Last game it was seconds that were wild. In this game the operative number is 1; 1 goal, and 1 win. Neither is going to be enough if the Kings are going to win this series.
This game looked like 2 cats locked in a box, except it was 10 cats. The Kings had set various goals, having described how to improve their game, what it would take to win, and the ways individual players could improve. Well, it would be nice to say that all those goals were met leading to this glorious victory, however, at Hold The Point truth is the coin of the realm.
The X Ray has a red box; other than that…
The Kings won without meeting most of those goals. Again,though, one goal was enough. The “bright side” outlook would be to say that the Kings won despite having not met the needs for improvements as were stated pre-game. I’m gonna go with that, cuz they won.
The Kings said they needed to score first, and they did. Goal met.
The Kings said they needed to feed off the home crowd energy and come out with a fast start. Nope, St. Louis had the fast start.
The Kings said they needed to be better on the Power Play. Nope, as the #1 unit looked clumsy and tentative even with a long 5 on 3.
The Kings said they needed to work faster out of their zone, and get more speed thru center. Nope, for the most part, as St. Louis successfully deflected and contained the Kings rushes.
Anze Kopitar said he needed to shoot more, and everyone else said Kopitar needs to shoot more, as they tried to collar the gorilla in the room and the gorilla on Kopi’s back that was an 18 game goal drought. Nope-and-a-half: Kopi has now gone 19 games, most likely because he did not get a single shot on goal. You gotta be mighty damn good to score without shooting, it’s very rare. I question that tactic.
The Kings said they needed to be better on the faceoffs, and they were better, however improving from 40.2% over the first two games to 49% in this game is not winning the faceoff battle. Sticking with the “bright-side” version, I am gonna say that the trend line of 36% in Game 1 to 45% in Game 2 to 49% in Game 3 is promising.
The Kings said they needed more shots, and more screens. Nope. The Kings were outshot badly, as St. Louis tallied 30 shots and also missed the net often, while the Kings got only 21 shots and let 14 shots be blocked.
The Kings said they needed more play on the “inside” in the “tough areas” around the crease. I’m gonna go with a 3/4 Nope on this, because the scramble that produced the goal came off this very type of play. For the most part, the game was played along the boards in the Blues zone.
The Blues probably had goals, too, such as getting traffic, having a good Power Play, stuffing the Kings on attack, hitting effectively, cycling in the offensive zone and coming off the cycle for strong shot attempts, and not allowing second chances off rebounds. They did all that, and did it well. If I am the Blues, I know that I played a winning style, and that the game was better played by my team.
The Kings were 4 of 4 on the penalty kill: I have no idea how. Quick was great, but there were at least 5 open nets not taken advantage of, most of them on the Blues Power Play. Again, it would be nice to say that the Kings PK was dominant, and in truth that did happen but only on the final St. Louis PP; prior to that, the Blues just fired wide or barely missed off of the bad ice.
There is more work to be done. The Kings have not solved the Blues riddle yet. If anything, this game showed that the Kings, when not even at their best, can still win. They do not want to rely on playing less than their best but still winning, as the series continues.
Coach Sutter, for the first time as a Kings coach, dressed 7 defensemen. Jordan Nolan was sat out, Martinez took a mostly regular shift with Scuderi. Regehr stayed with Doughty, but Voynov was paired with Muzzin, and Ellerby was platooned in mostly on PK and then for the odd shift on defensive zone draws.
One of the by-products of the unusual line-up was a rather comical too-many-men penalty where the Kings skated 6 guys for a shift before it was noticed, during which they made a one-player change to maintain the 6 on 5 advantage. We had 6 guys but nobody on the bench had even noticed, so when somebody got tired and came off the 6th guy was allowed to re-join the attack.
Another by-product of using just the 11 forwards was that the right wingers were cycled in with Fraser and Clifford to fill out the 4th line. With all due respect to the excellent work Jim Fox does in keeping track of EVERYTHING as it happens, and talking about it on TV, between promotional messages and going to commercials and preparing video replays, Fox emphatically mis-called the shifts for Fraser and Clifford by repeatedly saying that Williams was given the first “double-shift” on the 4th line because Williams had been the best Kings forward. In fact, Carter took the first shift, Williams the second, and Lewis the third. Over the full game, Lewis took 2 of those shifts, Carter 3 and Williams 4.
The decisions on the Power Play are becoming an issue with me. The Kings have looked awful on the PP, and Sutter is not adjusting. Doughty is being given free rein, doing double duty on both units. Doughty is playing the Left Point with Richards on the #1 unit, and with Voynov on the #2 unit. Both units are comprised of what I have called the “all-star” groupings of players from various lines.
When guys are playing together only under specialized circumstances, chemistry can be difficult to develop. It is not working. There are viable options, as the past has shown, that include going with straight line combinations for the forwards on the Power Play, and also putting Muzzin out there with Voynov instead of giving Doughty the full 2 minutes exclusively.
While I am discussing personnel, I have to say that I am baffled by everything about Dwight King. He does not score, he does not assist, he does not have speed on attack and is not making “Power Forward” moves on attack, either. I am also seeing him slow down into hits, whether he is delivering them or not. King needs to use his size much better: the only real way to say it is he is soft on contact. That is not gonna do well against St. Louis.
Defensively, King was very good with Stoll and Lewis, but that line is clearly carried by the two latter and not the one former. I suppose the idea is to inject his defensive ability onto the Richards/Carter line, as that line has been looking for a left wing all season to shore up their D-zone play. I would much rather see Richardson in the line-up than Fraser, but if not then Richardson could also replace King.
Bottom line here is that the Kings won the game, but not by being more effective in many critical areas. Sutter has yet to settle on a consistent line-up, and for good reason. The pieces are available, but the Blues are possessed, very deep, and are proving very difficult to outplay. The Kings incremental improvements will absolutely have to continue, or it will be one and done for them in this series.