The Kings were playing their third game in four days today, and they looked like it, falling to the Red Wings 4-1 before a capacity crowd of 18,118 at Staples Center, that included a lot of Wings fans.
Jonathan Quick was also playing his third game in four days, as well as making his 17th start in 20 games this season, and also looked like it. Quick has played well lately, but his workload has been far too heavy so far this season and Terry Murray should know better. My guess is that Jonathan Bernier is going to start on Tuesday in St. Louis, and if he plays a very strong game and the Kings win, is Murray going to do what he said he would at the start of the season and “ride the hot hand” or is he going to go back to Quick and let Bernier sit on the bench for a few more weeks? Bernier has only three starts in 20 games this season, so letting him continue to start for a while if he plays well couldn’t hurt, could it? That’s what it sounded like Murray intended on doing at the start of the season, or will he go against his “hot hand” theory again, like when he started Bernier despite Quick having three straight shutouts, or when he started Quick after Bernier had ended a five-game losing streak for the Kings? Of course, this is all an assumption that Bernier plays well on Tuesday, which is an assumption based on another assumption that he’s actually going to start. Really though, Murray has to start Bernier on Tuesday, doesn’t he? Quick needs a well-deserved break, and Bernier needs to get into a game. If Bernier doesn’t play so great on Tuesday, then sure, maybe you go back to Quick, but if he does play well then absolutely in my opinion you have to throw Bernier back out there for a while and “ride the hot hand” until said hand is no longer hot. If Bernier does play and play well on Tuesday, then we’ll see if Murray lives up to his word from the beginning of the season.
Anyways, on to this game. The Red Wings came into town in a bad mood, and were clearly ready for this game. They scouted the Kings well and took away their transition game and ability to generate speed through the neutral zone, and the Kings were unable to adjust. The Kings are going to have to start to adjust, because teams are going to figure out what the Kings do, and they’re going to figure out how to stop it. The Kings’ penalty killing woes continued, as they surrendered another couple of power play goals today. On the other hand, they scored another shorthanded goal on a tremendous individual effort by, who else, Mike Richards, and now have scored three shorthanded goals in their last two games, which is kind of making up for their recent inability to kill penalties. Those penalty killing woes combined with the Kings’ lack of offense, inability to generate anything on the power play against the NHL’s 25th-ranked penalty kill, and a missed opportunity on a penalty shot by Anze Kopitar all added up to an ugly 4-1 loss.
On the other hand, they were playing a very good team that played very well and was very hungry for a win today, it was one of those early starts that the Kings never seem to fare well in, and it was their third game in four days, so I’m willing to give them somewhat of a mulligan for this one. However, even if I don’t count today, the penalty kill has uncharacteristically been a big problem lately, and it’s something that the Kings need to figure out in a hurry. It’s already been a very up-and-down season for the Kings, and they’ll need more consistency in all aspects of the game to improve on their mediocre 10-7-3 record in the next three quarters of the season.
The Kings will look to put this loss behind them and get back on track on Tuesday when they head to St. Louis to take on the Blues, but before we get set for that, let’s recap this loss to the Red Wings…
1st period: Another recent trend that the Kings have to get rid of is taking early-game penalties, although their first one in this game did not come until the 6:29 mark. Eight seconds later, the puck was in the net. Detroit’s net, that is. The puck got past the Detroit defense and headed down the ice and Mike Richards got by both Red Wings with an incredible effort and slid a backhand by Howard to give the Kings an early lead. It was the third shorthanded goal in the last two games for the Kings, Richards’ third goal in his last two games, his second shorthanded goal in his last two games (becoming the first King to score shorthanded goals in consecutive games since Ziggy Palffy in 2001), his sixth goal in his last six games, and his eighth goal of the season. The goal was unassisted. However, Detroit still had 1:52 of a power play to work with, and penalty killing has been a problem for the Kings lately and giving up goals shortly after scoring one has been a problem for the Kings since last season, and both of those things came back to bite the Kings here, as Pavel Datsyuk answered for the Wings on the power play just 37 seconds after Richards’ goal, as he knocked in a rebound in front of the net past Quick, for his third goal of the season. Tomas Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom got the assists. Detroit outshot Los Angeles 13-8 in the opening frame, while the Kings went 0-for-1 on the power play and Red Wings went 1-for-2, but the Kings had a shorthanded goal.
2nd period: When your penalty kill is struggling, staying out the penalty box is probably something you’re going to want to try to do, especially against the Wings, but apparently the Kings didn’t get the memo. With Rob Scuderi in the box for slashing, Niklas Kronwall’s sixth goal of the season gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead at the 7:08 mark of the period. Kronwall pinched in and beat Drew Doughty to the front of the net and took a pass from Holmstrom and put it past Quick. Johan Franzen also got an assist. Shortly after, at the 11:06 mark, Anze Kopitar got a penalty shot after Brad Stuart stopped a Kopitar breakaway by diving and putting his stick in Kopitar’s feet, but his backhand was snared by the glove of Jimmy Howard. The Kings then got another chance to tie the game with a power play, but failed again, and shortly after getting out of the box, Brendan Smith took a pass from Jonathan Ericsson and left it for Justin Abdelkader who came in with Smith on a 2-on-1 on Willie Mitchell, and Abdelkader kept it and shot it through Quick’s five-hole, for his second goal of the year. Smith picked up his first career NHL regular season point on the play. Detroit outshot LA 17-7 in the period. The Kings went 0-for-2 on the power play in the frame, while the Wings went 1-for-1. They would also have 54 seconds of another power play carry over into the third period.
3rd period: The Kings were outskated and outhustled by the Red Wings all day and failed to generate any offense, and the third period was no different. Then at the 15:06 mark, when the game was pretty much already over, Pavel Datsyuk made sure it was with his second goal of the game and fourth of the season, as he got a fortunate bounce in front of the net as a puck bounced off of a skate and landed right on his stick and he put it by Quick. Johan Franzen got an assist. The Kings got a late, lengthy 5-on-3 power play, not that it really mattered at that point, and did absolutely nothing with it. Each team went 0-for-2 on the power play in the third, while the Kings went 0-for-5 on the day and the Wings went 2-for-5. The Kings outshot the Red Wings 9-8 in the frame but got outshot 38-24 on the game.
A problem for the Kings this season has been beating the upper-echelon teams that they’re supposed to be able to beat this year, and that they’re going to have to beat this year. They lost to San Jose, they lost to Vancouver, they lost to Pittsburgh, they lost to Buffalo, and now they lost to Detroit. Fortunately for the Kings, they do not have to deal with an elite team on Tuesday, in fact, they get to face a team that they’ve already blown out this season as they head to St. Louis to take on the Blues. Stay tuned for a game preview coming sometime before the puck drops at the Scottrade Center at 7:30 PM ET/4:30 PM PT.