Saturday, April 23, 2011

Doughty says Kings will 'do anything to win' game five

Doughty cleared out in Game 2
Over the last 36 hours, much has been about Drew Doughty's exchange with Scott Nichol in game four - which led to a power play goal for the Sharks.

Yet, that wasn't the only target of Doughty's verbal assault on Thursday night. He also spent plenty of time in the face of Joe Thornton throughout the game.

It's something I spoke with him about yesterday, after first finding out how he was feeling going into game five...

MM: Prior to the series starting you were pretty confident. How about now, being down 3-1?

DD: I still think we are fully confident. We saw the things we could do to them. We've had moments of domination. We’ve just got to clean up our d-zone. I think if we clean that up, really focus on that and just keep getting goals the way we are, we’re going to be fine.

MM: You were jawing with Thornton quite a bit on Thursday. Was his blowing kisses to Sharks fans in the crowd a bit disrespectful?

DD: I don't know if it was disrespectful. It's an emotional time in the playoffs. Obviously, Thorts and I have played together before (Team Canada) and were buddies then. But, there's just so many emotions and so much hatred for the other team, that you want to beat them. And we're going to do anything to win that game.

Do that Drew, and we'll see you back home on Monday for game six.

The Mayor


Interview with Sharks Captain - Joe Thornton

Cruising the Mall with Doughty and Simmonds

Drew Doughty comments on Mark Hardy

photo courtesy of

Alec Martinez is looking to stay on his feet in game five

Early in game four the Kings saw Dustin Brown and Matt Greene sitting in the penalty box together, giving the Sharks a two-man advantage and a good chance for some first period momentum.

While San Jose failed to score before things returned to 5-on-5 play, they did plenty of it later - posting three goals in the second and another three in the third.

Then, trailing 6-3 late in the game, the Kings found themselves with their own two-man advantage - something they couldn't capitalize on either.

However, it was the first of the Sharks penalties in that sequence that had coach Terry Murray particularly hot - calling Dany Heatley's tripping of defenseman Alec Martinez 'gutless.'

After waiting a day, to let the emotions simmer down a bit, here's what Martinez had to say about the play - "I was just going back for the puck. I thought I made the play to Greener and then I just tried to turn up ice and he took my feet out. So, I don't know. I, obviously, had my back to the play. I just got up and tried to join the rush because I knew we probably had the delayed penalty. That's just playoff hockey. We just have to make it known that they can't be doing that kind of thing."

Murray was a little more adamant about it at the time, saying it was a slew foot - "That’s where you break your leg. That’s where you blow your knee out. I hate that play. That’s a gutless move in my mind. You just don’t do that in hockey."

The Mayor


Is opportunity knocking on Trevor Lewis' door?

Rookie or not, Trevor Lewis has been a valuable piece of the Kings arsenal this season.

Used mostly as a defensive forward, he's occasionally moved up to a higher profile line and did so again in game two (when Jarret Stoll was out).

During the regular season he averaged 11:29 of ice time per game - and has seen that number increase to 15:48 through the first four games of the playoffs.  Even more impressive has been his plus-minus rating. For the 82-game regular season he was minus-11. However, he's been an 'even' player in the post-season.

MM: On a personal level, how are you feeling about your game so far vs. the Sharks?

TL: I think my game's alright. But, right now it's about the team game. It's must win now for us to keep the season going. We have to come in play it like we know we can and win game five.

MM: Being down 3-1 in the series, where do you draw inspiration from at this point?

TL: We've shown we can play and beat these guys. We've played some good hockey against them. We've just had a few breakdowns, or I don't know, lapses, I don't know what it is. We just have to get back to playing a full 60 minutes and then we can beat these guys.

MM: You're a quiet guy and you're a rookie, so nobody is expecting you to stand up and take charge in the room. But, a lot of guys were upset after the other night. Who was leading the charge verbally in the meeting after the game?

TL: I think pretty much everyone kind of chimed in. We look up to our leadership group and some of those guys help us a lot - especially us young guys. It's just time though for everybody to step up and show how they can play.

Early last month, when talking about Lewis, coach Terry Murray said "He's settling into the NHL game and I feel down the road he can put some points on the board. Once his hands catch up with his feet I think he'll be more relaxed in those opportunities and he'll find a way to score."

Tonight he'll be centering the second line, playing with Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown.

What's that old expression - there's no better time than now?

