Blackhawks @ Kings
For hockey fans, tomorrow night will be a potential WCF matchup. ‘Hawks @ Kings!!!@!!1! Last season, my Blackhawks were completely disappointing. That being said, they still beat the absolute piss out of the LA Kings, winning all 4 games. The ‘Hawks are at the end of the annual “circus” trip and thus far it has been disappointing, with the ‘Hawks posting a 2-3-0 record. This wouldn’t be bad, but the ‘Hawks have been dongwhipped recently, getting outscored 19-6 before todays 3rd period awakening against a struggling Ducks team. The staff at Cosby Sweaters is notoriously Hollywood, Im looking at you in particular thediplomat. Katey Berman, however, is AWESOME! As the Kings blogger for CS, I interviewed her in preparation for tomorrows matchup:
1. As a ‘Hawks fan, I can tell you that locker room changes do make a huge difference. With all the changes in the Kings locker room, how do you feel about your team chemistry at the quarter point of the season?
Overall, I think the team chemistry has been pretty good so far. Naturally there are some players that are working together better than others and some that are taking a little bit more time, but as a whole I think the locker room changes have been mostly positive. Last year, the Kings were one of the top defensive teams in the league and took a lot of pride in that, but I think management realized that they needed more players up front that could produce offense. Losing Wayne Simmonds, who was an obvious fan favorite, was bittersweet. He was a big part of the locker room and had great relationships with the guys on the team. However, the Kings desperately needed a guy like Mike Richards who can put up major points, so trading him and Brayden Schenn to Philly was a move that needed to be made. If you look at the top three goal scorers on the team right now, two of them are brand new additions: Richards and Simon Gagné. Having multiple guys like that who can score consistently alongside Anze Kopitar is something that the Kings have been lacking for years. The chemistry between the top line is really solid and has already combined for a total of 54 points in 22 games. I think the player who has been most negatively affected by the roster changes is Jarret Stoll. He just can’t seem to make as much of an impact on the third line. Last season, Stoll had 20 goals and one of the highest faceoff win percentages in the league. In 22 games this season, he has a goal and 5 assists. His role on this team is very important, so if he can get it going, I think the Kings will be at their best.
2. Which teams scare you most in the playoffs? Any chance you guys get over the Sharks hump and pass them by in the division?
There are a few teams that I think most Kings fans would prefer not to face in the playoffs based on past histories. The Canucks are an obvious choice. I don’t think there is a single team in the league that wouldn’t be a little nervous to hear that they were going to be matched up against them in the playoffs. They have a ridiculous amount of talent on their roster and a great coaching staff, not to mention they eliminated the Kings in the first round in 2010. Henrik and Daniel Sedin are two of the best players in the world and Ryan Kesler, though he may have lost some street cred after his crying incident, is still a guy to be feared.
While I’m not necessarily scared of the Sharks, I just flat out detest them. Chances are high that I’d probably lose my sanity in another playoff series against them. I am still reliving the Game 3 nightmare, the Brad Richardson overtime flub, and the series ending goal celebration from the always obnoxious Joe Thornton. But in all seriousness, last seasons’ playoff series was a frustrating one if you’re a Kings fan. It was a close battle, one that occurred without the Kings leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, who suffered a season ending injury just a few games before the start of the playoffs. I think if the Kings faced them again it would be a whole different series especially now with the additions of Richards and Gagne. As far as passing them in the division, it’s hard to say since those guys get on some serious hot streaks, but I think it’s a possibility.
Last but not least, I have to give it up to the Blackhawks. The Kings lost all four of their games to them last season (a streak that will hopefully be broken on Saturday), so if that is at all indicative of how a playoff series would be, then yeah, they scare me a little. They’ve got major talent up front and on the back end, but I’m looking forward to see how they match up this year.
3. What aspect of the Kings (besides the hideous logo) frustrates you the most?
Two words: Dustin Penner. 6 foot 4, 245 pounds, and he is about as aggressive as my cocker spaniel. Since joining the team last year he has done close to nothing. In fact, I could actually recall from memory every good play he’s made this season and that’s because there are so few. He has been put on a line with guys that can score in Mike Richards and Dustin Brown and he’s picked up two assists in 14 games. He was recently placed on IR with a hand injury that has turned out to be an absolute blessing. His replacement is 21 year-old Andrei Loktionov, who has matched that same number of points in just 4 games with the Kings this season. Take your time, Dustin. Seriously.
4. Which player do you expect to have the best rest of the year?
Mike Richards is really starting to come along. He has eight goals in his last eight games and looks to be pretty comfortable playing with the Kings. I always had a lot of respect for him as a player when he was back in Philly (despite the rumors of excessive booze and porn stars), but I didn’t get a chance to watch him play as much. Now that I see him out there every game, he’s proven himself to be a great player in this league and the Kings are lucky to have him. I expect that he will put up a good battle against Kopitar for that top spot. I also think this will be a big year for Jonathan Quick . He is finally starting be recognized as one of the league’s top goaltenders, but I’m hopeful that by the end of the season, even the most casual of hockey fans in LA will know his name.
5. Who wins this game? ‘Hawks or Kings? score?
I think it will be a close battle, but I’m going with 3-2 Kings.
For my answers about the Blackhawks season so far, outlook for the future, and prediction on the game see Katey’s Post