Goalie matchups make sense when coaching decisions make sense. On Friday, or really, back to Thursday, Darryl Sutter’s choices made no sense. Why play your number one guy (Quick), against a quite likely weak team, when said weak team is coming off of a game the night before? Especially when you know that the next night, you’ll be on the back end of a back-to-back in which you have to lay an arguably quite a bit better team? And then, having done that, why play your backup goalie in that second game?
Ask Sutter. I’m not planning to, because I, like most of the rest of the LA media, have reached my limit with his shenanigans at press conferences after games. Those have devolved into two-minutes of mostly silence punctuated by maybe three questions, the answers to which are countable using the fingers and toes of four appendages. Sometimes fewer.
But there he was, Martin Jones, in net for LA on Friday versus the Ducks. In the early going, he was no factor, because while the Ducks came out banging, and while they did pin the Kings in behind their own net and freely move the puck in the early going, they didn’t get any particularly dangerous shots on net. The period ended with them having recorded 11 and the Kings ten, but the only really dangerous chance came when Rickard Rakell took a puck across the crease and tried to go to his backhand, but slide the puck wide on a sliding Jones.
As the period when along, the Kings came on, slowly keeping the puck more and more in the home team’s end. The cheers, “Let’s Go Ducks” always matched by an immediate “Go Kings Go,” got louder when the Kings took a 1-0 lead, on a quite unlikely play.
That is, despite all the short passes and (essentially ineffective) swatting at pucks in the Ducks’ zone, the goal came when Trevor Lewis came down the wall on the left side, sidestepped a hip check by Francois Beauchemin, regained his balance on one leg, and then streaked along the goalline and across the crease holding the puck.
He then charged through a crowd in the crease and slammed the puck behind the goalie, shooting just slightly against the grain.
Trevor Lewis? Well, he looked like Lewis and he had the number of Lewis, but that move—sweet! It wasn’t anything like the finish fans have seen from him over the years.
So period one ended with the Ducks play having faded over the frame. They were as aggressive at the end as at the start, but not as dangerous, because their hits stopped turning into offensive chances in front of the net.
One other intrigue on the evening was how the new LA addition on defense, Andrej Sekera, would do. He was paired with his old friend from Buffalo days, Robyn Regehr, most of the evening. He snuck low once in period one on an LA power play, and got the puck in the left slot, but he couldn’t pull the trigger. (Note that in P3, he was with Matt Greene.)
Two other questions—his skating and his ability to stand up to the size and pounding of the Kings—were answered pretty well. His skating is smooth and swift, darty like Lubomir Visnovsky’s was. His size, as I wrote last night for IH, marks him as small, but he quickness is something of an antidote for that. As far as his play goes, he’s clearly not yet entirely sure of where to put the puck, for example when the Kings are on a pressured breakout, but that’s a matter of knowing what the forwards he’s playing with are likely to do in each situation.
In terms of his workload, he got seven minutes in period one, around eight in two, and six in three. Doughty, whose workload the addition of Sekera is supposed to spell (again, see my story from last night about the minutes Doughty has played of late), was on the ice for over nine minutes in period one, but then only 17 through two. He ended the night with 28:31, a minute and a half less than what he’s typically been getting. The last time he played that little was two games ago, but then, in the four of the five games before that, he was at or over thirty.
But part of Sekera’s minutes total came from one shift, where the TV graphic apparently had him playing a single shift of 3:41. In fact, Ryan Kesler of the Ducks said, “I think Sekera was on the ice for four minutes, it seemed. He was dying out there, and we kept rolling them over.”
The Kings were better than Anaheim for most of period two, and they were rewarded for that. They got one goal, a wrist shot from the point by Brayden McNabb off of a pass from the opposite corner by Kopitar. They also had a chance when Jeff Carter burst in on net—amazingly quick acceleration there—and got off a weak backhand which a splits-making Gibson got a groin on. (What a job.)
Their other chance was on a play when Justin Williams went in on net on a broken play. He got in too far, in fact, and hit the side of the net with the shot.
And all of that when they hadn’t had a shot until midway, that one being McNabb’s goal.
It looked as period three started like LA had things in hand. The Ducks were banging, but to no great productivity. They were just not getting the puck to the net. But then within a minute and a half, everything changed. The Anaheim team had a banging shift by the Kesler line, and the puck went from Cogliano, to Silfverberg, through Cogliano’s legs and in front to Kesler, who put it up and over Martin Jones.
Shortly after that, they did it again. Rakell put the puck to the net from along the goal line, and it was tipped in by Emerson Etem for his fourth goal of the year. Again, not a pretty play, but one predicated on the Ducks just getting in on top of the Kings and taking away the space behind their net.
Etem after the game commented by way of describing his goal. “I just, I think our line in general were doing a great job on the forecheck, and I think that’s what started off all our chances to begin with. As far as my goal, it started on the forecheck, by Jiri [Sekac] and Rikard , and I just went to the net, put my stick down, closed my eyes, and it was in the back of the net.”
And then they did it once more, a lob backhand pass from Getzlaf from just inside the blueline landing and bouncing past Palmieri, then picked up by Perry and fired home past Jones, who was on his knees. Perry described the goal with a bit of a joke, “Well, I guess you could say it was tape to tape, but Palmieri did a good job of skating through that defenseman and leaving that puck.”
So it was, as Sutter has often said the NHL is, a 3-2 league. The shots shortly after this were 28 Ducks, 20 Kings. You might be interested to know that at the end of two periods they were 23-15. So each team had registered an equal number to this point.
The Ducks added an empty net goal late to end the contest at 4-2 and having outshot the Kings 32-22. The players credited their fourth line for much of their success on the evening. In specific, Ryan Kesler said, “That Rakell line played really well for us. They were the best line at hemming them in. I think they hemmed them in for about three minutes.”
Kessler also commented on the urgency of the Ducks: “We just kept within, didn’t let being 2-0 going into the third deter us from winning the game. . . . You can sit there and get frustrated, but you can’t get off your game plan. In the early part of the year, when we’d go down 2-0, we’d become unraveled, and took penalties and got into penalty trouble and they’d end up making it 5-2 or whatever it is, but this team, we’ve turned the corner and we’re playing the kind of hockey we need to play.”
In case you missed it last night, my book Facing Wayne Gretzky got reviewed in The Hockey News this issue (March 9th). I hope you’ll read and enjoy.