Waking up with the Kings: February 24
-Did the pre-game pageantry throw off Colorado’s timing? The Avs’ second shift of the game was inexcusable. Not to take anything away from the chemistry of the Brown-Kopitar-Williams line, but goals in practice don’t come as easy as Dustin Brown’s one-timed rocket. Did one Colorado player even touch one Los Angeles player? Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov exchanged the puck before it was worked north to Justin Williams, who sidestepped a hit to play it up to Anze Kopitar. Greg Zanon poked the puck free from Kopitar, but Williams was there to offer support, and his cross-ice pass found Brown, who didn’t have a defender within 10 feet of him when the puck left Williams’ stick. Hilariously indifferent defending – though, to be fair, Colorado was without a pair of top-four defensemen – and suspect goaltending made it awfully difficult for the Avalanche to win a road game against a surging Kings team. Also: the timing and deep-offensive-zone possession continues to improve for the Brown-Kopitar-Williams line, which was too much for a shorthanded Avalanche defense to handle.
-Jeff Carter continues to score goals and do a lot of other things well and I feel like we’ve covered this many, many times. I will continue to cover this because the Kings are very fortunate to have his natural goal scoring ability and intangible attributes that help teams win hockey games. His stick and excellent reach make him a valuable penalty killer, his powerful strides give him separation and make him difficult to defend, and he finds himself in space in areas on the ice where goals are scored. He’s strong away from the puck. But we knew this already. His first period goal was slightly beyond his general scoring area – and some would argue that it was a goal that Semyon Varlamov should have stopped – but with the power and accuracy generated by his quick release, he’s be able to score goals from five or six feet beyond the tops of the circles. Darryl Sutter feels the same way. “He’s been the best player since the first day of training camp,” he said after the game.
-Good on the Kings for beating the Northwest Division teams they should be beating – Edmonton Calgary and Colorado don’t appear to be playoff teams at this point of the season, with the latter two looking at potentially high draft picks – but a much stiffer test awaits this week. Anaheim will provide an excellent gauge to see how much the team’s goaltending and team defense have improved over the past three weeks, as the Ducks’ size presented a significant challenge for L.A.’s defense the last time around. The Ducks are kind of hot – they’ve only lost once in their last 10 games – and are averaging 3.27 goals per game in advance of their home game against Colorado today, the third-highest average in the league. After Anaheim, the Kings get a visit from Detroit for a nationally televised NBCSN game, and how often is it that the Red Wings present the most winnable game of the week? That’s not to take anything away from Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard, who were the game’s best players in Detroit’s win over Los Angeles two weeks ago. The team’s first trip to Vancouver since last year’s playoff series caps off a challenging segment of the schedule. You won’t see the team looking beyond the first shift of Monday’s game, but a 2-1-0 week would be an encouraging performance for the momentum-building Kings.