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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Okay, I know it's early in the season, but...

The Kings continued their destruction of the enemy this week, beating the Avs in Colorado, then destroying Dallas, running roughshod over the Stars goalies. Being road games they both started before I got home from work, and the Dallas game in particular came in bits and pieces as I was trying to simultaneously watch the game, do a couple loads of laundry and write a lengthy and involved email to my sister. But I did get to see George Parros pull off the "Gordie Howe Hat Trick": a goal (his first in the NHL BTW), an assist, and a fight. You see, unlike Wayne Gretzky, Howe not only scored big, he also fought his own fights. No one had the title "Gordie Howe's Bodyguard". And he did it without a helmet! Tonight the Kings are back home to take on Calgary (3-5-1-0, 7 pts). I really thought the Flames would be better this year, plus they're coming off a loss last night in Dallas. The Kings players must be licking their chops right now. So with things going the way they have, I am now forced to contemplate two previously unthinkable possibilities: 1) L.A. Kings, NHL powerhouse? and 2) Jason LaBarbera, superstar? First up, the team: As of this morning, they are 6-2-0-0 with 12 points and first place in the Pacific. Overall Western Conference standings (with points):

  • Detroit (16)
  • Vancouver (15)
  • Nashville (14)
  • Los Angeles (12)
  • Minnesota (11)
  • Dallas (10)

Everyone else is in single digits. Worst are Chicago and Columbus, with 4 points each. The Mighty Ducks have 5 points. No teams in the Eastern Conference have more than 12 points (those with 12 being Ottawa, Buffalo and Montreal, all in the Northwest Division).

So how about a little respect in the power rankings? No? Putting the fourth best team #13? Below the 3-5-0 Bruins, just because some idiot wants his jail sentence to match Larry Bird's jersey number? And this has what to do with hockey? Oh, nevermind, I guess that knowledge is why Matt Romig writes for Yahoo Sports and I'm a wanna-be screenwriter with an unknown blog. Got it.

Now on to LaBabera. I repeat, I know the season is young and I definitely know how quickly team and individual fortunes can change in hockey, but that doesn't change the fact that the guy has come out of nowhere to be 4-0 with a 1.50 GAA and a .942 SV%. In four games he has faced 97 shots and has stopped 91 of them. There may be a #35 jersey in my future. Mathieu Garon (2-2) has also started four games, faced 95 shots and allowed 13 goals for a 3.24 GAA with an .863 SV%, not great but not hideous for a rookie either, actually better than I was expecting for the Kings overall. Look at it this way:

  • Nikolai Khabibulin (Chi) 2-4-0-0, 3.83 GAA, .849 SV% (this is the guy I coveted when the Hawks got him)
  • Manny Legace (Det) 8-1-0-0, 1.77 GAA, .925 SV% (always nice to see former Kings kick ass elsewhere *sigh*)
  • Manny Fernandez (Min) 3-0-0-1, 1.48 GAA, .956 SV% (apparently, it's a Manny thang)
  • Martin Brodeur (NJ) 3-2-0-2, 3.51 GAA, .879 SV%
  • Curtis Joseph (Phx) 3-3-0-0, 2.74 GAA, .908 SV%
  • Robert Luongo (Fla) 5-4-0-0, 2.24 GAA, .935 SV%
  • Jose Theodore (Mon) 5-2-0-0, 3.01 GAA, .874 SV%
  • Marty Turco (Dal) 4-3-0-0, 3.23 GAA, .881 SV%
  • Dan Cloutier (Van) 5-1-0-1, 3.12 GAA, .884 SV%
  • Ed Belfour (Tor) 3-2-0-2, 3.32 GAA, .879 SV%
  • Jean-Sebastian Giguere (Ana) 2-2-0-1, 2.49 GAA, .914 SV% (admittedly a guy I always dreamed of seeing in a Kings uniform, although he's out with a groin injury right now)

Just to name a few.

The two big questions now, as far as I'm concerned, it how long it's going to take Murray to ditch the goalie rotation and give LaBarbera the starting job and more importantly, how long LaB can keep up the insane play. Obviously his numbers will calm down a bit if he's getting the majority of the starts, but that's the key - just how good is he for real and how good will he stay over the long run? I'd like to find out sooner than later, but Murray is starting Garon tonight.

Go Kings!


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