The Mayor


Terry Murray on Trevor Lewis

Coach Murray selects his Rookie of the Year

Evaluating the rookies with Trevor Lewis - his thoughts on the Kings class of 2011

Shop for Los Angeles Kings Gear at Shop.NHLcom!

Smyth's been here before with a few of these guys

Last hour, Willie Mitchell shared his experience of being down 3-1 in two different playoff series back in 2003.

Well, at least four other Kings players have been there as well - and it was all in the same series, the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals between Carolina and Edmonton.

The Hurricanes had jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the series before Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene and the rest of the Oilers rattled off two straight wins.

Is that something Smyth can use to draw upon right now?

"Yeah. We were down in the Stanley Cup Finals. We came back and pushed it to seven and lost in game seven. Obviously, it's a sense of urgency on our part now," Smyth said, referring to the Kings. "It's a sense of 'one game at a time' and not looking past game five. We need to just stay focused."

His Oilers were able to do just that, before ultimately falling in that final game.

It was close though. Trailing 2-1 in the final minutes of game seven, they pulled their goalie for an extra attacker.

Unfortunately, the play went back the other way.

With the puck on his stick, Justin Williams fired it into an empty net - securing the win for Carolina.

Obviously, Smyth is hoping to once again help his team dig themselves out of a 3-1 hole. Only this time, he'd like to come out on the winning end.

The Mayor

Willie Mitchell has seen this all before

photo courtesy of 
When you talk to a professional athlete about their team's performance you're never quite sure what you're going to get.

Will it be full of cliches and other non answers? Will the response include deflection, praise for the other team or even back-handed compliments?

With Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell it's been the same thing all season - detailed and his honest perspective.

For example, after the Kings shutout loss to the Islanders at the end of a month-long road journey through February, Mitchell didn't make excuses about travel or trap games. Instead he said, "I thought from the top all the way through, there wasn't the same focus that we had in other games."

Then, a little more than a week later, after losing 7-4 to the Red Wings (in a game they once trailed 7-1), he said "We played great against Detroit. I will sit there over and over again - I think the guys played excellent for two periods." And just for good measure, later in the quote he said "We dominated that hockey game."

You don't always have to agree with him. But, he's going to give it to you straight.

So, what's his take on where things stand right now with the Kings?

After practice yesterday, he shared some thoughts on that exact question, as well as took a trip down memory lane - recalling being down 3-1 in the playoffs, not once, but twice before.

First, the Kings situation...

Mitchell - "We seem to have a lot of highs and then a lot of lows, the peaks and valleys. We need to find a more even-keeled presence with the team, top through bottom. You're going to face adversity. You're going to face a few bounces that don't go your way over the course of the post-season, that's reality. Every team goes through that. It's the teams who don't panic, play with composure under those situations and manage to buy time until things go in their favor - they keep their confidence - they have all those things that winning teams have.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Matt Greene on what's needed right now

Prior to the series with San Jose starting last week, most felt the Kings strength was their defense and the offense was going to need all the help it could get.

Well, for the most part, things have played out the exact opposite.

Through four games, the team has scored 14 goals, an average of 3.5 goals per game - significantly above the 2.67 they averaged during the regular season.

To put it in perspective, Vancouver - who scored more goals than any other team in the regular season - averaged 3.2 goals per game.

However, the Kings find themselves down 3-1 in the series because they just can't seem to keep the puck out of their own net. And it's been because of the players in front of the net, not the guy standing in it.

Even so, defenseman Matt Greene thinks the series is far from over...

MM: The guys were full of confidence coming into the series. Where are you drawing inspiration from at this point?

MG: Pride. I think you just have to go out and win - that's it. We still have an opportunity to come back. It's a big game right now for us (tomorrow night). If we get a win out there, we come back and get another win at home and then see what happens in game seven. So, that's it. We're not out of this one bit.

MM: Who was the stand-up guy in the room last night, who was the most upset or saying the most about what happened in the game?

MG: I think everybody. Everybody was pretty emotional about what was going on - going into the second period, getting us back in the game, then losing right there. Terry (Murray) came in and talked to us and he doesn't get fired up too often. So, when he does, that means a lot. At the same time, at this level right now, you don't need anybody cheerleading you. You don't need anybody giving you the rah, rah. You just have to do it, you just have to find it within yourself to do it. And I think everybody can.

One game at a time.  Just one game at a time.

The Mayor


Is Matt Greene coming to twitter?

