Kings Engaged? No, Just Going Steady: Kings v. Sharks 5-23-2013

Last night, the Kings got engaged. Hmmm, wait a sec, there’s no ring yet. Let’s just say that the Kings showed up with I.D. bracelets under their gloves and jerseys, so now they are going steady.

This series has turned, one must think for the final time. At 2 games each a Game 5 is always “pivotal,” but in this one, with a stunning reversal the Kings re-established dominance as the higher seed, and favorite to advance into the Conference Final.

When game 4 was 1 period old, the Sharks were in complete control; they had won the previous game, and were mauling the Kings at will. That game belonged to the Sharks alone for 35 minutes, was a tossup for another 15, but then the Kings found some life to close out the clock with a goal in some flashes of the forechecking pestilence that was their Cup-Winning identity.

Well, flashes of that identity turned to full and sustained spotlights tonight, letting the Kings bask in the glow of a glorious victory. Puck drop to clock stop, the Kings were the better team, at 5 on 5, on the Power Play and on the Penalty Kill, in all 3 zones and in all 3 periods. Sutter once said, “…we never question effort here” so to say that the Kings finally “played” a full 60 minutes is an insult. The accurate description is that the Kings outplayed a full 60 minutes.

The X Ray wears red:

5-23-2013-San Jose Game 5bThe performance the Kings put out tonight is the first game this series where either of the two teams was able to truly claim to have been the better. Margins of victory had been tight, with mostly one-goal games and close but failed chances allowing the loser to claim they were in it, they almost had it, they deserved more, etc. Not this one.

Even the Sharks could find nobody to blame but themselves… And that may well be delusions of grandeur; the Sharks think they can be a better team, play a better game, and while they can indeed be a better team than they were tonight, they cannot truthfully say that their “best game” is better than the Kings “best game.” When both teams are playing their best, the Kings are better.

The Sharks must now concentrate on Game 6. Lucky for them, because to look past that is to confront a return to Staples Center needing to win Game 7. The Sharks have won their home games, both in scores of 2-1, one of those in OT. Meanwhile in the Kings home games, the Kings just posted their second shutout of the Sharks, plus the one game where San Jose scored 3 goals they still lost 4-3. With the way the Kings took over in Game 5, the Sharks home edge may still exist, but if so it has been reduced significantly.

Coach Sutter’s new lines worked perfectly. I was skeptical and thought they would not last, and I am happily confessing that. While the changes may seem many, Sutter ended Game 4 with the same line configurations as he started Game 5 except for flipping Clifford onto Kopi’s line and moving Brown to the Lewis line. Clifford played very well, but Brown responded better.

Taking your Captain off the “#1 line” and putting him in a checking role, in a Game 5 of the playoffs, might have indicated trouble in the past. Rather, it portended trouble in the future for the Kings opponent. Brown responded with a game-high 7 hits while also picking up his forechecking game as the F3. Brown intercepted 3 outlet passes during the game, and in so doing more than just disrupted the Shark’s flow; he stuffed it.

Brown was not the only one hitting for the Kings, and the Sharks could not compete. The Kings hits came in all zones, not just because the Sharks were pressing with offensive zone time. In this game, the Kings were pressing the Sharks, with and without the puck. The Sharks chart of hits looks like: 0,2,0,1,1,4,0,1,3,0,1,2,1,0,2,1,0,5. The Kings chart is 4,1,0,3,1,1,3,0,2,5,7,5,6,2,6,2,3,0. The Sharks had 3 guys with 3 or more hits, the Kings had 9 guys with 3 or more hits. Boooyahhh.

Matt Greene’s game was Jaws-dropping in style and effectiveness, and in the O-zone he led the Kings commitment to “Holding The Point,” which was full and powerful. Muzzin, Regehr, Doughty, Voynov, even Scuderi, all claimed the Line area on behalf of the Crown, forcing many icings, and re-forming attack structures from puck turnovers. Brown and the other forwards filled in with the trademark interchange that allows the Kings D-men to safely penetrate to the half-wall and beyond.

