The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a poetic narrative called “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” in 1798. It is probably one of the best poems I’ve actually read, and is a masterpiece of English Literature. So what does this have to do with hockey I hear you ask? Well it concerns a curse that befalls someone, and a certain French-Canadian has had his own curse: one he was so willing to end.
Well the first day of the 2019 Continental Cup in Belfast is complete. There will be a first time winner once the final buzzer goes on Sunday, but who is going to be the one who will be celebrating? The IIHF have already confirmed that should the winner come from either hosts Belfast Giants, GKS Katowice or HK Gomel then they would qualify for next season’s CHL providing the CHL organising committee ratify it. Here’s our recap of that opening day.
This weekend just gone, the Belfast Giants faced their latest challenge as they bid to win their first EIHL crown since 2014. Their opponents were Tom Barrasso’s Sheffield Steelers, whom they had shared a double header series in the House of Steel last month. Which side would finish out on top in the latest instalment between these two hockey heavyweights?
Brooks Orpik is back, and right on time, too — the Washington Capitals lost three of their four games this past week. The Curse Himself has had little impact beyond puzzling plays (usual), penalty minutes (expected), and general invisibility (par for the course), but we may see Siegenthaler returned from the Shadow Realm sooner than later. We are crossing all our crossables going into Week Fifteen — maybe the league known for needlessly sacrificing the careers of youngsters to prop up declining senior citizens will surprise us for once.
A tough and gritty home performance from the Manchester Storm was just enough to outlast the Nottingham Panthers and ensure the hosts remained within touching distance of the play-off berths. Despite the numbing temperatures in the rink, a hotly contested encounter saw Storm captain Dane Byers roll back the years with a crucial overtime winner, courtesy of a well placed penalty shot.
The Guildford Flames picked up their first 2 points of 2019 with a closely fought win in overtime against the MK Lightning – A game which could have so easily gone the other way.
The Flames were far from their best but restricted MK to just 5 shots in the first period, however, following what looked to be a good penalty kill, the defence let Golovkovs skate through the middle of the ice to give MK a 1 goal lead going into the first break.
The second was a different story, and MK should have been out of sight on the scoreboard. Following a big 5-on-3 penalty kill, MK piled on the pressure. Chris Carrozzi pulled off a couple of excellent stops, but there was nothing he could do as MK hit the bar, and another 2 efforts hitting Carrozzi’s right post. It was the Flames who picked up the only goal of the period though, as Jordan Abt fired home a Kevin King rebound with just 3:34 left in the 2nd.
Into the third, and there were changes for the Flames as TJ Foster replaced Evan Janssen on the first line, but it failed to provide the change of momentum the Flames needed. Despite the Flames powerplay unit looking ineffective, they did finally manage to score with just over 10 minutes left on the clock and with just 2 seconds left on the man advantage, as the puck fell nicely to Davies; who converted from a tight angle. MK deservedly equalised with under 4 minutes to go through Baillargeon, sending the game to overtime for the first time this season at the Spectrum.
After an edgy start to the overtime period, fortune again favoured the Flames as TJ Foster was caught in a 2-on-1 situation which MK failed to capitalise on. Following a line change and a Flames attack, John Dunbar was then caught on ice, unable to change on the fly as MK pressed for the winner. Ferguson forced a turnover from Wallace and a very tired Dunbar picked up the loose puck, took it the length of the ice, lifted it over a sprawling Armstrong and Ackered fired home to tie up the points.
— Guildford Flames (@flamesicehockey) January 6, 2019
What was key to MK’s success in shutting down the Flames was their discipline in defence. They maintained their formation and didn’t let the Flames set up on the point. In contrast, the Flames found themselves chasing the puck into the corners, leaving at least 1 player with half the zone to himself at times. On another night against another team, the Flames would have been on the end of a heavy scoreline.
Another area of concern for Dixon will be the faceoff circle. Uncharacteristically, the Flames struggled all night and found themselves chasing shadows on numerous occasions. Overall – A much needed, but arguably, lucky 2 points for Guildford. MK will be very disappointed to have lost, but do go away with a very well deserved point.
There is both good and bad news for the Flames going into next week. The good being that they will be able to get a full week of training in for the first time in a few weeks. The bad news is that the U20 world championships start next Sunday, which means that both Josh Waller and Richard Krogh will be leaving for the week – They will miss at least 3 games. Whilst both Watters and Ritt trained on Friday, it remains to be seen how likely it is they will be restored to the lineup when Coventry come to town. The worst case scenario? Flames will be down to just 2 full lines.
Oh god it’s been a while. Now all the festivities are over and done with I can finally get back to writing up on the Kings and recapping what has been.
The Weeks That Were
Over the course of the last month things in Los Angeles have been a very bizarre case of “your mileage may vary”. From the ever tinkering line changes of Desjardins with the then mind boggling decision to place Kovalchuk on the fourth line (This was since rectified recently as he’s been playing top six minutes in the last few games as he should), to the All Star Game nominations ahead of the event in San Jose at the end of the month which features Drew Doughty (as of writing) being the lone representative of the Kings (In line with having one player per team, per conference).
The end of December marked a series of wins for the Kings, as they would go through Winnipeg 4-1 with goals coming through Wagner twice, Iafallo and Thompson. The next game against their northern rivals in San Jose would bring a 3-2 OT win for the team as Kovalchuk would score the game opening and winning goal with Iafallo picking up another along the win.
The last game before Christmas would be another OT win against Vegas, with a 4-3 win achieved over the defending Western Conference Champions. Amadio, Carter, Iafallo and Toffoli would all notch up with Toffoli picking up his 6th goal of the season in the OT win.
Coming out of the festive break the Kings would roll onto a 2-1-0 record to close out the year following wins against the Coyotes (2-1) and the Avalanche in OT by a 3-2 scoreline, the loss in the three games being against the Knights 4-1 just days after their OT loss on December 23rd.
Going into the New Year and beyond and so far and the case of mileage varying with the Kings continue with two straight losses to Vegas (2-0) and a thumping from Tampa Bay (6-2), the Kings would redeem themselves following a 4-0 shutout win against the Edmonton Oilers with Anze Kopitar notching his 300th career goal not only as a King, but the first Slovenian player to do so (And to date, the only Slovenian) and Jonathan Quick chalking up his 300th career win.
The Week That Will Be
Three games are on for the Kings this week, with a visit to San Jose on Monday following a 2 game stint against the Senators (Thursday) and Penguins (Saturday). The team will then go on a 3 game road trip against Minnesota, Dallas and Colorado before coming home to face St. Louis before the All Star break.
Stats and Leaders
Record: 17-23-3 (Last in Division, 13th in Conference, 27th in NHL).
Goals: Brown (11)
Assists: Doughty (21)
Points: Kopitar (28)
Plus-Minus: Muzzin (+8)
GAA: Campbell (2.23)
Sv%: Campbell (93%)
Wins: Campbell (5)
Shutouts: Campbell, Petersen (1)
PP: 14.9% (27th in NHL)
PK: 74.8% (30th in NHL)
Carl Hagelin has been activated from the IR, with Trevor Lewis being moved to LTIR.
Kings prospects Rasmus Kupari and Michael Anderson won Gold and Silver respectively for Finland and the USA in the finals of the WJC.
With Campbell back, Petersen has been sent back down to the AHL.