As most of you know, throughout the season I have been keeping track of Murray’s lineup changes in a tab at the top of your screen. The Lineup Card. Game to game, as well as in-game changes to the lines have been logged, assessed and analyzed. It started as an exercise in reference but quickly became an exercise in endurance.
As you can see below, where I have posted the entirety of the lineup card to date, tracking Murray’s frequent line changes is no small task. It is a task that has grinded on me and just about worn me out. I post this here on the main page not to tell you that I have given up but rather, that I will soldier on. Though the final results will be incomplete as I was not able to properly watch a stretch of 6 games, the lineup card will not die. It may not be perfect, but neither are the lines which it tracks.
So check the tab at the top about a day after each game and jump to the bottom to see the latest results. Use this as a tool, both to see what lines have been utilized, how often we combinations and most importantly, what has and has not worked in the Kings’ favor.
All changes are bolded to make scrolling through easier on the eyes and the mind. I apologize for the gap in games but hope still that by season’s end, we have a compendium to look back upon as proof positive whether Murray is a clever genius in his manipulation of the lineup, or whether these frequent and mad line changes ultimately have little bearing on the success of the team.
Without further adieu…
GAME ONE @ VANCOUVER (W: 2-1 in SO)
First Line: Smyth-Kopitar-Brown
Second Line: Richardson-Stoll-Williams
Third Line: Ponikarovsky-Handzus-Simmonds
Fourth Line: Clifford-Schenn-Westgarth
Analysis: Only significant change was rotating centers in Kopi’s spot while he was out getting his already gorgeous looks beautified after taking a stick from Malhotra to the mouth. The lineup struggled at times to find their stride, but picked up throughout the game. It isn’t Murray’s fault there is no one else to put on the 2nd line… unless you are so dreamy eyed over Schenn that you think he already deserves the promotion. The lines and pairings feel well balanced and I hope to see Murray give them plenty of time to gel.
GAME TWO @ CALGARY (L: 1-3)
No planned lineup changes (except for Jonathan Bernier, but that’s what the goalie tracker if for!).
Analysis: This 3-1 loss was played mostly with the same lineup as above. Muzzin saw some shifts with Johnson after Scuderi took a stinger to the wrist. Westgarth took a permanent seat on the bench after two quick shifts to start the third. Richardson got the bonus time on the 4th line with Schenn and Clifford. This is the kind of change we should expect often when Westgarth is in the lineup, particularly when the Kings are down in the third. Murray did the same thing most nights with Ivanans, benching the thug in the third and rewarding a player who has had a good game with a few extra shifts.
However Murray did say this after the game regarding changes for Tuesday:
I’ll have to think about that one. I have to take a look and review the game and re-assess everything.
So we’ll see what happens. If all it takes in one bummer loss for a shake in the lineup, this page could be headed for a wild ride.
As for a grade, I can’t really blame the lines, though Brown annoyed me a few times with last year’s “trying to do too much” shifts. I’m wanting to see Williams on the first line again. B-
GAME THREE VS. ATLANTA (W: 3-1)
New forward lines. And it only took three games!
Analysis: The lines remained for most of the game. One of the few unintended line combos resulted in the Kings first goal and the spark for their 3-1 victory. When Stoll left the ice before his linemates, Kopitar found himself in the offensive zone with none other than Smyth and Williams. Sound familiar? It took all of 15 seconds for the dynamic trio from last year to score, the goal coming off Smyth’s stick. The new lines for tonight played OK. The team as a whole struggled most of the game. I can’t help but feel Westgarth should not have played this game. There were no fights and he did nothing of note. Loktionov played a smart game and made some fabulously tenacious plays, but generated very little offense. Not his fault, the whole team had the same problem. This game only solidifies in my mind that the scoring woes are not a result of the line combination, save for that I desperately want the Smyth-Kopitar-Williams line to return soon. I give these lines a ‘C’, not because they weren’t effective, but rather because I feel the tinkering was unnecessary. A line that Murray did not put together got the Kings on the board. The second line technically scored the game winning goal, off Jarrett Stoll’s stick. This was not so much a result of the second line clicking with Smyth. No, it was a result of hard work by Jarrett Stoll all game long that paid off with a stroke of luck when his shot off the rush deflected off the defender’s stick and casually wafted past Chris Mason. I imagine there will be more changes by the game on Friday against Vancouver. If there is, it better be the former first line of Smyth-Kopitar-Williams being restored.
GAME FOUR VS. VANCOUVER (W: 4-1)
No changes from previous game. That’s two in a row, can we go for 3?
Analysis: Murray stuck with his lines throughout the game. Hard game to judge. Defensively the team was outstanding. Offensively, while they scored 4 even strength goals, its hard to tell if the lines played better or the bounces just started going their way. Perhaps a little bit of both. I am liking Loktionov’s game. He is not out of place in the NHL. He might be out of place on the line. For now, I want these lines to remain so that we can more accurately determine whether the fit is right and the chemistry simply hasn’t developed yet, or whether there needs to be a change. Smyth-Stoll-Williams are clearly clicking. My gut tells me that Smyth-Kopitar-Williams needs to be restored. Would this kill the chemistry between Smyth and Williams or would the replacement of Stoll with Kopitar simply buoy what is turning out to be a great combo?
Simmonds needs to get going. This game he trended upwards, but I feel that a large part of this is to do with Ponikarovsky picking up his game. Richardson and Schenn are starting to click as well. I’m still not too pleased with Westgarth being in the lineup every game.
Nevertheless, the lines picked up where they left off at the end of the game against Atlanta and pulled out a very solid victory, so they deserve a picked up grade.
GAME FIVE VS. CAROLINA (W 4-3)
Changes to the 4th line: Westgarth, Schenn out. Lewis, Clifford in.
