it delusion, call it a desire to see a team playoffs overcome the odds after getting prison raped by the Hockey Gods one month before the … is it wrong to believe in the Kings when, logically, there's no reason to?