Make it 15 times in 16 games that the Kings have scored two or fewer regulation/overtime goals, but you can also make it nine out of 10 points in their last five games.
One game after they got the two-goal monkey of their back, the Kings got the Chicago Blackhawks monkey off their back. The power-play still stinks, and Jonathan Quick needed to stand on his head tonight, but at the end of the day, the Kings are going to come out of Chicago with a shocking 2-0 shutout victory over the NHL’s first-overall team and fourth-highest scoring team.
It was an excellent goaltending performance at both ends, with Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford each making plenty of spectacular saves for their respective teams. At the end of the day, the Kings were able to beat Crawford twice, and the ‘Hawks were never able to solve Quick.
Hey, maybe the dads should stick around? On the first game of the road trip with the fathers, the Kings went into a building where the home team had only lost twice in regulation all year and shut them out, and in the last home game they were at on Monday against the Coyotes, the Kings scored four goals.
I mentioned all of the ugly stats the Kings had against Chicago before the game. 0-7-0 in their last seven games against them. 0-6-0 in their last six games in Chicago. Also, no regulation victories against the Blackhawks since March 23rd, 2007, a 2-1 win in Chicago, and keep in mind that these two teams are both in the Western Conference and play each other four times each season. Their last regulation win against Chicago was five seasons ago. They were certainly due to beat them, and finally, they did.
Jonathan Quick was brilliant (what else is new), putting up a 38-save shutout, and many of those saves weren’t easy. However, this win was a complete team effort. The penalty killing was amazing once again, they played hard all night, they turned up their play in the second period after getting outplayed in the first, they put good pressure on the Blackhawks and took 38 shots on Crawford, generated some quality chances, and were rewarded with a pair of goals. Strangely, tonight is a night where I’m not unhappy with two goals…
The Kings’ best players still aren’t producing a ton, but that has to start coming eventually, right? When they do start to, all of the sudden, this team could become fun to watch. On the other hand, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Dustin Penner all had strong games and all have been playing fairly well lately, and Doughty is now on a five-game assist streak, the longest of his career. The problem is, those three (among many others who aren’t playing as well lately) need to start scoring some goals. I also thought Kyle Clifford had an excellent game tonight, which was nice to see. It’s been a tough season for Clifford, so hopefully he can start turning things around.
Quietly, the Kings are racking up points lately. They’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games and 4-0-1 in their last five, as well as 3-0-1 under Darryl Sutter. Sure, they’ve only scored three or more regulation/overtime goals once in that span, but this team just seems to be playing a lot better, playing with a lot more energy, and now they’re getting results in the win column for it. I’ve been impressed with the job that Sutter has done so far. He’s been honest with the team, he’s held players accountable, he hasn’t been a jerk but he’s pushed the right buttons, and the team seems to be responding to him. Let’s see if they can keep it going.
Well, it was an excellent win tonight. Can the Kings avoid a letdown in Winnipeg tomorrow? We’ll find out soon, but before we get set for that, let’s recap tonight’s win in Chicago…
1st period: The Kings outshot the Blackhawks 13-10 in a scoreless opening frame, but the ‘Hawks carried the play for much of the period. The Kings spent six of the first 10 minutes on the power-play, including a four-minute power-play after Patrick Sharp was assessed a double-minor after his high-stick drew blood from Andrei Loktionov (who I also thought had a decent game), but the Kings did absolutely nothing against the NHL’s 27th-ranked penalty kill unit. It sure would be nice to see the power-play start turning things around. The brilliant play of Jonathan Quick kept Chicago from taking a lead into the first intermission. The Kings went 0-for-3 on the power-play (counting Sharp’s double-minor as two power-plays) while the Blackhawks went 0-for-2.
2nd period: Shortly after killing off a Chicago power-play, the Kings opened the scoring at the 12:07 mark, on a goal by… Trent Hunter? Darryl Sutter made a decision shortly before the game to insert Hunter into the fourth line in place of Kevin Westgarth, and that decision paid dividends. With the stars not producing, the fourth line took matters into their own hands, as Trent Hunter made his dad proud (and probably surprised) by gathering a loose puck in front of the net and roofing it over Corey Crawford (he even popped the bottle!) who was down on the ice trying to cover the puck. Kyle Clifford and former Blackhawk Colin Fraser picked up the assists, Fraser’s first as a King. At the 16:38 mark, Mike Richards was awarded a penalty shot. Jonathan Toews was chasing Richards down on a breakaway and dove at him and sort of tackled him down. So, yeah, sorry Jonathan, that’s a penalty shot. Luckily for Toews, it was Richards taking the penalty shot. I love the guy, but penalty shots and shootouts are not Mike Richards’ speciality. Richards came in and made a move to the backhand that Crawford got a piece of with his glove and kept out. Richards is now 0-for-2 on penalty shots this season, the same 0-for-2 that he is in shootouts. The Blackhawks went 0-for-1 on the power-play in the period, while the Kings didn’t have one. LA outshot Chicago 15-10 in the frame, and after the ‘Hawks controlled the play in the first period, the Kings, for the most part, controlled the play in the second.
3rd period: The Kings added an insurance goal early in the third period, at the 1:16 mark. Drew Doughty’s shot was blocked from the right circle, but then he did a nice job to stay with it and put another shot on goal, then Justin Williams took a swipe at the rebound and nearly scored, but he didn’t, but on his rebound, Jarret Stoll skated in and took a whack of his own at the puck, and this time it went in. It was just Stoll’s fourth goal of the season, but second in as many games against the Blackhawks, and the goal was followed up by a, uh, strange celebration, by Drew Doughty… http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Video-Drew-Doughty-s-celebrations-violate-perso?urn=nhl-wp21022. The Kings took a late penalty, but the penalty kill came up big once again, even when it was a 6-on-4 for Chicago when they pulled Crawford. The Kings almost got that magical third goal when Jarret Stoll tried to feed it up to Dustin Penner up the ice who would have had a breakaway at the empty-net, but Stoll’s pass was blocked. The Kings then got a late power-play, so when Chicago pulled their goalie again in the last minute, it was only to get the play back to 5-on-5, but the Kings still could not find a way to get that third goal. It didn’t matter though, as the Kings held on for a 2-0 shutout win. Chicago outshot Los Angeles 18-10 in the final frame, and the shots were even at 38-38 on the night. Each team went 0-for-1 on the power-play in the third, while also going 0-for-4 on the night.
So after a great win, are the Kings suddenly getting on a bit of a roll here? They’ll look to keep it going in the second half of a back-to-back set of games on the road when they head to Winnipeg to take on the Jets on Thursday. Stay tuned for a game preview coming sometime before the puck drops at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT at the MTS Centre.