Kings-Sharks Preview: Matt Greene sees depth vs. skill

The Mayor vs. Matt Greene
photo courtesy of Michael Zampelli
Shop for Los Angeles Kings Gear at Shop.NHLcom!

Dustin Penner is a man of few words these days

Ah, it was a much simpler time.

All the way back to February 28th.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi took a big swing and traded three assets for left wing Dustin Penner.

It was partly a sign of confidence in what his hockey club was capable of doing down the stretch and equally necessary given the lack of scoring that plagued the team all year long.

PennerMania began to run wild throughout Los Angeles.

Now, he's being labeled a bust, if not worse.

Which made it was almost sad to talk to him after practice today. That quirky smile was gone, as were his witty answers.

MM: It's gone from the high of highs when you first arrived here to the low of lows lately. How are you feeling overall with your play and what's going on?

DP: I think frustrated. You know, just the same way most of the guys have felt over the last couple games - just frustration. You can't put your finger on it sometimes. Tomorrow's another chance to get back on track.

MM: How about bouncing around on different lines, has that been a problem for you?

DP: No. I think every coach does that, especially when things aren't going well.  Maybe if I was a younger guy, a first year player, it would be different. But, we have to shake things up.

MM: Is it a chemistry thing - is there a particular player you've found more chemistry with?

DP: No. I don't think it has to do with the other guys. It's more my game.

If the Kings have any chance at mounting a comeback in this series, you would think Penner has to have a goal or two.

That is, of course, if coach Terry Murray even lets him play in game five tomorrow night.

He just needs a few goals and the smile will return.  So too will the fans, eventually.

The Mayor


Penner talks about PennerMania

Dustin Penner and the compounding pressure

Jarret Stoll on fight with Penner

Dustin Penner on his possible 'out of body experience'

Penner on 'smart and edgy' Oscar Moller

Shop for Los Angeles Kings Gear at Shop.NHLcom!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Which Kings player will get off first?

The Kings have scored first in two of the three playoff games with the Sharks.

And they have a 1-1 record to show for it.

Still, when game four gets underway tonight, the coaches, the players and the fans will all be looking for the Kings to score first and take control early. They'll need to win the game to send the series back to San Jose tied 2-2.

So, who tends to score first for the Kings?

Here's a breakdown of the top performers this season...

Coach Terry Murray on Westgarth 2.0

Last hour we looked at the evolving - and improving - game of Kevin Westgarth through the first three games of the series with San Jose.

Before the playoffs started, I asked coach Terry Murray if he expected to play Westgarth the entire series, to which he responded "No, probably not. He might play in the early part of the series and as you move into the deeper part of it, then you need to take a look at the line-up. And that is probably when minutes will diminish for that role."

True to his foreshadowing, Westgarth's minutes have declined from 8:56 in game one to just 2:28 during Tuesday night's game three.

However, he'll be back in there again tonight, playing on the fourth line.

Has Murray noticed a difference in Westgarth recently? Does he see it as Westgarth 2.0?

Murray - "He's played better here in the last 25 games of the year, actually. His skating is really good and that's because of working hard in practice and the tempo of NHL play has been really beneficial to him. When he's out of the line-up, he's in the skating club and really pushed hard. So, his feet are better, his reads are consistent now and he's an intelligent guy. He's a Princeton grad, you know. You cannot play recklessly or careless at this time of the year, to bring the referees into the game. He knows that. He's going to be under the microscope more than any other player on our team - by the officiating and by the league. So, he's taken on the play the right way - playing hard between the whistles, not getting over the line and as a result of that, I feel very confident in using him a lot. He's been an important player."

The Mayor


Kevin Westgarth Presents - Westie 2.0

How tough will the Kings line-up be vs. San Jose Sharks?

Coach Murray selects his Rookie of the Year


Kevin Westgarth Presents - Westie 2.0

Over 56 regular season games, Kevin Westgarth accumulated three assists and 105 penalty minutes.

In Tuesday's game with San Jose, he added another assist - helping out on Willie Mitchell's goal, to put the Kings up 1-0 just a few minutes into the first period.

Earlier in the series he came oh-so-close to netting his first NHL goal.

Even more impressive, he's had several quality shifts - even late in games. Not exactly something fans were used to prior to the post-season.

MM: You seem to be a different player in this series - almost like version 2.0, if you will. Do you feel you're playing any different?

