Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One Preview: A chat with the enemy, Kings blogger The Royal Half

The Canucks open their first round series with the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday, and we’re sure to get to know this team a little better over the next two weeks or so. Don’t be fooled into thinking you already know them — they’re not the same Kings team we saw in 2010. Coach Terry Murray has been replaced by Darryl Sutter, Jack Johnson has been effectively replaced by rookie blueliner Slava Voynov, and the troubled bromance of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards has moved to Hollywood.

There are other changes, too. Dustin Penner plays for LA now. Michal Handzus doesn’t. They don’t score all that well. And so on.

Really, when it comes down to it, what we know about this team pales in comparison to what their own bloggers know about this team, which is why we sat down with Kings blogger The Royal Half to get a better insight into his team and we’ll see from them over the next 4 to 7 games.

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PITB: So, first things first. The LA Kings: super duper beatable. True or false?

TRH: It’s more Pass/Fail than True/False. At times during the season, especially since Jeff Carter has come over, this Kings team has looked like it can play with the best of them in the league. And at other times, they have played with such a horribly crippling offence that they could be beat 4-1 by the best ECHL team. Or at least the 2nd best.

But the Kings are a defence-first team. And they say defence wins championships. And Jon Quick can win games himself. So there is no reason to think that this team couldn’t squeak out enough close victories to take a series.

Has Carter really made that much of a difference?

I have to be honest… I didn’t think Jeff Carter would make any bit of difference when the Kings traded for him. But the man can get the puck on net… and get it on net hard and fast. The biggest change came in 2 areas… first, by getting Carter, it allowed the Kings to put Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll on the third line where they belong… and where they have excelled. (Well, except Penner.) And second, by trading a “cornerstone” player like Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter, I think it woke this team up and made them realize how tremendously they had been underachieving… so much so that management had to take on such a crazy contract.

I think it really affected the locker room by forcing guys like Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown to start producing… strictly from an ego angle… they didn’t want Carter to be the new big dog in town.

Okay, there’s a ton of topics to follow up on there, but let’s start with the one that most Canuck fans are familiar with: the trials and tribulations of Dustin “Hurt myself eating” Penner. What’s his deal?

Dustin Penner has the same amount of goals and assists on the season as Simon Gagne does… and Gagne has been out since Christmas.

I think everyone, including myself, felt that when Dean Lombardi brought Penner here last February that it was the perfect fit. Kopitar had never had that goal scoring left winger and Penner had never had that elite center. Here’s the thing with Penner… he was undrafted out of college. He’s been known as being an unmotivated and aloof player his entire career. So when he came to LA it wasn’t a surprise that these characteristics came out. BUT HE WAS STILL SCORING CLOSE TO 30 GOALS IN EDMONTON!!! Why couldn’t he be the exact same player and score close to that in LA?!?

I think that he was exiled in a losing franchise in Edmonton and simply buckled under the pressure of playing for a team was trying to and expected to compete. I have to tell you… as a 20-plus year LA Kings fan… I have seen some truly awful players in my lifetime… but I have never seen the complete destruction of an NHL career over the course a season and half like I have with Dustin Penner.

I wanted to follow up on the ego issue. I hate to attribute a team’s problems to intangibles like “motivation” and “character” and “hard work”, all of which are effectively escape valves that prevent analysts from looking at anything measurable or predictive, but the Kings strike me as a team that has some genuine issues in these areas. Have I just bought into a lazy narrative, or is there really something there?

I have a theory on this and I’m glad you asked. When Dean Lombardi took over this franchise 6 years ago it was a complete mess. And his number one goal was to build a locker room full of character. And I think this is also his biggest flaw. Because you know what… you need all different personality types in a locker room… not just foot soldiers.

And when Lombardi was chasing Ilya Kovalchuk two seasons ago, everyone was talking about how he wasn’t a Lombardi-type player. But Kovalchuk was exactly what this team needed. A selfish prick. Someone who would cherry pick at the blueline late in the game. Someone who would slam his blade on the ice screaming for the puck.

Instead, you have Kopitar and Brown and Richards and Stoll and Williams all looking to make the perfect pass rather than putting their head down and driving to the net. Jeff Carter is that kind of selfish prick player and I feel that’s why this team played its best with him in the lineup.

This team has “character” but has no “characters.” Does that make sense?

It does. But what about Drew Doughty? That dude’s a character… always smiling at the bench, even when the team is losing…

You’d like to believe it’s just because he has such a passion for the game and he’s like the Ernie Banks of hockey or something. Well guess what… Ernie Banks never won anything. If you are going to hold out to be the highest paid player on the team at age 21… you damn well be prepared to back it up. I think you Canucks fans got a great sense of how dominating a player Doughty can be 2 years ago… and he was scoring power play goals at will on your goalie with a busted thumb.

