After Los Angeles’ impressive 4-2 win last night to open their series with Vancouver, the people at TSN weren’t content with simply taking the end result with a grain of salt. Instead, on their website (tsn.ca), they had to title the end result “A Lucky Break.” A lucky break? Maybe if the good people at TSN bothered watching any of the game, they would be singing a different tune. Then again, maybe not. After all, there’s nothing the Canadian sports media wants more than seeing one of “their” teams hosts Lord Stanley’s mug in June.
Since Dustin Penner’s game-winning goal was partly the result of a defensive mishap by Vancouver’s Alex Edler, TSN is content to dismiss Los Angeles’ Game 1 victory. They have to since the so-called experts picked so many Canucks players in their fantasy draft while the amount of respect the Kings received amounted to bupkis.
After chosing Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, analyst Darren Dreger had the audacity to say that the next best goaltender available was Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo. Is that so? All Jonathan Quick did was earn a league-high 10 shutouts and a league-best 1.95 goals-against average. In fact, with all due respect to Los Angeles’ forwards, there was only one reason why a team so depleted in the goal department would be in the playoffs: the outstanding play of their goaltender – in this case, Jonathan Quick.
Of course, Quick isn’t getting any love because of his lack of playoff success. Two years ago, in his defense, he was burned out having played 72 regular season games and last spring, he just ran into a hungrier San Jose squad. Quick is inexperienced next to Luongo but many are hoping that backup Cory Schneider will come riding in on his steed and save the day the second Luongo begins to falter. Schneider’s even less experienced in the post-season than Quick is but hey, Schneider plays for the lovable Canucks – he’ll do an amazing job unlike Quick. Whatever.
It’s marginal to suggest that Luongo’s the best netminder on his team much less in the playoffs. I understand that there’s a bias towards Canadian clubs and as gratifying as it would be sentimentally to see a franchise north of the border win it all, that’s just not what the playoffs are all about. This is no longer a league dominated by Canadians – nor has it been the way for the better part of a quarter-century now. Enough with the “You should go for such-and-such team because they’re from Canada.” Well, may the best team win Olympic gold. Oh wait, there’s no gold medal at stake and that’s because, quite simply, this is not an international competition.
To call Los Angeles’ win last night a lucky break infuriates me. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards proved what great chemistry they have by dominating the third period last night. The Kings peppered the Canucks with 39 shots, were in control for most of the night and even persevered after allowing the game’s first goal, which was helped thanks to Jonathan Quick being interfered with. Let’s not forget that Vancouver’s other goal was the result of a lucky bounce. But who cares? It was just a lucky break, right? Give me a break, will you?
It’s only the first game of what will likely be a long series but the Kings proved that they belonged in the same league as the Canucks. In fact, despite the way it looks on paper, this is not the David vs. Goliath matchup most believe it to be – and that’s mostly due to the fact that most are too lazy to stay up for a couple of extra hours to watch the Kings play. Instead, they say, “Oh, it’s the team that was stupid enough to trade Gretzky. Who cares?” Well, I care and all the Kings fans care, whether they’ve been fans for a few months, a few years or since the team’s inception in 1967.
TSN chose Vancouver and St. Louis to meet in the West final (picking the top two seeds in the conference – how gutsy) and why? Sure, the Canucks finished the regular season with the league’s best record but if these experts really are experts, they’d know that hockey holds a time-honoured tradition where what happens in the regular season means absolutely nothing when the playoffs start. Speaking of St. Louis, what makes anyone at TSN think they’ll be making any noise this spring? I’m not knocking the Blues here but after going to the finals in their first three years of existence, St. Louis made the conference final twice in their next 42 years. Actually, the last time they did so well in the regular season was in 1999-2000 when they finished first overall. All they did was bow out in the opening round.
Not only were the Canucks unable to contain Los Angeles’ top line but they had to resort to knocking Kyle Clifford out of the game (by catching him in a vulnerable position no less). It was an intense first game and I cannot wait to see what Game 2 has in store.
I’m hoping that the “experts” at TSN will have their jaws to the floor once this series is finished – because if the Kings can play the way they’ve been playing in the last few weeks, said experts will have no choice but to tuck their tails between their legs and hang their heads in shame because no one disrespects the Los Angeles Kings – no one!
Photo: Courtesy of Andy Clark/Reuters