Muzzin seemed like a rover at times going down the wall and even behind the net, but every time a forward had his backcheck. That is why the Sharks are in trouble; that is the Kings game.

When “forecheck” blurs, combining attack, then retrieval, then backcheck, then standup and then forcing a dump-in from their opponent at best, the Kings game is just too good. The Kings move as 5, up the ice, and down the ice. The Sharks could not establish flow, nor forecheck, nor extended cycles.

I have been pointing out that Joe Thornton, who is in talks to be the spokesman for a local Dive Shop, almost always moves to his RW corner on attack in the Kings zone. That is our left side, meaning that is where Scuderi, Muzzin and Regehr are defending, and where Clifford, Penner, King and Richardson are assigned to help out. Thornton was stymied there, and no scoring highlight passes were made from there.

If the Kings win that area of the ice, the Left Corner of their defending zone, the Kings will win this series. Robyn Regehr seems to have decided that anyone coming into that place, his place, should be smeared along the boards and left to drop to the ice. We saw Massive games from the Left D, from Regehr with his size to Muzzin with outlet passing and escapes, and Scuderi with brilliant positional play just quietly neutralizing EVERYONE in teal.

Finally, if the Sharks are able to reach the net with a shot, they have to beat Jonathan Quick. Game 5 seemed like a statement game from Quick. He made some amazing saves, but did no glove flourishes, no showboating. Rather than fired up and in the Sharks faces, Quick displayed last year’s deep focus and outward indifference to the Sharks or the quality of their chances. Quick just made huge saves, got the whistle, dropped the puck like a losing ticket at Santa Anita and turned away.

Quick, like his team, is returning to “the zone,” where even the act of defending is part of the overall attack. The Sharks are not.

Joe Thornton, Shark, the Great White Mope, is leading his team into shallow waters, out of their depth. These Sharks have journeyed to the mouth of the Amazon, but they don’t know they’re surrounded by jungle.

The word “shoal” can mean a place where the water turns shallow, or it can mean a sandbar that lurks just under the surface. Shoal is also the name for a school of Piranha, and Piranha versus Shark means a slow death for the Shark. They start at the edges of the fins, so the Shark can’t move. They find the soft spots on the gills, so the Shark can’t breathe. They surround, and swarm, and force the Shark to close its eyes, so the Shark can’t see. And then it gets worse. They don’t stop until there’s nothing left.

It just so happens that the Black Piranha has the strongest bite of any fish in the world. What’s more, the Black Piranha has the strongest bite of any mammal that ever existed, including T. Rex.

The White Piranha grows to 12-14 inches in length, among the largest species of its kind.

Goldfish or Shark, the end is the same. It ain’t pretty.

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16 Responses to Kings Engaged? No, Just Going Steady: Kings v. Sharks 5-23-2013

  1. Hamburgular says:

    I love to say I told you so. Especially where my team is concerned. It’s really no shock. This team has been rescuing us from the depths of despair all season. Different games than last post season, all except last nights effort, which IMHO was easily their best this post season. Larry Robinson is the mechanic behind the Sharks success against us so far. Just like last season with NJ. If he is the mechanic, DS is the engineer, or in a more matrixy way of putting it, “the architect”. Fine tuning the machine to adjust to the environment it is working in. Last night we hummed, purred like a kitten, roared like a 427, flew like an F-16. You get the point. Next game will be tighter. Last change will be all the Sharks have to their advantage. That and their building full of dopey fans. I said it already 2x, sticking with it. Kings in 6. Let their fans have the handshake, hurts more. GKG \X/

    • Player X says:

      Love the handshake thing, wow, you are one cruel bastard. You can say I told you so all you want, when you predict Kings wins I am fine with it. Nice point about Robinson, but the Kings F3 is stronger than flooding one side of the ice, which the Sharks do on forecheck and defensively, too. The F3 either contains, or backchecks, and then our Center provides the low outlet away from the scrum while their guy joins the scrum and gets caught too low. Screw Robinson, he’s got enough rings.