Cut to 2 years later and he hasn’t shown that level of dominance again. He’s 22 years old and making 7 million. Of course he’s smiling.

But he truly can be the big factor in a Kings victory this playoffs series. When he turns it on, there are few in this league that are better. And you guys better be afraid if he’s able to find that place again.

Yeah, I’d definitely prefer he doesn’t.

Okay, you mentioned a little about this on the podcast, but the relationship between Kings fans and Jonathan Quick isn’t all that dissimilar from the relationship between Canuck fans and Roberto Luongo. Can you elaborate on that for Canuck fans who would think Quick is deservedly adored by all in your city, paraded through the streets on a donkey while fans say Hosanna, Hosanna and so forth?

For a fanbase that holds up Kelly Hrudey as some sort of second coming of Marty Brodeur… our relationship with Jon Quick is a strange one indeed. Forget about the fact that Quick is the first Kings goalie to win 30 games 3 seasons in a row… he’s the first Kings goalie to have more than one 30 win season at all!

Now, the biggest misconception is that Jon Bernier was in line to steal the starting job away from Jon Quick at the start of the season. I’ve seen a ton of your team’s bloggers write that and it just ain’t true. Shows how Canada knows nothing. This was always Jon Quick’s team coming into this season and he’s proved that. Over and over and over. But if Quick gives up a softie or gives up even a crazy deflection that goes in with more bounces than Kennedy’s Magic Bullet (like he did in the season ending game against the Sharks), Kings fans ride this guy and ride him hard.

I think it’s the threat of Bernier that does it. That we, as fans, after suffering through goalies like Fiset, Potvin, Huet, Cechmanek, Brust and yes… Cloutier… finally have two NHL quality goalies on their bench. I would imagine it happens to your fans. Luongo gives up a couple questionable goals after standing on his head a few games in a row… and fans are ready to bring that redheaded kid in to take over. It’s the same way here and it makes zero sense.

The biggest worry for Kings fans right now isn’t “can this team score.” It’s “can this team score enough so Quick doesn’t leave as a free agent next season and go start for Boston after Tim Thomas retires.”

What about Darryl Sutter? What’s been the biggest change since he took over for Terry Murray — besides the uptick in hilarious screengrabs of the coach scowling like a grinch and the fact that the discount tie racks at Target are all picked over?

I said the selection of Darryl Sutter as the new head coach by Dean Lombardi was the same thing as when you and your friends wanted to start a bar together after college. (Or as you folks say “university.”) You would have one friend do marketing… another would do the accounting… you’d all live upstairs. It’d be a hoot!

Well, that’s how Dean Lombardi approaches staffing a NHL management team. He keeps his friends close and his really good friends/work idols in his pants.

Despite a wardrobe that is straight out of Barney Miller (it’s an American sitcom from the 1970s), gosh darnit… Darryl Sutter has been the right choice for this team. They are still playing the tight, defensive hockey that cost Terry Murray his job… but Sutter’s opened it up a bit to allow for more quality scoring chances. The Kings used to get 40 shots under Murray and have, like, 2 good scoring chances. Under Sutter the ratio is 40/15.

The other great thing Sutter has done is make a NHL player out of Trevor Lewis. “Trevor who?” says all of Canada. But he was the Kings 17th overall selection in 2006 and has really matured on the 3rd line Right Wing under Sutter. He is a guy you should all keep your eye on because he’s great defensively but has decent speed and the ability to score.

And because of Sutter’s reputation with Miikka Kiprusoff, there is no doubt that Sutter’s guy is Jon Quick no matter what happens.

All right, let’s wrap this up. Give me 3 things Canuck fans don’t know about the Kings that they’ll learn over this series.

1) Jon Quick is even better than you think he is.

2) Slava Voynov, the LA Kings rookie Russian defenseman, will make your fans totally understand why the Kings were able to toss Jack Johnson out the door so easily.

3) Kyle Clifford isn’t just good at giving head-case, over-rated goalies snow showers with his skates… he also excels at eating babies and annoying Canucks fans to no end.

4) The Canucks’ favourite blogger did a Zombie-themed preview for the Kings-Canucks matchup and there was not one photo of Anze Kopitar in it. Do you really want a guy like that representing your team?

HEY. THAT’S FOUR THINGS.

Conversion rate.

You suck, The Royal Half. I hope my team breaks your team’s heart in 6 games, which, coincidentally, is my prediction for the series. What’s yours?

People hate me because I’m a realistic LA Kings fan. But they don’t understand that I want this team to win more than anything in the world. Canucks in 7. BUT A REALLY, REALLY, REALLY TOUGH 7 THAT GETS ALL YOUR FANS AND REPORTERS’ PANTIES IN A BUNCH AND PUSHES THEM TO THE BRINK OF FOLDING THE FRANCHISE BEFORE WINNING GAME 7 IN 4 OT.

