Kings season debut a stunning win for Sharks

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It’s been 16 years since a team has won back-to-back Stanley Cups — the Detroit Redwings in 1997-98. But the Los Angeles Kings are starting their 2014-15 bid to be the next repeat winner of the Cup. The Kings won the cup in June and the team’s first Stanley Cup came in 2012 so repeating might be possible in this era. But they played the San Jose Sharks last night and they have Stanley Cup ambitions of their own. Plus, as hockey fans remember: in the first round of the Stanley Cup Finals in April, the Sharks were ahead in the series, 3-0, but then the Kings came back and won four straight to advance to the next round.

Staples Center ice right before the start of the game. (Claudia Gestro)
Staples Center ice right before the start of the game.
(Claudia Gestro)

Before the Sharks and Kings took the ice, the Kings and their fans celebrated the raising of the championship banner in the Staples Center. The Kings management brought the Stanley Cup out to roaring applause.

Almost from the start the team in black and white didn’t look like the team that battled through the Stanley Cup Finals last season. They didn’t have that aggressive play around the net that stymied and wore out opposing goalies last year. The San Jose Sharks on the other hand, were quicker and faster on the ice than the Kings.

The first goal came 5:43 seconds into the first period on a shot by Tommy Wingels. The second goal just 3:20 into the second period on a 23-foot tip-in by Patrick Marleau.

Then goals three and four came 14 seconds apart at the 16-minute mark of the second period.

To start the third period Kings coach Darryl Sutter pulled goalie Jonathan Quick and had backup Martin Jones finish the game. Fans and reporters alike can assume the change was due to poor play by the usually reliable Quick, but after the game when asked about it, Coach Sutter, in his characteristic way, mumbled a simple, “No.”

For a defending Stanley Cup champion, this was an embarrassing defeat — shut out 4-0. This wasn’t the same team I saw defeat the Anaheim Ducks last week at the Honda Center in Anaheim. They just looked emotionally flat. Maybe it was all the hoopla of the festivities before the game? After the game the team looked down and defeated.

Claudia Gestro with the Stanley Cup. (Claudia Gestro)
Claudia Gestro with the Stanley Cup.
(Claudia Gestro)

It wasn’t the worst shut out of a Stanley Cup winner in a season-opening game. That title belongs to the Boston Bruins who lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0 in 1939. But this is the first time a Stanley Cup Champion team has been shut out in the first game of the season since 1941 when the Maple Leafs again beat the Bruins, 2-0.

When the Kings opened their 2012-13 season after winning the team’s first Stanley Cup, they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-2 and lost the next two games after that. Kings fans are hoping history doesn’t completely repeat itself this season.

The Kings next game will be Saturday, October 11 in Arizona against the Coyotes. Maybe they will bounce back and take it out on Arizona.

The Sharks return to San Jose to take on the Winnipeg Jets Saturday. They will no doubt be fired up after beating the Stanley Cup champs, the team that snatched victory from the Sharks in the first round of the playoffs last season. This was a big win for the Sharks.