Every year, I assemble a group and go to a Kings game on or right before October 21st (my birthday). It’s the only way to ring in a new season.
Two years ago (10/20/08), the Crowned Royal crew was in prime location at Staples Center to see Drew Doughty skate the puck through the circle and snap it into the back of the net for his first NHL goal.
It was such a huge goal for Kings fans. The future had arrived. The kid we had heard so much about was already stepping up and making us all believers.
I’ll never forget that goal.
Fast-forward my life two years- exactly two years to the date in fact. Almost to the minute even. Same place. Doing the exact same thing I was doing exactly two years before.
At the 3:19 mark of the 3rd period on Oct. 20th, 2010, Loktionov put his first NHL goal on the board (Doughty’s first came 2:25 into the 3rd period…creepy).
It was a great play. Loktionov was camped out behind the net, playing peek-a-boo with Carolina goalie Justin Peters. Loktionov began to drift to the corner a bit, then threw the puck off of Peters’ stick and into the goal. Wow.
In an interview with Rich Hammond (LA Kings Insider), Loktionov wouldn’t commit to whether the play was intentional, saying it was a secret. I would put any amount of money down that Loktionov knew exactly what he was doing.
Having watched him play in several games now, Loktionov is far too good of a passer to miss Dustin Brown by 7 feet in the slot. Plus, Loktionov’s movements behind the net show that he was trying to confuse Peters and open him up. It worked.
Hell of a first goal.
In the last two years, Drew Doughty has become an international superstar. He was arguably Team Canada’s best defenseman in their gold medal campaign in this year’s Olympics in Vancouver. He also was one of three Norris Trophy (awarded to the best defenseman of the regular season) candidates last season.
Doughty could go down as the best defenseman in Kings history, considering he re-ups for a lengthy contract with the team this offseason (all signs are pointing to yes, thank God).
All of this started with that first NHL goal.
Back to this season.
Can Loktionov be the next weapon in the Kings arsenal? He is an unbelievable play-maker who possesses all the tools to be a top-line forward. Coach Terry Murray has a lot of faith in him, putting him on the top line instead of Ryan Smyth (a smart move, so far).
Could this be the start of something amazing? Can Loktionov be to Anze Kopitar what Nicklas Backstrom is to Alexander Ovechkin?
It’s going to be fun finding out.