Waking up with the Kings: February 18
-The decision to start Jonathan Quick over Jonathan Bernier was the appropriate one. While Sutter spoke of riding the hot goalie, he also said “got to get them both sharp, simple,” and Sunday’s performance was a confident step in that direction for Quick. Considering the youth of the defense in front of him, and that the Kings were playing the league’s second best offense, a 34-save performance on 37 shots in holding the Blackhawks below their average goal output depicts an encouraging presentation in net. Los Angeles’ goaltending has solidified over the past week. You’re setting yourself up for the unknown when you start predicting lineups games in advance, but I expect Quick to start in Edmonton and Bernier to start in Calgary. This balance and competition in net appears to be good for both Jonathans.
-The absence of Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene was felt most on Chicago’s second goal. Before Jonathan Toews’ tap-in, there was an ongoing battle for space between Davis Drewiske and Andrew Shaw in front of Quick. Shaw won that battle, and by the time the puck got down low, Drewiske was in a spot on the ice where he wasn’t able to assist Quick or Scuderi, who was battling Toews for the puck. Shaw offered terrific net-front presence for someone listed at 5’10 and 180 pounds.
-Before leaving for Chicago, Sutter said of the Blackhawks that “they’re not on a different planet than us”. Fair. I’ll even argue that the two are in the same state. But if Chicago was Mt. Whitney, L.A. was the Palos Verdes Hills. The Blackhawks appeared to be on a power play for the first 20 to 30 minutes of yesterday’s game, and by the time the Kings registered their first Grade-A scoring chance, they were already down 3-0. That said, the third period was an encouraging step forward for L.A. – not that you’ll find anyone on a 5-6-2 team satisfied with that silver lining. The power play has goals in seven of the last nine games, a 9-for-37 (24.3%) stretch that can partly be credited by the movement of Mike Richards back to the point. The goaltending has regained consistency, the power play has awakened, the Kings still limit their opponents to the second-fewest shots in the league and have been strong on possession. This is a team making the correct adjustments and dealing with key injuries on defense as best as it can, even if it didn’t show for the majority of Sunday’s game. Should the Kings beat Edmonton and Calgary for a 2-1-0 stretch away from Staples Center, this would be a successful trip. So, no, they’re not the Blackhawks at this point, but L.A.’s game is trending more towards the Sierra Nevada range than Death Valley.