The Wings had their Monday night game with Anaheim well in hand. They were ahead by a pair of goals, and they were continuing to dominate the play towards the end of the second period. But then the Ducks came to life, and they got up by a 3-2 score after having been behind by two goals to Pavel Datsyuk, one regular strength and one power play.
The Wings tied the game and lost in a shootout after pressing the Anaheim team hard in the extra five minutes. So it was that they came into the second half of their SoCal back-to-back a necessarily tired and defeated team, perhaps the worse off for having failed at keeping the lead in Anaheim.
In fact, the game was what I described at IH as heavy hockey. There was lots of hitting, but it wasn’t just that—it was speed, a ton of skating, and hitting to boot. This had to have taken a toll as the Wings rolled up the freeway into LA to play the Kings on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, the Kings hadn’t played since Saturday, their outdoor game in San Jose. They won it, as you know, though it was a tight game. 2-1 means that nobody’s got time just to stand around and watch or admire his most excellent wrist shot.
There was little intrigue on either side with respect to lineups. Henrik Zetterberg had not played versus the Ducks due to what was likely a concussion (or, to pick nits, concussion-like) problem after having taken two blows to the head courtesy of Jamie Benn in Dallas on the weekend. He was out again on Tuesday.
Also not playing was Daniel Cleary, who had played versus the Ducks. His 5:33 TOI were replaced with the presence of Joakim Andersson, about which more in a moment.
The only other change in the Detroit lineup was in net, with Gustavsson in in place of the loser on Monday, Jimmy Howard. Babcock likely knows that the stats clearly go against a goalie in the second night of back-to-backs. On the other hand, he’s playing a guy who is 2-1-1 on the season with a save percentage and GAA below that of his regular starter. Add this to the fact that Gustavsson had come in late on Saturday versus Dallas in a mop-up job that looked to be a loss charged to Howard, but had held the Stars to six while watching his boys get seven to credit him with the win and Howard with no decision.
Pavel Datsyuk, the Red Wings’ other great star, was once again beside his familiar linemates, Helm and Tatar. They were dangerous Monday night, as noted earlier, but no so much on Tuesday. The line recorded two shots in P1 of the team’s six. They would end the night with seven of the Red Wings’ 20 shots, but no goals.
On the LA side, the lineup was the same as it has been in the recent past. The scratches were Andy Andreoff, who has been recalled for weeks but almost never plays, Alec Martinez, who is hurt, and Derek Forbort, who hasn’t played this year despite his call-up. He has 46 games on D with the AHL Monarchs.
Andreoff, if you want a one-to-one equivalent, is on the sidelines because the currently favored kid is Nick Shore. He was in his 14th game of the year , having come up in January and played every game but one since the 17th of that month. But as of the end of play Tuesday, he hadn’t scored a goal, notching only two assists playing fourth-line minutes (as little as six). If he doesn’t pot one soon, look for his return to the East Coast—he was an AHL all-star playing for the Monarchs.
In media reports published before the game, the Kings were crediting their better play of late (if that can be measured by wins—the team came into the evening on a streak of seven consecutive victories) at improved five-person defense. What other reasons could there be? Two had been proposed. One, better play by the defensemen generally. Two, better play by goalie Quick, who plays every game of the season, it seems. In fact, coming into Tuesday, he had had 50 starts and was working 51, o 59 games for the team on the year.
Team defense seemed the thing on Tuesday night. Detroit did not get close to the LA net early, which was as much a product of the Kings’ ability to keep the puck low in the Red Wings’ zone as it was a product of defense in their own end. The best chance the visiting team had in the first period came late, in fact. It was a product of Joakim Andersson, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Stephen Weiss pouring on the pressure. They produced a couple of shots and forced the Kings to make a couple of blocks, including a key one by Brayden McNabb.
Meanwhile, the Kings jumped to a 1-0 lead with just two-plus minutes gone, on the power play. The puck was controlled along the wall by Gaborik, put back to Kopitar and then to Muzzin at the point, and directed to the net to be deflected by both Kopitar and Williams, who got the goal. It was originally called for the defenseman, Muzzin.
Period two saw that Wings pressing, and the Kings backing off. It was the best period for the team from Motor City, USA, but it produced no scoring on either side, The Kings even tempted fate by going to the penalty box three times. They were shorthanded five times on the night. Detroit has the best power play in the league, hitting at 25.8% coming into the evening, but they could do nothing. This was especially evident late in the second and into period three.
Late in P2, with Regehr in the box, the Wings had one good chance, but LA blocked it so that they did not record a shot on goal. In the third, they again had a penalty early, and did nothing with it. The LA team has killed 20 of 21 penalties in their last eight games, all of which they have won, and they were 5-for-5 on Tuesday.
The game ended with just the one goal being scored, a shutout for Quick and tough loss for the part-time Detroit keeper. The key for LA was that in the third period, Detroit almost never got behind them in the LA zone. They would throw the puck in, but they couldn’t penetrate to recover it, and they thus couldn’t get any offense going.
Detroit had 20 shots with 21 more blocked or missed. The Kings had 27 with 24 blocked or missed. They thus outplayed the Wings in every measure, and adding in keeping the PP of Detroit off the board, they deserved to extend their winning streak.
If the Kings win one more, they’re in team record territory. Three teams have eight wins in a row this year, by the way.
Coach Sutter’s comments after the game were quite brief, with only three questions. Why? Because the LA media are tired of being treated like they have no idea what to ask or what hockey is. The quotes appear on the LA Kings Insider’s page.
It was Legends Night, with the legend Tony Granato in town to be honored. And, of course, to coach on the visiting team’s staff. He made an articulate speech which had his boss, Mike Babcock, saying, “that was good” on the bench.
The Kings resigned Jordan Nolan, offering him three further years at just shy of a million dollars per. Press box speculation said that he’s probably sharp enough to make that into something that will keep him from toil outside the game for many years. His dad might help out with that.
Interesting about Nolan: he was often scratched early in the year, missing 19 of 26 games between early November and early January. In one stretch between December 11th and January 8th, he played just one game, versus Calgary. As of Tuesday, he was appearing in his 18th in a row. His minutes are still not that heavy. On the season, he has a low of 4:30 on ice (aside from a game where he was put out due to a penalty; this was followed by a two-game suspension) and a high of 13:12. But many nights, his minutes hover around ten, and often creep lower than that.