Waking up with the Kings: March 20
-Jonathan Bernier was the Los Angeles Kings’ best player on the ice in a narrow 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes that stretched the team’s home record to 12-2-1. His ability to keep a goal-starved opponent off the scoreboard during a first period in which he faced 15 shots amidst an inevitable early-game Coyotes push served as the backbone of the win. The Kings have scored the game’s first goal in five consecutive home games and haven’t trailed at home since the loss to Dallas on March 7. Overall, they’re outscoring their opponents 9-2 at home in the first period since the Dallas loss. Forcing an opponent to fight from behind on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champion will result in the continuation of their pristine home record. Bernier was exceptionally keen in keeping deflections and redirections out of the net early in what evolved into one of his finest performances in a Los Angeles jersey, and the nine saves he made in the first eight and a half minutes of the game allowed him to weather another late Phoenix push and improve his overall record to 7-2-0 on the season.
-Kings-Coyotes games provide excellent theatre – something I did not expect to write a year ago at this time – and it wasn’t entirely out of the blue to see Shane Doan at the center of some second period controversy. The Coyotes captain led the game with 11 shots and 13 hits and with his team trailing by two goals during a scoreless streak that would eventually extend to 245:33, he came flying off the bench for a pair of late-period shifts in which he hammered several Kings with one or two hits that may have leaned towards the “borderline” category. Doan came up seeing red when he became entangled with Jake Muzzin during a play that he felt was an intentional knee-on-knee hit by the Kings rookie, though I didn’t see it as such, nor did Dave Tippett. Really, what did you expect to develop at that juncture of the game? The Coyotes weren’t going to simply turn the other cheek during an extended scoring drought while trailing by two to the team that they had lost to 24 hours prior and knocked them out of the playoffs last May. I didn’t interpret Doan’s actions as “being frustrated”. Doan is a fiery captain who was upset by the team’s recent lack of results who was taking it upon himself to will his team closer to victory, and it worked – he scored twice in the third period, and the Coyotes had chances late in the game to earn at least a point.
-“Finally the gorilla has left the building” was Bob Miller’s immediate response to Drew Doughty’s first goal of the season, and I may or may not have listened to that goal call one or two extra times with a smile on my face while letting the depiction sink in. As long as Doughty continues the upward trajectory of his defensive zone play, the Kings will be in the good hands of the multifaceted 23-year old blueline stud. So Doughty now has a “one” in the goal column. Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful. Let’s move on.