SPORTS DIGEST: Kings return to playoffs with game 1 victory

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By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

No matter what the regular season was like, the playoffs are always exciting. That’s true about all sports, but it is especially true about ice hockey.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are, year in and year out, truly exciting to watch. The non-stop, end-to-end action on the ice rink is something to behold. No player wants to take a shift off, lest the other team get a crucial goal that could make the difference in the game.

I have not been much of a fan of hockey in recent years (the Kings haven’t been very good, failing to miss the playoffs the last three years), but on May 2 I tuned in to the Kings first playoff game since 2018 and saw them defeated the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, to take a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series.

Back in the day when the dreaded Wayne Gretzky skated for Edmonton, the Kings-Oilers rivalry was bitter. This series will probably end up that way because that’s what hockey is like in the playoffs.

I noticed Jonathan Quick is still standing on his head and doing other acrobatic things to keep the puck out of the Kings’ net. Anze Kopitar is still one of the best forwards at both ends of the ice in the league and former team captain Dustin Brown took an occasional shift as he eases into retirement at the end of the season.

Other than those three, I didn’t recognize too many of the Kings, but I did like what I saw.

Trevor Moore and Alex Iafallo were a good scoring combination in game 1 against Edmonton. Each scored a goal in the first period and assisted on the other’s goal. Linemate Phillip Danault scored the game-winning goal with five minutes left in the game, deflecting in a shot from the blue line by Saen Durzi.

The Kings return home to Crypto.com Arena May 6 for game 3, followed by game 4 May 8. Both start at 7 p.m. Watch for yourself and see how exciting playoff hockey is.

DRAFT REHASH: Anybody who tries to give grades on the NFL Draft two or three days after the draft is over is wasting their time.

If you want to judge the 2019 draft now, fine. We’ve had three seasons to see those guys play.

All 32 teams are happy with the guys they got or they wouldn’t have drafted (or traded for) them. The Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams didn’t even draft anyone until late in the third round.

How do they compare to the New York Giants, who had the sixth and eighth overall picks? The Giants better have had a better draft than the Rams. They certainly need something to close the gap between them and the rest of the league.

When you pick an offensive guard like the Chargers did with their first-round pick you aren’t going to get many people excited, but the Chargers needed help on the offensive line so that was probably a good place to start.

The Chargers were almost a playoff team last year. They just need a few tweeks to get over that hump next season, although their division has gotten better this off-season.

The Rams are one of the elite teams in the league. They didn’t need much help in the draft. We will see three years down the road how they actually did.

BRUINS WIN AGAIN: Speaking of the draft, UCLA outdid USC with six players drafted compared to three Trojans. No wonder the Bruins won, 62-33 last November.

The Trojans actually had two players chosen before the Bruins had any. Wide receiver Drake London went eighth overall to the Atlanta Falcons and defensive end Drake Jackson went in the second round (61st overall) to the San Francisco 49ers.

Tight end Greg Dulich was the first Bruin selected. He went in the third round (80th overall) to the Denver Broncos.

UCLA guard Sean Rhyan went later in the third round (92nd overall) to the Green Bay Packers, followed in the fifth round by defensive tackle Otito Ogbonnia (160th) to the Chargers and wide receiver Kyle Philips (163rd) to the Tennessee Titans.

USC running back Keaontay Ingram went in the sixth round to the Arizona Cardinals, UCLA defensive back Quentin Lake went to the Rams, also in the sixth round and UCLA running back Brittain Brown went to the Las Vegas Raiders in the seventh round.

Lake, whose father Carnell Lake played for the Bruins and then 12 years in the NFL (mostly with the Steelers) could be a steal for the Rams.

NO TIME TO PANIC: Although you would never know it if you follow certain social media sites, there is still no reason for Dodgers’ fans to panic.

They remain atop the National league West Division standings, although they no longer have the best record in the major leagues. Losing two games out of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks will do that to you.

And yes, the Dodgers aren’t hitting well, yet. Max Muncy and Justin Turner especially have struggled at the start of the season. Cody Bellinger followed a player- of-the-week performance by going 0-for-20 the next week.

Yet, the Dodgers are scoring almost five runs a game, the second best mark in the majors (only the dreaded San Francisco Giants are scoring more) and the Dodgers’ pitching staff has the best earned run average in baseball.

There are five months remaining in the season. It’s way too early to panic.

PANIC TIME: Then there are the Lakers.

Before head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka can begin reshaping the roster, they need to hire a head coach. No sense reshaping the roster if you don’t know what can of style you are going to play.

The Lakers’ problem is no one wants to coach them right now. The Lakers fired Frank Vogel less than two years after he won them a championship. Anyone who blames Vogel for this past season wasn’t watching.

The Lakers hired Vogel three years ago only after whiffing on Tyronn Lue, who quickly found a home down the hall at Crypto.com Arena with the Clippers.

Lue wanted more money, a longer contract and more say in who his assistant coaches would be. When the Lakers wouldn’t give him what he wanted, he went to the Clippers.

Of all the names I’ve heard mentioned as possible coaches for the Lakers, former Golden State coach Mark Jackson is the most intriguing. Jackson developed Stephan Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with the Warriors.

He had issues with the front office and got fired and Steve Kerr stepped in and took the Warriors the rest of the way, kind of the way Phil Jackson succeeded Doug Collins with the Chicago Bulls in the late 1980s.

If Quinn Snyder gets fired by the Utah Jazz, he might be another alternative, but anyone the Lakers hire is going to want some say who his assistants are and what can of style the team will play.

Vogel was a defensive-oriented coach and the Lakers weren’t capable of playing the kind of defense he prefers last season. That’s why they were 33-48.

If LeBron James and Anthony Davis are healthy, anyone can coach the Lakers. But they front office needs to get their coaching hire right before trying to address their roster — and salary cap — woes.

FAMILIAR NAME: I actually watched a boxing match on ESPN April 30 (I was at a watering hole and it was on the closest television). Someone named Nico Ali Walsh was fighting in a preliminary event.

Walsh turns out to be the grandson of Muhammad Ali. He launched his professional career last August. A middleweight, he fought Alejandro Ibarra on the undercard of the Shakur Stevenson-Oscar Valdez fight in Las Vegas.

The fight didn’t last long. Walsh hit Ibarra with a vicious combination less than 20 seconds before the end of the first round and Ibarra went down hard. The referee

didn’t bother to finish the count.

Walsh is now 5-0 with four knockouts in his young career. At 21, he has a long way to go before he is headlining his own fight cards, but he showed some of his grandfather’s power in putting Ibarra away.

Whether he has the flair and the drive Muhammad Ali had remains to be seen, but it will be interesting see him move up the boxing ranks in the next few years.

Boxing could use a draw like that.

 

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