The difference between the Kings team which won four games in a row on the road and the one which lost 2-0 to Calgary at home Thursday night was, according to coach Murray after the game, “We were scoring goals. That made the difference for me, knowing that our high-end guys were starting to get some offense. You combine that with the goaltender, who played really well. Quick was really good on the road for us, but the one thing was that we were putting pucks in the net.”
That’s not the obvious point it seems to be. Over the course of the prior handful of games, the team had had contributions from all over the lineup, but particularly from players like Kopitar, who had a three-game streak, O’Sullivan, Handzus, and Stoll. Against the Flames, obviously, nobody scored. But not for lack of trying, as the Kings poured 34 shots at Miikka Kiprusoff. He had faced 40 the prior night in Anaheim in a 3-2 overtime loss, and was the first star both nights.
On the other hand, that shot total might be a bit deceiving. The Flames have a remarkable way of keeping the other team on the outside, and even when they allow penetration into the slot, they bounce pucks off their bodies like they were made of rubber. The bodies, not the pucks. This was even true when the Kings had a five-on-three in the third period. The puck went off shin pads, off skates, and anywhere but to the net.
Cory Sarich explained it by saying, “We’ve been lucky. You’ve got to have a little bit of luck on your side. That’s definitely not the way we like to do it. You never like to give up that many shots. We like to seal out so that the shots that Kipper sees are clear, not through traffic. He picked up a lot of shots tonight.”
One other thing that’s a bit deceiving about what the Kings did on the ice Thursday is the line combinations. Consider that Murray said afterwards that he was happy with his consistent lines. And in fact, the first two lines were the same as they’ve been, with Kopitar playing with Frolov and O’Sullivan and Brown, Stoll, and Calder together. But the third and fourth lines were a little bit altered with the activation of Moller from IR and the scratching of Armstrong. This meant that the third line was Handzus, Simmonds, and Richardson and the fourth the unlikely trio of Moller, Ivanans, and Harrold. Think about that; Moller weighs 185 pounds, Harrold 188, and Ivanans 256.
The Kings’ third and fourth lines played relatively little, with the minutes averaging something like nine apiece for all the guys with Handzus’ PK time factored out. That means that the top two lines were out there a lot. Fatigue didn’t seem to be a factor for them, and the third and fourth lines did contribute ten shots on the night.
The only goal, other than an empty-netter at the end, was on a Flames’ power play, with Cammalleri scoring on his patented one-timer. It was a pass from Bertuzzi coming off the boards on the left side that got through, and Quick had no chance as it went through the slot and right to the little man, who put it into an almost-open side.
If the Kings had one big chance, it was that five-on-three, which they didn’t do much with. They didn’t get set up in the zone, and didn’t get in front of the net. Example: Kopitar and O’Sullivan were both at the right boards at one point, and nobody was in the slot. Thus there was no one to get the puck to had they been in position to pass.
“You stay tight, try to block shots, and look for who their one-timers are. But it’s not something we practice too much. You can’t—too many guys would be getting hurt with all the shots. But it’s something that comes with experience. I’ve been penalty killing with the same group of guys for years, and you read off each other,” said Sarich.
The energy was high, with a crowd that was a little bit small and announced at about 1,000 below capacity. But particularly in the second period, they did their part in keeping up the noise. When the Kings did poorly on two power plays in the frame, they booed as the second expired, but rightly so. In the third, they held out hope nearly to the end, vocally.
Jonathan Quick, despite taking the loss, was outstanding all night long. Technically, he was exactly where he needed to be on every shot, and he made a couple of saves in the third which should have given the team in front of him all the incentive they needed to get a goal for him.
At the other end, Kiprusoff earned a hot bath with all those saves, and afterwards he said, “It’s a tough couple of games. But it’s my job to be in good enough shape to handle those situations. You end one game, and you get ready for the next. I have to be ready to play in two nights.” The Flames play in Phoenix on Saturday as part of a seven games in thirteen nights run.
Murray seemed philosophical after the loss. “We’ve got to bounce back and find a way to win it. Keep the momentum going, keep the same kind of work, that was really good.” His group has their chance Saturday at 1pm with Edmonton in town.
The only player on IR right now is Tom Preissing. He is said to have an upper body injury, but word is that he’s suffering from vertigo. Not the kind with the capital “V.” That’s a movie.
The Canadian anthem was supposed to have been sung by Burton Cummings, but he was apparently a healthy scratch.
The game featured a ceremonial puck drop by Tony McKegney to start the game. He is the first black player to score forty goals in a season. Iginla of Calgary and Simmonds of Los Angeles took the draw.
Nope, there was no Pat to be seen.