Remember when coming into this season the Kings were supposed to be able to compete with teams like Boston and Detroit? Ahh, that was fun. Good times.
No, on this road trip, the Kings were given an idea of just how far away they are from competing with elite teams like the Bruins and Red Wings, as the Wings simply embarrassed the Kings in this one, skating circles around the Kings and moving the puck in such a way that I hope the Kings were taking notes, because the Kings’ passing and transition game isn’t even close, and at the end of the day, the Wings got into the holiday spirit by dropping a snowman on the Kings. The Kings are 1-3-0 in their last four games against the Wings, and those three losses were by scores of 7-1, 4-1, and now 8-2. They are also 0-2-0 against the Red Wings this season, losing by scores of, of course, 4-1 and 8-2. It’s remarkable that the Kings went 3-1-0 against Detroit last season, I have no idea how that happened when you watch the Red Wings play. The Kings weren’t even close to being as good as Detroit last season either, and are not a good match up at all with Detroit. It wasn’t hard to see this one coming, though. I felt about this game the way I felt about the Boston game. The way things are going, for both teams, a Kings win would have been a miracle, especially when you consider the Wings’ now 13-2-1 record at home.
You know, it’s games like these that make me more fond of the idea of Darryl Sutter coaching the Kings. Whenever the Kings lost or played poorly under Terry Murray, the post-game quotes were always incredibly similar. It was always something like “There were good things tonight, the other team made it tough on us, a few bounces went against us, we just need to keep playing like that, we’ll be fine.” Well, that sort of mentality is part of the reason Terry Murray finds himself checking the help wanted ads nowadays.
Too often, the team mirrored their coach’s stoic, robotic demeanor, and there was just no desperation, accountability, or seemingly any will to change what was wrong on this team. It was clear they needed a change, and after tonight, I’ve started to warm to the idea of Sutter. Say what you want about him, but he will not stand for this type of play. Instead of the same old tired message from Murray, Sutter is going to rip the paint off the walls with his message to the team when they’re playing like this. I think having the type of coach like him to give this team a kick in the pants when they need it and look as dead as they do now will be a good thing for this team. If you’re not performing up to standards under Sutter, you’re going to hear about it, and you’re probably not going to play, and I think that type of motivation for this team is going to be a really good thing. At the very least, he can’t make things any worse. Right now, he can’t get here fast enough. The Kings have had a bunch of should-be wakeup calls this season, and haven’t responded, for the most part. If they can’t respond to this kind of wakeup call, let’s see if Darryl Sutter will be enough of a wakeup call.
If he does not turn things around, it’s going to be a fun summer in LA. This team’s expectations were sky-high in the pre-season, and with all of the money they’re spending, ownership likely had a large hand in the dismissal of Terry Murray. If this team doesn’t at the very least win a playoff series, Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter will likely be fired, and this roster is in for a major overhaul. No pressure, Darryl.
So, let’s see if they can turn this around under Sutter. It should be interesting. Hopefully they can head into the Sutter era on a high note by finishing off this road trip with a win in Toronto on Monday. Before we get set for that, I’ll recap this game first, I guess… (I wanted to keep this relatively short, but recapping all of the Red Wings goals is going to keep me from doing that)
1st period: The Kings decided to switch things up in this one. Instead of taking an early penalty, they were going to surrender an early goal. Trevor Lewis wasn’t able to handle what wasn’t a great pass from Jack Johnson, and Danny Cleary got it and took it the other way. The Wings showed some excellent passing (the kind of passing you never see from the Kings), as Clearly fed it off to Darren Helm who then passed it out in front to Drew Miller who tapped it by Jonathan Quick at the 1:45 mark for his fourth goal of the season. Just 15 seconds later, the Wings were at it again. Quick served up a big rebound to the slot to Tomas Holmstrom, who fed it off to Jonathan Ericsson, whose shot hit Cory Emmerton on the way in at the 2:00 mark for Emmerton’s second goal of the season. Then at the 8:32 mark, Niklas Kronwall brought the puck in and took a shot from the right circle that beat Quick up high. So much for all of Quick’s great play in Detroit, although he could hardly shouldered all the blame. That would be it for Quick, who was pulled in favour of Jonathan Bernier after giving up three goals on seven shots in just 8:32. It was the first time the Kings had made an in-game goalie switch this season. This is one of those rare games where you can give up as many goals as the Kings did, and not even on that many shots, but you can’t blame the goalies. Quick was lucky, as he no longer had to deal with the awful team in front of him trying to compete with a team like Detroit. Unfortunately for Bernier, he was going to have to deal with it for most of the night now, and for both of these goalies, their stats were going to take a big hit, as well as the Kings’ defense stats. But it’s neither of their faults. Not only are their teammates letting them down offensively, but now defensively as well. The Kings got on the board at the 17:15 mark, when Davis Drewiske extended his goal-streak to two games with his second goal of the season, in just his sixth game. Drewiske made a nice play to keep the puck in, then got it off to Dustin Penner, who fed Justin Williams, who gave it back to Drewiske at the left point who snapped one high on Jimmy Howard. Of course, the Kings then did what they do best, give up a goal shortly after scoring one. Cory Emmerton’s shot from the slot hit Alec Martinez’s skate and beat Bernier at the 18:35 mark, just 1:20 after the Kings had scored. Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Holmstrom got the assists on Emmerton’s second of the game, um, first period, and third of the season. The Kings outshot the Red Wings 9-8 in the opening frame, as well as outhitting them 12-6 and they won 63% of the faceoffs. Naturally, they were outscored 4-1. The Kings went 0-for-1 on the power-play, while the Red Wings didn’t have one.
