Even as hockey leagues all over the world take a hiatus, the Last Word on Hockey team is still devoted to publishing quality content in the absence of live sports. Such continues the NHL Rivalry Breakdown.
Each article will take a look at two longtime rivals and break down how the rivalry came to be, how the teams stack up against each other currently, and how the matchup may look down the road. This next edition takes a look at the rivalry between two clubs of the Pacific Division, the Arizona Coyotes, and the Los Angeles Kings.
NHL Rivalry: Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings
According to mcubed.net, the two teams are very competitive since the Coyotes moved from Winnipeg to begin the 1996 season. The Desert Dogs have the edge with an overall 68-57-6 record over 131 games.
With both teams so close to each other geographically (it’s a six-hour drive) a natural rivalry has been obvious. Many Kings’ fans will drive to Arizona to see a game as well as vice versa with Coyotes’ fans trekking to southern California to take in a game.
The boiling point of this NHL rivalry has to be surrounded around the 2011-12 season when the two teams battled for the Western Conference crown. The winner would be going to the Stanley Cup finals. The Coyotes lost in five games to the Kings in a hardly fought series which really augmented the rivalry between the two clubs.
The two teams combined for 170 minutes in the penalty box with the Coyotes tallying 110 minutes. Shane Doan accumulated 33 minutes himself as he tried to match up to the larger more physical LA team. Doan really lost his cookies when arch rival captain Dustin Brown laid out Coyotes’ defenceman Michal Rozsival late in the overtime period of the deciding Game 5.
Brown hit Rozsival just as the whistle blew for an offside call. Brown’s knee-on-knee hit was controversial, but Doan’s reaction after Brown’s game-winning goal was less than professional or helpful. Goalie Mike Smith also received a 10-minute game misconduct penalty after the game had ended.
During the 2011-12 season, the two teams played six games with five contests being decided by one goal, and three games going into overtime. Of course, the Coyotes were accustomed to playing overtime playoff games. In the 11 games in the playoffs that year eight were decided by one goal with six going into overtime. In the round-one six-game playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks, the first five games went to overtime to decide the winner. That’s some exciting playoff hockey.
In the end, the Coyotes hadn’t played well in the first two games and coming back from a 0-2 deficit is never an easy task.
In this pandemic laced world who would have thought that 24 teams would qualify to participate in the playoffs? The Arizona Coyotes were definitely heading in the wrong direction when it came to just eight teams in the Pacific Division heading to the postseason.
Then, COVID-19 started to determine the outlook of all sports and for that matter any gatherings of large amounts of people.
The Coyotes were trenched in 11th place when play was suspended. The good thing was there was only eight points separating teams in contention for a playoff berth. Then, when things got all weird due to the delay in play, all of a sudden winning percentage became the criteria used to decide which 12 teams from each conference would be eligible to continue play.
The Coyotes finished with a .529 winning percentage and were in. They will face the Nashville Predators in the initial play-in series to determine which team has the honour of playing the third seed Vegas Golden Knights in the REAL playoffs. Keys for the Coyotes must be the play of Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel. If Kessel can show some of his playoff supreme play, the Yotes have a shot
So, here is the lineup the Coyotes will use against the Predators:
For the Los Angeles Kings who did not qualify for the playoffs, here is their lineup:
What to Look Forward to on the Coyotes
Both of these clubs have talented young players who are either presently on their respective rosters or about to make a splash in the NHL.
For the Coyotes they will be looking forward to more playoff appearances now that they have a solid, well financed owner and a new CEO/President. Their next step is to determine where they can play going forward. They are hoping to get a new arena in the east valley built and expect to make an announcement on that by the end of the year.
They also will be moving after next season to the Central Division to make room for the new Seattle NHL franchise (yet unnamed) who will start play in the 2021-22 season. That will cut down the number of games that the Coyotes and Kings will be playing against each other, but it’s doubtful it will reduce the NHL rivalry they’ve established.
A couple of young players to watch going forward for the Arizona Coyotes will be Victor Soderstrom who may play in the play-in series if needed. His progression to the NHL is only a matter of time. He will play in the AHL next season and also has a shot to make the roster next season if he has a good showing in training camp.
Another player to watch is Barrett Hayton whom the team pegged as their fifth overall selection in last year’s draft. He is projected to be their center of the future. You might as well throw in Adin Hill too as even though the team has two solid netminders, Hill has filled in admirably when needed.
What to Look Forward to on the Kings
The Los Angeles Kings have a slew of young prospects to give them and their fans a projection of hope in the years to come. The team wants to get back to being in the playoffs again and going for the Cup. With players like Gabriel Vilardi, Matt Roy, Sean Walker, Blake Lizotte, Austin Wagner, Trevor Moore, Cal Petersen, and the fifth overall selection from last year’s draft Alex Turcotte, who is just 19-years-old, that could be a likely outcome.
This is all good news for the Kings, but there’s more. They also were awarded the second overall pick in this year’s draft, moving up a few spots to get there. They could very well add to their treasure chest of prospects by selecting Quinton Byfield. He would most definitely help the aging forwards of the Kings. With Brown (35), Kopitar (33) Jeff Carter (35), and Lewis (33), the team’s fountain of youth looks promising.
One thing is certain, these two teams compete hard, and play on the edge whenever they face each other. That is the definition of a true NHL rivalry.