1-22-2013-Kings @ Avalanche: It’s A 52-Minute Game

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!

1-23-2013-Avs-jpegAnyone that doubts the value of this visual game summary format need only examine the difference in production between Clifford and Richards. In 9:30 of ice time with almost no power play time, Clifford produces a goal, 3 shots and 2 hits to finish at a plus 1. Richards, in 17:47 of ice time, 5:31 on the power play, produces zero points, 2 shots on goal and zero credited hits to finish a minus 1. (If I was picking on Richards, I would also post each player’s salary) These are just facts, and I think they illustrate with great clarity the relative performance between these two players.

Knight of the Realm is again Kyle Clifford. As such, he has been elevated, in practice only at the time of this writing, to the second line with Richards and Carter. It seems that Sutter has identified the left wing that looks most like a scorer; Clifford leads the team with 3 points, and not one of the top 7 traditional “top 6″ players have a single point yet. More about Clifford and line combos below. 

This game was a good first two periods, with a clown act for the first almost 8 minutes of the third period. Lively boards and missed assignments were the one-two punch in this knockout. Sustained-flurries-against rendered our guys flatfooted, like a badminton team waiting for someone to get the shuttlecock down from the tree.

With Kopi’s return I thought the chemistry would be returned to the forward lines, but sadly the resulting solution was inert. Power play units regressed to the mix from among the top 2 lines, with unit #1 being Kopi, Carter and Richards backed up by Muzzin and Doughty. Unit #2 was Stoll with Brown and Williams, Martinez and Voynov. No scoring, a dreadful 0 for 6, and not even a lot of actual chances. Last year, Colorado was only 12th highest in PK at 83%, but they did have the highest non-playoff-team percentage. (League-best was New Jersey at 89.6, Kings were 4th at 87.0)

Defensive pairings, what seemed like the weakness after the DEVASTATING news about losing Matt Greene, were actually fairly effective most of the game, and I felt they were hung out to dry a little by the forwards not clearing the corners per their usual effectiveness. Pucks got thru from the blue line, pucks got from the boards to the slot, and puck carriers left skate marks all over our “home plate.” Drewiske and Muzzin, with a rookie-ish player in Muzzin and a usual scratch in Drewiske playing his off-wing on the left side, means we do have a vulnerability there. The Kings were very fortunate to have had three of the rare right-handed-shooting defensemen when Greene was in, and as well Greene’s PK work will be sorely missed. The left-shooting Drewiske has his chance, and I hope he surprises us.

Quick looked much better, as expected. The guy is clutch, the guy is gonna be the best again this year, and it would not surprise me to learn that the Avalanche installed newly “lively” boards a la Detroit this year, as Quick was vicitimized twice by that very factor.

Losing the streak of zero regulation losses after going 86-0-9 when leading after two hurts in a way, but now, what, we “limp” along at 86-1-9? This team knows how to defend a lead, one just finally got away from them. Overall, it was a good 52 minutes. Next game against Edmonton will be very interesting; if the defensive corps can hold up again and the forwards can neutralize the opposition in our defensive zone, it should be a good night.

Speaking of next game, now for the Clifford speculation. If you move Clifford to 2nd line LW, it seems likely to me that Gagne would fill his role on the 4th line, followed by Richardson and then Penner. Penner’s game is not a speedy forecheck; the 4th line LW needs that. Gagne has the hands to compliment the actual play-making ability of Jordan Nolan (yes, I said that) and Penner is not playing well enough to knock King off the terrifically important Stoll line.

My guesses for the forward lines against Edmonton are: Kopi with Brown and Williams, Richards with Clifford and Carter, Stoll with King and Lewis, and Fraser with Gagne and Nolan.

I can see much room for other choices here. Penner is not playing bad, it’s more that Clifford is just playing out of his mind right now. Moving Clifford creates a hole and you fill that hole with the best fit available.

Hopefully, the next Knight of the Realm choice will be a bit more difficult, being chosen from among more than just two candidates. Go Kings!


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