…and I feel your pain. But take a moment and reflect. The team before you is the same core as last season. It still lacks a sniper. Sturm? Come on. How many shots sailed high and over the net? How many went wide? It still misses a top four defenseman. It continues to struggle with inconsistent top two lines. It still misses the consistent necessary component on the left wing of the third. Why?
First, Willie Mitchell. Two of those goals you saw tonight (one by Hossa and the other by Doughty off Toews’ skate / leg) don’t happen with Willie Mitchell on this team. The Kings’ penalty kill shuts down the Hawks with Willie Mitchell guarding the crease. He is the glue to our defense. He balances out the top four with his intelligence, puck management and stick handling. He frees Jack and Drew (whomever he is paired with) to play their offensive game. He puts Matt Greene where Matt is best fitted, as a number 5, not a 4. I can hear you asking…so, you’re saying we win all of these games with Mitchell? No. Darryl Evans made the same mistake in response to my comments on Kings’ talk tonight. What I am saying is that we don’t go on these losing streaks with Willie. We win the majority of the 1 goal games. We don’t let those terrible goals against at critical times. Look at the Kings’ record with Willie. Look at the Kings’ record without him. Most of all, look at how we dominated and suffocated high scoring opponents with him in the lineup. If you avoid the losing streaks, you win more consistently and you hold your position in the top 6 of the conference while others fall.
Then we come to Ponikarovsky. This one is easier. He allows Terry Murray to run four lines. Without him, we have to count on players like Westgarth to play a game to which they are not built or accustomed. Without him, we rely too much on the youth of this team in the bottom nine. He isn’t the catalyst like Mitchell is to his position but he is the depth that we so lacked last season with an inconsistent Frolov and is perfectly situated with his veteran experience, size and speed to play on Handzus’ left side.
So, before you lash out at the moronic first penalty call against Rob Scuderi (which nearly had me plotting that zebra’s death), the head shaking Wayne Simmonds turnover, the freedom with which Hossa skated to the net and scored or the blood curdling Doughty clearing attempt that hit the progressively uglier and befitting punk status Jonathan Toews, keep in mind that the margin between winning and losing is very small in this league and the two pieces missing from the lineup are that very margin.
Then again, it may be easier to scream, “injuries are no excuse!” and go nuts. Hey, whatever works.
Surly is fit to be tied. I don’t blame him. I was so upset after the San Jose loss, I decided it best that I not write anything for concern that the article may read more like an explosion than prose. Eventually though, we all have to calm down, analyze and reflect. Do the same. Tell me where your mind settles.