The Los Angeles Kings have returned from the holiday break in full force.
After a stellar start to the season, a mediocre November and a solid start to December, the Kings finally look like they have turned a corner. Is the team ready for the playoffs? Probably not. Does the team look good? Absolutely.
In a game that was set up for disappointment, the Kings showed why they are considered one of the favorites to lift the Stanley Cup this coming summer.
The San Jose Sharks had won the four games prior to the holiday break, and they finally looked like a team that could seriously challenge for home-ice advantage in the playoffs. It appeared as though the Sharks had turned over a new leaf and were ready for action.
Terry Murray and the Los Angeles Kings knew this game was going to be looked upon as a test. Going up against a divisional rival is always tough. Going up against the San Jose Sharks is especially tough due to their rough playing style and sheer size.
In the first period, the Kings came out flying. It looked like men against boys. The Kings were skating circles around the Sharks, who just looked tired and worn out. The drive, determination and skill shown by the Los Angeles Kings was so apparent despite the scoreboard reading zeroes.
If it wasn't for some spectacular goaltending from Antti Niemi, who finally looked like a No. 1 goaltender, the Kings could have had three goals in the first period. Niemi used his entire goaltending arsenal to keep the Sharks in a game that they really had no business being in.
From a fan's perspective, it started become worrisome as the Kings were dominating the play, but they just couldn't break through.
The second period brought some of the most exciting hockey of the season to our attention. The San Jose Sharks appeared to have found their legs, and it was game on.
For every shot the Kings fired at Antti Niemi, the Sharks put one on Jonathan Quick. The game was a back-and-forth contest with great action for the fans at the HP Pavilion. The play was fast, entertaining and really interesting to watch.
If Gary Bettman wanted to market hockey in the United States, he would show a tape of the second period from this game. It was that good.
At the end of the second period, the score was still tied at zero. If you were simply looking at the score, the game would look like a dud. That, of course, was not the case. There was action, solid hitting and great scoring chances.
In the third period, the Los Angeles Kings finally broke through. To start the offense, Brad Richardson played one of the toughest shifts in recent memory. Richardson was the victim of a couple of big hits on the night, none of which are more memorable than the one that helped set up Trevor Lewis' goal.
Just over a minute later, Anze Kopitar turned over the puck and skated into the San Jose zone with Marco Sturm. Sturm, showing signs of why the Kings picked him up, flew across the blue line and just floated a puck towards the net. To his surprise, it went in. The announcers called that Kopitar had tipped it, but as of right now, the goal is credited to Sturm. That goal put the Kings up two goals.
Only three minutes after the Sturm goal, Dustin Brown scooped up a Drew Doughty rebound. Although not credited with a point on the play, Marco Sturm played a big role in developing this play. His play with Kopitar tonight was truly inspiring to watch.
The Sharks started to shoot the puck more and ended up with 24 shots on Jonathan Quick. Like always this season, Quick stood tall.
With two minutes remaining in the game, Dustin Brown picked up his second goal of the night, courtesy of Anze Kopitar's third assist in the contest. The icing on the cake helped top off a 4-0 shutout for the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
This game was more than a simple road win. The Kings showed poise, presence and true determination. It was a clinic put on from the guys in the white and purple.
Two additions to the Kings in recent games have been Matt Greene and Marco Sturm. Immediately, both have had an impact.
If you haven't noticed, take a look at the Kings defense since Greene's return from injury. He really makes a huge difference. Shots are being kept to the outside and Quick is able to see the puck from everywhere on the ice. Hopefully, Willie Mitchell can come back soon, and then, the Kings will look even more dominant. Everyone remembers how good the team was to start the season.
The next addition is Marco Sturm. He has been wearing No. 10 for the Kings for four games now, and he hasn't looked out of place. It's hard to believe that he is coming off a major injury. His play has inspired Anze Kopitar to play some of the season's best hockey. Hopefully, that tandem can continue to produce into the playoffs.
Finally, the Kings roster and game is starting to look like it might be coming together. With four convincing wins in a row, the sky is the limit for this team. It's a great time to be a fan and we can all look forward to a great 2011.
I wish each and every one of you a very happy new year and all the best in 2011. I would like to thank all of my readers, and those who comment on my work; it's greatly appreciated.
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