Analysis: This game far and away showed the most offensive chemistry on the lines. Smyth-Stoll-Williams continued to steamroll the opposition, forechecking with vindictiveness. The top line finally clicked. Though I am still a little remiss to admit that Brown is really working in a top line role, he played a very good game, Kopitar started shooting more and most pleasantly, Loktionov seemed to finally find his groove with the puck. Ponikarovsky and Simmonds both turned in their best performances and hounded the puck with Handzus all night long. The new 4th of Clifford-Richardson-Lewis had some very good shifts, some not-so-good shifts. Brayden Schenn’s absence made for a palpable drop in skill level on the line, though Lewis did play a fairly solid, albeit simple game. Could the lines finally be clicking? It is starting to look like it, so one can only hope the top 9 stays in tact. No reason for Murray to change it, but this is Terry ‘names in a hat’ Murray we are talking about here. With Scott Parse back on the ice in practice, Murray has a tough decision when Parse gets ready for action if the lines continue to play this well. Break up the chemistry in the top 6 so that your projected 2nd line left winger can return, or keep him on the bench, even healthy, so long as the Kings keep winning? My gut says Parse goes in as soon as is healthy, we’ll just have to wait to see if that’s a blessing or a monumentally stupid thing.
What will be interesting, is how Murray handles Drew Doughty’s injury. Having left the game after the first period, Murray had to do some shuffling on D. I believe I saw every conceivable pairing in the 2nd and 3rd periods. Drewiske picked up some extra big ice time and both Scuderi and Mitchell found themselves double shifting with Jake Muzzin. We don’t consider those forced changes to be real changes, however with Doughty out against Phoenix and possibly beyond, changes will have to come. Greene has just been cleared to play, so does Murray rush him into the game against Phoenix or does he give Peter Harrold a crack? Does Peter Harrold pair with Mitchell or does one of Johnson, Drewiske or Muzzin bump up to the first pairing? We’ll find out tonight.
Murray’s schemes seem to be bearing very ripe fruit. Let’s hope it keeps up.
GAME SIX @ PHOENIX (L 2-4)
Top 9 stays the same.
4th line back to Richardson-Schenn-Westgarth
Harrold replaces Doughty, paired with Mitchell.
Analysis: 3 days ago, I posted the following on HF Boards: “I think Richardson-Schenn-Simmonds needs to be a consistent line. Its the perfect 4th line. They’ve been thrown out there after powerplays and penalty kills and every time they look fantastic.” Tonight, Murray had the same idea in between the first and second periods.
This was the first game of the season where Murray made a consistent change (that wasn’t out of necessity, ie: Kopi going off for stitches or Doughty going out) in the middle of the game. He dropped Simmonds down with Richardson and Schenn and the result was the only two goals the Kings managed to score in an otherwise lackluster game. Both came off Simmonds’ stick, one a deflection off a Richardson shot and the other an valiant effort by Simmonds to create a breakaway for himself after a breakout pass from Schenn. The line looked fantastic nearly every time they hit the ice.
So cool. Murray made a change and it gave the Kings some spark. That’s the yin, the yang is the unfortunate consequence that someone then needed to play with Poni and Zus. That someone was Kevin Westgarth. If Westgarth was mostly useless on the 4th line, he was an outright blight on the 3rd. Eventually Murray double shifted Brown in that spot (a line I’ve also called for in the past, Brown compliments Poni and Zus very well in my book), but until then, Westgarth looked more out of place than a hockey fan in Phoenix.
The other lines struggled because the whole team struggled. Harrold played a fine game, but the D as a whole was downright bad. I will also continue to insist that Kopitar needs to be reunited with Smyth and Williams.
Despite the loss, the line combos weren’t the problem. A general lack of hustle, a pathetic power play, a subpar performance from Quick and porous defense caused this loss. Murray’s forging of a potentially great line in Richardson-Schenn-Simmonds balances out what would otherwise be a poor grade.
GAME SEVEN @ COLORADO (W 6-4)
No forward changes. Richardson-Schenn-Simmonds not kept together.
Greene returns on D. Muzzin goes to Manchester.
Analysis: Let’s start with the forward lines. They clicked. First, they finally got the powerplay going with 2 goals in 5 chances. Second, Murray rewarded Brad Richardson’s strong play with a bump up to the first line in the second period. Loktionov got demoted to the 4th line, though he still saw 1st unit PP time. This is the second game in a row where Murray hasn’t sent Westgarth on the ice for an entire period. We’ll have to wait and see if Richardson sticks on the 1st line and if that creates any changes on the 4th.
The defense saw the return of Matt Greene, who played very well. He and Mitchell showed some chemistry. Drewiske had a very bipolar game. Overall the defense was good, not great. The 4 goals against would indicate some slop and, there was, however this was a fast paced, high scoring game all around so the defense can’t be totally faulted.
This was a solid lineup, but how much was chemistry, how much was purely Richardson being on fire and how much it was the Kings’ responding well to the tempo of the game is hard to tell.
GAME EIGHT @ MINNESOTA (W 3-2, SO)
Brayden Schenn out. Kyle Clifford in. Richardson remains on 1st line.
No changes to defense from last game.
Analysis: Scribe here – Lines have a tendency to get juggled when your captain gets a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for a perfectly legal and well placed hit. While Richardson stayed on the 1st line for most of the game thereafter, I did notice some juggling between Williams and, unless I was seeing things, even Simmonds on the 1st line. The victory against the Wild (which could have been 6-1 if some of those bounces went right) was far less about lines and more about team play. The Kings played with structure and by the third period, it didn’t seem to matter who was on what line because every player elevated their game. The defense was especially gold. Suffocate, choke out (if you are so inclined) or your verb of choice may not do justice to the cohesive six man unit that was the Kings’ defense. Jack worked harder than I have seen him so far this season – that’s different than being “better”. We are talking about pure hustle. Scuderi was a stick checking king and did I hear the Wild announcer and color guy call Matt Greene a “burly beast”? It was some type of beast.
GAME NINE @ CHICAGO (L: 1-3)
Kevin Westgarth scratched for Trevor Lewis.