KW: Clearly the season's been a long road and there's been a lot of development taking place. It's my rookie year, so it's getting used to the ins and outs of the game. I think coach had gotten me a few more minutes at various times of the season and more towards the end, there were some opportunities there where I felt I could play a little more. Hopefully I was contributing when I was playing and even at other times when it was outside the whistles. I'm definitely excited though and it's been a great experience thus far. It's great to be able to help out and bring something to the team. If I feel like I'm doing that, it makes everything easier - my confidence gets higher and to have other guy's confidence in me, that's a positive upward spiral, I suppose.

MM: You've had a couple of good looks at a goal so far...

KW: The real one I wanted to go in there was in OT in game one. That would have been real nice. (Dustin) Penner came out from behind the net and found me kind of lost there in the slot. I got it through the d-man, but didn't quite get it through the 'tender. Next time we'll look for that one.

MM: Plus, you still have that bet with Clifford hanging over your head.

KW: Yeah, he got pretty darn close in game two. So, I was a little worried. In any case, it would be worth how ever much money that dinner would cost me. That kid can eat a lot. I've seen him down a 48-ounce steak.

Kyle Clifford, who has two goals in the series, has picked up the only fight for the Kings so far (late in the first period of game one vs. Ben Eager).

With the Kings looking to impose their will on the Sharks tonight in game four, there's at least a good chance Clifford and/or Westgarth could add another scrap or two to the series.

Or will they show off their offensive talents instead?

The Mayor


The Dream is Dead For Kevin Westgarth - includes details on 'the bet'

New Year's Resolutions with Kevin Westgarth

Westgarth on Fight Rules, Clifford's KO and his scrap with Cam

Shop for Los Angeles Kings Gear at Shop.NHLcom!

Clifford's picking up points and gifts in the playoffs

The Energy Line, the Prime Line, call them whatever you will - in the playoffs, maybe it should be the Power Line.

Kyle Clifford, Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds are the top point producing unit for the Kings through three games.

Normally, it wouldn't be much to talk about just a few games into a series. However, when a team has already scored 11 goals, you start to notice some of the names at the top of the leader board.

For example, which forward leads the team in goals? Brown? Williams? Smyth? No - Clifford.

Sure, it's only two goals. Still though, that's more than several bigger names on the roster.

Here are some brief comments from each member of the line...

MM: Are you amazed at all with how Clifford has found a way take it to the next level?

Simmonds: No, actually. Since day one he's gotten better and better and better every day. It's been apparent in his first playoff series and I think he's been one of our best players, to tell you the truth. It's a great thing to see. He's a 20-year old kid who goes out there and battles hard for every puck. He never gives up and he has that never say attitude. That's what you need, especially in the playoffs.

MM: You guys work hard every night, but how rewarding has it been to contribute with some points also?

Richardson: I thought we've been playing well since we were first put together. It was just a matter of putting pucks in the net. We've had tons of chances, even in that first game versus San Jose. We had a few chances there, where if we would have put 'em in, the game probably would have been over. Cliffy's had some good games though and we're looking to keep that effort going and hopefully contribute more offensively.

MM: You certainly haven't looked like you're feeling any pressure. So, talk about what were you feeling during that first period last Thursday, your first NHL playoff game...

Clifford: Definitely, there were some emotions flying around. There was a lot of excitement, a little bit of nerves. I think the big part of it was just breathing a not getting too caught up in the moment.

MM: Earlier this year you told us you gave your first-goal puck to your parents for Christmas. Any special plans for the puck from Saturday, your first playoff goal?

Clifford: That's probably going to go home too, go to my parents. I'll wait until Mother's Day or something like that.

Can they keep the momentum going tonight?

And will Simmonds pick up his first goal of the series?

Yes and yes, if Richardson and Clifford have anything to say about it.

The Mayor


Clifford Helps Evaluate the Kings' Rookies

Dustin Brown Selects his Rookie of the Year

Terry Murray goes inside Clifford's head

Clifford and Westgarth Preparing to Get (Biz) Nasty?

Clifford Explains His Nickname - The Colonel

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One game doesn't make a season...or a series

From as little as one game to as many as 805...

