CHICAGO – I don’t know what to be more irritated with: the questionable officiating or Los Angeles’s lackluster offense. I didn’t agree with a few calls in particular. First, Michal Handzus cross-checked a King in the crease and no penalty was called. Marian Hossa’s game-winner looked to be tipped in with a high stick but no review. Lastly, David Bolland left his feet to deliver a borderline hit to Mike Richards in the final minute and change and got away with it. But was that the only problem the Kings had this afternoon? No.
Despite Justin Williams capitalized on a defensive mistake by the Blackhawks to open the scoring, the Kings were badly outplayed in the opening frame as they were outshot 17-2. Jonathan Quick, as usual, played the role of hero consistently bailing his team out.
Unfortunately for the Kings, the good fortune didn’t last as at the 12:26 of the second, Chicago finally got on the board as Johnny Oduya shot a puck that Quick saved but gave up the rebound to a streaking Patrick Sharp who made no mistake on his chance. This was the same Patrick Sharp who, despite being unproductive against the Kings this season, has been successful against the silver-and-black career-wise.
But the Hawks weren’t done there as less than four minutes later, Marian Hossa tipped in a Duncan Keith point shot that fooled Quick and just like that, Chicago was up and the Madhouse was alive and well.
On the play, it looked as if Hossa had tipped in the shot with a high stick but upon further review by yours truly, it’s clear that Hossa’s stick (although not too convincingly) was below the crossbar – thus it was the right call not to review it.
With the Kings did have better shot totals in the second and third frames (12 and 8 respectively), the effort wasn’t quite as good as it should have been. While I’m not inclined to refuse any effort, something more was expected from the Conference Final opener and for whatever reason, Kings fans did not get that from their team.
Within the final two minutes of the third, Chicago’s David Bolland delivered a very marginal (and I’m being kind putting it that way) hit on Mike Richards that left the former Flyer dazed. Bolland left his feet and delivered an upper-arm hit to the head of Richards. No call was made and just moments later, Bolland was taken down by Jeff Carter with a weak-looking trip that, for all intents and purposes, killed any chance Los Angeles had of tying the game. With the loss, the Kings fall to a dreadful 1-6 on the road. Should the hope to make this a series, that record needs to change - immediately.
I will be the first to admit that the officiating was shoddy at best this afternoon. In fact, if the questionable officiating fails to make the Kings angry and determined to tie the series in Game 2, then something is wrong. With that said, though, I will not be hesitant to admit that for a team as great as the Kings are, much more was expected.
Their lone goal was a questionable tally that the Blackhawks could have avoided but I do not want to take anything away from the effort of Justin Williams.
As for the likes of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and the aforementioned Richards just to name a few, their performances is what helped the Kings win the Stanley Cup last June and if they even want to think about repeating, at least two of the aforementioned need to significantly step up their game.
Kudos to the Los Angeles Kings for getting past the first two rounds but there is no margin for slacking off anymore. The big guns of the Kings need to step it up. If the Kings had busted their humps all night and only came up with the one goal, I would have given the team an A for effort. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Simply put, if the Kings do not elevate their games by tomorrow, they may have to worry about a quick playoff exit at the hands of the 2010 Cup champions.
This certainly was not the way Los Angeles had hoped to start their series but it is now onward and upward as the Kings are right back to work tomorrow night when they return to the United Center for Game 2.