1-19-2013 Blackhawks @ Kings: A Banner Night? It Was, And It Wasn’t.

Hold The Point proudly presents The Player X-Ray: A Look Between The Lines. For each game, this feature will combine forward lines, defensive pairings, and stats for each player. Shots, time on ice, hits, plus/minus and more, all at a glance. Observations and game analysis below. Enjoy!

1-19-2013-Hawks-jpeg

After the pre-game festivities the Kings were flat. Unorganized. Inept. Slow. Soft.

All advantages from the “intact lineup” were lost to injury. The top 2 lines, and 2 of three defensive pairs, were re-mixed. Unfamiliarity blended with rust and pre-game distraction yielded a concoction of confusion, a soup of sloppiness.  Passes could not be held, pucks could not be carried, and the breakouts were indeed broken. Miracle saves were not made, and routine saves looked far too difficult. Defensive assignments were like homework the dog ate. Rushes were a whole bunch of busy with rarely even entry over the blue line much less shots on goal.

My Knight of the Realm (player of the game) was Kyle Clifford; just look at his X-Ray stats. In 8:52 of ice time and zero of it being on the power play, Clifford had 2 assists, a monstrous 7 hits and finished a plus 2.  

The second line, Richards with Gagne and Brown, was a total bust as I predicted at practice Thursday. Each was a minus 3, had zero points, and Brown was the only one with any shots (2) or hits (3). The line was doomed in my opinion, as Brown’s game-tempo is faster than Richards, and Gagne is soft on the edges of the rink. Beside the lack of chemistry from not playing together recently, if ever, there was no Penner nor Williams to dominate along the boards while Richards looked for gaps, and there was no Carter to finish the play as Gagne had no shots at all. Richards looks slow to get his game-think going, to coin a phrase, and having to work with unfamiliar linemates only enhanced that awkwardness.

In-game strategies to keep things simple did not work, either. Sutter rolled 4 lines, in order, per his usual. 1,2,3,4, with the difference being that Quick is more likely to hold the puck when lines 3 or 4 are out there, shortening the shift and letting the top lines come out sooner. If the Fraser or Stoll lines can force a faceoff from the opposing goalie, all the better. As well, Sutter iced power play units made from line combinations, rather than the traditional mixing from among the top two lines. I have always liked that approach, and Sutter used it intermittently in the playoffs last year to some success.

What should have been a close game was a blowout. Still, it’s only one game, with key people missing and their preparation derailed by the weirdest pregame probably any of those players has ever been a part of. This was not the Kings team of the playoffs, but I am not willing to think that this kind of display will be repeated. The Kings will likely be “in” almost every game, and have far more times where they score the first 4 goals instead of the way it was this time.

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