Notes and observations from the Kings’ 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday:
-That game. That play. I caught two key issues on the game-winner. First, and most importantly, that’s a shot that the team is counting on Jonathan Quick to stop. Daniel Cleary made a great hustle play to put the Kings in the position where Drew Doughty turned the puck over, and Valtteri Filppula may have made minor contact that distracted Quick. Still, as Darryl Sutter said after the game, “Had to make a save there.” That said, there were lapses in coverage that set the play up. As critical as Doughty’s turnover was, this is a game that heads to overtime if Jarret Stoll – skating as a left wing that shift – doesn’t get drawn down below the faceoff dot, leaving Jonathan Ericsson open and unrestricted at the right point. Was he too preoccupied by Pavel Datsyuk? Maybe. Was he out of his comfort zone as a natural center and tasked with boards work and remaining close to the point? Perhaps. Doughty put the puck in a dangerous area, but I have a feeling he was counting on his left wing to be right there alongside Ericsson. Instead, both Doughty and Stoll were focused on Datsyuk, leaving the point wide open.
-The Kings heavily controlled the run of play and forechecked as well as they have this season. Detroit had twice as many giveaways as L.A. One game after being forced to the perimeter by Nashville’s centers and defensemen, the Kings found much better success in driving to the net and creating traffic in front. This was their best 200-foot game since last year’s playoffs. They won more faceoffs than their opponent for the first time since the home game against Nashville. Twice they scored a goal in the final minute of a period. The new line pairings seemed to find instant chemistry, and Jeff Carter looked comfortable as a center. He won 13 of 17 faceoffs. Kyle Clifford may have played his best game of the season, and he’s still tied for the team lead in scoring (which is 35% encouraging to see his continued development / 65% top players need to start scoring more consistently).
-The Kings played a similar game on March 9, 2012 at Joe Louis Arena. Dwight King scored a go-ahead goal with under six minutes to play, followed by a Filppula goal that tied it 1:52 later. Darren Helm scored the game-winner with 1:13 left for a 4-3 Red Wings victory, leaving L.A. two points out of a playoff spot with 14 games to play. The Kings then rattled off six straight wins and finished the year on a 25-6-3 stretch, which includes the playoff run. These are obviously two completely different sets of circumstances. Quoting Dustin Brown from earlier today, “Sometimes you say at the end of losing streaks and at the end of winning streaks sometimes you’re losing games you shouldn’t, and sometimes you’re winning games you shouldn’t, as well.”
-Datsyuk’s goal deserved its own bullet point. Beauty. There have been grumblings on Twitter and in the press box that he was off-sides, but it’s really a borderline call in my view. When you’re Pavel Datsyuk, you rightfully get the borderline calls. The Red Wings are 34-0-1 in the last 35 games in which he’s scored a goal.
-Slava Voynov has been the Kings’ best defenseman at getting shots through on net. He has been the Kings’ best defensemen in basically every other category as well. Slava led all skaters on both teams with 25:36 of ice time and tied for the most shots in a game by a defenseman with Alec Martinez with four shots.
-Dwight King, who had five shots in 12:34, is coming along and had a strong performance opposite Jordan Nolan on a line centered by Mike Richards. After Carter was booed (and scored) in Columbus, I can see a similar situation playing out in St. Louis Monday night. He was robbed on a second period rebound, but who wasn’t robbed on a second period rebound?