Fox's tales: Jim Fox's take on the Kings' swift start
Jim Fox is a former Kings forward and the award-winning color commentator for Kings telecasts on Fox Sports West. He played for the Kings from 1980 to 1990 and ranks eighth on the Kings’ all-time scoring list. You can get more insight from Jim and about the LA Kings at www.lakings.com. He will also blog for the Fabulous Forum during the NHL season.
Hope all is well is Southern California…I hear the ball teams are doing OK.
When the Kings are on the road, I’ll be checking in at least once a week, probably twice a week, just trying to catch up on how the Kings are doing. I will try to stay away from recapping the “play-by-play” of games or road trips and try to touch on trends and patterns regarding the Kings and how it fits in to the rest of the NHL. Once in a while I may touch on some league-wide issues, but I will try to keep it Kings…maybe look back on some “playing days” memories of the cities we travel to or overall impressions of the cities and buildings we visit. If you have anything you want me to touch on, let me know and I’ll do my best to get you the info.
Normally I don’t put much importance on the start of a season. It goes on and on. It's usually wrong to put too much importance on a “short segment” of a season, but this year is different. Being the first season in a while where the Kings feel they have a realistic chance to make the playoffs, the importance of a strong start should not be underestimated. In the Western Conference, getting behind by dropping five or six games under .500 makes for a long, tough road to a playoff spot. So far so good…a 4-1 start…Still a long way to go, but as Dustin Brown has said, maybe the Kings can ride the “snowball effect” and make something happen here early in the season.
As far as specialty teams, I usually look at the difference (the plus/minus if you will) between the amount of power-play goals and team scores and how many they give up. Right now because of a fifth-ranked power play, the Kings are even in this breakdown, seven power-play goals for and seven power-play goals against. It is usually said that a power play can win you games and a penalty kill can lose you games…right now the Kings are winning, even though the numbers may not always support a successful start, but getting it done with these “numbers” may be a positive sign. Finding a way to win is the important thing, regardless of what the numbers say.
This is the first time the Kings have had a true "first line” in a long time…I remember Craig Conroy centering Pavol Demitra and Alexander Frolov a few years back…Jozef Stumpel, Adam Deadmarsh and Ziggy Palffy before that…not much since. Right now Anze Kopitar, with Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams has been a true No. 1 line. Most of the chemistry seems to be between Kopitar and Smyth, but don’t forget about Williams…Smyth has been a point producing machine…much more than I expected. Although as a veteran he should know better: You can’t take shots at an empty net when you have only a one-goal lead (in the New York Islanders game).
Kopitar at the end of the Islander game was the most intense I have ever seen him as a King. He doesn't score any points in that type of a situation, but his attitude shows he is maturing…in the long run, this type of intensity will be as important as scoring goals.
Coming into this year, Drew Doughty felt he needed to be more productive. So far so good. He still impresses me just about every game he plays. Something that sticks out to me over the last two games is his understanding of what he needs to be bringing and when to bring it. At Long Island on Columbus Day, the game was fast-paced and he jumped up to score a beautiful game-winning, third-period goal with a blast (he has a new curve on his stick this year). His aggressiveness fit the style of the game.
In the St. Louis win last Saturday, the game was more of a grinding physical game. He was at his best when he escaped forecheck pressure and skated the puck out of the zone, but because it was a tight checking game, he didn’t take many chances and he didn’t force himself onto the game. That kind of understanding from a 19-year-old is extremely impressive.
Madison Square Garden tomorrow [Wednesday] night vs. the Rangers (7 p.m. Eastern/4 p.m. Pacific). It is a special place. It's odd, but with all the games I played in the Garden and with all the events that have taken place there, one of the things that I remember most, I didn’t even get to see … but it still resonates in my heart.
March 8, 1971, I was a 10-year-old kid growing up in small-town Canada (Coniston, Ontario), approximately 2,500 people…I followed all sports and it seems that memories as a kid always seem to be the most vivid memories…I cried that night listening to an event on the radio: In the 15th round, Joe Frazier knocked Muhammad Ali down with a left hook. The fight would go to the judges and Frazier won a unanimous decision…Not sure if I understood everything that was going on in the world at the time, but my hero lost that night…I remember it like it was yesterday.
Tomorrow, the Kings' media contingent is going to get some time with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly…maybe I’ll have something to report for next time.