Awful. There’s little more to say about the LA Kings’ performance thus far this season. Blame one of several things, as fans and media members have done in LA this week. Pick from the goalie, players lagging on the system, or the line combinations. The team has an answer for each. And Coach Sutter’s theory is different yet. He says it’s that his top players aren’t performing. They aren’t getting second chances, not fighting through checks.
But to get back to what fans think, there’s an answer for the goalie question, at least. Quick always starts slowly. Or at least, that’s true in the last three years. He’s usually under .900 in save percentage in the first few games of the year. For his part, his comment to the media is that that stat is for people who don’t know hockey. What matters is how the team is doing.
How’s that? Well, through their first nine periods of the season, they had tallied two goals. They had blown a 1-0 lead to San Jose before letting in five goals without answering. And they had lost to Arizona 4-1 to drop their second game to a non-playoff team. Things got even worse Tuesday, as they didn’t scored any more times and had let in three goals, including an empty-net goal, to go down in games 0-3.
The encouraging sign for the stats crazy might have been that they had tallied 41 shots on goal in their second game. Oftentimes, long-term fans will remember, the team has hovered close to the 20 shot total in games, prompting questions by the media after the game which are generally answered one of two ways, “Yep, we tried to pass the puck into the net instead of shooting,” or “ Yep, but you don’t want to just wing shots from everywhere. You want quality.” But then again, their shots in game one versus San Jose was actually 20, and against the Canucks, they tallied, by period, 5, 4, and 6. Reverting to form in the latter case, it appears, to finish the night with 15 SOG. Awful. Their average now reverts to 25.66, that healthy 41 just keeping them above the worst levels in the league.
But back for a minute to that goalie. You might look at his performance and say, hey, let’s sit the guy. He’s just not in rhythm. But that’s exactly why his goalie coach, Bill Ranford, thinks that he ought to be played. He gets better with competition. If that’s so, then he’s still behind the curve for some reason. Hmm. The other thing to note is that Quick often plays a lot, too much by some reckoning, and this sometimes starts to tell as the season wears on. So it would seem that this is the perfect time for him to be put aside for a couple of games. Let the new guy, Jhonas Enroth, take a turn. What the heck is he there for, anyway? Well, apparently, to sit, wait, and spell Quick when things are really tough. Would it hurt to give him a crack though? He played 37 games on an obviously terrible Buffalo team last year, so he must have some value to give.
After the game, Sutter was brief but focused in his assessment. “In terms of offense, leading, it’s your top players.” He said that they didn’t have many touches in the offensive zone. They didn’t make “second and third efforts,” “not tonight they didn’t.”
He summarized by saying, “We need some production out of them guys.”
When asked about Lucic, Sutter said, “I thought he was really strong in the first period. . . . He had two or three good looks. I think he should have shot on the breakaway.” This referenced a chance in period two when he went in with Carter and tried a pass across instead of shooting. The pass attempt would have had to go through a guy to get to Lucic’s teammate. Lucic was too close in to the net to make this attempt.
The Kings had their chances, though there were two weird things about that. One, the best chances were by people you wouldn’t honestly expect to score (Clifford in close trying to go to his backhand and missing; Lewis shooting into Miller’s gut when he had two guys with him.) Two, they didn’t get anything on three straight power plays in period three. In fact, they totaled just two shots on the three, and gave up at least one good shorthanded chance.
What to do?
“Obviously you don’t panic, but we’ve got to give ourselves a kick in the rear pretty damn quick here. We’ve got to play with a sense of urgency. We’re not doing that right now. The list goes on and on.” Who said that? Alec Martinez.
Sutter sat Matt Greene in the latter part of the game. When asked about it, he said that there was no physical issue “that I am aware of.”
Martinez played with every other defenseman in the lineup except McNabb. Minutes leader on D was Doughty with 27.
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