Babych - Bach - Backstrom - Barnes - Barney - Baron - Barrett - Barrie - Batyrshin - Baumgartner - Beck - Bednar - Bekar - Belanger - Benning - Berg - Bergeron - Bernier - Bernier - Berry - Berthiaume - Beverley - Bjugstad - Blake - Blight - Blomsten - Bodger - Bonar - Boucher - Bourne - Boyle - Bozek - Breault - Brennan - Broten - Brown - Brust - Buchberger - Burke - Burridge - Buskas - Byers - Bylsma

Edestrand - Edwards - Elik - Eliot

LaBarbera - Labossiere - Lacroix - Lafayette - Laforest - Laidlaw - Lang - Langevin - Laperriere - Lapointe - Larocque - Larouche - Laskoski - Laughlin - Lavallee - Lavigne - Lavoie - Ledyard - Legace - Lemieux - Lessard - Lesuk - Leveque - Lewis - Liba - Lilja - Lindholm - Loach - Logan - Loktionov - Long - Lonsberry - Luce - Lukowich - Lundmark

Inglis - Irvine - Isaksson - Ivanans

Elkins - Ellis - Eloranta - Emerson - Engblom

Vachon - Valicevic - Venasky - Visheau - Visnovsky - Vlasak - Volmar - Vopat

English - Erickson - Ersberg - Evans

...each of them had one thing in common...

they always remembered to BELIEVE...

So should you!

The Mayor

Two Questions, Five Goals and Jerry Maguire

For a team that's only 20 years old, it was more than 25 years in the making.

No team had come back from being down four goals in the playoffs since Minnesota clawed their way to a 5-4 victory over Chicago on April 28, 1985.

Until the Sharks last night.

Meanwhile, the line of Kyle Clifford, Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds was again impressive, picking up two goals.

Kevin Westgarth and Dustin Penner picked up a point.

Ryan Smyth scored a goal.

Yet, the Kings gave up five goals in the second period. FIVE!

Which leaves two questions to ponder today...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coach Murray still wants more from Justin Williams

Even though the Kings lost game one to the Sharks in overtime, one of their forwards still managed to steal some of the headlines.

Justin Williams, returned to the line-up (surprisingly) after being out for just a few weeks with a separated shoulder.

With limited mobility and a tremendous amount of pain, he somehow found a way to be an offensive force for the Kings - first setting up Dustin Brown's goal and later scoring one himself to tie the game in the second period.

In his high/low article here, Jim Fox called the performance game one's biggest high - full of guts, skill and energy.

Williams didn't register a point in game two. However, the Kings won 4-0, so nobody's complaining.

However, did coach Terry Murray see anything different in the way Williams approached game two?

Murray - "The offense part of his game, I thought it was really good in game two - as it was in game one. They cycled the puck, did extended shifts deep in the offensive zone, which is his game. He was very confident with the puck. I thought on the other side of the puck there was it was good. There were some things I'd like all of our wingers to be better at - when the pucks come around the board, the dot to board game, in our d-zone especially, and to make some better decisions whenever we get the puck on our stick. But, he showed a lot of good things, again, in the offensive part of it."

They say 'coaches are always coaching.' True.  And they also always want more.

Perhaps Williams can give it to him tonight in game three.

The Mayor


Guest today have included Jarret Stoll, Kyle Cliffod, Rob Scuderi, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Brad Richardson, Ryan Smyth and more. Click here to check out the pre-game articles.


Los Angeles Kings Players are Quick to Praise

While much has been made of the Kings power play success in the first playoff two games with San Jose - and rightfully so, considering the regular season numbers - the play of Jonathan Quick shouldn't (and hasn't) gone unnoticed.

After a variety of reasons were given for his poor play down the stretch last year, including fatigue, Quick has looked nothing short of incredible so far this post season. Outside of the first minute of game one, he's been as sharp as anybody could possibly hope for.

And his teammates have been quick to praise him...

Alexei Ponikarovsky - "He's come up big with huge saves at key times of the game. He's a great goalie. We're trying to block some shots for him, to make his life a little bit easier. But, he's playing great."

Rob Scuderi - "He's not surprising anyone in here (the locker room). He's been a great goaltender for us all season. We don't expect anything less. He's going to have to be our best player in the playoffs if we're going to have a chance to win some games and possibly win a round or two, and hopefully more. He has not disappointed."

Jarret Stoll - "He's just so steady and so calm. With his positional play he's just been in the right spot. You don't see him over committing. He doesn't have to work too hard in there it seems like. Obviously, he is working hard, but you don't notice him trying to do too much. He's just there. He's covering rebounds. He's battling for pucks that he can't see. He's making those big saves too when he has to."

