Waking up with the Kings: March 13
-The players weren’t exactly ready to admit it, but last night was an example of the Kings battling the schedule nearly as much as they were battling the Phoenix Coyotes. It’s nothing new to have to play back-to-backs with travel in the NHL; as Keaton Ellerby said, “It’s all part of the gig.” It was actually interesting that the players dismissed the schedule as a hindrance, while Darryl Sutter opined “They were a fresh team, we were a tired team. Simple.” In this compacted season – during a stretch in which L.A. plays 17 games over 30 days – a team that traveled the night before and did not hold a morning skate will be at a greater disadvantage than usual against a physical divisional rival that had a two-day break in the schedule. It wasn’t particularly surprising that the Coyotes had the jump early in this game as they looked to take advantage of the Kings’ road legs on the second night of a back-to-back. “You gotta take advantage of it,” Phoenix Head Coach Dave Tippett told reporters last night. The Kings had a poor performance. The Kings are also 9-3-0 in their last 12 games. Park and ride.
-I received questions on Twitter and the blog last night about the use of Jonathan Quick for the second consecutive game. Though it’s still a very small sample size, when the Kings have started the same goalie on back-to-back nights (Jonathan Bernier vs Nashville and St. Louis on March 4-5; Jonathan Quick vs Calgary and Phoenix on March 11-12), in the second game of the back-to-back that goalie has allowed eight goals on 37 shots. I interpret the choice to start Quick on consecutive nights as this: 1) Darryl Sutter has traditionally banked heavily on one goaltender throughout the year in the belief that in the grand scheme of the season, it will best serve that goaltender and the team when the playoffs arrive. 2) Quick has battled inconsistency this season, and the most effective way of reducing it is for him to play his way out of it. 3) Quick has his name on the Conn Smythe Trophy, and though the team didn’t play on back-to-back nights during last year’s playoff run, he has shown the ability to properly prepare himself to play at an extraordinary high level, even when extensive travel is factored in. I am led to believe there are those on this blog who may challenge that line of thinking, and I’ll thank them in advance for sharing thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.
-Over the past two weeks I’ve really been impressed with Mike Richards’ play. He has points in 11 of 15 games, and as Dustin Brown said last night, “Everyone talks about how hot Carts is, and a big part of that is Rick getting him the puck.” With Richards, it’s not always about the points, but his positioning and his awareness through 200 feet of the ice. During a backcheck early in the first period, he was able to position himself in the proper space to hinder the Phoenix defensemen’s ability to advance the puck up the ice while simultaneously extending his stick and his arms to cover the passing lanes. He never touched the puck, yet he created a turnover when the Phoenix player chipped the puck off the boards and into a comfortable position for the L.A. defense to handle it. That play without the puck is an example of Richards being the type of player that helps teams win playoff series. Richards also had a power play goal for a Kings unit that has four goals in its last seven opportunities, spanning three games.