700 Miles For A Goal

You want me to talk about the game last night, or my trip to San Jose?

I kind of don’t feel like talking about either.

I kind of feel like talking about the Denny’s I stupidly and drunkenly wandered into at 1:30am. San Jose is a sleepy town, very dull, but for the most part well kept. However some areas, like by our hotel near the airport, are… Erm… Less so. I saw an interesting group of humans, I believe they were. People living at the Motel 6. People with face tattoos, and in pluralizing that I mean both that several people had a tattoo on their face and that several of those people had multiple tattoos on their face. There was also the distinguished sir sitting to my left at the bar, who seemed to find it very important that I know he thought- no, knew, that I was a “fucking faggot ass faggot, fucking bitch faggot ass bitch.” At least I think that was the direct quote.

Now that we’re discussing people’s whose minds have been absconded, I suppose that’s as good of a segue-way as any into my experience at the game itself.

I’ve long said the San Jose Shark fanbase achieves it’s high volume more by means of an insulated building than by way of particularly loud fans. Once again, the sonorous echoes of “Beat LA” cascading over my ears, absent of distinctive decibels issuing from the lips of any individual near me, confirmed this assessment.

But San Jose fans are intense, we must grant them that compliment. Knowledgable, we do not. While they cheer loud and often, one can’t help but notice that they are mostly quiet during play, the bulk of the cheering coming between whistles, when they bombard you, incessantly, with “Make Some Noise” demands through various lame-duck After Effects animations. They cheer then, because what they don’t do is show replays; ever. Outside of goals, I think I saw maybe one or two replays on the jumbotron. Highly frustrating and almost assuredly contributes to the Sharks fan general lack of hockey aptitude. The other tip off is that you don’t hear Sharks fans commenting on the play while it’s happening. Outside of a “Ooooh!” any time the Sharks shoot the puck in the general vicinity of the net, I had a hard time telling if many of the 16,000 people in attendance knew what it was they were watching.

Luckily, for the most part we had a friendly experience. The woman behind me loved to shriek her shrill hoots and hollers at me, though her lips did quiver once or twice when I turned around a gave her the ol’ Surly Smile. That was a hate fuck waiting to happen.

Speaking of hate, there was a handful of folks who definitely hated us. And by hated, I mean HATED. No fewer than three semi-tough looking fleshy dildos tried to pick legitimate fights after the game. Had we been looking for one, an extra word would have granted that wish. Instead I merely said “nice neck vein”, gave them the Surly Smile and walked on my merry way.

And now we come to the game. I met many great Kings fans last night and part of what made them so great was their attitude after the loss. No one was dour. Bummed, yes, but still all smiles.

The Kings did not play a very good game. They improved as it wore on and had a reasonably strong third period, but the first two were full of sloppy passing and a lack of drive to the net. Credit the Sharks where you will, they defended the middle very well and did not give the Kings much room at all to make plays. What I felt was lacking the most for the Kings was the poise to skate the extra two strides with the puck to beat encroaching Sharks one-on-one to create the space needed to make the plays.

I don’t really care to talk about the penalties. I still haven’t seen replays so I just know what the twitterverse told me about them as the Regehr hook was on the far end of the rink and I couldn’t see it very well and I was watching Richards with the puck when Lewis bowled over Niemi. Oh well. The Kings were fantastic on the 5-on-3 but flustered when Regehr was forced to fill in a forward position after coming out of the box.

Shit happens.

I may go back on Tuesday night, if anything just because I’m not sure two screaming matches about Torres was enough.

Also because we are winning that game.

The Kings have pulled out some great wins in the last 6 games before this one, in many of which they were outplayed. Now that a less than dominant effort has resulted in a loss, the Kings can finally make the adjustments needed to put in that dominant performance. There is always a slight mental block, it is human nature, that precludes us from improving as much as we can when the effort you are giving turns in the required results. Only once it does not can you transition into the next gear.

And so we shall.

As Sharks fans jumped up and down all around me, pointing and jeering at me in victory, I smiled.

I smiled then. I smile now.

Go Kings.



Categories: L.A. Kings News

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15 replies

  1. It was a fun experience ! We ended up staying in Salinas. The fans we’re pretty respectful and were shaking our hands after the game. Except for a few douches who were drunk, they were well behaved.
    I found an useful trick to shut up all the sharks fans trolling me; just mention the Stanley cup.. No comeback for that.

  2. Everytime I go to the shark tank, its like this. Almost exactly.

    Tuesday ill be dealing with the same thing. I just pray some San Jose doesn’t know shit about hockey asshole doesn’t stab the life out of me after we win.

  3. You know what is more funny? