Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bye Bye Barbera

As reported on Inside the Kings, Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jason LaBarbera has been traded to the Vancouver Canucks for a 7th round draft pick in the 2009 Draft.

LaBarbera burst onto the Kings scene in 2005, winning a club record 5 in a row. And then in mid-November, Jason learned his girlfriend had cancer. He took a leave of absence and in the process, Mathieu Garon took over the starting job. LaBarbera would never be the same player again.

The next season Dean Lombardi traded for and signed the disaster known as Dan Cloutier to a multi-year contract. LaBarbera spent the season in the minors, tearing up the AHL with 39 wins. This should have been the warning sign... Jason LaBarbera excelled in the minors, but couldn't get it together in the pros. The Kings were unable to call him up from Manchester because of the fear of having another team pick him up on waivers. Yes, Kings fans, there was a time where the Kings were in fear of losing Jason LaBarbera.

He was all but handed the #1 job last season and struggled with injuries and a shitty defense in front of him. This season, he was also handed the #1 job by Coach Murray with a much improved defense... and within 2 weeks had lost the job to Erik Ersberg. When Ersberg went down with an injury, LaBarbera lost the position to Jon Quick.

Through it all... with fans cursing his name and screaming for his head (including me and the Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy)... Jason LaBarbera always kept a smile on his bobblehead-esque face. When Ersberg took over this year, Jason was very supportive, especially after a victory. With him gone, I only wonder what the folks over at Let's Go Kings will have to talk about... probably about how bad Denis Gauthier and Peter Harold are.

Sending LaBarbera to the Canucks could be the best thing for him. From Burnaby, British Columbia, Jason always seemed to excel playing in Vancouver against the Canucks. Although, this is most probably a stopgap solution for the Canucks as they have an elite NHL goalie named Roberto Luongo manning the pipes for them... once he gets back from his groin injury. But if they are trading for LaBarbera, maybe Luongo isn't coming back as quickly as thought. Kudos to Vancouver for taking LaBarbera off the Kings hands... it's the least they could do for us taking Dan Cloutier.

Vancouver's Reactions:
Canucks and Beyond
Canuck Addicts

So Long 2008

I have Columbus Blue Jackets 20 year old goaltender Steve Mason on my fantasy hockey team. I don't claim to be a guru, rather my goaltending sucked and I picked him up after he had won a few games for the Blue Jackets. The rest of the NHL has now seemed to take notice of him and if the Blue Jackets defense continues to play in front of him like they did Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings... he is well on his way to being an elite NHL goalie. I really can't blame the Kings too much for this loss. Columbus just shut down the Kings completely, so much so that all they could do was dump and chase to get into the zone. A sharp contrast from the breakout heavy, carrying the puck in the zone team that beat up Phoenix on Saturday. I did keep waiting for Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown or Alexander Frolov to step up and take control to at least tie the game... but that never came. Columbus really put the clamps down on any chance of a Kings victory.

Kings 0, Blue Jackets 2

I know the Kings have a surplus of young goalies,
but this is ridiculous!

Goalie Savior Jon Quick looked sharp again. In his quest to only play the Blue Jackets, he probably has a pretty solid scouting report on this team. The defense looked strong in front of him again so the only real problem for the Kings last night was the offense. I would assume that Quick will get the call Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers and in that game we will get a true test if Quick's Savior-ness is for real or not. In the meantime, I'm really digging the way that Fox Sports West uses the "Q" in their on-air graphics:

The font snob in me kinda likes that.

Speaking of fantasy teams... it was a great night of Heidi Androl coverage:

I think I once read a Penthouse Letters that started off like this.

Heidi also introduced a pre-taped segment highlighting the Kings participation in the "Adopt a Family" charity. Is it just me or is Kings Radio Announcer Daryl Evans looking a little too "Daniel Plainview" these days?

This is my boy, HW.

The event was about the Kings spending time with families in need. The video showcased food, autographs, carnival games and some video game hockey. Look at these 2 cute boys playing Xbox:


The camera then panned over and showed these 2 young boys playing Xbox as well:

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that is Matt Greene and Jack Johnson.
What you don't see is the line of actual kids waiting for their turn.