Brad Richardson - "He was obviously great last game, with the shutout. But, in the first game he made some huge saves to keep that game close. He's our number one goalie for a reason. He's just played awesome. In my opinion, he's one of the top three goaltenders in the league. So, he's great to have back there. We have a lot of confidence in him."

Quick will be back in net again tonight for game three at Staples Center.

The Mayor

photo courtesy of

Jarret Stoll Wants to See Some Push Back

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I think I've read that somewhere before.

And it certainly applied to Jarret Stoll on Saturday night.

He was in the press box watching the Kings take on the San Jose Sharks. Not exactly what he had in mind when the team officially qualified for post-season a few weeks ago.

However, his teammates dominated the 60-minute game and left for home with a 4-0 win - but more importantly, a 1-1 spilt in the opening two games.

After serving his one-game suspension, Stoll returns to the line-up tonight at Staples Center. In the conversation below he breaks down what's gone down so far and looks ahead to game three...

MM: What are you doing to help keep some of the younger guys calm, especially after things like that early goal in game one?

JS: On the bench you're just talking, saying 'settle down, get the puck in deep, try to get the puck in and get on the forecheck.' Obviously, spending time in your own zone, eventually it's going to hurt you. It's good they didn't get that second goal right away too, then the fire drill would have really been on. But, we settled it down right away. Quickie made a couple of big saves after that and we just kinda got our game going slowly, slowing got our feet going, got on the forecheck and started cycling their 'D' and getting chances ourselves. By doing that, you could tell on the bench, we got our confidence going and knew we could play with those guys.

MM: Talk about what you saw off the ice in game two. It's a rare chance for you to get a different perspective on the team's performance.

Rob Scuderi on Expectations and Being Extra Special

Yesterday, Ryan Smyth shared some of his thoughts here, specifically about what to expect in game three tonight and any advice he's offered to some of the younger players on the team.

As another veteran presence in the Kings locker room, I asked the same basic questions to defenseman Rob Scuderi...

MM: What do you expect the tempo to be in the first period tonight?

RS: I think the tempo should probably pick up like game one of the series up in San Jose - except we're the home team. You get that little extra jump in your step to play in front of your home fans and to have a good start. I'm hoping that we'll be the ones who have the big start, a lot of shots on net and a lot of offensive time. Hopefully, we can carry some momentum off of that into the rest of the game.

MM: The Kings have several rookies playing in the post-season. What advice were you able to offer some of the kids, like Alec Martinez?

RS: Just to play the game. There's a little more riding on each shift and to just take each shift at a time. That's true in the regular season, but it's amplified in the playoffs. Sometimes people feel 'Well, we're in the playoffs, I have to be extra special.' But, you just have to elevate your game to the way the playoffs need to be played. It is a step up and as long as you elevate your game, but the same game, to the playoff level, that's all we expect from you. And I think he's done a great job so far.

RELATED ARTICLE: POLL - Loudest Kings Game Ever at Staples Center

The Mayor

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Mr. Game Three?

Poni on Ryan Smyth mullet night
When Alexei Ponikarovsky signed with the Kings in July 2010 the hope was that he'd be able to replace the goals lost with the departure of Alexander Frolov.

It seemed reasonable enough, Ponikarovsky had averaged 20 goals for five straight seasons. If he couldn't replace them all, he should at least come close.

Or so everybody thought.  Yet, when the 82-game regular season wrapped up a little over a week ago, Ponikarovsky had five goals to show for it - and none since March 9th in Detroit.

However, his defensive play has shined, especially in the second half of the season.

Then, in game one of the playoffs, another dimension of his game took shape, as he was second on the team with six hits.  It was a number he reached only twice all season and not in quite some time.  In fact, since scoring that goal vs. the Red Wings, he averaged just two hits per game over the final month of play.

MM:  In the first game you had six hits and then none in the second game. Were you more amped up for the first game, was it a result of the lines being shuffled in the second game due to Jarret Stoll's suspension or something else entirely?

Terry Murray goes inside Kyle Clifford's head

Last year the Kings entered the playoffs with a core of players who had never been there before - including Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Jonathan Quick.

Although they all lacked post-season experience, at least each of them had played in the league for a number of years.

This year though, they've brought several true rookies along - guys playing their first pro seasons.

Recently, coach Terry Murray and captain Dustin Brown named Kyle Clifford the Kings' Rookie of the Year.

