Waking up with the Kings: November 13
-While the Los Angeles Kings put forth an effort and performance that can’t really be faulted in last night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, there were two issues that combined with a terrific performance by Ryan Miller in keeping the Kings from adding two points to their total in the standings. First, the team was unable to build on an early one-goal lead. It was an ominous overtone that the game remained a one-goal affair early on despite a heavy discrepancy and shot totals that favored the visitors. Matt Frattin had perhaps the best chance that was denied by Miller in the first period when he found a seam down low and was unable to lift his own rebound past Miller on a backhand. When a team scuffling for wins like Buffalo is allowed to remain in the game – and ultimately tie it before taking the lead – all of a sudden the underdogs have added momentum and confidence, whereas a two-goal L.A. lead would have put the Sabres back in familiar territory on home ice. Secondly, the Kings were 0-for-5 on the power play goal against a team that entered the game with four goals allowed in their last seven shorthanded situations. Prior to last night, the Kings had outshot their opponents 13-3 in overtime, posting a 2-0 record. Though they received two power plays in the extra session (to be fair, one lasted only 32 seconds), they were unable to get anything past Miller with the man advantage.
-It was somewhat surprising to hear from Drew Doughty that the team didn’t do a good enough job of getting bodies to the front of the net and capitalizing on rebounds. I’m not privy to what was being discussed on the ice and in the locker room, but to me, that was his way of articulating frustration over a narrow loss, and that the team was only able to get two pucks past Miller. I was impressed through much of the game by the team’s ability to crash the net and generate scoring opportunities from a close radius, and both of the team’s goals came from having bodies in near proximity to the crease.
-The choice of Trevor Lewis to attempt the second shot in the shootout was a curious one, as Lewis was without a point on the season and had not yet attempted a shot in the shootout, which the Kings approached with a perfect 4-0 record. Adjustments were needed with Jeff Carter out of the lineup, but the decision ultimately took the chance out of the hands of Anze Kopitar, who was 3-for-4 on the season. Often teams will go with a player who has had a recent hot hand in practice, though that’s not necessarily the reason Lewis was selected. Of course, it’s a “savvy decision” when the unsung shootout performer scores, and one that becomes widely scrutinized when the player is denied, as was the case last night. It’s a question that will be raised with Darryl Sutter at today’s practice.
-The biggest story of last night’s game had nothing to do with the team’s power play, or net-crashing ability, or choice of shooters. It had to do with Jonathan Quick, and the apparent lower-body injury he suffered in overtime. Though the details of injuries are often kept close to the vest, we should get a few hints towards its severity when the team practices later today. Whereas the injuries to Stoll, Carter and Greene were bridged by last week’s four-day gap in the schedule, the Kings won’t have such luck this weekend, as they’ll open up a three games-in-four-nights stretch Thursday night on Long Island. More on these topics will follow throughout the day.