By Pete Zarustica/Garden Grove Journal
The Clippers are challenging the Lakers as the top pro basketball team in the Los Angeles area; the Angels are poised to surpass the Dodgers in baseball. But who’s the top ice dog in hockey?
Right now, it looks very much like the Los Angeles Kings over the Anaheim Ducks. Even that is a questionable honor. In the National Hockey League’s Pacific Division the Kings are fourth and the Ducks fifth, although the former team at least has a realistic chance of grabbing a playoff berth.
The Kings’ supremacy was underlined Saturday when they defeated the Ducks at Staples Center 3-2 in a shootout. Although the Ducks picked up a point, it was their fifth loss in a row and sixth out of seven games.
Even Monday’s 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks didn’t help the Ducks much. Anaheim remains the next-to-worst team in the NHL, propped up only by the hapless Columbus Blue Jackets, who’ve won only nine games so far. It also underscored that the Ducks had gone 13 road games without a win until the victory in Northern California.
The Kings not only have a better record than the Ducks, they’ve won all three contests between the two teams. Their attendance is better, but that’s partially a function of how well a team does on the ice. There was a time when the Ducks sold out their home arena regularly; now they’re only at 87 percent capacity (compared to 99.9 percent for the Kings).
“We are a little desperate at this point,’’ captain Ryan Getzlaf said after the loss to their rivals. “We need to take a little bit away from tonight – the fact that we battled hard and responded when we needed to and scored a big goal in the third period. Those are things we have to build on and get ready for a big push at the end of the second half.’’
That wouldn’t be without precedent. The Ducks stumbled out of the gate last year, then staged an epic rebound in the latter part of the season to grab their eighth trip to the playoffs in their 17 seasons on Katella Avenue.
That brings up an interesting stat: over that span the teams have each reached the playoffs in the same season just one time.
For now, then, the Kings are the monarchs of local ice hockey. But if past experience holds up, it’s only a matter of time before the horses change places and the orange, metallic gold and black ascends back over the black and white.