Now, after the first two games of the series, what does Murray think of Clifford's play vs. San Jose?

"The young guys that are playing their first games, I think they've settled in and have started to look more like veteran players than rookies," Murray said. "There's been no nervous play from Clifford at all. This kid’s unbelievable when it comes to that kind of an attitude, as far as, 'I can do this. I’ve kind of been there before in my own mind, so there’s no change in my game,' and it clearly shows. He's going into the hard areas, making plays, doing the right stuff. Gritty, hard, fighting."

Then, he went on to add some praise for the team's rookie blueliner too - "And the same with (Alec) Martinez. I think after that middle part of the first game he really settled in to show us the kind of game that he's been giving us all year long. He was really good in game two."

I'll have more on Clifford later today, including comments from linemates Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds.

The Mayor


Terry Murray and Dustin Brown select their 2011 Kings Rookie of the Year

Rob Scuderi on Expectations and Being Extra Special

Ryan Smyth for Looking For Help From Seventh Attacker in Game Three

Jarret Stoll Wants to See Some Push Back in Game Three

Clifford Explains His Nickname - The Colonel

POLL: Loudest Kings Game Ever at Staples Center?

Following up on the Mercury News article from yesterday (and my rebuttal available here), what is the loudest Kings game ever at Staples Center?

Beginning Wednesday morning, I'm confident the answer will be 'Game Three vs. San Jose, 2011 Playoffs.'

Until then though, which of the following games would you say was the loudest?

Poll closes at 6pm PST tonight.

The Mayor

Monday, April 18, 2011

An open invitation to Mark Purdy of San Jose Mercury News

When you started out your article by saying 'At playoff time, the National Hockey League is famous for impossibly raucous, loud and intimidating buildings. Staples Center is not one of them, though,' you had my attention.

Shortly thereafter you said 'HP Pavilion can be a Metallica concert when the puck drops.' I get it, they're from the Bay Area too. Cute.

However, when you went on to say 'Staples is more of a Kenny G experience,' it was obvious you don't know a hockey puck from say, those nasty garlic fries served at a Giants game.

As noted in my recent article, Rating the NHL Buildings, I've been to just about every arena in the league. And trust me, San Jose isn't anything special.

Perhaps it's true what Jim Rome says, you're all just jealous we steal your water.

You want to use a quote from Doug Murray to bash the fans in LA? Some guy who asked the media to start calling him Douglas because his mom didn't like 'Doug' - saying it sounded too much like dog?

Whatever Doug.

"I would put it in the middle of the pack," Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. Yep, just like the Sharks playoff success.

What was your point anyway?

Was it all about trying to write an article where you could drop in names like Lindsay Lohan and the Kardashians? This is hockey buddy, not a TMZ commercial. Nobody cares.

So, here's the deal Purdy, you want to ask 'How tough a place is Staples to play, really?'

I have a suggestion for you, a personal invitation if you will...

You complained about the height of Staples and think it prevents the building from getting loud - well, leave your press box seat. Come sit next to me for one game.

Section 119, row 9.

You'll see why men of far greater importance than you - players like Shane Doan, Brenden Morrow, Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Ray Whitney and a list infinitely longer than even the number of times the Sharks have choked in the playoffs - have all called it one of the toughest buildings in the league.

You could have said Los Angeles is the Dodgers' town or even the Lakers' town and I would have let it go.

But, Staples Center is the house that Gretzky built.

The Kings fans who fill it are, by far, the most passionate group of sports fans in Southern California.

And they'll prove it once again tomorrow night staring at 7:30pm.

The Mayor

RELATED ARTICLE: POLL - Loudest Kings Game Ever at Staples Center


Kings vs Sharks - Game Two Playoff Photos

A few days ago Jon from - the Bay Area's longest running hockey blog - was kind enough to pass over some photos from game one between the Kings and Sharks (linked here).

Below are some shots he took at game two on Saturday night, featuring: Drew Doughty, Michal Handzus, Oscar Moller, Brad Richardson, Ryan Smyth and a few other Los Angeles Kings players...

(click on any image to enlarge)

For additional coverage of the Kings-Sharks series to date, check out the following MayorsManor articles:

* Exclusive conversations with Kings players - including Doughty, Simmonds, Clifford and others - click here to begin now.

The Mayor

Ryan Smyth Looking for Help From Seventh Attacker

Ryan Smyth had already played in 87 NHL playoff games, spanning 10 different trips to the post-season, before the Kings and Sharks met up on Thursday night.

