You know, I’m really starting to dislike Johan Hedberg.
That’s because, not only did he go 2-0 against the Kings this year, but in 105:00 against the Kings, Hedberg did not surrender a single goal. The Kings’ offense is really bad right now, and, while both the Kings and Devils are underachieving offensive teams, both are also sound defensive teams that stress defense first , so I expected a low-scoring, tight-checking affair, but this guy just has the Kings’ number. Johan, please, don’t get traded to a Western Conference team. And don’t get traded from New Jersey, we don’t have to play them again this year (thankfully).
It’s not like the Devils and Hedberg are the only problems with Los Angeles’ offense right now though, far from it. In the Kings’ last three games, they have scored a mere three goals. Combined. Take away the game against what was a mightily sloppy and struggling St. Louis team and take away the two Jack Johnson overtime goals, the Kings have scored ten goals in seven games this year. In other words, the Kings are averaging less than 1.5 goals per game. Not good enough. Yes, the Kings are 5-2-1. Yes, they’ve done that without much offense. Yes, the Kings are great at keeping the puck out of their net and it’s their mistake-free, sound defensive hockey and strong goaltending that is their bread and butter and their recipe for success (I’m hungry if you can’t tell), they need to score too. The Kings’ offensive woes do not stem from a lack of talent when you look at this roster. Does there need to be a change in the system that allows for more offense, hopefully without taking away much of any of the defensive strengths? Is that possible? Or is it still too early to panic about the offense? Hopefully it’s the latter, and hopefully the talent that this team possesses breaks through sooner rather than later.
Speaking of talent that needs to break through, Dustin Penner still looks awful. Yes, injuries kept him out of the Kings’ first two games. Yes, he suffered an injury early in training camp that he had to play through and eventually ended up missing the latter part of camp, which throws off one’s momentum, and then he suffered the knee contusion in Philadelphia, so maybe it’ll just take him some time to get into a groove, but right now he looks exactly like the Dustin Penner that the Kings saw last year. He looks slow, he looks disinterested, and he looks awful. He made two defensive-zone turnovers on the same shift that lead to the Devils’ first goal by Danius Zubrus yesterday, and overall has no goals and just one assist in six games this year, and has only nine shots on goal. Murray even moved Penner down to the 3rd line later in the game yesterday and moved Kyle Clifford up to the 2nd line to replace him. Hopefully that’s the kick in the pants that Penner needs, but I wouldn’t count on it. He should have had enough kicks in his rear end by now. Look, I love Clifford, but here’s a thought, if Penner doesn’t turn things around quickly, then move Brad Richardson back up to the 2nd line. He looked great there in the first couple of games when Penner was out and that line looked to be developing some good chemistry. Also, Anze Kopitar may have had the worst game of his career yesterday, which included the turnover that lead directly to the Devils’ second goal, courtesy of Patrik Elias. Yesterday was a terrible game, and we should just throw it in the garbage and move on.
And that brings us to my last point before I recap the game, let’s hope that the Kings start playing much better in front of Jonathan Bernier than they have in the two games he’s played this year. The entire team mailed it in yesterday. The entire team mailed it in against Buffalo. Except Bernier, both times. I feel just awful for the guy. No, the team doesn’t really score for Quick either, but they’re much more responsible in front of Quick so far, and because of how well Quick is playing, some morons are going to blame Bernier yesterday. Sorry, but if Quick’s in net, he doesn’t stop any of those goals, he doesn’t stop those turnovers, he doesn’t stop the team from playing so poorly in front of them. Either Bernier’s just been unlucky and happened to start when the Kings are off their game, or the Kings don’t play the same way in front of Bernier as they do for Quick. Let’s hope it’s the former.
After Thursday’s game in Dallas, the Kings have back-to-back games this weekend, Saturday in Phoenix and Sunday in Colorado, so with back-to-back games on the horizon, don’t be surprised to see Bernier get one of them, likely Sunday’s game in Colorado, unless Murray decides that he would rather have Quick play the Avalanche and Bernier play the Coyotes. Or perhaps Murray will have Quick start both games, but hopefully Bernier gets a quick chance at redemption. All I know is, on Thursday, Quick is going to get a chance to extend his shutout streak to four, against his most recent victim, the Dallas Stars.
Before we put this stinker behind us, let’s quickly recap how the game went down:
1st period: The Devils outshot the Kings 10-8 in a scoreless 1st. David Clarkson provided most of the chances for the Devils, ringing one of the post, and then scoring, but having it called off for incidental contact with the goaltender by Henrik Tallinder. It was a penalty-free frame.
2nd period: Jonathan Bernier kept the Kings in it for a while, but late in the frame, the sloppiness by almost everyone not named Jonathan Bernier on the Kings on the night finally came back to bite them, and the Devils struck three times in the last 6:48 of the frame, all goals coming in a span of 5:14. First, Dustin Penner made a couple of brutal turnovers in his own end, and eventually Danius Zubrus scored a goal off his chest as he crashed the crease and redirected a point shot by Andy Greene at the 13:12 mark. Patrik Elias also got an assist. Then just 2:19 later, at the 15:31 mark, Anze Kopitar turned it over and the Devils capitalized off some pretty passing plays, with Patrik Elias finishing it off with a one-time slap shot from the right circle off a cross-ice pass from Petr Sykora. Andy Greene added another assist. Then at the 18:26 mark, Zubrus scored again, this time capitalizing off a Matt Greene turnover and walking down the left side on a 2-on-1 and blasting a slap shot by Bernier. Believe it or not, the Kings outshot the Devils 10-7 in the period. Both teams went 0-for-1 with the man-advantage.
3rd period: The Kings outshot the Devils 13-6 in the 3rd, but as was the story for most of the night, failed to generate many quality chances on Johan Hedberg. The Devils went 0-for-1 on the power play, and 0-for-2 on the night, the Kings didn’t have one and were 0-for-1 on the night.
So there ends a very, very ugly game, and now it’s time to turn the page and get ready for a rematch with the Dallas Stars, who are looking to avenge their 1-0 loss at Staples Center on Saturday, and Jonathan Quick will be back in goal looking to pick up where he left off. Hopefully the rest of the team can have a nice bounce back game too. Look for a game story sometime before the puck drops at 8:30 PM ET/5:00 PM PT at the American Airlines Center.