4th line = Clifford-Loktionov-Lewis
No other changes.
GAME TEN @ DALLAS (W: 5-2)
Top 9 stays the same.
On the 4th line, Loktionov and Lewis out, Schenn and Westgarth in.
On defense, Harrold out, Muzzin in.
Analysis: I’m just going to come right out and say it. This game gets an A. Did the Kings get outplayed for much of the second period and other short stretches? Sure they did, but Dallas deserves far more credit for that than the Kings get blame. While Quick deserves a massive amount of credit for this win, the Kings lines clicked and communicated. When Wayne Simmonds went out at the start of the third, Kyle Clifford stepped up in a big way. Even Kevin Westgarth had his most useful game of the season by far, despite the penalty he took making a statement. The goals were all the result of gritty, ugly hard work. Tonight the system stood out more than any one player, which is not to take anything away from incredibly strong performances by Johnson, Ponikarovsky, Simmonds and Williams.
On defense, Murray also made a shrew move in the third, giving Jake Muzzin regular shifts with Matt Greene. Once that happened Muzzin went from looking unsure to having a strong physical game. Drewiske with Mitchell worked very nicely as well.
GAME 11 VS. NEW JERSEY (W: 3-1)
No lineup changes.
Analysis: Murray held the lines together the entire game. The Smyth-Stoll-Williams line (read: our real 1st line) continues to just steamroll the competition. While I am still wondering what Westgarth is doing out there most of the time, I can’t really argue with the results Murray’s lineup is getting. I still want to see more from Kopitar, but as if often said, Kopitar needs to learn to BE the catalyst, not to need one. The Ponikarovsky-Handzus-Simmonds line has started to live up to its high expectations as one of the league’s best third lines.
The real crunch time with the lineup will happen in the upcoming week, as decisions on whether to keep Kyle Clifford and Brayden Schenn will likely be made sooner than later, perhaps even before they hit the 9-game thresh-hold. Clifford has two more games to play without burning a year off his ELC, while Schenn has one. With Scott Parse likely to come back soon as well, the Kings’ lines could look vastly different to start November.
GAME 12 VS. TAMPA BAY (W: 1-0)
The return of Scott Parse makes for changes to the 1st and 4th lines. Loktionov and Muzzin are back to Manchester. Schenn and Westgarth are scratched.
With Doughty back, Muzzin with the Monarchs and Harrold scratched, we see for the first time this season, what the Kings defense is supposed to look like.
Analysis: Some might have seen this as a sloppy game. I mean come on, the Kings only managed one goal, and opposing goalie Mike Smith really ain’t all that good. Right?
This was a game against the leagues two current best teams and it showed. Both teams played marvelous defense and both teams forechecked and sped through the neutral zone with reckless abandon. This may as well have been a Stanley Cup finals game. It felt like it.
The forward lines all had scoring chances and all played a gritty, hard nosed game. Scott Parse added speed and stick handling ability to the 1st line. The second line continued to do what it has done, which is dominate. The third line keeps getting better with every game as Wayne Simmonds returns to form. The 4th line was fantastic. Never a liability, Richardson provided his trademark tenacity with and without the puck, Trevor Lewis added hustle and the willingnes to take a big hit to make a small play and Kyle Clifford truly came into his own. Without Kevin Westgarth to lead the way, Clifford caused grief for Tampa’s defenseman, did his best to provoke a cowardly Steve Downie into a fight and could always be found in the crease with an opposing glove or 5 in his face when the whistle blew.
The defense excelled at both ends of the rink. In his return Drew Doughty made his patented smart plays and laser passes while also agitating to a degree that borders on dirty but in his case we will call simply, intense. Jack Johnson showed that he has no intention of relinquishing the status of #1 defenseman that he gained in Doughty’s absence. Willie Mitchell is a rock and stood up for Drew Doughty in a way no King has before. Scuderi was status quo, and quo be great. Drewiske is getting smarter and learning to be more physical and I think by the end of the game, Lightning forwards were visibly afraid to skate towards Matt Greene.
For the first game the Kings lineup was at full force, a solid success.
All around, through and through:
GAME 13 VS NASHVILLE (W: 4-1)
One change. Trevor Lewis OUT. Kevin Westgarth IN.
Analysis: Another fantastic game for the lineup. Parse is clicking well with Kopitar and Brown. The Stoll line just refuses to cool down. The third line is a consistent rock. Even Westgarth played well enough to see a regular shift in the third. I don’t even feel like the lines (aside from Stoll’s line) have even begun to truly click yet. This lineup is strong and without a real weakness. Everyone on defense played a great game as well. When Mitchell went out, Davis Drewiske stepped up big in getting paired with Doughty. Johnson and Greene played together and didn’t suck, which considering how this pairing sucked last year, is a testament to the system as well as how vastly improved Johnson is this year.
GAME 14 vs Dallas (W: 3-1)
Forced changes with Mitchell and Ponikarovsky out with injuries.
Trevor Lewis IN. Jake Muzzin IN.
Changes come to 3rd and 4th lines:
Changes throughout the defense:
Analysis: There is only one thing keeping this game from getting an A and his name is Kevin Westgarth. But first, the good.
Though the Kings played a pretty crumby game for about 30 minutes tonight, with Quick bailing them out on several occasions, the lineup worked well. Richardson fit nicely on the third line. Parse was up and down for me on the first line. The second line just refuses to slow down. Clifford and Lewis played great games, especially Clifford. Westgarth… he wasn’t bad. But if ever there was a game to beat the living hell out of someone, it was this game. If Westgarth’s job is to enforce, I’d like to see it already. He is getting so little ice time, and Schenn still has one more ‘free’ game left before his pro contract kicks into full gear. I wish I knew who to really blame… Westgarth for not fighting or not being a more responsible hockey player, or Murray for not using him enough or in the right way. Either way, this one small chink in otherwise pristine armor gives this game…
GAME 15 vs NEW YORK ISLANDERS (W: 5-1)
No changes in the lineup.
