LOS ANGELES 1
Well, we were grinding away at an outstanding goaltender all night and were finally rewarded with a win. That they bring the effort to play games like that even with a crummy lineup is why I was so angry after last game. They weren't amazing tonight...but they were pretty decent and paid attention to the details. The lazy giveaways, allowing players in behind the defence and other inexcusable acts were absent from the game tonight. We still pretty much relied on one line to generate the offensive chances, but the other lines minimized mistakes, the D controlled the puck to some extent, and we actually got decent (though only decent in my estimation) goaltending.
I feel bad for Mr. Quick if that's the way the Kings have played in front of him all year. That squad is talented enough to have no excuses, yet showed hardly any ability to be dynamic in the offensive zone. Quick on the other hand was stellar all night long. He was beaten on a screened tip and a no chance outmanned play in front of his net. He was busy committing highway robbery the rest of the evening, including stopping Hemsky's nice little deke and a decent number of high quality shots with varying levels of execution. Great goalie they have there.
Both of goals came off of some nice puck movement, good shooting decisions and well-placed traffic in front of the net using active sticks. Magnus had been having a decent PP shift before the goal and looked much more comfortable than he did earlier this year. It is worth noting that I'm about 90% sure he's changed to a different model and slightly shorter stick, which is helping him control the puck. He made the play to Petry, who wisely chose to shoot through an open lane with Green in front, who managed to get a piece of the puck and it went in. I feel good for #12 even though I still don't think he should be here, but he made the right play there.
The OT goal was excellent. I was skeptical about not sending Potter out there (instead of Gagner), but it worked out. Though many will focus on the shot-pass-shot, I'd also like to note that Hall made an excellent read to pass across the triangle to Hemsky instead of the easier-looking pass to Gagner. A Gagner pass could have been tipped out of the zone and would have left him with little time and room, instead Hall saw that he could find Hemsky with lots of time because it was an against-the-flow pass. Ales took his time, steadied the puck and instead of forcing back to Hall, shot the puck hard at Quick's right foot, forcing a rebound to Horcoff (who was in perfect position and the place he operates best on the PP), Horcoff then knew that he should be able to find Hall in his office and passed quickly rather than flipping the puck on net. Hall thankfully hesitated a bit (he was actually going behind the net with Horcoff having to move to reach the puck) and was ready to finish was the pass arrived. He should never leave that spot on the PP. Beautiful goal.
As for what's wrong with the Kings? It must simply be underperforming forwards. Where exactly were Brown, Kopitar and Richards tonight? They didn't do anything particularly exceptional and they really should be able to. I didn't mind the games that Stoll and Penner (PANCAKES!!!) played. I'd gladly have both back next season at reasonable dollars. Voynov played a very interesting game. I found him a little hard to concentrate on, but he appears to move quite well at the opposition blue line, got a couple very nice shots (including the assist) on net with a nice quick slapper release and also laid a really nice hit (I believe on Smyth) in the third period. He would fill a need, but I'd still sign #83 rather than deal him if at all possible.
- He obviously played a decent game tonight considering he was only beaten once by a shot he didn't have much chance on, but I think he should take his defencemen out for steak sometime soon. He allowed a number of large rebounds that could have been very very good chances, but the D kept the LA players from getting to them. He needs to be better when it comes to that as on many nights it will cost you and it has indeed cost him before.
- I wanted to talk about #33's game early in this report because I really liked it. It is not new for a guy to step up and play really well against his former team, but it is not guaranteed. All night tonight, Teubert was physical, aggressive, well positioned and made good choices with the puck. I really loved the play in the first where he intercepted an LA turnover, carried speed and rumbled into the offensive zone, running right over Drew Doughty as he attempted a hit. The play wound up whistled down but it was a great little sequence and really showed the power this guy has. He's interesting for me in that he's got both the physical tools and the talent. If it ever clicks in for him (and I'm not saying it will...but it might), we will have something pretty nice on our hands.
- Certainly one of his best games in some time. The most obvious difference from many of the games he's played this year was that he was quite patient with the puck a lot of the night and made some decent passes. He also positioned himself well and didn't get beat by the high quality LA forward group. Much better.
