I used to roll the dice. Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes. Listen as the crowd would sing,
“Now the old King is dead! Long live the King!” Viva La Vida By: Coldplay Viva La Vida (2008)
Eric Clapton’s father once said that you are never as good or bad as they say you are. And with that, what the Los Angeles Kings were last praised for after Saturday’s victory against the Dallas Stars, also unraveled them versus the San Jose Sharks. Although it is questionable if the team showed up from the first period, outside of Wayne Simmonds, Brad Richardson, and Kyle Clifford, the Kings never showed an attempt to comeback in the third period. Second, they gave up a goal in the shift immediately following their only goal. With one game showing a step forward and one with a step back to square one, the question is: What do the Kings do from here?
Kings radio commentator Daryl Evans believes it is a learning opportunity to be seen for exactly what it is.
“It is a touch of reality and you get your focus on the next game. It’s one game and it’s behind you. It’s a game where they could’ve put some space between them and the other teams. But at the end of the day they didn’t lose anything.”
Ok then. Class in session. Not showing up versus the Stars in the first two periods and turning it up in the third can work. Doing it against a team like the Sharks? Not so much.
“In the first period, San Jose caught a couple of opportunities and buried them as good teams will do.” Evans explained how the slippery slope began. “The Kings had a chance or two, not as high quality as San Jose but the important thing was that they got that goal in the beginning of the second to pull within one.”
Michal Handzus scored at 1:57 of the second period. However, old habits die hard and just twenty-two seconds later Kyle Wellwood scored to squash the Kings momentum. Evans thought that it really effected the team because there is no chance to celebrate. This is not a scenario the team has handled well all year.
Evans was able to shed light on addressing this issue during practice. “You can verbally bring it to the forefront. You watch video of it and try to pick up tendencies on what happened but it’s an attitude. It’s an attitude that you have to take whether it’s the same line that scored or another line that comes out; you have to be aware of it.”
That includes the goaltender. For all the deserved praise, undeserved criticism and everything in between put on Jonathan Quick, there was plenty of blame for everyone on Monday. According to Evans, his early exit was a combination of the team’s not showing up for their goaltender and Quick not playing the expected level.
Explaining both sides of the coin, Evans said. “He wasn’t as sharp as he is usually or as sharp as the Kings needed him to be. Maybe at the point you feel that if you make the change, the other guy can come in and put the wall up. Maybe it wakes the team up, as well. They’ll think we’re not playing that well and the goalie paid the price for us tonight.”
However, he also said that there was no reason not to right back to Quick as he is the number one goalie.
Looking at all of this, it would be easy to think everything must be scrapped. However, that is certainly not the case. And there is one new piece to the puzzle that Evans says isn’t broken and shouldn’t be fixed: Simmonds, Richardson and Clifford. It is also the only line not tinkered with at practice on Tuesday.
Evans would argue that they are the most consistent line the Kings have had in the last three games. Their quick success starts straight off the essential basics a struggling offense needs. This has included cycling the puck in the offensive zone and using their speed to get open.
“Brad Richardson has really used his quickness and his skating. He’s done a good job to make himself available.” Evans put together the line’s strengths. “Kyle Clifford still continues to maintain that physical element and handles the puck with a lot more confidence and those guys have been the keys. When that line is at its best Wayne Simmonds is a strong contributor. Clifford and Simmonds are good down in the corners and they really seem to enjoy playing with each other.”
Now they’ve shown something new from the Sharks game. They’ll stick up for each other as well. Clifford took up for himself, one for the team, and Richardson right at the end of the Monday’s game. Finally, it was something to cheer about.
“Doug Murray had delivered a couple of hits, one to Clifford and one to Richardson. He’s a big body at about 245 pounds. At that stage of the game, where the score was at and possibly a team they could meet in a couple of weeks, you send a message. I give him a lot of credit. He went in oversized and outweighed by quite a bit, although Clifford probably has more experience then Murray has. He’s been doing it all year and I won’t be surprised to see him do it again.”
And do this all again the Kings must, tonight. As Evans spoke of earlier it is time to focus on taking all that did and didn’t work, learn from it and move forward. A potential first-round opponent is waiting in the Phoenix Coyotes. Like the Kings, they are still looking for the necessary points to claim an official spot in the playoffs. There is no underestimating the Coyotes who keep to the old adage: It is not the fight in the dog, but the dog in the fight.