  2. Stuart says:

    Allow me to jump on the I-told-you-so wagon there if I may… Dustin Brown on the 3rd line is the ticket that I’ve been clamoring for for the last 3 seasons!!! Ideally, I would’ve had him centered by Stolly, they have great chemistry together!

    One more win boys, we got this!

  3. USHA#17 says:

    Big difference salting “heavy hitters” across all the lines.

    When Clifford came out hitting in the 3rd period of game 4 the rest of the team followed. Should the Kings prevail I believe this will be considered the pivotal moment in the series.

    The realization that the Kings had to feel; that the Sharks can’t take as good as they give was palpable…even through a lens.

    Aside from Quick now being the best goalie in the playoffs Clifford and Greene may also turn into a great story.

    • Player X says:

      Don’t overlook penner’s job too. Thonton on richards was not being controlled by king, then sutter put penner in and voila

      • USHA#17 says:

        Its kinda funny to be in the same boat as the Sharks…wondering which Kings team will show up Sunday.

        • Player X says:

          I’m feeling pretty good about the Kings, maybe the Sharks are wondering which of themselves are gonna show up…Another irony would be that it’s the Sharks that might need the bigger boat.

          • USHA#17 says:

            By the way. An excellent critique of the game and its key elements.

            I also feel good about LA but also sense that for LA these playoffs have been about goal tending and line matching.

            Green and a rested Clifford are the wildcards

  4. Mik3ysfv says:

    Once again, great analysis, X. I have been harping on it all playoffs long, but the breakout was the key to last night’s success. The Kings adjusted to what San Jose was doing as far as disrupting our breakouts. I hate to keep repeating myself, but the breakouts are the key to our offense. It was a beautiful sight to see, Matt Greene clearing the front of the net with purpose. this was by far the best game the Kings have played this postseason. I believe their mojo is back, and I don’t see a team playing, Eastern or Western Conference, that can challenge the Kings when their game is on. I am really looking forward to game 6, to see if the Kings can follow up game 5′s success. If they come out a dominant team, I truly believe we will repeat as champions. It has been an up-and-down postseason, but I believe the Kings, the true Kings, have arrived to the party.

    • Player X says:

      Yeah man, it was the 5-man swarm, great to see, and it wasn’t really based on faceoff performance even though we won that finally. Since the hits were in our favor PLUS we had the possession advantage, we can overcome the faceoff losses by just pressuring the Sharks with pinches in their zone and strong board play in our zone.
      It might not be a death knell if the Kings don’t play quite as well in San Jose, for whatever reason, but I agree it could mean a really deep run if the Kings do find their road game as strong as their home game. We know it’s possible, but the Sharks are pretty damn good at hockey when they shut their mouths, stop diving and play the game.

      • Mik3ysfv says:

        Yeah, X. not a death knell, but I think it would speak volumes as to where the Kings are. I can’t wait until 5 o’clock, this game is huge. I really look forward to the Kings coming out and blowing the doors off HP Pavilion. I see a really strong start, checking sharks into the glass, I don’t see The Kings coming out any other way. I think they have to turned the corner. I really think that St Louis rattled The Kings’ feeling of dominance. I also think the swagger is back now. That can go a long way in determining who wins the Cup.

        • Player X says:

          Hey you’re missing out on the I-told-you-so’s above. From a guy that accurately predicted who would score a game-winning goal, I admire your restraint.

  5. Mik3ysfv says:

    Is it me, or does Brad Richardson look like the yellow Angry Bird?

  6. Mik3ysfv says:

    BTW, ‘X, no one can analyze the soul of a game quite like you. I am mightily impressed at how you pick the exact detail(s) that speaks to said game. Cheers, ‘X! W
    ell done.

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