- He did two of the things tonight that make me absolutely hate him. First, he refused to fight after an honest invitation from a much smaller player. I hate that a guy that big acts like a wimp when he's running around trying to bruise people with hits. Secondly, he looked totally lost several times tonight and simply froze during the play. It didn't hurt him in this one, but it sure was scary at times.
- I thought he was pretty medium tonight. He did some good things to generate offence and was okay in his own zone, but there was a lot of awkwardness to his game that would have been taken advantage of on other nights.
- He had a pretty quiet game. A turnover in the second on the powerplay (not a horrible one, just a tough one) that could have led to a goal was prevented by some hard skating and a great move to get inside position then check the guy rather than having to reach in with a stick. Very few dmen seem to be able to make the play he did without taking a penalty.
- There's no doubt he's carrying the mail back there right now. He was excellent defensively all night and moved the puck very well. He's raised his game while Gilbert has been out and tonight was no exception. Even I'm surprised how well he's playing and I've always been a fan.
- This line worked tonight because they all knew their job and play a fairly similar style. It is straightforward, hard skating and simple puck plays. They did a good job of making physical contact and very few mistakes. That is still no reason for Renney to put them out on own zone faceoffs or with 5 minutes to go so that they nearly cost us the game, but at least they stayed above water.
- These guys didn't show a lot offensively which is probably due to who they had to play against. LA's gifted forwards pose a distinct challenge for a line like this because none of these individual guys can create a mismatch. The try was there...but Horcoff missing extra step meant that Jones and Lander had to try to beat defenders which is something that neither is particularly good at. With all that said, they didn't screw up and looked better than some of the lines we've been running out there recently.
- A curious choice at 'C" here, but I suppose it worked out as they put forth a pretty decent effort. This is the first game in quite some time where for at least some of the game, Magnus was skating to the open ice in order to receive passes in the flow of the play rather than trying to skate the wings all night. It made a difference at the puck got deep into the opposition zone and scoring chances were generated. I suspect if they had a better center, they would have scored (likely Magnus). #91 also used his shot a little bit, which was a positive. Smyth is still looking pretty iffy to me. He was certainly better than the ANA game, but there are too many giveaways and he's letting himself get hit along the boards. He made passes tonight that were almost totally in the wrong direction. It was weird. O'Marra did what he could and you certainly can't fault him for what is out of his control. He didn't really create anything, but didn't cost the team either.
- There's a little something missing from the play of this line right now, and that is the prime shooting chances aren't going to Hall and Hemsky as much as they need to. For whatever reason, many of the passing plays end on Gagner's stick and while he's never been the greatest shooter, he's having some exceptional struggles finishing right now. Several times tonight he was set for either one-times or quick-release plays that he either couldn't get away cleanly or just didn't apply much precision to. I hope he's working on that right now because he's getting many chances. To be fair, he's playing a very positive game and indeed helping to generate those chances as well as providing solid support to #s 83 and 4. I'd just like to see him be able to react a little more quickly and score on shots other than when he drops to one leg. Hemsky should have scored tonight as well. He was robbed by Quick a couple times and missed on a couple of other very nice chances. He made some lovely passes, backchecked hard to get the puck away from LA attackers and showed a ton of patience breaking into the offensive zone. He needs to relax and focus on his scoring chances...I think he'd gotten less used to having as many. Obviously I've already went through the OT goal for both Hemsky and Hall, great play. Hall had another really solid game even though he was battling Doughty a bunch. He came down 1-on-1 with a chance to win the game and nearly got away a pretty decent shot. He's really reading Hemsky's skating and passing choices well. These two need to stay together if at all possible when #14 and #93 return, as that automatically gives us 2 scoring lines. I'm wondering most if Renney can figure out that he needs to play them on the PP though. Running out 4-93-14-83-44 for at least a decent part of the 5-on-4 seems like a no-brainer.
I didn't even realize Belanger didn't play until the drive home...shows you how important he's been this year. I can't help but think he's still due to burst out...but who knows.
Anyway, on a day this chilly, a loss would have made the walk to the car pretty horrible. Thankfully, I didn't need to worry about that.