LOS ANGELES KINGS COACH TERRY MURRAY KEEPING IT TOGETHER
So, have you noticed something interesting in the past four games? I am not referring to the Kings’ color commentator Jim Fox’s new suits nor Heidi Androl shining sexier than last season. I most certainly am not writing about the bile inducing look of that C on Rob Blake’s chest even if it is on another team’s jersey…you really should be over that by now anyway, it’s ancient history. I’m not even referencing that incredibly annoying advertisement on the boards by the blue line that is, well blue, and flickers. Constantly! Whichever genius came up with that deserves a boot up his…no, what I am writing about is our coach, Terry Murray and the Kings’ lines.
We have a first, second, third and fourth line. Unlike last season, the players who have started on the those lines have stayed on those lines. Yes, I realize there have been player substitutions between games. “Put me in coach, I can play anywhere” Peter Harrold has played defense and forward. The return of Sean O’Donnell meant there were some necessary adjustments to the defensive pairings. Trevor Lewis was replaced with Brad Richardson. But the first three lines, which generate the great majority of the ice time and contribute the most to points and the final result, have stayed intact and the fourth appears headed in the same direction.
Last season, we became accustomed to the constant line shuffling between games. Brown played the first line, then the second. Frolov played all four lines and would sometimes be on the left wing, with Kings bruiser Raitis Ivanans on his right. It seemed every Kings player at some point or another saw a different linemate from game to game and if there was one aspect of Terry Murray’s line combinations that was consistent, it was the complete inconsistency of it all. The only player we were confident wasn’t going to play wing or center on a particular line was Jonathan Quick.
Murray hinted during the preseason that he may keep the lines together and, true to his subtle words, he has done so throughout training camp, the exhibition games and now the season.
Is this a big deal? It is worth noting?
While chemistry is not a measurable statistic, most hockey players would tell you that it is critical to a well functioning unit. For the center to know where his wingers are going to be and visa versa means less thinking out there and more instinctive reactions, and the right ones, to game situations. Kings center Anze Kopitar doesn’t have to be concerned about where his left wing, Ryan Smyth is or where he is going to be as Kopitar receives the breakout pass from Jack Johnson. Alexander Frolov, after he has carried two opposing forwards and one defenseman for twenty seconds on his back, knows where to find his center, Michal Handzus at the hashmarks. Brown is assured that when he is going for that big hit along the boards, Purcell is in striking distance to pick up that puck.
Will it last?
I hope so – for two reasons. One, it means the Kings are winning and there is no reason to make a change. “If it ain’t broken,” as the expression goes…and second, team chemistry doesn’t have a ceiling. Players who stay together, win together.