2-17-2013 Kings @ Blackhawks: Game Starts 12:37, Kings Show Up 1:55

I gotta go with clumsy. The Kings looked clumsy. “Out of sync,” “unsteady,” “a step behind,” these kinds of ideas just don’t cover it. It was clumsy on defense, it was clumsy on offense. The Hawks successful aggression coupled with Kings blunders doomed this game for L.A.

It started early, too. Only 10 seconds in and Scuderi somehow tried to protect the puck using the “crease-cover” on his hands and knees at the center line. The result was Hossa with Toews on a semi-clean 2 on 1, Hossa shooting from 15 feet. Missed assignments continued, but so did the clumsy and so did the chances against until the Hawks scored their first goal after 6 1/2 minutes.

Today’s Player X Ray shows the lines as they ended up, which are a few incarnations away from how the lines started the game. Of note is Clifford playing with Kopitar and Brown, and the line of Penner/Richards/Carter being re-united. An in-depth look at the line changes Sutter made this game extends this article beyond reasonable length at the bottom.

As with any graphic on this site, click to enlarge, then the back button returns you to the article.

2-17-2013-Chicago

That first goal came with not only Quick playing without his stick, but also Ellerby. The Kings flooded one side of the ice, and then left Brent Seabrook alone at the far post after he had come down from the point. The play started with a faceoff in the Kings zone, and after 30 seconds of possession the Hawks scored.

Former 3-Blind-Mice cast member Pierre McGuire said Sutter blamed Nolan after the goal, but there were only 2 Hawks down low. Both Doughty and the stickless Ellerby were covering the same guy, leaving Seabrook all the time in the world. Quick completely lost his form, and the puck. The following screen grabs show the opportunity granted Seabrook.

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Above is the moment the pass to Seabrook is about to be sent. Seabrook is offscreen, lower left. Neither the TV coverage nor the Kings coverage included him. Below is what Seabrook sees when he looks up with the puck. Net? Yes. Defender? No. Goalie? No. Hawks 1, Kings 0

2-17-2013-chicago1

The lines started as they were in the win against Columbus, but the Kings didn’t get a shot on goal until 8:15 into the game, so the line shakeups began. Immediately, confusion resulted when Kopitar tried to come out for Richards. The Kings got a bench minor for too many men. Clumsy. Still. Again. The Hawks scored on the resulting Power Play, and it was 2-0.

In the Opening Night game January 19th, first shift Stoll and King literally bumped into each other in the defensive zone, when they both hurried to cover the same open point man. The same thing happened again in this game. A guy was left open, mistake 1, and then two guys go out to cover the guy, mistake 2, leaving a different guy wide open, mistake 3. This kind of thing happened the whole 1st period and most of the 2nd. As a result, the Blackhawks were getting solid chances almost every shift during that time.

The 2nd period started Penner/Richards/Carter, then Kopitar and Brown came out; Penner got caught on an extended shift, but even so it was Dustin Brown’s man that was left open to score the Hawks third goal. Hawks 3, Kings 0, and it could have been 5-0.

Late in the second the Kings began to show flashes of competency. Actual prolonged possession occurred for them deep in the Hawks zone, and that style continued to build.

The third period the Kings played even with the Hawks, or maybe a little better. Power Plays for the Kings still looked static, but Richards was able to get two shots thru from the very high slot for goals, the first just a minute into the 3rd.

Midway in the 3rd a 4-on-4 saw Doughty paired with Muzzin, instead of with Ellerby, and Kopi and Brown overcame some terrible defensive zone puckhandling by their defensemen until Brown eventually got the puck at the Hawks goal line and rang up a post.

The Kings then carried the play, for the most part, until Toews committed an errant high-stick penalty and Richards got another one thru from the high slot for the Kings second goal. At 7:10 left, the Kings had closed within one goal, at 3-2, but that would be the final score. Despite another penalty by the Hawks with about a minute to go, the Kings could not convert a 6 on 4 to tie the game.

Kopitar and Brown were, to be very kind, not sharp; Kopi especially. It’s one thing to say he was neutralized by a strong opponent matching lines, but Kopi made blunders with the puck whether he was under pressure or not. The Kings successes were largely created around Kopi, not by him.

Brown, who has not been hitting people at anywhere near his usual pace, was lacking most of the elements from his game that we are used to seeing; no speed on the carry thru center, no rushes threatening wide penetration, no crunching hits at all.

Let’s not get this wrong: the Hawks are red-hot, and we scored two Power Play goals against the second-best PK unit in the league, but too many mistakes, clumsy puck-handling and missed defensive assignments by forwards and defensemen both created an insurmountable lead.

The Kings had no speed thru center ice because the Hawks 3 man forecheck was very effective. I felt our outlet guy on the half-wall was too close to the blue line making it easier for him to be contested; when that guy is as low as the faceoff dot, a defenseman has to really commit to go that far, and the Kings exploit that with a swooping forward coming thru for a pass and exiting the zone with speed. There was very little of that today.

Losing faceoffs after two periods at 23 -14, and letting Jonathan Toews go 13 for 14, is not the method of establishing puck possession, either.

The Kings were fortunate to get within one goal. Sutter’s line choices for the next game against the Edmonton Oilers should be very interesting; seems like an even matchup, sad to say.

Now for the description of the personnel changes Sutter made. Let’s just leave it at creative use of a forced-air bingo-ball cage.

The lines started as they were in the win against Columbus, with the lines grouped as Gagne/Kopitar/Brown, Clifford/Carter/Williams, King/Richards/Nolan and Penner/Stoll/Lewis. 8:20 into the game, the line shakeups began with an o-zone draw having a line of Clifford/Richards/Carter that moved Carter to Right Wing. Clifford changed for Brown, meaning Brown had been moved to Left Wing, and then Kopitar got the bench minor for too many men.

After the Hawks resulting PP goal, Sutter tried it again with Clifford/Richards/Carter, and then the Kings successfully changed lines for Brown/Kopitar/Williams to come out, adding Williams to Right Wing.

A couple of shifts later, and Sutter swapped Penner in for Clifford, arriving at his final answer for the 2nd line of Penner/Richards/Carter. With Kopitar centering Brown and Williams, the top two playoffs lines were back together for a short time.

Also evolving into the rotation was a line of Gagne/Stoll/Lewis for a time, with Nolan and King mostly sitting to end the 1st due to a Power Play and a Penalty Kill to end the period.

In King’s case, I said he mostly sat the end of the 1st but here’s an exception. At 5:40 Stoll centered King and Penner, and yes, that is two Left Wings, on an offensive zone faceoff.

Next shift after the Hawks 3rd goal was Clifford on Left Wing with Kopitar and Brown, putting Brown back on the Right Wing again, meaning Sutter had reached his final answer for the game on this line as well.

When that line changed for Gagne/Stoll/Williams, 3 lines were set. The 3 remaining forwards constituted Lewis at center between King and Nolan, and the 4 lines had taken final shape.

Richards centered a total of 5 wingers at equal strength; Nolan and King, Clifford and Carter, then ultimately Penner and Carter. Brown played Right Wing, Left Wing and then Right Wing again, all with Kopitar. Kopitar centered Brown, Clifford, Williams and Gagne. What, only 4 different wingers? Slacker. As I said, who knows what the lines will be for Edmonton. All I know is if someone yells bingo, it will make sense.

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