Analysis: Another fantastic game. I’m almost getting sick of writing that. Or quite the opposite, I can’t get enough!
Up and down the roster, the Kings battled and played a tough game. Kopitar is breaking through his slowish (heavy on the ‘ish’) start, with 2 great goals and an even prettier assist. Brown had an excellent game. The second line continued to roll with Williams picking up yet another goal. That line works as hard as a dog eating peanut butter, grind grind grind away. The third line looks great with Richardson. Simmonds played his most physically impressive game of the season. Perhaps best of all on the forward front, Kevin Westgarth finally got in a fight! Not just one, but two, taking on Matt Martin and Zenon Konopka. However, Westgarth did showcase his customary gaffes; whiffing on dump ins, chasing the puck and taking another silly penalty. Some of his giveaways tonight would have been great scoring changes against had we been playing a more offensively explosive team than the Islanders.
All the defensemen were great, particularly Johnson and Drewiske. Though Doughty still has a little catching up to the play to do, his step behind is still 3 steps ahead of most. Greene is so valuable and Muzzin had a very solid outing. No real mistakes and strong physical play with smart passing.
The term ‘team’ is bastardized far too often to thoroughly describe how well this group has come together in the first quarter of the season.
GAME 16 @ SAN JOSE SHARKS (L: 3-6)
No forward changes.
On defense, Muzzin OUT. Harrold IN, to be paired with Drewiske.
Analysis: Line changes came in the third as a result of Scott Parse’s demotion to the 4th line for his destruction of all of Kopitar and Brown’s offensive pressure with his turnovers. Brad Richardson spent some time with Kopitar and Brown, as did Handzus. Kyle Clifford got a real good taste of being a third liner.
The Kings didn’t play the right game. The lines weren’t the problem. The style of game was and Murray’s lack of adjustments. He tried to keep powering through, hoping the mistakes would stop. But the mistakes were because the Kings played outside their system. They tried to match the Shark’s high tempo instead of dragging the Shark’s down to the Kings bread a butter, a grinding game.
For those reasons, I unfortunately present you with the first failing grade of the season.
GAME 17 VS. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (L: 5-3)
Injury necessitates change. Scott Parse is to have surgery. Dwight King was recalled from Manchester.
Muzzin back in for Harrold on defense.
Analysis: There was one change made to the defense in the second period. After a few gaffes by Greene, he dropped down to play with Muzzin and Drewiske played out the game with Johnson.
The lines were mostly effective. The match-ups against the Jackets were the problem. The game winning goal was scored with Kevin Westgarth on the ice at the same time as Rick Nash. That’s inexcusable at home and a large reason for the lower grade for this game. Dwight King will be a good fit on the Handzus line when he gets a few games and practices under his belt, assuming he stays there. Clifford and Lewis continue to play very well. The first line played mostly well, though Brown simply could not keep the puck on his stick… just one of those nights for our Captain. Justin Williams and the second line had another strong game.
On defense I thought Doughty played his best game of the season.
This game was lost mostly because Columbus simply took it away from us in the third.
GAME 18 @ BUFFALO SABRES (L: 4-2)
Looks like we have our first head-scratcher of the season. Changes to the first and third lines.
Also appears that there will be another Harrold/Muzzin swap (that’s 3 in 3 games!). Unclear whether Harrold will play with Greene, Drewiske or Johnson. My guess is Greene.
Analysis: Oy, this is a tough one. I thought Kings actually played pretty well even though they lost. Individually some Kings left something to be desired while others played fantastic games. Dwight King on the first line doesn’t really work, but not for any fault of King’s. I’m starting to notice that our lines don’t hold very well because any time there is any kind of special team’s play, Murray has to go through a whole rotation of switched lines to get back to his planned lineup. I don’t really understand why double shifting some guys here and there to keep things consistent is such a terrible thing. This is one of those games that was won and lost by special teams. Had the Kings won, I would probably have given the lineup a B or a B+. So, even though they lost, the fact that it was the powerplay and penalty kill that caused our downfall, I can’t fault the regular lineup for that. I also can’t fault Murray for not having anyone to put on the first line. So…
GAME 19 @ BOSTON BRUINS (SO W: 4-3)
No changes in roster. Changes to the third and fourth lines.
Analysis: Some very good things out of this game and some bad things. The good is that Richardson and Lewis had some crazy chemistry going. They even managed to make Westgarth look half useful. Clifford played well on the third line. These changes made for an improvement over the last game, but the biggest line of all still fell flat with King on Kopitar’s left-wing. No fault of King’s but the Kings are really just lacking a player to put there and it’s glaring.
The Kings played well for stretches and were dominated in the third by a very talented and HUGE Bruins’ team. The penalty kill was good but the powerplay was another gaping disappointment.
Lewis is emerging as a hell of a player and is earning more ice time. His second assist of the game came with Handzus and Brown on the ice, right at the end of a PK. These three showed either luck or chemistry.
SO with that in mind, and since Murray does it, so can I. I propose these line changes.
Clifford-Kopitar-Simmonds (Cliff is the only LW to not get a shot here so far)
Why the hell not.
Anyway, improved play earns an improved grade.
GAME 20 @ OTTAWA SENATORS (L: 3-2)
Lines remain from game against Boston.
Analysis: Tough game to judge. Two different calls by Eric Furlatt and we win this game. I thought the Kings played a damn fine hockey game… except for the powerplay. Yes, we scored a powerplay goal, but ultimately it let us down again, squandering 4 other chances. The goals against were not team breakdowns. On one, Kovalev got a lucky bounce off a deflected shot and made a perfect shot. One another, Johnson was made the fool by Alfredsson and on the GWG, Greene got turned inside out by Spezza. Can’t blame the team or the lineup for any of those.
