The Los Angeles Kings lost to the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 in a rough and physical game on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. That was only a small part of the story.
The real shame comes from the fact that the National Hockey League doesn’t make game officials, or one representative per game, available to speak with the media afterwards. It’s hard enough to decipher coach-speak and player quotes that are meant to be politically correct and not enticing interest from the league office.
But when an officiating crew have zero control of a hockey game and then hides behind the shield of not explaining themselves, for better or worse, it gives justification to anyone on the Internet spouting consipracy theories about the first place team in the Canadian market getting the majority of the calls.
Terry Murray, usually very measured and affable even when discussing questionable calls, seemed to just reach his breaking point of swallowing hard when asked about the winning goal. Henrik Sedin cross-checked Drew Doughty from behind into goaltender Jonathan Quick, pinning Quick and his stick underneath allowing brother Daniel Sedin to score with 7:24 to go.
“That’s a god damn shame,” Murray stated, stunning most of us in the room, “the player is in the crease, Quick can’t move his stick, Doughty gets pushed on top of the goalie, and they score. That’s a god damn shame, it should not be allowed, that is a penalty.” He then immediately stormed out, ending the shortest press conference of his three season tenure with the club.
There were many other instances where some of us were left scratching our heads in the press box, and a few even on penalites called against vancouver as well. But at the very least, fans paying top dollar for pro wrestling tickets know going in to expect jaded officiating calls. That resembled pro wrestling in a lot of ways today, and the NHL should be embarrased by it. It’s unfortunate because Dan O’Rourke is a young guy and Chris Lee is not going to remind anyone of Bill McCreary or Andy Van Hellemond.
Nevertheless, the Canucks are a really good team, and good teams take advantage of these types of situations. I don’t want anyone to think the Kings got a royal screwjob, but it’s hard when it feels like you are constantly skating 6-on-10.
But at the end of the day, the glaring issue the Kings are facing is the problems with the power play. It has had it’s moments during the season, but today was an example of an instance where you also wonder if Murray would at some point decline a power play chance and just keeping skating at even strength.
During the game I tweeted that perhaps the Kings power play was honoring legendary college basketball coach Dean Smith. You see Smith’s former team, the University of North Carolina, has their annual showdown later Saturday against Duke. And back before the shot clock era, Smith used to protect the lead by just passing the ball around and not shooting for minutes at a time. The offense was called the ‘Four Corners offense’ and although boring as it was it was also brilliant when executed well.
The Kings power play resembled the four corners offense in this game: asbolutely no puck penetration in the slot or interior offensive zone areas, just a lot of outer passing. Anze Kopitar resembles Segei Zubov, standing 20 feet from the net and refusing to shoot. Kopitar strugglign to score goals you say? Helps he shoots the puck (mo shots on goal in this game).
You get a 5-on-3 for 1:05, you can go the whole time with ZERO shots on goal. The power play unit has been underachieving for much of the season, and against the best team recordwise in the league, the Kings needed to take advantage and they simply didn’t.
On a positive note, recently acquired Dustin Penner scored his first goal with the Kings at 5:28 of the first period for the only goal of the game for the Kings. The team will practice Sunday at 11:30 in El Segundo in preparation for their final home game of this home stand Monday against Dallas.
Be sure to check out this week’s edition of INSIDE SPORTS featuring our interviews with Dustin Penner and Jim Fox on the NHL Trade Deadline activity.
Jon Moncrief is currently in his third season covering the Kings for hornface.com and you can follow him on Twitter by clicking here. He is also covering the NHL and the Dodgers for Examiner. Additionally, Jon is a featured contributor for Bowl Gamer, and is the co-host of the weekly web-TV show INSIDE SPORTS.