So, basically, last year’s first round series with Chicago all over again. Great. If you need me, I’ll be at Costco buying antacids. Thanks for your time, man. Best of luck.

They have Costco in Canada? Man, you guys are really catching up to Mexico aren’t you?

YES. WE ARE.

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18 comments

  1. Abby
    April 11, 2012

    Harrison/Daniel, whoever came up with this idea is awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed this and I love how you’re bringing other team’s fans into the PITB world. Then we can all enjoy good hockey together, cause isn’t that the point?

    Please tell me that you’ll make sure that as long as we stay in the playoffs, you’ll do one or more of these each round?

    (Though, if we play the very very //sarcasm// bad Chicago Blackhawks, you’d have to find one of them to interview. Horrors! )

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    • Abby
      April 11, 2012

      Also, on a completely different topic- will we see a post about the NHLPA Beardathon? There are 13 Canucks doing it this year, more than any other NHL team (at least at this point), and it looks to be awesome. If you guys aren’t planning on writing one, would you be up for a Bulie to write one?

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      • sarah
        April 11, 2012

        Poor Mason Raymond. I might support him just because I already know his beard will be non-existent.

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        Rating: +9 (from 9 votes)
        • obituary mambo
          April 11, 2012

          I still feel bad for mocking MayRay’s “beard” upon seeing him interviewed following game 5 of the SCF. His season ended the very next game. The guilt, it weighed heavily upon my shoulders.

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  2. Abby
    April 11, 2012

    NOOOOOOO!

    Not another Canucks/Chicago matchup. Because if we have to play the Kings for as stressful a series as Chicago, and then possibly have to play Chicago in round two…

    I will definitely be a zombie.

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  3. Lucky
    April 11, 2012

    Glad to see the other team’s media unbiased! Good interview and interesting read :)

    I really hope it doesn’t take until game 7 4 OT to beat them though…heart can’t take that!

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  4. Colby
    April 11, 2012

    Good stuff, Royal Half seems like a pretty a pretty level headed and funny person.

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    • By-Tor
      April 11, 2012

      The Royal Half actually seems to be pretty much the Los Angeles counterpart to messer Mooney and Wagner. Does every team have this, or is LA the only one lucky enough to experience a less awesome version of our beloved leaders?

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    • the real bob
      April 11, 2012

      I honestly expected worst…but I was pleasantly taken aback

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    • Nee
      April 11, 2012

      Royal Half aslo does an epic weekly series (or used to, last time I checked) called ‘Pundays’ where they take all the worst NHL headline puns and mock them.

      They’re pretty cool.

      I still hate Doughty though. : )

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  5. dunegig
    April 11, 2012

    I loved this and I’d also want to see more of these throughout the playoffs! Did the Royal Half interview you guys as well for their blog?

    Serious, realistic hockey talk and analysis as well as some fun, good-natured ribbing. Thanks for the civility!

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  6. Shudder
    April 11, 2012

    This is a really cool idea, but can you find someone who knows how to use commas and semicolons? Maybe you guys edited these responses so much that all of those ellipses were required. Otherwise, that is such ugly writing it makes me want to flip a pool.

    Yet another reason the Canucks are better: our bloggers have command of basic punctuation.

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  7. MelT
    April 11, 2012

    I’ve read the Royal Half before, and it appears to me that Kings fans are just as Quick to jump all over their team as Canucks fans? Anyway we’ve got that in common. But the real question for both teams seems to be: which of our teams is going to show up? The good twin or the bad twin?

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    • Cody
      April 11, 2012

      I love how the way you ended this comment shows how critical the fan base is. The team that won the presidents trophy must have been the good twin for most of the year. I would say the leafs would be a better team to call a good twin/bad twin team…. or even the kings :P

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  8. John in Marpole
    April 11, 2012

    Someone might want to point out to Mr. Royal Half that like Quick, Cloutier once won 30 games 3 seasons in a row…so doing so may not be the precursor to a HoF career, or even playoff success.

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  9. Warpstone
    April 11, 2012

    LOL. The Royal Half, man you’re alright.

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  10. iceman
    April 11, 2012

    I like this TRH guy (gal?). Seems like a pretty level-headed, reasonable and as witty as our beloved HM & DW. It’s refreshing to say the least.

    All these pleasantries aside, though, I really like to see Canucks getting out of the first round as fast as possible. The longer a playoff series lasts the more toll it takes on the players, both mentally and physically. You need a short ride somewhere along the way to preserve your energy.

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  11. Blueliner
    April 11, 2012

    The Royal Half is a pretty cool blog. I read an article where he takes us through with pictures and captions about his weekend at the King’s Fantasy camp. Look it up, its pretty neat and thorough!

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