GAME 21 @ MONTREAL CANADIENS (L: 4-1)
Harrold moves to forward for the first time this year, replacing Kevin Westgarth.
Big changes are on defense. Muzzin got sent to Manchester and Alec Martinez got his first call-up of the season. We are essentially back to the same D pairings as after Greene returned and before Mitchell was injured, only Martinez takes Mitchell’s spot next to Doughty. Does this mean Martinez plays 20+ minutes tonight?…
Analysis: We don’t need to spend much time discussing the failures of this game. Neither effort nor execution were a part of the Kings’ equation. There is nothing saving this game from receiving a grade I hoped never to give this season.
GAME 22 KINGS VS CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (L:2-1)
Another crazy new line scheme perhaps? Is the Dwight King first line experiment finally over? It looks that way for now, as the day before the game the Kings practiced with wholesale line changes.
Analysis:Who needs offense? Winners do. The Kings lost despite playing a solid game in the defensive end. I thought the lineup, overall, had a solid game. This game, with its crazy new lines, emphasized that the lines aren’t the problem. The lack of a player to put the team on his back at any point, as well as a predictable and easily defended offensive system and powerplay are the problem. If the Kings play well on offense in this game, they get an A. However offense has to count for atleast a full letter grade, so with the utter lack of creativity and scoring (besides a 5-on-3 pp goal by Kopitar), this game gets a…
GAME 23 @ ANAHEIM DUCKS (L:2-0)
John Zeiler gets another crack with the Kings, subbing in tonight to play 4th line center. Dwight King comes out and Brad Richardson shifts to the 4th line left wing.
Analysis: Joy… the first time shutout this season.
This is almost a carbon copy of the game against Chicago. Good defense. Solid hitting and good energy for much of the game, but simply nothing going on in the offensive zone. So, a carbon game gets a carbon grade…
GAME 24 VS FLORIDA PANTHERS (W:3-2)
Lines have changed for practice. Unclear whether they stay for the game. For now, shifts down the right wing in the top 9.
UPDATE: These will be the lines for the game.
Harrold comes in for Drewiske.
Analysis: The Kings played a solid 60 minutes. Not the best game, certainly not perfect, but a solid game. Williams and Kopitar, though they did not combine for a point, had several quality scoring chances. Wayne Simmonds looked a bit lost out there at times.
In the third period, where the Kings won the game scoring 2 goals to come back from a 2-1 deficit, Murray made some changes.
On defense he put Martinez with Harrold and Johnson with Greene. The former pairing resulted in the tying goal, off Harrold’s stick. The forward lines saw the Smyth-Stoll-Williams unit restored. For about 10 minutes, Murray put Simmonds back on the first line, but then finished with game with a 1st line of Handzus-Kopitar-Brown. This line potted the GWG. The third line became Clifford-Richardson-Lewis, and I believe Zeiler had one shift with Clifford and Handzus, but Westgarth saw no third period ice. Finally, an in-game adjustment!
GAME 25 VS DETROIT RED WINGS (W: 3-2 OT)
Same top 9 that started last game. Westgarth comes out of lineup, Drewiske goes in.
Analysis: Kings played an excellent game. Detroit will always get their chances but the Kings still managed to limit the team in red. In the third period, Murray shortened the bench, sitting Clifford, Zeiler and Drewiske and moving Richardson up to the 3rd line LW with Handzus and Simmonds.
Speaking of Simmonds, though he played a rather lackadaisical game until the third period, when the hustle and battle we have become accustomed to seeing from Wayne emerged. Kopitar played an fantastic game, holding onto the puck and driving through lanes, as did Drew Doughty.
GAME 26 VS CALGARY FLAMES (W: 2-1)
Top two lines remain intact for the 3rd consecutive game.
Big news is Poni is back! Retakes his spot on 3rd line, Clifford bumps to 4th. Westgarth dresses for Zeiler.
No changes on defense.
Analysis: A fabulous game. The score could have and should have been much higher than it was for the Kings. They dominated Calgary for all but 5 minutes of the game. I was a little disappointed to see the team sit back a bit after taking a 2 goal lead in the third period, but that can’t take too much away from one of their best 60 minute efforts of the season. Top 3 in that regard. You also can’t fault the team for the several bounces that didn’t quite go their way near Kipprusoff’s net. The return of Poni was no big surprise as he played his usual solid game. The guy just doesn’t have bad shifts. He won’t always dazzle you, but he will always get the puck out, get it deep and use his size effectively. Love that guy. Kopitar handled the puck a lot and Brown kept his feet moving. Also, the best 60 minutes from Wayne Simmonds this season. He had the tenacity on 50/50 pucks that we are accustomed to and showed great poise and vision in assisting on Kyle Clifford’s first NHL goal. Its a shame that Richardson got hurt in the first period, which dramatically cut Clifford’s ice time right after he gained huge confidence by scoring his goal and going toe-to-toe with Kostopolous. However, Richie’s injury made this game even more impressive, since the Kings only rolled three lines for a full two periods.
For just the second time this season,
GAME 27 VS. MINNESOTA WILD (OTL: 3-2)
Nothing should change, but this is Terry Murray we are talking about here. His hand might be forced to find a replacement for Brad Richardson if he is too injured to play. That would likely be Zeiler as we’ve already seen him at center. However if Richie’s injury is significant, which it looked like it was to me, then expect a call-up. If that happens, my money is between Cliche and Loktionov. Though upon further review, I was mistaken. Oscar Moller gets the recall.
Analysis: I missed the first half of this game, but according to Bobby, all I missed was the Kings not playing quite as well as they did in the third, which was quite well. If not for a powerplay that went 1-for-9, I would have given this game an A, since the loss is most squarely put on Quick’s shoulders for two silly goals against that had nothing to do with the team in front of him. Then again, we could also blame Drew Doughty and his utterly pointless penalty in overtime. But we don’t blame here, even if we toss guilt this way and that. Though I understood Westgarth’s presence in the game and didn’t see him make any ghastly errors, Kyle Clifford and his beatdown of Brad Staubitz, as well as Simmonds’ nice tussle, make Kevin less and less needed by the punch.
