In reversion to form, the Kings found their good form from the playoff run, and the Blues found the same form they displayed when being swept onto the golf course. In a display you would not expect from 2011-2012 Coach Of The Year Ken Hitchcock’s team, frustration, bad penalties and sluggish play from the Blues made any comeback impossible after the Kings went up two goals by Carter, and then won it 4-1 going away. The Player X Ray reveals a well-distributed share of ice-time among 4 lines. Sutter does not abuse his top talent by overplaying them game over game. As well, I have noticed that Sutter mixes the specialty teams duties one game to the next, giving and taking ice time, and I think you will be surprised by some of the names that get shorted and rewarded. More detail on that is coming in the article after today’s X Ray itself. On any image at this site, just click on it to isolate and view it full size.
The lines stayed the same from the Detroit game except for Penner playing with Stoll and Lewis in place of King. Amazingly, the chemistry from the playoffs that had been missing has been found by Sutter making wholesale line changes from 1 through 4. Swarming forecheck, extended offensive possession, mostly strong breakouts for us and disrupted flow for St. Louis; all the elements were there that powered the Kings steamroll to the Cup.
Some guy named Bernier was wearing a lot of padding, parked himself between the red pipes and somehow convinced the other Jonathan to sit on the bench for the whole game; must be voodoo. In what was his first start and second appearance, regardless of what Louie Korac, “NHL.com correspondent” says (linkatrocious), Bernier showed absolutely no signs of rust and was in comfortable, early position the entire game.
I think Quick will get the start against the Blue Jackets Friday, but this was a very convincing performance. Nonetheless, I can imagine Sutter talking about it: “Bernier came in as a backup and got us the win. That’s what he’s supposed to do, right?”
At the only moment when the outcome was in doubt, Bernier did provide the crucial save. It was at the end of the 2nd period. What is with this team and the last minute of periods? St. Louis had just scored their goal after only 9 seconds of Power Play at :46, then another solid chance at 5-on-5 happened off a giveaway in the Kings zone. Clifford tried a little re-direct pass from the half-wall for Carter to continue a breakout, but the pass was intercepted and T.J. Oshie had an immediate, hard one-timer from the slot just above the hash marks. That’s probably a 25 foot shot, and Oshie got all of it, but Bernier was all over it and made a really tough save look easy.
All lines played well. Voynov was a beast on both ends of the rink and damn near earned Knight of the Realm, but Carter finished what Voynov and Ellerby started. Even though they both made amazing primary assists, you get scoreboard for goals in this league and Carter had two. Carter gets the Knighthood.
Now let’s talk a bit about Sutter’s bench work, and his appointment of ice time.
In this game the “4th line” of Penner/Stoll/Lewis all played over 10 minutes of total ice time. The “third line” had even more, except for Jordan Nolan, but even he was close to the ten minute mark. Of course, when you have a 3 goal lead for most of the game you can afford to spread the ice time, including the Power Play, but when we look at the previous 5 games a trend develops of Sutter mixing special teams duty regardless of score.
The basic overview is that Sutter has his regulars on PP and PK, and then mixes in ice time from among a group of other players. Brown, Kopitar, and Carter all appear very consistently on both PP and PK.
Stoll and Richards both get regular time on the PP, but both of them had their PK ice time significantly reduced in some of these 5 games. Even when the team gets a lot of penalties, sometimes Stoll and Richards are largely left off the Penalty Kill.
Maybe the widest disparity game-over-game is Gagne. Against Anaheim, he gets only 30 seconds of Power Play time, with Kopi getting 4:25, but against Detroit Gagne got 2:55 on the PP and Kopi got 2:38. Gagne’s time with the Penalty Kill is all over the place, ranging from 1:02 against Columbus, which was even percentage-wise with most other killers, but then he got 12 seconds the next game against Nashville and zero ice time on the kill against Detroit.
Williams also has this in-and-out tendency on the penalty kill; 2 of the games he killed almost a minute, 1 game he played 9 secionds and two games he played zero seconds on the kill.
Lewis usually gets among the highest number of minutes on the Penalty Kill, but against St. Louis he had zero time. On the Power Play, Lewis does seem to be an example of giving guys some ice time on the PP when you have a comfortable lead.
Some of Sutter’s in-game decisions on who to use and when to use them is dictated by circumstance; if Carter just put in the long shift that drew a penalty, he is not available for the 1st unit power play, for example, so ice time does not always indicate coach’s choices. Over 5 games, or more, though, I think we can find decisions based on a particular player having a good or bad night, and other merit-based reasons, plus Sutter’s genius at monitoring each player’s effort level and exhaustion level at any moment during the game.