It’s very nice to wake up just 1 point out of 8th place with a game in hand. We’re also just 2 points out of 7th with a game in hand and the tiebreaker against Phoenix. Suddenly, all seems possible again. Now for the game breakdown…
In duplicate scores of 3-1, the Kings swept into and out of Alberta taking all 4 points with them. Tonight’s Flame Game was the second of a back-to-back after Edmonton, and although Calgary is used to the 3400 feet of elevation it was the Kings flying high. By no means was it perfect, but goalie Jonathan Bernier and his team made the big plays when they had to.
Coach Sutter used the same lineup as for the Oiler game, but it was the same players spread over some different positions. Sutter is a genius, or else the Bingo-ball line-generator is psychic; either way, key position choices provided instant results for the second night in a row. We’ll dissect the X Ray below, but first some general observations. (Click the X Ray to enlarge, then the back button to return to article)
I am always ecstatic when the X Ray has a red box; that means one of our guys got the game-winner. For the second night in a row Trevor Lewis was involved in the decisive goal.
Last game he gained the puck, carried it in, let the play develop and then made the shot that Carter tipped in. Tonight, his new linemates returned the favor.
Richards created a turnover for a shot by Carter, then the first rebound went to Scuderi. Scuds found a circling Carter, who took another shot. With Richards at the net absorbing coverage, the second rebound came to Lewis and his needle-threader found twine. 2-1 Kings, and the best part of the story is that this goal was an emotional rebound, too, because it came just 29 seconds after the Flames had tied the score at 1.
One of the hidden story lines that I think would only be noticed due to the X Ray format is that for last night, Lewis played on the first line. No, he didn’t play with Kopi and Brown, either, those guys were actually demoted to being the 2nd line for this game. The line of Lewis/Richards/Carter, by any measure, was the top line over Brown/Kopitar/Williams.
Lewis had more ice time than Brown. Richards had more ice time than Kopi. Carter had more ice time than Williams. Even with Kopitar’s assist on Brown’s excellent goal, that whole line’s output was matched by Jeff Carter alone. The Richards line had 4 points, generated 2 of the 3 Kings goals, and combined for a total plus 5 compared to the Kopi line’s plus 3. And why not?
Sutter is willing to go with the hot hands, and moves guys around based on their current performance level, not on their career reputation. Lewis on Left Wing is rare if not totally new. We thought it was Richardson that could play all three forward positions, but Lewis has done that in just the past 3 games.
This game Sutter put Lewis from 4th line Right Wing to 1st Line Left Wing, moved Nolan from 4th line Left Wing to 4th line Right Wing, and dropped Clifford from 2nd line Left Wing to 4th line Left Wing. Granted, to say that in writing is confusing, but when you look at pictures of lineups, it’s much easier to understand what the Coach is doing.
The Penalty Kill found success, killing all 4 penalties against the League’s 3rd ranked PP unit. Faceoffs were heavily dominated by the Kings 40-22, and when you are trying to be a puck-possession team especially in a back-to-back situation, it’s better to be chased than to chase.
Slot shots were the order of the night, for both teams. Calgary had at least 5 from memory, and Bernier was sharp enough to make some key stops with guys wide open in the prime scoring position. The Flames did not capitalize on their opportunities, but the Kings did.
Brown’s goal to open the scoring came early in the first. A short but perfect shift started with a dump-in, then the forecheck and pinch let Scuderi put the puck back to Kopi below the goal line, who circled the net. With Williams parked crease-front, and Brown sneaking down from high to low, Kopi found Brown before the Flames did and that gave Brown an uncontested shot from between the hash marks. The Flames goalie, whom I will call “not-kipper,” had no chance to challenge, and a beautiful bang-bang goal resulted.
That line would combine for other similar chances, the kind of quick-strike shots off a cycle that Champions use. The Richards line had a very similar goal to the Brown goal, another shot from the slot this time by Carter, after Richards cycled out toward the point, then found Carter dropping down thru the open slot. If the Kings can continue to add that tactic to their potent grind and forecheck game, plus the rush-threats provided by Carter’s and Brown’s speed, then the Kings would have the variety of attack that makes teams unstoppable. Let’s hope they do just that.