GAME 28 @ DETROIT RED WINGS (W: 5-0)
Mitchell is back! Richardson goes to IR, Westgarth and Harrold come out of the lineup. Zeiler goes in. Moller moves to the 2nd line.
Analysis: Odd game. Kings were dominated for two periods, but someone played good defense amidst the domination. This game was all about Jonathan Quick, but credit the defense for clearing rebounds remarkably well and the forwards for cashing in on what few opportunities they had in the first two periods. After Detroit’s spirit was crushed by Oscar Moller’s first goal of the season, the third period was mostly all Kings. Detroit had some zone time, but you could see they had no hope of winning this game after it was 3-0 on Kopitar’s early goal in the third.
This game is particularly impressive as the Kings played with only 5 dmen for most of the game and only 4 for most of the third after short injuries to Greene and Scuderi. Martinez took Scuderi’s place alongside Doughty.
I’m giving this game the elusive A+ since Murray actually used his lines properly. He rolled all four of them and better yet, matched them against Detroit! I’ve never seen so many quick changes off of face-off’s by the Kings. Bravo Kings, bravo Murray.
GAME 29 @ ST LOUIS BLUES (L: 6-4)
Westgarth comes in for Zeiler. Greene out with injury, Drewiske steps in.
In second period, Mitchell goes out and Murray makes some changes.
Analysis: The Kings were a bit sluggish to start, but picked up the pace to match the Blues highly aggressive game. Though not enough in the end and by no means perfect, the Kings played well. The Blues played better. Their credit isn’t necessarily our discredit in this one. On the lines changes, Clifford played well on the third. Poni just didn’t have the legs going tonight, which is why I believe he saw a demotion. Moller had and OK game and got moved around in the third between the 2nd and 4th line. Westgarth on the 2nd line was… ever so slightly better than you would fear looking at Smyth-Stoll-Westgarth on paper. Westgarth did make a couple of solid plays and saw little ice. On D, Whiskey had a wildly up and down game and losing Mitchell is once again, brutal. Still, I liked the way the Kings played this game.
GAME 30 @ NASHVILLE PREDATORS (W: 6-1)
Lines start mostly as they ended last game. Changes to the D pairings.
Analysis: An utter beating deserves an A+, particularly when the fourth line contributes not one, but two goals. Poni and Lewis found chemistry. Though he didn’t record a point, Clifford in no way looks out of place on the third line, and even Moller had one of his best games since joining the team this year. Drewiske, Harrold and Martinez… no ones favorite bottom 3, but they held strong enough for long enough in helping Bernier pull out this decisive victory.
GAME 31 @ CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (L: 3-2)
Richardson returns! Zeiler is on a plane back to the AHL.
Richardson will replace Moller in the lineup (Westgarth is needed for large and viscous John Scott). My guess is Lewis goes to 2nd line RW and Richie centers the 4th line, since Richardson does not play RW. We shall see.
Murray tinkered throughout the game. We saw at various:
Analysis: Kings played a solid game. Chicago had their moments of high pressure and so did the Kings. A very evenly matched game. The difference maker was that Chicago put more bodies in front of the net, if not more pucks. A bounce here, a bounce there, a few more shots by Kopitar and the score on this one is inverse. Murray’s line changes did not bother me. D played fairly well, but having Harrold, Drewiske and Martinez, though a necessary evil right now, just sucks.
More drive to the net and this game gets an A despite the loss.
GAME 32 @ COLORADO AVALANCHE (W: 5-0)
Marco Sturm’s first game as a King.
Lines shifted a bit throughout the game, but nothing consistent. Sturm saw a shift or two with Kopitar and Brown at the end in a bit of testing out foreshadowing.
Analysis: Best game of the season. Firing on all cylinders, playing solid defense, a great game through the neutral zone and a dominant game offensively. Kopitar driving the net hard all game, Sturm looking pretty good and fast, wily player. Brown has 4 points in a tremendous performance.
This is an easy one, A+
GAME 33 VS. EDMONTON OILERS (SOW: 3-2)
There were no lineup changes. Towards the end of the game Sturm saw more ice with Kopitar and Brown.
One interesting change in the third period, necessitates by the move of Sturm, was that Richardson and Handzus traded places. For several shifts we saw:
This just goes to show what adding a player like Sturm does, it spreads the love and the depth and allows 4 lines truly capable of scoring and playing at any point in a game to be rolled with ease.
Analysis: The Kings won, so you have to give them that. But they were gassed and it showed, mostly in terms of the passing. Team passing was absolute garbage, as bad as I’ve seen it all season. Nonetheless, the Kings fought hard, and after a disappointing first period and an even second period, managed to take control of the third. Credit Oiler goalie Dubnyk for a very solid game.
GAME 34 VS ANAHEIM DUCKS (W: 4-1)
Sturm starts the game on the first line.
Matt Greene returns, forcing Harrold out of the lineup.
Analysis: After a somewhat sluggish start, the Kings picked up their game. This was another one where the Kings were not executing anywhere near perfectly, but they made up for any slippery sticks with a massive effort. Energy and relentlessness won this game for the Kings.
GAME 35 @ SAN JOSE SHARKS (W: 4-0)
One change necessitated by Ponikarvosky going down with a lower-body injury.
Analysis: How could I not give this game an A+? The Kings were dominant in the first period, strong in the second, and blew over the Sharks in the third. Even Kevin Westgarth played a strong, highly effective game. Best effort I have ever seen from the heavyweight. Sturm started clicking on the first line, the second continued strong play, the third was solid and the 4th line was the best I’ve ever seen it the past two years. Games don’t get much better than this one. The most impressive aspect however is that it was played on the road, less than 24 hours after a very high energy game against the Ducks.
