Waking up with the Kings: February 26
-In his opening comments on last night’s game, Darryl Sutter referred to Jordan Nolan’s fight with Sheldon Souray as being successful in getting the team going. That was a key moment of the game, a turning point that opened the door for five players working in tandem to tie the game 12 seconds later. Dustin Penner’s goal began with a crafty veteran move by Rob Scuderi, who drifted towards the left side of the ice, drawing Daniel Winnik towards him. As soon as a lane developed, he dropped the puck back to Slava Voynov, who found a seam with a crisp pass up the middle towards Dwight King. King’s touch pass sprung Jarret Stoll, who sent a feed right into the perfect spot of the low slot where Penner – with one hand on the stick – was able to use his reach to redirect it past Viktor Fasth while beating the league’s plus-minus leader (entering the game), Francois Beauchemin. The play began with a clean faceoff win by Stoll back to Scuderi. The goal was an example of the Kings cashing in on their puck possession advantages; like Dustin Brown’s goal that opened up the Colorado game, it almost appeared as if Los Angeles was running a set play. It looked like practice drills were being put to use in game situations.
-Unless he’s traded or gets injured, Jake Muzzin appears to be a mainstay in this lineup for the considerable future – assuming that there’s no hiccup when he re-ups with the team as a restricted free agent this summer. He would have to clear waivers to be sent down. Muzzin is putting all the pieces together and is being rewarded by Darryl Sutter with usage in more variable situations. He has set career highs in ice time in each of the last three games, going from 18:05 to 19:15 to 20:53. His confidence in Los Angeles’ defensive zone has vastly improved; he’s showing strong poise and decision-making skills and calming volatile plays down near his goal line. There are occasional gaffes – which is to be expected of most 24-year olds who have earned the amount of ice time he has recently – but with the growing confidence in putting his skill set to use consistently in the NHL, he’s beginning to inch closer towards his high ceiling. Because of his size, his compete level, his quick release and one of the higher velocity shots from the point, there does appear to be a package that could fit a top-four role in the future. He’s not quite there yet, but Muzzin has made significant strides since he was scratched earlier this month. Also, his fake-out of Saku Koivu before he wired that wristshot past Fasth? That’s a pretty slick move for someone who was playing in his 25th career game. So who comes out of the lineup when Alec Martinez returns, Davis Drewiske or Keaton Ellerby?
-Jonathan Quick denied several Anaheim Grade-A scoring chances, notably a Ryan Getzlaf point blank shot from the low slot in the second period. Moments earlier, Corey Perry, left untouched in a similar area, had wristed a laser beam off the underside of the crossbar that managed to stay in front of the goal line. On the other side of the ice later that period, Brown’s sharp wristshot caught a tiny piece of Fasth’s glove and the underside of the crossbar and hit pay dirt. There were so many pivotal moments in last night’s game decided by fractions of inches. Hockey Chaos Theory will blow your mind.