Finally, Heidi Androl scored an interview with Rap Superstar and NHL fan 'Lil Jon. And I think she'd like to do this one over again.

Yup... Heidi is totally flashing the "shocker."

For Los Angeles Kings hockey, the first half of 2008 was a total disaster, filled with goalies you'll never hear of again and the 2nd worst record in the NHL. But the second half of the year has shown some promise with the drafting and arrival of 19 Year Old Drew Doughty and a bit more stability in the Kings net. In 37 games so far, the Kings have given up 24 less goals than they did last season. Youngsters like Oscar Moller and Wayne Simmonds have really impressed and the defense is a complete 180 degrees from where it was last season (plus Jack Johnson isn't playing yet!). The last 2 years have been about the possibility of promise from the Los Angeles Kings... and it's slowly beginning to deliver.

Here's to a great 2009 and hopefully the 8th playoff spot for the team. Happy New Year to the loyal readers of The Royal Half!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Too Quick to Love

Lots of love for Kings rookie goaltender Jon Quick today on the internets... the first coming from the NHL itself:


Quick posted a 2-1-0 record with a 0.67 goals-against average, .958 save percentage and two shutouts in three games. He recorded his first NHL shutout by blocking 24 shots in a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Dec. 23, stopped 24 of 26 shots in a 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes Dec. 26 and recorded 26 saves in a 4-0 victory over the Coyotes Dec. 27. Selected by the Kings in the fourth round of the 2005 Entry Draft, Quick was recalled from AHL Manchester on Dec. 16 and has posted a 2-2-0 record with a 1.88 goals-against average, .933 save percentage and two shutouts in five appearances with the Kings this season.

Look at the fancy college boy!

And then the LA Times hockey sage Helene Elliot gets in on the Quick Love Fest:

"They've had some great goalies here in the past. I can't let any factors that I can't control affect me," he said Sunday, his close-cropped brown hair still sweaty after a brisk practice at El Segundo.

"I'm just trying to do what I can and help the team win some games."

The Kings had some great goalies here before? Goalies as in plural? I only count one goalie as the greatest Kings goalie of all time. And he shares his number with Quick.

Hrudey's on Duty Tonight!

And finally, Kings GM Dean Lombardi sat down and chatted with the Daily News' Rich Hammond about the phenomenon known as Quick:

"A pretty smart guy told me once that when it comes to goalies, you look for the swagger. Stop the puck, and swagger. If you want the technical side, you've got two Conn Smythe Trophy winners (Hextall and Ranford), so you should talk to them."

I still can't get over the fact that the Kings goaltending coach is Bill Ranford and the assistant GM is Ron Hextall. It's like having our own 1980's Goalie All-Star Team behind the bench and in the front office. And check out this interview with Ron Hextall after he lost the Stanely Cup, but received the MVP award.

Yep, this man mentors our young players.

If Ranford and Hextall can bring any of their awesome mojo to the Kings young goalies, I'm all for it. Let's not forget what Ranford did while he was in Edmonton.

As for right now, sure Jon Quick has looked strong the last few games... 2 shutouts in 3 games is nothing to sneeze at. But let's remember... he's looked the strongest against Columbus and Phoenix... not exactly the pride of the NHL. A true elite NHL goaltender gives you a chance against every team. Let's see how he does against the rest of the NHL before he is anointed the savior. And it looks like Quick will get his shot to prove his stuff tonight... against the Columbus Blue Jackets?!?!

Did Columbus switch into the Pacific Division or something? Seems like the Kings are playing them every other game now.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back to Back to Quick

After sleeping through most of Friday nights loss against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Los Angeles Kings came flying out of the gate during Saturday's rematch, playing a near perfect game... an important victory if they want to keep any chance of making the playoffs alive. Again... boring hockey wins. There were a couple nice goals, some great breakouts and impressive penalty killing. But all in all... boring hockey. And I LOVE boring hockey.

Kings 4, Coyotes 0

How cool are back to back, home and away games? If the NHL really wants to build rivalries within a division, this is the way to do it. Make it best of 3 like baseball does. The Kings really bounced back tonight, something they have been able to do all season after a poor effort. That is the best measuring stick of a young teams progression.

The Phoenix Coyotes seem to be in the worst financial position of any NHL team. So much so that the NHL has started the bailout plans. Hockey in the desert seems to be on its last legs and even the Great One has found difficulty in selling it to Phoenix. The Coyotes are a young team on the rise, but their brand new rink was built in the wrong suburb of Phoenix, making it a pain to get out to games. It all spells to the relocation of this franchise in the soon to near future... maybe to Canada or Kansas City? I say shut it down this season... one less team to worry about for that 8th playoff spot.

I should have coached in Edmonton instead.

Sure it's only been 3 games, and those 3 games were against Columbus and Phoenix... but youngster Jonathan Quick is gaining some confidence in goal and the Kings are looking strong in front of him. In fact Quick is so cocky... he no longer needs to look at the puck to make a save:

Erik Ersberg traveled with the Kings to Phoenix and should be ready to dress for the next game. With the Christmas trading freeze ending Saturday at midnight... does Jason LaBarbera start packing his bags or are the Kings going to carry 3 goalies for a while? Is Dean Lombardi actually thinking of handing over the starting goaltending job to this guy? He looks like he's 12!

I'm pretty sure those headphones are attached to his new ipod.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Long December

And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
-Counting Crows

Kings 3, Blue Jackets 0

Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy and I talked yesterday on the phone about how a great team like Detroit is always able to score on cross ice passes from player to player. And that for the Kings... well it seems like they only score on those kind of goals once or twice a month. Well, last night in Columbus, Patrick O'Sullivan and Peter Harrold both scored on those type of passes.

A great win and an excellent holiday gift for Kings fans. The team is 2 points out of a playoff spot and one of the best players on the Kings said this about their rookie goaltender, Jon Quick:

"(Quick) played great. He's really athletic and probably the most
impressive thing about him is he's really calm. He doesn't overreact."
- Patrick O'Sullivan

I don't remember hearing the same praised given to Jason LaBarbera. And Erik Ersberg is on his way back. And don't forget about the return of Jack Johnson after the new year. Have a great holiday!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Giving Season

What a great weekend... to be in Big Bear. The weather was fantastic as was the skiing. What could possibly ruin this great time? Why Los Angeles Kings hockey, that's what.

We are heading back to LA in a few hours. It seems like the Los Angeles Kings were in the holiday spirit over the weekend. The Buffalo Sabres gave the Kings a full out ass-whopping (I didn't watch this game but sounds like I didn't miss much). And yesterday the Kings almost gave their fans something to be excited about... before giving up 2 late goals and losing 6-4. (I did get to watch this one... on mute).

Oh and one final gift... it looks like Jason LaBarbera might have given up the starting goaltender position once more this year... this time to youngster Jonathan Quick.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Coast to Coast

2 games, 2 points. 40+ shots each against the 2 best teams in the NHL. Intensity, hitting and some beautiful goals. Even Coach Murray is starting to believe:

"We played so well. I don't think we're capable of playing any better as a team right now.
We come out and we do everything the right way at the start of the game."

Sure, it would have been nice to get 4 points out of the last 2 games... but it would also be great to have a goaltender that the entire crowd didn't flinch each time the puck was sent his way. It used to be "imagine if the team in front of LaBarbera just played better, how good they would be."... Now, it's "imagine if this team wasn't playing so well in front of LaBarbera, how bad he would be." The Kings defense are single handily keeping the Los Angeles Kings in these games against vastly superior teams. And if the Kings have any chance of making it to the playoffs (tied for the 8th spot right now) it's going to be the defense leading them there and not the goaltending. A friend came to visit me in my seats tonight, and since he wasn't rooting for either team... he said he'd hope it would go into a shootout. At least 3 strangers turned to him and said "please don't let it go to a shootout. There is no way we win if it goes to a shootout." This is the difference between LaBarbera and Erik Ersberg.

Kings 2, Rangers 3 (OT)

The New York fans were out in full effect tonight... but not as obnoxious as I thought they would be. It's bad enough to go to a sporting event in LA with NY sports fans in attendance... it's even worse when it's a hockey game. Because NY fans know their hockey.

Now that's an awesome jersey!

I loved seeing Oscar Moller on that first line with Anze Kopitar and Patrick O'Sullivan. Obviously Teddy Purcell did not impress Coach Murray tonight... since he didn't get a shift in the 3rd period. And if you didn't already know how great 19 Year Old Drew Doughty was... early in the 2nd period, he led a rush up the ice. He looked to the open wingers... who happened to be John Zeiler and Raitis Ivanans. He held onto the puck a few seconds more and found a way to get the puck to Moller instead. That is a great player.

If there is a gut check marker for the Kings in this 2008-2009 season, I'd have to say this stretch is it. Games at home against San Jose and the Rangers... followed by back to back games against Buffalo and Detroit. Nothing like a little east coast road trip during Christmas to bond a team together.

I'm headed out of town for the weekend to enjoy all the snow that is being dumped on the greater Los Angeles area... so you'll have to turn elsewhere this weekend for your Kings news. I will be frantically checking my iPhone Friday and Saturday night.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Down Goes Ersberg!

The San Jose Sharks now have 52 points in their first 30 games. That beats an NHL record from... oh... say... 80 years ago! To say the Sharks are having an amazing season is an understatement. A stupid understatment. They are unreal. The Sharks are 8 points ahead of the Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. This is a good team. And you know what... the Los Angeles Kings looked like they could have beat them tonight. I'll take the point earned by the Kings against the juggernaut that are the Sharks. But man, has this Kings team looked great in the last 3 games or what?

Kings 2, Sharks 3 (SO)

The biggest question here is the severity of Erik Ersberg's injury. Sure, Jason LaBarbera came in and played solidly... everyone knows the shootout is not his strength... but there is no denying that Ersberg has been incredibly good the last 3 games and if he doesn't get hurt tonight... the Kings would have come out with a victory. It is a shame if Ersberg is out for an extended time, because the Kings really seem to be coming together ever since the Coach Murray's Line Combinations of Fun™ came around. Teddy Purcell is an improvement over Kyle Calder in one huge aspect... he knows how to get the puck to his linemates. Purcell is always looking to feed it to Patrick O'Sullivan or Anze Kopitar. That is how you are going to generate offense on a NHL top line.

Also, the Kings announced today that 19 Year Old Oscar "The Scar" Moller will be allowed to play for Sweden in the World Junior Championships. This is a brilliant move by Dean Lombardi. Oscar has been playing well, even though he is stuck between the 2 tree stumps known as Ivanans and Zeiler. This way Moller gets to go be the Captain of the Swedish team, gain a ton of experience and come back to the Kings at the most in 10 days.

Speaking of Sweden... the ad wizards who created the NHL Hockey meets Hitler Assassination Thriller decided to try a different representative for their films unique subject matter...

At least Slovenia was occupied by the Germans during WW2.

Fox Sports also broke out their sweet holiday themed Snowflake Wipe. Honestly, I think this is one cool looking snowflake.

Soon the Snowflake will be hosting Kings Live.

And finally, the NBC show Chuck is already on its last legs. An interview with the "Kiss of Death" Heidi Androl can't help in its bid to get picked up for another season.

Sweet jacket, bro.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Modest Proposal

The Los Angeles Kings out-Minnesota Wild'd the Minnesota Wild. They played the same game that the Wild are known for... steady, defensive and rolled all four lines. The Kings looked good today. They had a bunch of great offensive chances and Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom played amazing, stopping 40 of 42 shots. But Erik Ersberg was right behind him, looking unflappable in net with 34 saves. Much like the game a few days ago against the Blue Jackets... it was boring hockey... but I'll take boring hockey and 1 point out of the playoffs over losing any day.

Kings 3, Wild 1

Half Season Ticket Holder Buddy was out of town for the weekend, so my girlfriend was lucky enough to be able to come to the game with me today. While not really a hockey fan, she's always up for fun and once we sat down she turned to me and said simply... "there better be a fight."

This is her best Raitis Ivanans impersonation.

She also asked me if we were going to get to be on the jumbotron. I replied that "yes, we would... it's part of the proposal package at games." She knows that I have quite a dry sense of humor, but there was a genuine look of panic on her face.

A look of panic.

We had a good laugh about the absurdity of proposing to a loved one at a sporting event. But then, mid-way through the 2nd period... I noticed a camera man hanging out in our section.

The cameraman and the producer must have been there for a good 10 minutes, not-so-casually hanging out on the stairs. Then, during a tv time-out, the Kiss Cam came up on the Jumbotron and I knew exactly what was next.

Yup. Someone was proposing at a sporting event.

She said yes and the section erupted in cheers. Their friends and family popped out from behind us in the restaurant yelling and screaming. Bailey gave her a bouquet of flowers. It was hard to not get caught up in it.

It was sweet, but you could tell from her reaction that she wasn't so surprised. Probably due to the fact that the cameraman stood in front of her and the boyfriend for so long. Memo to the Kings Promotions department... maybe wait in the tunnel until it's time, so that the surprise sticks. The worst part of the whole thing was that after she said yes... he put his Minnesota Wild jersey back on. She was wearing a Kings 3rd Jersey, so it's easy to see who will be wearing the pants in that marriage.

As we were walking out, I noticed these boxes outside Staples Center.

Where's my damn bank?

I didn't get a souvenir bank at the game tonight, did you?

UPDATE: A proper photo of my girlfriend attending the game has been added.

This is her best Heidi Androl impersonation.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Line Cha-Cha-Changes

Wow. What a response to the drubbing the Los Angeles Kings took a few days ago. It seems like Coach Murray's Line Combinations of Fun™ paid off well tonight, as the forwards were all shifted around... as were the defensemen. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown were finally split up and it seems that Coach Murray does read this site... just as I suspected. But let's be honest... as good as the team played tonight (and the team did look great out there), it really was the former first line of Kopitar, Brown and Patrick O'Sullivan that did most of the scoring while on the Power Play. I'm all for breaking them up during the game... as long as they get back together on the man advantage.

Kings 6, The Andy Murray Experiment 2

Your Los Angles Kings all-time winning coach.

How great is the defensive pairing of Kyle Quincey and 19 Year Old Drew Doughty going to be? Like for the next 7 years? Sean O'Donnell has done his job and helped Doughty get comfortable in the league, but now it's time to see what the Kings best 2 defensemen can do together. How good has Quincey been?

This good. Again, reminder... the Kings got Quincey for nothing.

Isn't it strange that Kyle Quincey and Ed Norton have never been photographed in the same place?

Heidi Androl was also in full effect during tonight's game and she was even wearing her 3rd jersey!

Oh Heidi, you could do so much better.

Ok, now you're talking.

Whoa! Way out of your league, Heidi!

I've been a bit fascinated with the Fox Sports West on-camera graphics this season. Well tonight, the viewers saw something new... the totally akin combination of exciting NHL action and Hitler Assassination Movie Thrillers!

I believe Sweden remained neutral in WWII.
Maybe they should have used St. Louis Blues defensemen Roman Polak instead?
Too soon?

Also, the St. Louis Blues finally figured out a way to contain Kings enforcer Raitis Ivanans.

You smother him.

Finally, I think that the Fox Sports West slo-mo camera is so slow, that it went back in time tonight. Because if you wanted to see what I looked like when I was a kid going to Kings games at the Forum...

A mirror image... except I would have been wearing a Bob Kudelski jersey.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jersey Politics

I was reading the front section of the LA Times today (yes, I still do read Dead Tree Media) and I saw an 1/4 page ad for this:

Whatever your politics are, you have to agree... having a jersey based on a president being elected would be pretty sweet. I would have loved a Chester Arthur 21/81 jersey to wear around town. Is this a great country or what?

Look at the "08". Don't tell me that the new wave of NHL jerseys weren't the inspiration for it.

I went to check out the Xtreme Fanz website and saw that there is a Football, a Basketball and a "Women" option for the Obama jersey... but no ice hockey. So I emailed their customer service department and they informed me that they have no plans to offer a hockey style jersey. It seems that the sport of hockey was a part of this election year, more than any before. Some of that is obvious. But if the Obama 08 campaign was truly about change... isn't it about time we see an Obama hockey jersey for sale? I bet if McCain/Palin had won there would be one.