GAME 36 @ PHOENIX COYOTES (L: 6-3)
No lineup changes.
Analysis: A game full of breakdowns. Good hustle by the Kings, but nothing was in sync. No one could handle the puck, no one could make a pass, no one could keep their coverage in the defensive end. If not for the jump in their step, this game would be a fail, but the Kings were not dog shit, they just couldn’t get it together. No worries, but no good grade either.
GAME 37 VS PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (L: 7-4)
No changes expected, but after last night’s game, seeing Peter Harrold in there wouldn’t surprise me.
Final answer: same lineup.
Analysis: Ew. Just pitiful. Some goals scored but the defense was as bad as ever. Nothing else to say.
GAME 38 VS SAN JOSE SHARKS (L: 1-0)
No lineup changes to start.
For a few shifts Richardson was bumped up to the third line again alongside Simmonds and Clifford. Hard to tell if this was a deliberate change or the result of extended specialty team play, but the line was sent out at least twice.
Analysis: A much improved effort… defensively. Offensively the Kings had chances, but did not play gritty enough to pounce on rebounds and score the kind of ugly goal this game required. On a sliding scale compared to the last two games, this game gets an B+, but looking at it on its own merit, it drops to a B-.
GAME 39 VS CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (L: 4-3)
No changes expected.
In the third period, Sturm found himself on the 4th line and Richardson on the 1st.
Analysis: Could be the most frustrating game of the season for me. But this is the result of congealed grief and tension based off the previous 3 losses. In general, the Kings played a fine game. However this is the lineup we are concerned with here and in regards to that, Westgarth was a detriment and a third period swap of Richardson and Sturm proved useless. With Westgarth, he found himself on the ice several times against the likes of Kane and Sharp, a big no-no and an indictment of Murray and a praise of Quenville changing up his lines to throw Murray off his game plan. With Sturm/Richardson, the swap did nothing as the problem was defensive breakdowns, which ultimately cost the Kings this game.
GAME 40 VS NASHVILLE PREDATORS (L:5-2)
Wholesale line changes!
Some changes were made during the game, but mostly as a result of poor line changes and lots of special team play, so I will not track those brief changes here.
About 10 good minutes of play, the other 50, wholly out of sync. Not even an issue of the lines, except for the two missing veterans Poni and Mitchell.
GAME 41 VS COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (W: 6-4)
The long awaited return of Ponikarovsky & Willie Mitchell, resulting in some much needed changes to the defensive pairs.
Analysis: Half of this game was an A. The other half a shaky B-/C. The Kings shot up to a 4-0 lead, dominating play. They let the Jackets score 3, and then let them get within 1 again after scoring a 5th third period goal. A much needed win and a much better effort, but some cause for concern in Quick’s puck handling and the team allowing the Jackets to get back into the game so late in such a big way.
Ponikarovsky looked good on the first line, making slick passes and looking pretty good with Kopitar and Brown. Whether or not Kopitar’s higher determination to create offensively tonight was a result of Poni’s injection or not is hard to tell, but either way the line played well.
The old fogie unit on the second line picked up their game, Zus using his smarts to make up for his lack of speed and Smyth and Williams showing great chemistry with their play along the boards.
The Sturm-Stoll-Simmonds line could be a keeper. They compliment each other well, scored two goals and were very effective on the backcheck.
Lewis had a very good game and Clifford, despite his small amount of ice time, had a great fight and played strong.
It is such a shame the team let Columbus back into the game the way they did. They got their long awaited win but have plenty to work on after this one.
GAME 42 VS TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (L: 3-2)
No changes to start.
In the third period Sturm took an instigator and 10 minute misconduct. From there we saw:
and a rotation between:
Poni & Lewis-Stoll-Simmonds
Analysis: Oooooy vey. Tough game to grade. I’m not going to give it one until after I’ve finished writing some thoughts down…
First period, good play. Carried the game to the Leaf’s, physically and skillfully. The lines all clicked pretty well. Having Scuderi & Mitchell spread across the top 4 on defense is such a glaring upheaval of the Kings blueline.
Second period…. not so much. Breakdowns lead to goals against, goals against lead to scrambled play and a clear nervousness pervading the team.
Third period… half and half.
I don’t think Clifford did a poor job with his third period promotion, but I wonder why Murray chose to break up 2 lines instead of just 1 after Sturm’s penalty. He could have easily split Lewis and Clifford with Stoll and Simmonds, affecting only the third line while keeping the first line in tact. I didn’t mind the lines themselves but I don’t like the way in which they came about. This is going to lessen the grade… which was going to be a B…
GAME 43 VS. ST. LOUIS BLUES (L:3-1)
Wholesale line forward changes… again.
In the third period we saw:
Analysis:When Nick Nickson start to question Terry Murray’s line changes on Kings Talk, we know its gone too far. The Kings radio broadcaster, who generally looks for the positive and is hesitant to trash talk coaching or management, said last night that he scratches his head at why Murray would change the lines so often when the Kings were scoring 3 goals a game, but still losing, because quite clearly, defense was the problem. So we score, but not enough, because the defense starts to suck, so Murray’s answer is to change the forward lines, which depletes the scoring, so Murray changes them again to increase scoring. Is there some serious misdirection going on in Murray’s head? Does he feel that if he creates a problem and then tries to fix it then we will all ignore the problem that was there in the first place that hasn’t yet been addressed?
Shit… Murray couldn’t even stay with Smyth-Kopi-Williams for a full game. Dustin Brown, who had perhaps the worst game I’ve ever seen him play last night, in terms of intensity and focus, gets bumped up to the 1st line in the third period. Why? Maybe to distract us from the fact that Westgarth was getting ice time in the third period of a game we were down by 2 goals. Give it to the big guy, he tried to start a fight, but not hard enough as he couldn’t find a dance partner.
One of the most boring games of the season gets a boring grade.
GAME 44 VS. EDMONTON OILERS (W: 5-2)
Same first and “third” (read: Stoll’s line).