2nd period: At the 11:03 mark, the Kings pulled within two. Justin Williams’ shot was knocked in by Jarret Stoll on the rebound, for what was just Stoll’s third goal of the season. Dustin Penner also got an assist. So you knew a Red Wings goal was inevitably coming shortly after, this time, just 1:03 later. At the 12:06 mark, Henrik Zetterberg brought the puck to the right circle and wired an incredible backhand top shelf by Bernier, for his eighth goal of the season. For the second period in a row, the Kings gave up a goal late in the frame. This time, with just 22 seconds left. At the 19:38 mark, Pavel Datsyuk got by Jack Johnson and Johan Franzen found him streaking to the net and Datsyuk just hit it by Bernier on the backhand for his 10th goal of the season. Todd Bertuzzi also got an assist. Wouldn’t you know it, Los Angeles outshot Detroit 9-7 in the period. The Kings’ power-play went 0-for-2 in the frame, while the Wings went 0-for-1 with the man-advantage. Bernier had his mask dinged up by a shot earlier in the period and had to switch to his old purple one from last year while his got repairs.
3rd period: Danny Cleary stole the puck from Jack Johnson behind the net, and then fed it out in front for Drew Miller who snapped it by Bernier at the 7:34 mark, for Miller’s second goal of the game and fifth of the season. Then on a power-play, at the 11:18 mark, former King Brad Stuart took a high shot from the top of the circle that beat Bernier who was screened by, who else, Tomas Holmstrom. Cory Emmerton and Niklas Kronwall picked up the assists. Detroit actually did outshoot LA for once, 11-10 in the third, while despite losing 8-2, the Kings outshot the Wings 29-27 on the night, of course, as they always do. Detroit went 1-for-2 on the power-play in the frame and 1-for-3 on the night, while the Kings went 0-for-1 on the period, and 0-for-4 on the night. The Kings power-play is just beyond awful right now. Mike Richards can’t make this much of a difference. Watching this game, you’d never guess that Detroit had the 23rd-ranked penalty kill in the NHL. Or that the Kings had the 22nd-ranked power-play. No, seriously. It’s that high. With all of the struggling the Kings are having to score, they allowed the likes of Cory Emmerton and Drew Miller each score a pair of goals tonight. Dustin Penner and Drew Doughty have done that, but over the course of the season so far.
Besides the fact that the Wings didn’t get to double-digit goals — as Jarret Stoll admitted after the game he’s surprised they didn’t — if there were any bright spots tonight (oh, and other than hitting rock bottom, hopefully), Justin Williams and Dustin Penner, a pair of struggling Kings forwards, each assisted on both goals and were each a plus-2, despite their team losing 8-2. The Kings really need these guys to get it going, among others. I think I discovered why John Stevens dressed Westgarth tonight, by the way. He knew they were going to lose, so he just had him in there to help start some scrums when things got out of hand. His plan worked to a tee. Other than that, I can’t think of much reason to dress him against the Wings if you want to win. Anyways, the Kings will look to finish off this road trip, as well as the John Stevens era, with a .500 record when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. Stay tuned for a game preview coming sometime before the puck drops at the Air Canada Centre at 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT.
NOTE: Playing close to home tonight, Michigan-native Matt Greene was a minus-1, Michigan-native Alec Martinez was a minus-3 and deflected a shot into his own net, and Michigan-native Jack Johnson was a minus-4. Of course, it’s Jack Johnson. Not a fun homecoming, to be certain. Also, the Kings extended their franchise record streak of scoring two goals or fewer to 11 games. Just a bad night all around. Every team seems has at least one of these games each season. Let’s hope this was nothing more than that, and hopefully their only one this season.