Archive for April 2012

Next Stop The Second Round

April 23, 2012

The roller coaster which has been the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings season continued Sunday night in a series clinching 2-1 overtime victory over the top seeded Vancouver Canucks.

Jarrett Stoll’s game winner at 4:27 of the extra period propelled the eighth seeded Kings into the second round for the first time since the 2001 season where they will face the second seeded St. Louis Blues.

This series saw all the ingredients which had contributed to the Kings season long success. Strong play by goaltender Jonathan Quick, solid defense, aggressive forechecking, physical play and timely offensive contributions from several lines. In short it was a total team effort.

What makes this victory so satisfying is the Kings have not been without their share of adversity. Since being eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2011 playoffs Los Angeles has endured the firing of head coach Terry Murray, fans calling for the head of General Manager Dean Lombardi after two controversial trades and a flat out terrible offensive showing that saw the Kings at or near the bottom of the league in the goals scored department all season long.

To cap things off the Kings final two games of the regular season against the San Jose Sharks saw them blow leads in both games resulting in the loss of a division title, a fall in the playoff standings from three to eight and a first round match with the Vancouver Canucks who finished the regular season 16 points better than Los Angeles.

Despite all this the players never stopped believing in themselves or the philosophies of current head coach Darryl Sutter. They showed determination, heart, grit and toughness in the dispatching of Vancouver in five games.
The tone for all of the above traits was set by the play of Kings captain Dustin Brown. Throughout the series he proved why he wears the “C”. Whether it was two shorthanded goals in game two or his message sending hit on Henrik Sedin in game three, Brown never backed down from the physical play while showing the heart of a leader. Hard to believe the Kings reportedly considered trading Brown earlier this season.

Brown lead the charge offensively while goaltender Jonathan Quick continued his season long all-star level play. Quick made big save after big save and turned the tide in the game five clincher when he stopped Daniel Sedin on a second period breakaway to keep the Kings within one goal. Quick finished the series with a record of 4-1, a goals against average of 1.59 and a save percentage of .953.

I have rooted for Kings my entire life. I wasn’t alive when Rogie Vachon was making his name in Kings history. I do however remember goaltenders like Markus Mattsson, Kelly Hrudey, Glenn Healey, Felix Potvin and Dan Cloutier. If I say nothing else with more sincerity about the Los Angeles Kings than what I’m about to write next it’s this…”I thank the hockey gods daily for Jonathan Quick!” Let me repeat this, “I thank the hockey gods daily for Jonathan Quick!!!”

Without his play the King season would have been a epic disaster. He won 35 games this year. The Kings scored the second fewest goals of any team in the NHL this season. Imagine how many Quck could have won if the Kings finished in the middle of the standings or higher.

Because of Quick and the defensive play in front of him Los Angeles has proved it can compete with any team remaining in the postseason. The only question is can the offense score enough?

Don’t get me wrong, I want a Stanley Cup for the Kings more than anything. That being said, my definition for success for this years team was an appearance in the second round. After two first round exits the previous two years preceded by a decade of no postseason hockey I felt that was a reasonable goal given the talent of the team along with recent accomplishments.

For this fan the 2011-2012 season is a success regardless of what happens from here on out. Starting this weekend and who knows for how long, the Kings are playing with house money.

But let’s not stop there, let’s continue to dream and think big in Tinseltown. A championship CAN be won here. A June parade down Figueroa to celebrate the accomplishments of a hockey team IS possible. A first round elimination of the team with the best regular season record was a crowning achievement but a Stanley Cup would be the ultimate jewel in the crown.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

Follow me on twitter @joesclubhouse

Glad To Have You Back Baseball

April 3, 2012

Opening day of a sports season is for many the greatest day of the season.  Whether you’re a fan of the NFL gridiron, NBA hard wood or MLB diamond nothing beats the start of a new beginning.

Past failures are forgotten as each season begins with a sense of hope and optimism.  Deep inside every fan lies a belief that this is the year their dreams will come true.  Every fan feels their team has a chance to achieve something special, whether it’s being in the playoff hunt until the final games of the season, making their annual appearance in the postseason or standing alone at the top of the mountain hoisting the championship trophy.

As you know I love all the major sports whether it’s professional or college.  Maybe it’s because it was the first sport I ever followed as a child but nothing gives me the sense of excitement that opening day baseball does.  As I write this sentence, I feel a sense of Christmas eve like euphoria.

Last week I got the equivalent of a night before Christmas gift when Oakland and Seattle opened the season in Japan.  Starting tomorrow and continuing through the end of the week I get to unwrap all the other presents baseball has to offer one game at a time.

I love the athleticism of baseball as much as I love the unique mental strategy the game has to offer.  No other sport combines athletic qualities that include hand eye coordination, powerful arm strength, quick reflexes, speed and power like “America’s Past Time”.  In addition to all the necessary physical qualities, everyone involved with the game has to be mentally sharp in order to stay a step or two ahead in order to make the best decision.

