Another Frozen Fury has come and gone and thankfully we only have to wait mere days before the 2009-2010 season opens at home against the Phoenix Coyotes. Unlike last year's Frozen Fury, this year I made it to Vegas Friday afternoon and was able to venture over to the MGM Grand where the Kings held their charity poker tournament.
I was a cheapo this year and opted to stay at an unexciting hotel/(barely existant) casino located just off the strip about 1 mile north of MGM Grand. Since I didn't want to risk getting mugged for the second time in 3 months as we walked 2 blocks through East Rape-town from the hotel to the strip, I left my purse in my hotel room, which meant I didn't bring my camera to the poker tournament. I definitely regret not bringing my camera because some of the players were very accessible as they roamed the perimeter of the tables, patiently stopping and taking pictures with all the female fans who were seconds away from screaming with excitement. Naturally the player who could barely walk two steps before getting stopped was the beloved Frolov (sans wedding ring....what!? put that shit back on!) As I was blindly walking around the tables I almost ran right into a very well-dressed Jack Johnson who looked exceptionally dapper in a charcoal striped suit with a dark plum dress shirt. Jack was definitely looking good.
Connie of A Queen Among Kings managed to snag photos with several players including, Kyle Quincey (who was working it with a questionably tight Hugo Boss shirt that allowed his guns to take center stage), Ryan Smyth (who had a very tough time figuring out how to smile), Rob Scuderi (who looked like his wife dressed him...not that there's anything wrong that), Anze Kopitar, and Alexander Frolov. (Not so) surprisingly, Matt Greene did not make Connie's cut.
As for the actual hockey game there appeared to be fewer people in attendance compared to last year, but the atmoshere was still exceptional. I was particularly excited because it had been way too long since I was at a Kings game. I was pleased to see all the top guys in the lineup with a couple youngsters thrown in there. I was surprised to see possible rookie Alec Martinez teamed up with Drew Doughty, but was disappointed that Thomas Hickey was left off the roster (and sent down to Manchester on Monday).
Kevin Westgarth wasted no time in getting the fans out of their seats as he dropped his gloves not even two minutes into the game. The fighters looked even but in pure Westgarth fashion, he clapped as he skated off the ice....love it...but still not sure he should upseat Ivanans nor do I think we need two enforcers in the lineup for every game. Thankfully, the Kings brass agree as Westgarth was assigned to Manchester on Monday. While Westgarth may be a bruiser all the way, you gotta give the Best Fighter Award to Wayne Simmonds, who not only tore up Hendricks, but also ended the game with a Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Last year Oscar Moller and Wayne Simmonds were the players who just eeked out a roster spot. Moller was sent down to Manchester earlier in the month, but Simmonds is holding strong and looked like he improved his game over the off-season.
Even though the Kings controlled most of the first period they looked rusty and weren't able to get any great scoring chances. Colorado actually got on the scoreboard first despite not showing much spark for the other 19:57 of the period. Frolov evened the score, deflecting a rocket from Jack Johnson.
Both teams picked it up in the next two periods and the Kings finally started looking better. Ryan Smyth showed some grit, but I was expecting him to crash the net more. The Kings still rolled with 4 forwards on the power play, alternating Stoll and Williams at the point; the power play was average, which won't cut it in the regular season, so hopefully the guys find their PP rhythm. Teddy Purcell didn't play as well as I thought he would, especially since you have to think he's fighting for a roster spot. He had some bad passes and wasn't contributing much on offense.
I was most impressed with the Kings defense, probably because Denis Gauthier wasn't in the lineup. The only time I noticed Rob Scuderi was during his first shift; analysts have mentioned that if you don't notice Scuderi, then he's doing his job. Drew Doughty was Drew Doughty as he continued to show a lot of poise and smarts and even contributed on offense with a goal. Jack Johnson was also a monster on defense. He looked physically ready and played one of his better games in a Kings uniform. The only defenseman I was not impressed with was Matt Greene. He was a liability in the game as he made some very noticeable mistakes and took bad penalties. He's not Denis Gauthier bad, but sometimes I wonder why he wears the 'A' and received a contract extension last year.
Matt Greene was in the yellow ball
I'm cautiously optimistic about this season, despite my prediction on Puck Daddy that I expect some level of failure from my Kings; I'm a pessimist, I can't help it. Even though the Kings played alright and they got the win, you can never judge an upcoming season by the results of preseason games. It's too easy to say the defense is significantly better or that Quick looked solid enough to lead the Kings into the post-season. Preseason games are so deceiving because of the mixture of players on both teams. But overall I liked what I saw this weekend and Frozen Fury got me even more pumped up for the Kings 2009-2010 season that starts this Saturday in LA. Go Kings!