Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Throne On The Horizon

After last season, with the debut of rookie star Anze Kopitar, and continued success of players like Michael Cammalleri and Rob Blake, the Los Angeles Kings thought the 2007-2008 season would bring a better fate to this team. But forty-one games in and the Kings find themselves in the familiar and unwanted position of being in last place in the Pacific division and last overall in the NHL.

The facts are they play in a very tough division and with the inter-division heavy schedule they play for the last time this year; it is not very easy to make headway. With the Stanley Cup champion Ducks, Stars, Sharks, and the recent resurgence of the Coyotes, making their way into the playoffs will be hard work indeed for these young Kings.

And therein lies the other obstacle: youth. The Kings have had two rookie goalies, Jason LaBarbera and Jonathan Quick, spend time between the pipes. Quick, who was an emergency recall on Dec. 2, after LaBarbera’s rib injury vs. Colorado, appeared in three games, posting a 1-2-0 mark. LaBarbera has a 2.59 GAA, ranking him 21st and a save % of 0.917, good for 14th overall in the league. This could account for why the Kings are 28th in the NHL in goals allowed with 111 and are 27th with a penalty kill of 78.10%.

That reason may be cause for some concern this year, it is the same reason for optimism for the future. Starting with Kopitar, this team has youth and talent. After being in third among rookies last year in assists (41), points (61), power play points (29), average time-on-ice (20:32) and average power play time-on-ice (4:37), Kopitar leads the team this year with 38 points, followed closely by Dustin Brown with 34. Brown had a career-high nine-game point streak, and has many multiple point games. Cammalleri continues to show he’s an all-star left-winger and has moved into 6th place all-time scoring for Kings wingers passing Mike Donnelly.

These players have helped the Kings in a couple of offensive statistics also. They rank 9th on the power play with a conversion rate of 19.88% and the have scored 91 goals this year, ranking them 14th. The defensemen have scored more goals in the last few games as compared to scoring only six in the first 27 games this year. Tom Preissing has led the defensive, offensive resurgence, scoring three goals in the six games, with Blake, Jaroslav Modry and Brad Stuart each pitching in a goal as well over that span. "The statistical anomaly was that there was just six in the first 27, not the six in six," the first-year Kings rearguard Preissing said. "A big part of it is we have a defensive corps. that has that ability."

And of course injuries have played a factor in the Kings problems. Alexander Frolov recently returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a groin injury and Ladislav Nagy has just started to skate with team as he rehabs from his hip flexor injury. "It's feeling better but it's tough to say when I will come back because, when I push a little hard, it still bothers me," Nagy told reporter. "I have to be patient and not push it hard. I’m going to skate and push it more and more every day.''

And that’s what is going to keep thin franchise moving in the right direction. Pushing it more and more every day, the skilled youth, getting experience, and the hardened veterans leading the way. It won’t be long before the Los Angeles Kings are near the top of the hockey world, sitting on their throne and playing in the playoffs again.

Wear your purple robes with honor and demand respect with a strong three cheers for your Kings in the War Room Roll Call!!

~ ogre1kanobe