Waking up with the Kings: March 10
-Saturday night’s game was an appropriate example of Darryl Sutter’s assertion earlier in the week that save percentage is a team stat. Entering the game, Los Angeles was tied for 24th in save percentage and Calgary was 27th. The first period contained five goals, including a Flames neutral zone turnover that led to Trevor Lewis’ odd-angle rip, Jake Muzzin being allowed ample time from the left point (and then out-waiting a sliding Tim Jackman, whose shot blocking attempt was unsuccessful) to unleash his post-in wristshot through traffic, and a Kings breakdown re-entering their own zone late in the period that allowed Alex Tanguay’s tap-in on a cross-crease pass from Mark Giordano. Anze Kopitar’s stick-side snapper early in the third period (off a terrific diagonal feed across the neutral zone by Justin Williams) added to Miikka Kiprusoff’s rough night, and wide open lanes of space on Colin Fraser’s one-timer appeared to be a reflection of defensive coverage and the inability of Calgary’s forwards to create pressure on the backcheck after they turned the puck over in L.A.’s zone. This was mostly a reflection of the Flames’ defensive inconsistencies; other than the late first period goal, Jonathan Quick and Los Angeles’ team defense enjoyed a much stronger performance than in the loss to Dallas two nights prior.
-As Sutter alluded to at yesterday’s morning skate, Jeff Carter continues to use diverse means to get the puck in the back of the net. Not all of his 13 goals over 13 games have come from quickly released wristshots from the circles – perhaps his most impressive tally this season was the game-tying power play goal against Detroit two Wednesdays ago in which he had his back to the net when he redirected a Mike Richards pass between his legs and past Jimmy Howard. He scored from close range once again in Saturday’s win off a selfless feed from Dustin Brown, who appeared to have plenty of net to work with himself when he received a Slava Voynov pass at the side of the net through a seam. While Carter’s six game-winning goals lead the league, don’t overlook his four first-goals, which can help a team impose its own tone on a game and reduce the nagging stress that can accumulate if a team has to fight from behind too often.
-General managers, players and fans of other teams in the playoff hunt may want to send a thank you note to the Los Angeles Kings, who have taken part in the fewest three-point games in the Western Conference. The Kings have now appeared in 17 consecutive games without heading to overtime, the longest stretch of one-season regulation play since they appeared in 22 consecutive games without heading past regulation from January 27 to March 14, 2003. L.A. also appeared in 17 consecutive games without heading past regulation between March 17 and October 14, 2007, though that streak was spread over parts of two seasons. Since the epic 22-game non-OT run, the team has appeared in 16 consecutive games without heading past 60 minutes three times: February 11 to December 14, 2005, March 31 to October 19, 2009, and December 26, 2010 to January 24, 2011. Last year the Kings were squared away after 60 minutes 24 times, tied with Minnesota and Vancouver for the second most in the league behind Florida’s 25 overtime games.