Zus and Richardson swap.
In the second period Simmonds went out with injury. Brown and Lewis swapped out throughout the rest of the game taking Simmonds’ shifts next to Sturm and Stoll.
Analysis: Well now that resembled the sport I love. A solid effort all the way around, most notably by Drew Doughty picking up a bit of that slack he’s been dragging behind him. It was a shame to lose Simmonds, but Murray rotated Brown and Lewis well, to the point where unless you were following it, the lines didn’t really miss a beat. The first line started finding its step through the neutral zone, the Sturm-Stoll-Simmonds line (while it lasted) started to really show promise. Handzus… well he looked right at home on the 4th line. Unfortunate in a way, but a positive if Murray can continue to use him in this decreased, less offensively driven manner. Clifford-Richardson-Brown was a nice line. Nothing hugely special thus far, but I like the potential this trio has. We’ll see how everything shakes out the next game, with Westgarth taking Simmonds’ spot in the lineup.
GAME 45 @ DALLAS STARS (L: 2-1)
With Simmonds not on the road trip, Kevin Westgarth takes a spot in the lineup over Peter Harrold. The unnerving return of the Doughty-Johnson pairing.
Analysis: What a shitty way to end a game started perfectly well. Penalty trouble and a complete failure of the system to generate offensive chances cost the Kings a very important game.
You know, I actually thought in terms of the lines and the match-ups that Murray coached a fairly solid game. I thought sending out Williams with Zus and Poni was a good early in the second period as Dallas started to gain momentum. I thought throwing out the big bodies of Zus, Westgarth and Poni after the Star’s second goal was fairly shrewd and effective defensively. I also thought the Sturm-Stoll-Brown line was terrible. Brown has been awful since getting bumped to play with Stoll. These two just can’t get a good read off eachother.
Defensively, what the fuck is the thinking behind the defense pairings? Doughty-Johnson doesn’t work even strength. It might one day, but that day is not this day. Time to stop forcing them to be ready to cover their own asses because these young studs, as studly as they may be, just aren’t ready to play together on anything other than the powerplay.
Mix a solid effort by the players and a failure of the system and you get yourself a big fat:
GAME 46 @ ST. LOUIS BLUES (L: 2-1)
I didn’t get to watch this one and forgot to record it. I hear some crazy line juggling happened, so really, I guess we could just say “status quo”.
Analysis: Perhaps Bobby will grace us with an explanation and a grade. Not holding my breath.
GAME 47 VS PHOENIX COYOTES (L: 2-0)
Injuries, a call-up and insanity drive wholesale line changes. Simmonds returns, Ponikarovsky is scratched, Sturm to the IR and Loktionov called up.
Analysis: Kings outplayed Phoenix most of the game and got jobbed by a blown call I need not go over here. The lineup played pretty well, though Brown has been disappointing lately and Westgarth isn’t going to magically become an effective hockey player overnight. Having the top 4 defense pairings back where they should be is a MAJOR boost. Despite the loss and the utter inability to get a puck in a net, I’m going to give this game a B-
GAME 48 @ PHOENIX COYOTES (W: 4-3)
Same lineup minus Westgarth.
Analysis: A very good effort. Goals were not so much a result of the lines really clicking, but rather two brutally awesome shots by defenseman and some chemistry rebuilding between the vets Smyth-Stoll-Williams. Regardless, a step in the right direction.
GAME 49 VS BOSTON BRUINS ( )
No expected changes.
GAME 55 @ WASHINGTON CAPITALS (W: 4-1)
Apologies for the long hiatus from this section. Been very busy and haven’t seen much of the games 50-54. Here is a good place to pick up again as Murray rolled some new lines and some old lines, the most exciting of which featured Andrei Loktionov in his natural position at center.
Analysis: Well, we won, didn’t we? The first offensive mini explosion in a while was generated primarily by the play of Wayne Simmonds, who earned this first line promotion after a very strong game against an OT loss to Pittsburgh two nights before. Murray’s plan to have Simmonds spark Kopitar worked as Wayne drove the net all game long, forcing Kopitar to come along for the ride.
The Kings D continues to be stifling and even makes up for the intrusion of Westgarth.
Loktionov at center is a joy. Having the puck on his stick and being responsible for carrying it through the neutral zone and breaking over the blue lines brings out the best and most creative in Loki’s game. He scored a goal off a 2-on-1 rush rebound with Clifford and, overall showcased a remarkable ability to draw defenders toward him and snapping quick passes to his newly opened wingers. Unfortunately, Brown continues to bring little to the table offensively. If this line sticks together and Brown finds his scoring touch, this line could get very deadly very quickly.
GAME 56 @ PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (W: 1-0)
You don’t change the lineup after a game like the one against the Capitals. For once, Murray went with conventional wisdom.
Analysis: This is as good as hockey games get folks. Though the Flyers’ absolutely peppered Jon Quick, Quick was more than up to the challenge. Despite allowing so many chances, the Kings played a strong defensive game, clearing away many of the best potential second and third opportunities for the Flyers.
Offensively, much credit must be given to Sergei Bobrovsky who played a strong game, only getting beaten by a wicked one-timer from the slot by Drew Doughty. This play came as a result of strong board work forechecking by Simmonds and slick retrieval and pass from Kopitar in the corner. Doughty busted in front of the encroaching forward and left Bobrovsky feeling like a cheerleader after football practice – used, abused and full of holes he didn’t know he had.
Truly one of the most exciting games of the season, this win was also markedly important with the Kings winning in Philly for the first time since 2000 and beating one of the league’s best teams, who sported a fully healthy lineup, in a playoff atmosphere.
Scribe will tell you that the Kings beat Washington despite Murray’s system. This win is most assuredly because of Murray’s system. Without the defense, combined with the stellar play of Quick, this game breaks the Kings’ streak of getting points on every game so far in the schedules toughest chunk of road games.