I love baseball for it’s unique ability to make drama unfold.  For a classic example of great baseball drama you only need to go back no further than Game Six of last year’s World Series between St. Louis and Texas that saw Cardinals third baseman David Freese steal the “World Series Hero” tag from Ranger outfielder Josh Hamilton within one inning.  The entire balance of a game hangs on one pitch and we all witnessed that last October.

Last year gave us a lifetime of memories but this year is sure to do more of the same.  There is so much to be excited about this season.  Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols left the Cardinals after more than a decade of dominance to join the Angels.  Long time all-star Brewer first baseman Prince Fielder followed in his father’s foot steps when he signed with the Detroit Tigers.  The Yankees and Mariners swapped two of the top young players in the game when the Bronx Bombers sent Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda.  The Florida Marlins are now the Miami Marlins and begin their new era with a brand new stadium.  Of course there’s the yearly renewal of traditional battles between the Yankees and Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers as well as Cardinals and Cubs.

In addition to all the things I just named, what makes me the most excited about the new season is that the Los Angeles Dodgers finally have a proper ownership group.  The ownership group, lead by my all-time favorite Laker Earvin “Magic” Johnson along with former Atlanta Braves President Stan Kasten are the perfect group to lead the the Dodgers back to their winning ways.

For the past couple of seasons Dodger news had very little to do with the play on the field, but almost all to do with the ugly divorce between Frank and Jamie McCourt which lead to financial ruins for the team and a product on the field that was not fun to watch.

It’s amazing how exciting a fan can get when they realize their team can once again be involved in adding a little payroll, bidding on free agents and making trades to improve their club.  Sometimes it’s the little things in life that are the most rewarding.

If Magic and Kasten can give us even half the success they achieved in their previous endeavors, Dodger fans will surely forget the past years of feeling blue and will regularly experience the euphoria of being in blue heaven.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

Follow me on twitter @joesclubhouse

Glad To Have You Back Baseball

April 3, 2012

Opening day of a sports season is for many the greatest day of the season.  Whether you’re a fan of the NFL gridiron, NBA hard wood or MLB diamond nothing beats the start of a new beginning.

Past failures are forgotten as each season begins with a sense of hope and optimism.  Deep inside every fan lies a belief that this is the year their dreams will come true.  Every fan feels their team has a chance to achieve something special, whether it’s being in the playoff hunt until the final games of the season, making their annual appearance in the postseason or standing alone at the top of the mountain hoisting the championship trophy.

As you know I love all the major sports whether it’s professional or college.  Maybe it’s because it was the first sport I ever followed as a child but nothing gives me the sense of excitement that opening day baseball does.  As I write this sentence, I feel a sense of Christmas eve like euphoria.

Last week I got the equivalent of a night before Christmas gift when Oakland and Seattle opened the season in Japan.  Starting tomorrow and continuing through the end of the week I get to unwrap all the other presents baseball has to offer one game at a time.

I love the athleticism of baseball as much as I love the unique mental strategy the game has to offer.  No other sport combines athletic qualities that include hand eye coordination, powerful arm strength, quick reflexes, speed and power like “America’s Past Time”.  In addition to all the necessary physical qualities, everyone involved with the game has to be mentally sharp in order to stay a step or two ahead in order to make the best decision.

I love baseball for it’s unique ability to make drama unfold.  For a classic example of great baseball drama you only need to go back no further than Game Six of last year’s World Series between St. Louis and Texas that saw Cardinals third baseman David Freese steal the “World Series Hero” tag from Ranger outfielder Josh Hamilton within one inning.  The entire balance of a game hangs on one pitch and we all witnessed that last October.

Last year gave us a lifetime of memories but this year is sure to do more of the same.  There is so much to be excited about this season.  Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols left the Cardinals after more than a decade of dominance to join the Angels.  Long time all-star Brewer first baseman Prince Fielder followed in his father’s foot steps when he signed with the Detroit Tigers.  The Yankees and Mariners swapped two of the top young players in the game when the Bronx Bombers sent Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda.  The Florida Marlins are now the Miami Marlins and begin their new era with a brand new stadium.  Of course their’s the yearly renewal of traditional battles between the Yankees and Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers as well as Cardinals and Cubs.

In addition to all the things I just named, what makes me the most excited about the new season is that the Los Angeles Dodgers finally have a proper ownership group.  The ownership group, lead by my all-time favorite Laker Earvin “Magic” Johnson along with former Atlanta Braves President Stan Kasten are the perfect group to lead the the Dodgers back to their winning ways.

For the past couple of seasons Dodger news had very little to do with the play on the field, but almost all to do with the ugly divorce between Frank and Jamie McCourt which lead to financial ruins for the team and a product on the field that was not fun to watch.

It’s amazing how exciting a fan can get when they realize their team can once again be involved in adding a little payroll, bidding on free agents and making trades to improve their club.  Sometimes it’s the little things in life that are the most rewarding.

If Magic and Kasten can give us even half the success they achieved in their previous endeavors, Dodger fans will surely forget the past years of feeling blue and will regularly experience the euphoria of being in blue heaven.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

Follow me on twitter @joesclubhouse