Waking up with the Kings: February 6
Several notes I took during the Kings’ 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets Tuesday evening:
-Slava Voynov was excellent for the second consecutive game. His second period laser beam from inside the right point served as the game winner, and was clearly the right decision after it appeared there was a thought process over whether he should approach the puck and fire off a shot or drop back defensively. That slight hesitation allowed Vinny Prospal and Nick Holden to move into Steve Mason’s line of sight as screens, and I’m not sure if the right-catching goaltender ever really got a good view of the pinpoint shot. He’s also been keeping his shots low on the power play, increasing the potential for tips, deflections, and juicy rebounds. There were several Voynov point shots that were deflected just wide – Jarret Stoll had a piece of one – and because of a less-than-borderline call on a shaky incidental contact assessment in the first period, he was denied another point.
-Mike Richards may have played his best game of the season. Obviously, his third period insurance goal and his fight with Brandon Dubinsky caught the most attention, but his ability to get back while manning a point on the power play and get down on the ice to disrupt a Columbus shorthanded two-on-one attempt in the second period made life easier for Jonathan Quick. Jeff Carter scored a goal on that power play just over a minute later.
-Though he is still developing his play deep behind the goal line – and has made significant strides over the past year – I don’t worry much at all over Drew Doughty’s play on the Blue Jackets’ goal that tied the game at two in the second period. Though Doughty lost the handle on the puck near the goal line, there had been several opportunities to clear the puck prior to that moment by other members of the team, and a goal was appropriate at that moment following a sloppy shift. When you average over 28 minutes of ice time per game – Jack Johnson (28:38) and Doughty (28:20) rank first and second in the league in TOI – there are going to be the occasional hiccups. Doughty finished with three shots, tied for the team lead with three hits and led the team with three blocked shots and remains a horse that L.A. continues to ride.
-One game after recording nine shots on goal against Anaheim, Justin Williams earned the game’s first star with a terrific all-around effort. His move to cut towards the center of the ice to set up Richards’ insurance goal was vintage Williams – though it came from the opposite side of the ice and was deeper in the zone, it reminded me of the goal he scored in the Game 5 loss to New Jersey in last year’s Final. His quick cuts and slashes make him awfully adept at getting the puck quickly from the perimeter into central areas of the offensive zone where goals are scored.
-There’s still plenty of work to get to where the Kings want to be. The second period was one of the team’s best periods of the season, though there were stretches in the third period in which L.A. was back on its heels a bit. Had they been facing a team with elite goal scoring ability – Columbus now ranks tied with Dallas for the fewest goals-per-game in the league, at 1.90 – this could have been a game that went the other way. Fortunately Quick didn’t over commit and made an excellent lunging save on Derek Dorsett to preserve the lead in the third period, and the team achieved exactly what it had set out to do – open the road trip with two points.