An L.A. Kings Euro Trip Full Of Positive Momentum

Hockey emulates life. Positive and forward momentum often wins games. Against the Sabres, Luke Adams’ goals within 3 minutes built an energy the L.A. Kings never reversed. In the previous game against the Rangers, the first period domination dictated the match’s pace and, even though the game went into overtime, the L.A. Kings never surrendered control. Just like life, if you build that positive and forward momentum, its force carries you through the unexpected turns and bumps.

In two games, I saw an encouraging rhythm. I saw a team that played with confidence, that managed its time on the ice well and, even in the game two loss, never surrendered.

What stood out? A team that looked faster. I don’t refer to skating speed but decisions with the puck. Once in the zone, the passes were quicker and tape to tape, what last season was a glaring weakness in many games.

Though, as an inclusive offensive system, I begrudge the shot mentality approach as short-sighted and outdated, the Kings didn’t rely on it within a vacuum. The forwards held the puck long enough to draw defenders and find the open man. There is tremendous room for improvement within this area but Terry Murray’s structure invariably places a low ceiling on same.

Mike Richards and Simon Gagne are dangerous each time they are on the ice. Both bring a sound defensive game and, on offense, each is willing to drive to the net. Richards especially wants the puck on his stick and, when received, has a one track shooting mind from the high percentage  scoring areas. Last season, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams were it in this regard.

Anze Kopitar has freedom to roam. Though it was frustrating as all hell watching Terry Murray sometimes unwilling to match lines against the Sabres to maximize Kopitar’s ice time against Buffalo’s lesser lines, this problem sometimes took care of itself because the Sabres were forced to make adjustments due to the skill set on the second line. In other words, unlike last season, “shut down Kopitar” wasn’t enough. Consider how this will pay dividends throughout the season.

Defensively, game two was out of character. While some credit goes to the Sabres’ relentless attack, they had puck luck on their side. It was frustrating to watch the bouncing biscuit land right on their sticks and by ours.

The powerplay? This is a team built to score with the man advantage. I have hope (one that, for now, springs eternal) our coaching staff has to eventually open its collective eyes and recognize the powerplay needs a balanced attack – imagine the consistency if our wingers looked for the lateral pass to the center at the dots or to a defenseman below the top of the circle, for the one time shot. Goals have to come from high percentage areas as much as they do from the good fortune of shots that find their way through sticks and bodies. Will this happen? It has to.

Forward progress. This is a better team. It’s ready for better things. We have transitioned from a group of players with potential, to a team with the skill set, confidence and character to contend for the Cup.



Categories: L.A. Kings News

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4 replies

  1. I’m surprised Gagne has impressed you. From the first game of the preseason through the last game against the Sabres, I’ve largely been underwhelmed. To me, he looks a bit lost.

    I don’t know, perhaps my perspective has been skewed by the amazing production from and chemistry between Kopitar and Williams. It reminds me of when two old buddies get together but one of the buddies brings along a new friend. The old buddies are joking, throwing banter back and forth, reminiscing while the new friend laughs and pretends to know what’s going on. It’s a little awkward.

    I will say, though, that he’s been more defensively responsible than I thought he would be. Still, I’m hoping for a lot more from him.

    Richards, on the other hand… wow. Dude is as advertised.

  2. Yes..LOVE Richard’s drive to the net style! Hope it rubs off on more of our guys
    GO KINGS GO!!!

  3. Mike Richards and Simon Gagne are dangerous each time they are on the ice. Both bring a sound defensive game and, on offense, each is willing to drive to the net. Richards especially wants the puck on his stick and, when received, has a one track shooting mind from the high percentage scoring areas. Last season, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams were it in this regard.

    … Brown went to the high percentage areas as much as any King last season. The departed Handzus and Simmonds also went to those areas often.

    As for Richards, he certainly had an impressive first game, but in the second game he played poorly.

    I didn’t like the defensive coverage down low against Buffalo, and that – more than any “momentum” effects – was what doomed the Kings in game number two. The Kings, as well as the Ducks, made Buffalo look better than they actually were, or are. The Sabres’ interior passing is their greatest strength … and Lindy Ruff, in my view, is the best head coach in the NHL. Ruff is terrific with his game plan in dealing with the thirty feet of ice in front of the opponent’s net.

    • Handzus rarely carried the puck, much less to the net (he skated there without the puck) and, with Simmonds, we saw it in flashes. Richards is a different breed of player. I agree that Brown did so last season and it is my hope that he is the recipient of passes (and therefore open nets) from Richards or Gagne as we have three players willing to crash the crease with or without the puck. Also, my reference to Kopitar and Williams were shots from the high percentage areas, not driving to the net. Anze and Justin often were the best, by and far, last season in finding themselves open in the scoring areas. Imagine if we had a coach with a balanced system of offense.

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