Although that gives him the advantage of experience, each new series brings its own story lines, challenges and surprises.

After practice today, he spoke about a few of the elements surrounding the first two games in San Jose and looked ahead to tomorrow night's game three...

MM: You picked up an assist on Drew Doughty's power play goal Saturday night.  Has there been any reason for the power play to have suddenly taken off after so many struggles during the regular season?

RS: We're getting pucks to the net and we're getting them trough. Obviously, we're getting bodies there too, so that helps. I think good puck movement and good player movement helps all of that, for sure.

MM: Thoughts on the play of Jonathan Quick so far...

RS: He's been spectacular in the series so far and given us a chance to win on a nightly basis. I think goaltending is huge in the playoffs and he's rising to the occasion. It's great to see too.

MM: Can you share anything you said to some of the kids - like Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, etc. - entering that first game there in San Jose?

The Never Schennding Journey Continues

Have skates, will travel.

That could easily be the shirt young Brayden Schenn wears while bouncing from one airport to another.

His latest stop - Binghamton, New York, for the Manchester Monarchs third playoff game vs. the hometown Senators.

After some initial confusion about if he would make it there in time to be part of the game or not, Schenn did in fact arrive for pre-skate.

Then, he was announced in the building as a scratch - well, sort of...they announced 'Brandon' Schenn as being scratched. However, he did in fact play and picked up an assist in his return to the Monarchs, while finishing the night with a plus-3 rating.

In what was probably a rare occasion this season though, Schenn was not the story of the night.

Instead, it was the Monarchs incredible come from behind victory.

They spotted Binghamton a 3-0 before Martin Jones came in to relieve starter Jeff Zatkoff in the second period. Here's what followed...

LA Kings Prospect Report - Sweeping Through the Playoffs

Things are moving right along in the junior hockey playoffs.

And if there is a theme so far, this may be the year of the sweep.

Among the Kings prospects participating in post-season play either in the WHL, OHL or QMJHL, there were three series that ended in sweeps during the first round - followed by three more that just took place in the second round.

First out was Tyler Toffoli, who was then signed in Manchester (AHL). He was followed by Brayden Schenn after the Saskatoon Blades were - surprisingly - swept out of the second round.

(More on them later today in the Monarchs report)

On the flip side, Maxim Kitsyn and the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors completed their second consecutive series sweep and have advanced to the Eastern Conference Championships, where they'll play the Niagara Ice Dogs starting tomorrow night.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kings-Sharks Game Two: High / Low with Jim Fox

The unofficial MayorsManor road reporter is back!

Jim Fox rejoins us today with his thoughts on the Kings 4-0 victory last night in San Jose.

As you may recall from his High/Low article following game one, Fox didn't like the team's minimal shots in the first period that night or their defensive zone coverage on the first goal against.

On the plus side, he was impressed with Justin Williams' two-point performance and how they won the special teams battles - both on the penalty kill and with Dustin Brown's power play goal.

What are his takeaways from game two? Let's check in and see...


* Drew Doughty - he showed that the quicker the pace, the more effective he becomes

* Kings play making - with the puck and the lead, the Kings were still making plays, not just dumping it in...without the puck, the box-out skill of all defenders allowed Jonathan Quick to see the puck

* Energy line - nice to see Kyle Clifford, Brad Richardson and Wayne Simmonds get rewarded for tenacious play


Kings down Sharks 4-0, Game 2 notes and video

It was a night of 'Oh yeah, that's happened before.'

* On December 27, 2010 the Kings beat the Sharks in San Jose by a score of 4-0.  Ditto last night.

* Last year vs. the Canucks, the Kings lost game one of their opening round series with Vancouver and then won the second game to even the series 1-1. Same thing here.

* Also during last year's playoffs, Drew Doughty had a four point night. He did it again vs. the Sharks on Saturday with two goals and two assists.

* Jonathan Quick shutout the Sharks. Five other Kings goalies had turned that trick in the playoffs, most recently - Felix Potvin in 2002 vs. Colorado (in a series the Kings should have won, but more on that some other day).

* Last year in game two vs. Vancouver, Wayne Simmonds scored a goal in only his second NHL playoff game. Saturday vs. the Sharks, Kyle Clifford matched the accomplishment when he found the back of the net early in the third period.

And a few other post-game notes...