Before we begin I think it's time to pay a little tribute to our northern neighbors, who are the model example of what an NHL team should be like, from both an organizational and fanbase standpoint.
The Los Angeles Kings are the equivalent of that class douchebag who is crude, insulting, and generally makes life miserable for everybody around them, but is without a doubt the absolute coolest person in the class by miles (in his mind). Everybody hates him, nobody wants to deal with him, yet every year we're all forced to face him at least once. For those of us unfortunate enough to be close to him... well we're the ones who have to deal with his foul attitude (amongst other foul-smelling things) far more regularly.
Wow that sounds an awful lot like Eric Cartman... who just so happens to be the team's biggest fan! It couldn't be more perfect of a match!
Unfortunately we here in Anaheim are like the poor kids who have to live next door to the NHL's version of South Park's nuisance, but hey it can't be so bad, right? I mean they're a professional hockey team!
This is where their biggest similarity to Cartman comes along: arrogance.
For years the Kings have been unafraid to boast openly (when they're winning that is) and taken no liberties in doing so.
Take this classy example from last season:
You gotta just love a professional organization that spends time and money just to drive down the road just to give a rival the middle finger. As though their fans don't give everyone enough of them literally during the regular season.
Even their mascot Bailey is a sign of just how remarkably scumbag the entire franchise has become. Bailey probably invented that horrible knockout game that's been going around where teenagers punch random people to unconsciousness.
Or wait, I take that back. That was Jarret Stoll.
However At the end of the Kiss Cam last night, the jumbotron at Staples focused on two Blues fans in the building. Everybody booed them as you may expect, however Bailey proceeded to sneak up behind them and dump an entire bucket of popcorn (I'm talking probably two gallons worth) on the heads of these fans.
I'm not sure if they agreed to it or not, but the point still stands: this is the type of dickery this organization has chosen to condone and promote. Everything from their representative mascot to their official Twitter account.
To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you're welcome.— LA Kings (@LAKings) April 12, 2012
Then again what can you expect from a team and fanbase whose captain is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the biggest divers and cheapshot artists in the NHL?
And the sad part is this started to come about even before they won their. And oh, that Cup.
To that team and their fans that one year of glory (earned after 47 years of trying, mind you) somehow makes them better than the rest of the NHL combined.
And they're about as quick to remind you about it as a Montreal Canadiens fan is to remind you of their 24. What do they have in common? None of them actually matter.
Particularly LA's which in reality is more of a sign of "Hey congratulations you're finally out of the club of perpetual failure." [Note: a club still inhabited by the San Jose Sharks].
To them, their Stanley Cup doesn't make them relevant, it makes them better. The best.
The best team in a league where 85% of their fans can't even name another team cause they're too busy watching the Lakers to care. Or the Clippers. Or Football. Or reruns of Futurama. If none of those are going then, and only then, if the Kings are still playing, will they even bother to turn the channel.
Kinda something like this:
Combine all of this together and you get the franchise which we have the immense misfortune of sharing a market and the ice with tonight. I hope the Ducks are ready.
Keys to the Game: Going to the game at Staples last night gave me a chance to legitimately watch the LA game and so I'm actually going to write something here that pertains to a legitimate strategy key for once:
Kyle's biggest key to the game: Own the middle of the ice. Los Angeles is a remarkable team in terms of puck possession and care. Their breakout is systematic and rarely fails. Their possession and support through the neutral zone are difficult to contest due to the speed their breakout gives them, and their offense is a constant threat because they move everything to the middle of the ice.
It doesn't matter whether it's out high at the blue line or down around the goal crease, the entire Kings team first looks for a man that is in the middle of the ice on offense. Their power play cycles the puck up to the top middle, their odd-man rushes send a second man to the middle, and their cycles attempt to find a man breaking into the slot.
If the Ducks want to win, they absolutely must keep the middle of the ice as clogged up as possible and not allow LA to make any passes into this space. Force the shots to come from angles and contain rebounds.
And on a similar note they also need to keep Dustin Brown and company (but especially him) away from the front of the net. They look to set up screens and get tips on shots through traffic. If that doesn't work they bang home an easy goal on a rebound.
Two other small keys: be strong in the faceoff circle (a strong possession team can't establish its game if they never start with the puck), and do not force a puck to the middle on the power play. LA's penalty kill is a no-bullcrap, no-messing-around style that defends the hell out of their slot, punishes the man in front of the net heavily, and pressures the points severely. If the Ducks want to have anything even remotely close to a chance of scoring, they're going to have to take the shots they're given, even if it's not the best. Ben Scrivens is a decent goalie but he's not Jon Quick. He will give up rebounds.
What Can We Learn From this Game: The two most important season series each year for Anaheim are the one with LA and the one with San Jose. The Ducks got a pretty good start to their series with San Jose by earning a point (one which they really shouldn't have on many accounts). Tonight they start the other one. Los Angeles and Anaheim are historically pretty even in terms of head-to-head record (50-47 LA with 11 ties), but the last two years have been immensely lopsided in favor of the north. In 2011-12, LA won 5 of the 6 meetings between the two, and last season the Kings edged the Ducks in the season series by nature of one of their losses coming in the shootout.
Coming into tonight, Los Angeles has won each of the last five meetings between these two teams in all competitions [rookie camps, preseason games, etc.], including two blowout wins during this preseason (a 6-1 stomping by the rookie team and a 6-0 exhibition drubbing at Honda Center on September 17th). The last Anaheim win came on April 7th of last year: a 4-3 regular season shootout victory, also at Honda Center.
For the last few years it's been near-rageworthy for me to watch the Ducks go out against arguably their biggest rival in the league and flounder like a fish out of water. Will this be the season the Ducks finally come out on top in a season series again? It starts with a strong game.
Fearless Prediction: Dustin Brown finally figures out how to count to potato.
Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.
Update: How about these new sweaters for the outdoor game? I think Getzy needs to go one size up. -CK