Dig: The Kings Tour played St. Lou, man, and after trading leads with Chicago and forcing them to hit all the sour notes, the Los Angeles-based band crossed Ol’ Man River where the stage was set for an encore of greatest hits. This was no one-off; we got the Blues number, and it’s now 8 in a row. These Kings roadies have been amped up, so the players laid down some deep tracks for their latest album and then put on a great set before leaving the Blues, in St. Louis, Misery.
It is an accepted fact that these two teams are very much alike in personnel, and that they play the same defensive systems. Both teams are big and fast, concentrate big-time on the forecheck, limit shots against and have a solid goal-tending tandem, relying on the heavy game to inexorably wear down the opposition and eventually open up ice for their top-line talent.
I agree with all that; on paper, the teams are indeed similar, but the Kings have absolutely dominated the Blues for a year now. Personnel, it can be argued, are nearly equal in size, and team composition by defined roles shows the same boxes filled with the same types of players. Still, even though there have been times when the Blues were on their game, sweeping a team out of the second round of the playoffs and then sweeping them in a season series the next year proves that a vital difference must exist. That difference cannot be shown on paper, and is not visible from the perspective of evaluated physical attributes. The difference is above the shoulders and between the ears.
As such, the X Ray provides evidence:
The Kings had 40 shots while limiting the Blues to 22. The Kings had 4 Power Plays to the Blues 3. One call on Brown was a laugher, one call on Backes was created by Doughty, so those cancel. Backes was hit by an errant Williams stick late on the 3rd, and the “Power Play that wasn’t” might have changed the game.
The Kings, thru all this, stayed tight, stayed strong, and played most of the game in the Blues end. St. Louis held together fairly well, especially compared to the un-gluings over most of the previous 7 games, but in the end the Blues Captain was less than ours, symbolizing the crucial margin that often decides games.
At 2 minutes left in the 3rd, the Blues were riding a wave of momentum in the Kings end, and when William’s stick hit Backes in the mouth he dropped like a rock, and stayed down, forcing play to be stopped due to his “injury” after which he hobbled to the bench, hunched over in obvious pain. No penalty was called, but then Coach Hitch cocked his timeout gun and fired.
During this late-rally-let’s-get-our-shift-together planning session, Backes was shown on TV sitting on the bench, mouthing at the refs about his near-death experience, spitting out blood-soaked…Wait a minute. There was no blood-soaked anything. One rinse, no visible cut, plus a clean set of teeth, and no real interior injury, either.
The whole “act” was just that. Meanwhile, Backes had killed his team’s momentum, detracted from the timeout unity-building, and then continued to portray the “victim” instead of being the one guy that his teammates know will skate thru anything, that nothing can stop, that will lead his team thru hell and back doing whatever it takes to win.
Backes plays with emotion, but his heart is not in the right place; as a Captain, he needs to be invincible, focused and dominant, yet his teammates saw him acting easily injured, distracted and dominated. That is the difference between Brown and Backes, and that leads to the difference between these teams and creates the margin of victory.
It could seem that Backes actually played the game he was expected to play, on paper…but the game is played on the ice, and in the mind. Backes plays the game with his heart more than his head, and while admirable it may not be the most productive.
Dustin Brown played 18:59 total, 3:30 of Power Play and 1:14 of kill, lodged 7 shots with zero hits (really?) to finish plus 2 with 1 goal and 1 assist. In comparison, Backes had 19:48 total ice time, 1:28 on the Power Play and 1:21 on the kill, lodging 3 shots, 4 penalty minutes and was credited with 7 hits while finishing a minus 1 with no goals, no assists. My point is made.
I don’t know what’s the deal with Sutter changing lines and Lewis responding, but you’ll probably remember that Lewis was inserted onto the Richards line February 19 against the Oilers, and with about a minute to go made the crucial assist to Jeff Carter’s game winning goal. The same kind of thing happened against the Blues, too, and Lewis continued to make Sutter look like a genius.
The line combinations started out mostly as they finished, except for Clifford starting at 3rd line Left Wing and King on the 4th, but Sutter swapped them with 8:10 left in the 2nd period. So, on the very first shift of the re-united line of King/Stoll/Lewis, Trevor banked in a weird goal on a weak backhand that went off the post, off the goalies back and over the line. This change was no mistake, nor was it driven by special teams play mixing lines: it came off a TV timeout, and even started with a faceoff in the Blues zone. With all 4 lines available for an O-zone draw, Sutter goes with a reconstituted checking line off a TV timeout and it ends up generating a goal. Well, okay then.
Quick was pretty good, but not really tested; it was a familiar type of game with the Kings playing their style on attack, keeping possession and playing in the other end, while the opposition struggled to get shots. Ugly goals were the featured method, and the reaction style of Quick outlasted the early-position style of Halak.
This win was another Kings riff, exploiting the Blues as riff-raff. Backes had his chances to drive the beat, but when your front man takes his solo too far the rhythm section goes stale and music turns to noise. In this performance, it was the Kings that played in concert as their Captain earned the spotlight.