Snowball’s Chance – Kings v. Avalanche 4-11-2013

The Kings faced the worst team in the NHL, but that stubborn snowball of a team seemed hell-bent on surviving. At first, the full meltdown seemed inevitable as the Kings stormed out to an early 2 goal lead, but then the Avalanche proved they were no flakes. Once the Snowball got rolling, a downhill run of gathering momentum built into the Avalanche having tied the game, forcing a shootout, but ultimately the prolonged exposure against the league’s 3rd hottest home team withered the visitors into water.

Accumulation of shots resulted in two Kings goals, but then pride alone on the part of the Avalanche precipitated a blizzard of intensity and the Kings were temporarily snow-blinded. Zone time became even in the 2nd, and despite intermittent sprinklings of shots from the Kings, the first 5 minutes of the 3rd period were blanketing flurries of Avalanche chances. The Kings plowed on, but could not prevent the buildup from blocking the path to a regulation victory.

The X Ray shows a distinct weather pattern:

4-11-2013-Colorado

Usually when a game is described as having “ebbs and flows” it means that the teams went back and forth, trading chances, mostly alternating from one team being dominant to the next, then back to the first, in a repeating pattern. In this game, rather than waves of attack by each team, it was more like the Kings tide came in, went out, and came back in again.

The Kings started the game fast and strong, scoring 2 goals in just the first 7:14, after solid attacks and prolonged pressure. More goals seemed inevitable, yet the rookie goaltender Sami Aittokallio kept the Avalanche in the game by holding the potent Kings attack to just the two. The onslaught continued for most of the rest of the 1st with the Kings fairly dominating play.

I don’t know what happened in the intermission, but somebody told the Avalanche whatever they needed to hear, and the Kings came out looking entirely unprepared for a rejuvenated Avalanche team. In the 1st period, the Kings outshot the Av’s 15-4. Then, it was the Av’s turn.

In the 2nd period, the Avalanche registered 8 shots while the Kings did not register any shots for the first 13 minutes. The Kings then got 4 weak shots over the next 6:30 and then tallied 2 in the last 30 seconds to finish with 6 for the period. The Avalanche had taken over the game and scored a goal, finishing the period at 2-1. Shots had gone from 15-4 to 21-15.

Probably nobody mentioned to the Av’s that the Kings were 100-1-11 when leading after 2; the Av’s came out in the 3rd as if they intended to win this game. Most of the first 5 minutes was spent in the Kings zone, as the Avalanche again registered 8 unanswered shots. In the 2nd, shot #9 was by the Kings. In the 3rd, shot #9 was by the Avalanche, and it was a goal that tied the game at 2.

In the Richardson line’s first shift of the period, a Kings zone draw was won by Richardson, and the puck was moved with Kings possession over the center line for just the 3rd time in the 3rd. The Av’s succeeded in getting the puck right back out, but Kings were well-positioned on the rush so¬†the Av’s dumped it into the Kings corner.

A corner-battle for possession was won by Scuderi, but then his backhand pass off the boards was too hot, Clifford did not handle it, and the bounce to the Av’s point man was returned toward the net. This shot, the Av’s 9th, was a slow bouncer after being knocked down by an attempted block off Clifford’s stick. Quick was screened, and the puck ended up in the net after a minor deflection to an un-marked Avalanche Patrick Bordeleau in the crease.

As I understand the Kings system defensively, as it is with any team in the NHL, leaving guys alone in the crease is generally frowned upon. Voynov lost his guy so badly that it was easy for Bordeleau to simply tap the puck over the line.

Voynov had come out from the corner-battle first, ahead of Richardson and Scuderi. After correctly filling space at the faceoff circle, Voynov had retreated to the net just as Richardson and Scuderi accompanied two Avalanche to the same spot. Voynov tried to play goalie and stopped skating, Richardson and Scuderi combined with Voynov to screen Quick and check one of the Avalanche, while Bordeleau simply glided past that scrum into open ice. When the puck rattled to Bordeleau alone at the side of the crease there was nothing stopping him from scoring the goal that tied the game.

At that point the score was 2-2, but the shots were 24-21 in favor of the Avalanche and the momentum was clearly also favoring Colorado. But then, it was the Kings turn, again.

The shot pendulum then swung back to the Kings, who logged 11 to the Av’s 3 ending the 3rd period and then outshot Colorado 5 to 1 in the OT.

A late penalty kill by the Kings prevented the Av’s from tarnishing the Kings record with a regulation loss, while on the other end,¬†Aittokallio, until he cramped up and was pulled, and then Giguere held the Av’s in the game, forcing a shootout. Overtime, though fruitless for the Kings as far as the winning goal, seemed to give the Kings the push they would need going into the shootout.

The Kings had not stopped a shootout attempt in the last 7 tries. First Quick, and then Bernier, had allowed 3 of 3 to go in. But again, it was the Kings turn to reverse a stat. Carter scored on his attempt, then Quick stopped Matt Duchene. Brown scored for the Kings, Parenteau scored for the Av’s, and then Kopitar scored to make it three in a row for the Kings, sealing the victory.

When Coach Sutter talks about playing a “consistent game” at times in the future, he could well use this game as a template for what not to do.

The winds of change started as a blowout for the Kings but morphed into swirling gusts in all directions. It seemed the Kings rain of shots was temporarily held aloft by the updraft of Avalanche momentum; but like hail, this recirculation only generated a more forceful downfall when the Kings finally fell back into their game.

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