Champion Kings Lose Season Opener
October 16, 2014
By Steven Lieberman
It was a big day for the Los Angeles Kings last Wednesday. They opened up the 2014-15 NHL season, received their long-awaited championship rings the day before, and finally got to raise their second Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters at Staples Center in front of a standing-room only crowd of 18,514.
All while the coveted Lord Stanley's Cup was on display at center ice during the pre-game ceremony hosted by Bob Miller, Kings long-time play-by-play announcer.
There was a general feeling of giddiness inside Staples Center as all of the Kings staff, coaches and players were announced to their eager fans, most of which count the days until each season starts.
The San Jose Sharks were chosen as the Kings first-game opponent for this nationally televised game and definitely came to play.
After the Kings players were announced one-by-one to skate out onto the ice ending with Captain Dustin Brown raising The Cup, it was time to raise the banner. Former Kings legends Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon were chosen to present the banner, just like in 2012.
After all the pre-game pomp and circumstance ended, it was time to drop the puck and get the game underway. That's when everything took a turn for the worse.
The Sharks got off to a quick start, scoring their first goal by Tommy Wingles at 5:43 in the first period and never looked back. Two of the Sharks three goals in the second period were scored14 seconds apart by Wingels and Matt Nieto, respectively.
Patrick Marleau scored a power play goal in the second to give the Sharks a 4-0 shutout.
Kings Conn Smyth recipient Jonathon Quick, seemed un-characteristically discombobulated in goal and was replaced by Martin Jones to start the third period. Quick stopped 23 of the 27 shots he faced, while Jones stopped three shots he faced in the third, but would be little help to the Kings who could not find any offense.
"We just didn't play well," Brown told reporters following the game. "We weren't very sharp moving the puck or coming in and out of our zone. We struggled moving it quickly, tape-to-tape, and as a result, that makes it really hard to get up the ice."
The Kings couldn't get a single puck past Sharks goalie Anti Niemi on 25 shots. Niemi was flawless.
It also didn't help the Kings when they found themselves struggling to stay out of the penalty box. They gave the Sharks opportunities to capitalize on the man-advantage, and they did.
It goes without saying that every team is going to play their best game against the Cup champion. That's a game opponents want to prove to themselves and make a statement.
Alec Martinez, who got the winning goal for the Kings last season to win the Stanley Cup, put it into perspective. "We just didn't come prepared to play," he said. We didn't come out the way we needed to. I thought the mood in the room was good, it just didn't translate once the game started."
The Sharks coming out in the first period and scoring first seemed to set the tone for the rest of the contest. It seemed to quiet the crowd. All the Sharks players got involved and that's obviously how you want to start a game, especially on the road during a home-opener.
The Kings are used to getting knocked down and getting back up. They seemed to play come-from-behind most of last season. That was their method-of-operation and it worked.
It would be helpful if they could take the lead in games and keep it, but a win is a win.
The Kings are now 0-2-0 when playing after a championship ceremony, also falling to the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 when they raised the 2012 banner.
The last time the Kings were shut out in their home opener, it also came against the Sharks on October 12, 2008.
Maybe there is something to that Stanley Cup championship hangover theory.