Ducks lead freeway series, Rob Blake is honored with retired number

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It was a late start when the freeway series continued at Staples Center on Saturday, between the visiting Anaheim Ducks and the L.A. Kings. Before the first puck was dropped, the L.A. Kings held a ceremony to retire the jersey of #4, Rob Blake.

Blake-JumbotronThis is a rivalry that goes back years, a rivalry that is so close each barn can hold an equal number of fans. You are just as likely to see fans wearing Ducks gear as you are to see Kings gear and it’s the same when the two teams meet at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

They have met twice before this season, splitting the wins at one apiece. The Ducks won in Anaheim and the Kings took it here at Staples.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions have looked like anything but defending champs so far this season. They have had a bad two weeks, winning just two of their previous six games. The Ducks on the other hand had won five of their last six before coming to L.A.

Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau
Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau

The Kings loss to the New Jersey Devils three nights ago was the result of poor defense and special teams and right now the Ducks are excelling at both. L.A. would have to really pick up their special teams play if they were going to win Saturday’s game.

The Kings have played well defensively and when they had the advantage, so it is something they can accomplish.

Coming into the game Anaheim was the best team in the Pacific Division right now and tied with the Nashville Predators for the lead in the Western Conference. All the stats pointed to the Ducks winning this one, but that’s been said before when these two teams met on the ice, only to have the Kings prove everyone wrong.

But that wasn’t what happened Saturday.

This was about as good a defensive game as fans could want. There were good, hard body checks from both teams throughout the game. In shots on goal, the Ducks made three more attempts than the Kings, 31 to the Kings’ 28. It was a very evenly matched game.

The Ducks are riding high right now in the standings and if they continue playing like this for the rest of the season they will be one of the top two seeds in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Kings just might have to struggle to get into the playoffs, once again.

Sami Vatanen and Ryan Getzlaff scored for the Ducks in regulation. First Getzlaff in the second period and then Vatanen in the third, which tied up the game and sent it into overtime.

L.A. Kings head coach Darryl Sutter
L.A. Kings head coach Darryl Sutter

The game was scoreless through the first period, both teams playing good defense and neither team able to take advantage of power plays in the period.

But the Kings were able to score twice in the second period, first a shot by Alec Martinez that bounced off the glove of Ducks defenseman Kyle Palmieri and into the net. The second goal came from Anze Kopitar who has begun to consistently score this season. He now has 10 goals for the season and 24 points.

With the game tied at two all, it went into overtime. The great defense continued so the over time period didn’t produce a winner and the game came down to the shootout.

Ducks goalie Frederick Anderson blocked three attempts by the Kings. It was Jakob Silverberg who scored for the Ducks, getting passed Jonathan Quick, who had 29 saves for the night.

It was a disappointing end for the Kings, who retired Rob Blake’s #4 jersey before the game. Afterwards, Marian Gaborik said, We’ve got to do something to win these shootout games. We have enough talent here. We just have to find a way to bear down and get some goals. It’s not early in the season. We’re past half, so we just have to find a way.”

For the Ducks, they now have the best record in the NHL. The final score was 4-3 (SO).

Rob Blake
Rob Blake

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Rob Blake was a defenseman who played a large portion of his pro career in the Kings black. He was a team captain for six of those years and led the team in goals by a defenseman.

About 40 of his teammates, along with his family and other dignitaries, were on hand to watch the #4 get raised to the rafters to sit along side the jerseys of Rogie Vachon (#30), Marcel Dionne (#16), Dave Taylor (#18), Wayne Gretzky (#99) and Luc Robitaille (#30).

(All photos by Claudia Gestro, unless otherwise noted)