Monday, November 7, 2011

Can the Kings Build Off the Momentum from Saturday's Game?

The LA Kings played one of their best games of the season on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins despite losing in the shootout.  Even though it wasn't the most offensively explosive game or the most disciplined game, since the Kings played against arguably one of the best teams in the league (even though the Pens are without the best player in the NHL), I'm going to chalk this up to the best showing of the season so far.

First let's talk about the negatives so I can end on a positive note.  The craziest thing about how great the game was is that it looked like only two Kings forward lines showed up to play on Saturday.  I promised myself before the season started that I wouldn't be too critical of individual players, but I have to break that promise for this post because I was down right appalled at the play of the bottom two lines, especially the third line.   For the past several weeks I've tried to look at all the positives of a certain Kings player and point out every good thing he has done in hopes that they were baby steps towards getting the monkey off his back.  But holy hell, he looked like shit on Saturday.  He looked slow.  He was making passes behind players.  And did anyone else think he just looked lost?  #17 looked even worse, but he's not being handed a boatload of criticism because no one expects him to be a 30-goal scorer. I still don't know why the Kings signed him over the off-season.  He took two completely unnecessary penalties and got fined for one of them; I was actually hoping he would have an appointment with Principal Shanahan so Terry Murray would be forced to bench him for a couple games.  This line was on the ice for Pittsburgh's tying goal in the third period and was completely outplayed during that shift.

I was a little surprised that Trevor Lewis was benched in favor of Kevin Westgarth.  Maybe Murray didn't get the memo that Matt Cooke has been a saint this season, but someone must have told him early in the game as is evident by Westgarth's ice time.  I suppose I can't be that mad at the 4th line when none of the guys played more than 10 minutes, but I can be upset that Clifford and Richardson didn't play well enough when they were on the ice to garner more shifts.

I think my anger is all out so I can move onto the positives of this game.

The Kings power play did an amazing job in the first period and they came so close to killing off all the penalties.  Someone on Twitter said the Penguins power play didn't score a goal so much as the odds finally kicked in.  (I can't remember who tweeted it...) The Kings easily could have been down 3 goals in the first period and were lucky to only be down by 1.

Mike Richards once again looked like a badass....if only he can score on a penalty shot!  The Brown-Richards-Parse line looked really good again.  But no line compared to the Gagne-Kopitar-Williams line.  That line looked phenomenal! Just check out the passing among these guys:

It looked like Murray was only using the top two lines in Saturday's game, occasionally throwing in the third line, and I was amazed at how much energy the Kings forwards had. However, the Kings have back to back games this week, first up San Jose, then Nashville, so there is no way the Kings will be able to heavily rely on only two lines and have a chance at winning both games.  I think Bernier should get another look in one of these games and, based on the lines from Sunday's practice, Penner might get another chance on the second line.

The game against the Penguins was low scoring, but it was the most exciting game the Kings have played since the home opener when they ripped the Blues a new one.  There were many moments during the third period and overtime that I could barely breathe because either the Kings or Penguins were so close to scoring.  That's the type of hockey I like to watch and even though the Kings lost, and despite the negatives I mentioned above, the top guys played really well and it blows my mind to think what this team is capable of accomplishing.  Hopefully the Kings can keep it up and get all four lines rolling.

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