Dogtown was no desert oasis as the Kings were tamed by a feral pack of Canus Doanus Bankruptcia. I was expecting GroupOn Group violence, but there was hardly a Yelp as the Kings appeared content to be Living Social as the omega males. Phoenix scored more than a pawful (which rhymes with awful) of 5 goals, but the Kings scatted just 2, for a loss that evened the season series at 1 each.
In a game I expected to be a near-war bloodbath, the Kings instead looked like they wanted to save their energy for something else. Problem is, that something else was nothing on the ice, and remains a mystery. When even Jordan Nolan has zero hits (I will grant you that the stat is not purely accurate in every instance) you are looking at a game where there were more flybys than you’d expect the Goodyear Blimp to perform at a season of USC football games.
The X Ray does not look good.
Let’s first look on the bright side, and go down the list of positives. The Kings scored 2 out of 5 on the Power Play, and Muzzin and Voynov continued to produce in their role as #1 D-men for the unit. That is a positive. Another positive was… ummmm. There weren’t any others. Sorry.
Speaking of no positives, in this game there were zero players marked positive in plus/minus; indeed, only four players total logged non-negatives in plus/minus, and those four being Penner, Richards, Carter and Muzzin were all tied for game-best 0, or even. In a reversal of the norm the Kings scored 2 of 5 on the Power Play and came up empty at Even Strength.
The Kings lost in the stats that define the “grit” of a game: hits, faceoffs, blocked shots, takeaways and oh, yeah, goals.
The penalty kill allowed one goal against in only 3 chances, by Mikkel Boedker. Bodeker was allowed to carry the puck from the halfwall to the slot, underneath Kopitar and above Scuderi. The shots below, starting with #1, show Kopitar having drifted too high, over-committing to the Blue Line, and Scuderi, seemingly in good position just inside the faceoff dot. Boedker is at the half-wall, top of screen.
In #2, Boedker exploits the open ice and penetrates toward the middle; Kopi is beaten, Scuderi begins to react. In #3, Scuderi is blocking a potential pass to the goal line/near post with his stick while trying to contain Boedker’s movement with his body, and Brown is at the left faceoff circle blocking a potential pass to the Coyote defenseman.
In #4, Scuderi has just swept his stick across Boedker’s path, but he missed contact with the puck and/or Boedker himself. Quick is fully screened, Kopi is still out of the play, and Brown has not, and will not, move.
In #5, Boedker has time to pick his spot from the prime scoring spot, Quick is still screened. In #6, the shot has been let go just as Boedker’s lane opens for him to get the puck past the double screen of his teammate and Voynov, both net-front. Quick really never sees the release, and reacts late and poorly.
It’s not the first mistake, it’s usually the third one that costs a goal. Kopi simply swung out too high, Scuderi missed a swipe at the puck he probably makes 95 in a hundred, and Voynov and Quick combined to create a screen for Boedker to exploit.
The Kings tried to rally late, and had some jump in the late 2nd period and most of the 3rd, but by then they were 4 goals down. At 4-2 just 5 minutes into the 3rd, after two Kings Power Play goals, the Kings were carrying the momentum and the next goal was probably gonna be scored by the team that won the game. Phoenix regathered themselves, scored their 5th at 10:55, and the decision had been reached.
We should probably look at this game as just a circumstantial loss: Phoenix was rested, L.A. played the night before and traveled, plus the Kings had won 9 of 11 and were kinda due for a loss. While all that is true, it isn’t wholly accurate.
From what I saw, or really didn’t see, the Kings were not fully engaged to start this game. They didn’t come out flat, but they also did not respond with similar intensity as displayed by Phoenix. Hits were down, shots were from outside, cycles did not generate possession much less chances to score, and Phoenix was allowed to generate pace and flow while the Kings were not.
The game was played evenly in the 3rd period, or maybe the Kings had an advantage not entirely due to Phoenix laying back and playing prevent defense, as Jim Fox often describes it. By then, playing even was not gonna win the game.
With Phoenix now nipping at the Kings’ heels in the standings, and a crucial 2 games in a row to be played next Monday and Tuesday in the Kings den, Los Angeles’ bite better be worse than their bark if they wish to maintain Alpha status over the Coyotes.