“That’s one too many,” is what Ralph Parker’s father says to him when he spills the BBs for his new gun onto the floor trying to load it.
Same thing could be said by the LA Kings after playing the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. The Flyers scored one too many. In fact, twice as many as they needed in a 2-0 win against the home Kings.
The good news in LA? The weather is pleasant, though all the cars are dirty because there were showers a couple of days ago. The bad news? The LA hockey team is in a drought that is perhaps even more severe than the one which is plaguing the entire West and threatening the ever-present need to water lawns so that they maintain Midwest-style lushness.
The Kings and Flyers played a bit of a heavy game, to use the nomenclature favored when two big teams get together. They recorded nearly 80 hits between them, LA getting 43 and the Flyers 34. And the Kings did get a number of shots, a good number, a number that ought to have potted them a goal. If you’re reading my column here on a regular basis, you realize that I’ve broken this shots thing down lately, and if you’re an advanced metrics person, aka stats whore, you also realize that shots can make a difference in analytics. But for the Kings, they don’t seem to make much of a difference on the ice.
The Kings getting 35 should have signified. The Flyers getting just 13 should have also. But as noted, the score didn’t make any sense relative to that. But some people knew that was going to happen, if you take player comments as anything significant. Witness Wayne Simmonds, who scored the first goal of the afternoon into an empty left side of the net after a pass over, directly through the crease, by Lecavalier. “LA is a big team. They like to grind it out. They have big bodies and they play a physical game. I think we matched them hit for hit today.” Right, you’re thinking. That has nothing much to do with shots.
Well, it doesn’t, precisely, but it does speak to the kind of game the Kings like to play, and the level of their execution of that kind of game. In other words, what they like and want to do, they’re doing well. But that’s not enough to put them on the scoreboard, as two goals in a span of six games attests.
“They started coming hard toward us in the second period and the third. They have some good forwards up front who come to the net hard, and we’ll take the two points.” That was the wisdom of Brayden Schenn. He further said that the Flyers “got to running around in our own zone toward the end of the second, and we were glad to get out of it and be able to come out in the third.”
Then there was Flyer coach Craig Berube. “We know the Kings play good defense,” he commented, “We were lucky to capitalize.”
On the other side, Darryl Sutter said, “You’ve got to score to win. You can’t win nothing-nothing.” He then refused to get into the question of how many shots the team generated and what that signified.
His ultimate answer? “We can’t get frustrated; we can’t allow the guys who are playing really well to get frustrated. The guys that aren’t just have to work their way out of it.” He said that he can tell as a coach who is frustrated and not, and that it’s his job to know what to do. “Stick with them,” was what he said.
It wasn’t for lack of trying, nor lack of at least enough chances to have made it a tie and forced overtime had the hockey Gods been on the side of the Kings while it was still 1-0, which it was until just under two minutes to go in the game. In the late going, for instance, the Kings had the fortune of a power play. Their PP has been awful of late, and it was on this day too. No pressure. No containment in the zone. But they did get a couple of shots during the two minutes, one of which was relatively dangerous.
That chance was a shot by Voynov from the right side. It went off the goalie and ricocheted out long. After that, Jeff Carter got a slapper from the left point, or just inside the blueline, and it went harmlessly into the goalie’s gut. That netminder, by the way, and the eventual owner of the shutout, was Steve Mason.
The next good chance was when Kopitar blew around a guy to the outside down the boards, but he shot the puck wide. Then Tyler Toffoli took a shot and saw Mason make a good leg save, the classic kind where the puck thumps off the pad and away. With about five and a half minutes left, it was Kings 31 and Flyers 12 in shots.
Carter blasted a shot that seemed intended to create a rebound, and then watched as Toffoli got that rebound, but he shot wide. Are you hearing that? Chance, save. Chance, wide. Chance, gnashing of teeth amongst the crowd. It went like that all third period, as it had done most of the rest of the game.
Shortly after that, Justin Williams decided to do it himself, so to speak, and took a puck from the left spot behind the net, wheeling out to the right and backhanding a shot along the ice. It went past the goalie’s leg and toward the far post. Then off that same post and out. Is that puck luck? Karma? What it is not, officially speaking, is a shot on net.
On the other end, Jonathan Quick, despite the two goals on 13 shots, was outstanding. He had Sean Couturier fire a shot from close in the slot to open period three and got a glove on it. That was only one of his nice saves. After the game, he said, “You make your luck. We’ve got to be better as a team. We’ve got to be better. I don’t know how you win the game, but we’ve just got to win games.” He refused to say that the Kings are better than their opponents, but he did add the single word, “No,” when asked whether he sees anything different in what the Kings are doing now compared to what they were doing earlier in the season. With that, his interview ended.
If there’s any criticism you might level at the Kings, it’s that occasionally guys are standing still, rather than moving in the zone. For instance, a puck came out towards Jeff Carter in the slot in the third, and while it was on the wrong side of him, neither did he move to get it. It’s not a lack of effort, but a kind of inability to imagine where the puck might go. This is the characteristic of a slump. You’re trying so hard that you’re blocked.
The Kings are going to think about their next opponent, Chicago, on Sunday, according to Sutter. He was no more forthcoming than that when asked what he had planned for their rivalry game against the past Stanley Cup champs. But he knows he has to think of something soon, because with every lost point, the Wild, Canucks, and Coyotes are licking their collective chops.
The team scratched Matt Frattin, Alec Martinez, and Jeff Schultz Saturday.
The game was at 1pm, and by the time we were done with interviews, the arena was well on the way to looking like it was built for basketball. The Clippers were set to play in the evening.
This was a season low for the Kings in shots allowed. Robyn Regehr played his 1000th game, and the Kings honored him. But so did the Flames, sending Craig Conroy with a painting as a token of their appreciation for his time with them. That’s class.