If this makes any sense to you, then please explain it to the rest of us: with their win against Boston Monday night, the Kings have now defeated the Bruins twice this year. They also have two wins against the likes of Vancouver, Dallas, and Detroit but they have lost to Toronto, Ottawa, and St. Louis (three times).
Why? It’s simple to say that they outworked Boston, and they did. It’s also tempting to point to stronger play getting out of their own end.
The first period, however, did not portend well for the Kings. They didn’t get the puck in deep in the Boston end, and the result was that the Bruins took the play to them early.
And that’s where No. 32 came in.
Jonathan Quick, kept the Kings in, with three or four key saves in the first period.
“You always want to be there no matter what time of the game it is,” Quick said about the big saves in the first period. “It’s always good to get a couple of saves in early, you get into a rhythm a little bit earlier.”
His two best ones were on subsequent plays by Michael Ryder. he first was a turn-around wrister low. The second, another wrist shot, again low, but from the left side instead of the right this time. Both came from close in to the net in the slot, and either could have put the Bruins ahead.
Midway through the first, the Bruins were outshooting the Kings, 8-4, and created several good chances.
“Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way and the team needs you later in the game, and you have to be prepared for that,” Quick said.
Much like his performance in the first period, Quick’s third period performance was also stellar. In that frame, the Bruins outshot the Kings, 14-9, but still couldn’t put the puck past the Kings netminder. At one point, LA challenged Tim Thomas in Boston’s net with a pass from Ryan Smyth to Jarret Stoll, who got off a shot that Thomas got a leg on, only to see Boston return the favor, a pass from David Krejci to Milan Lucic, which Quick absorbed in the belly pad.
Playing against Thomas didn’t affect the young man.
“I focus on what I focus on. He’s a great goalie, but the forwards are going to have to deal with him,” Quick said about his opposition on the night. “We would have built a bigger lead if it weren’t for a few of the saves he made.”
Thomas made 32 saves on the way to being named the third star of the night behind Quick and Smyth.
Near the end of the third, again it was Krejci to Lucic, who tipped it and forced Quick to be sharp.
“Our goaltender was outstanding,” Kings coach Terry Murray said about his goaltender. “There’s been games when Quicker we wish he was better and had a few back at the end of the day, but tonight, he was, he had his ‘A’ game. He was on the puck. He made some huge stops at times in the second period. There was one where he got lost, got stuck on the wrong side of the ice on the power play with Chara, but we got a break with him missing the net on it. Outside of that, he was very aggressive.
“His attitude was to challenge, and stay on top of the puck, and you know what? It has an incredible effect on your bench. Everything’s alive, everything’s energized because of what happens in your goal.”
The Kings got a goal on the power play halfway through the first, when a slapshot was tipped by Smyth who then grabbed his own rebound. It was the kind of goal the team has needed but not gotten, and it’s what Murray might have been asking for Thursday night when he said that there are young guys on the team and in the organization who know how to develop net-front presence. Maybe Smyth took this as a clue that he was needed in the role which had been so familiar earlier in the year.
They then held on until the third, when they added a second goal in the early going. Andre Loktionov, who has been playing on the first line and first power play unit, looked more comfortable Monday night. He was in front of the net when Dustin Brown took his shot, and he got the rebound at the left side and put it in.
So one answer to the “why?” of the Kings’ performance is in net. The other is the intangible.
“We hope we’ve climbed out of the issues we’ve been dealing with,” Murray said. “I really liked our efforts in the early parts of [the last two] games. The first period in particular at Phoenix, and here tonight.”
The team built a 3-0 lead early in Phoenix, but gave it up to end up tied at threes before Stoll won the game with a flying goal, laying out in the air to sweep the puck into the net.
“There was a lot of compete, a lot of skating. We were thinking the game out there,” said Murray. “The support, the communication was as good as it’s been all year. And that’s against a very good hockey club. That is, in fact, the best team in the National Hockey League in the third period.”
But how come the Kings can win these games and not others, the ones against the weaker teams? For that, there is no answer right now. The team only hopes that it can continue this streak into their home game with San Jose Wednesday night.
“There’s a great deal of team going on, so why can’t we keep it going like this?” Murray said.
Quick said it best about the last two games the team has played, at Phoenix on Saturday and in LA Monday.
“They’re two big wins against two quality teams,” said Quick, who recorded his fifth shutout of the year and 13th of his young career.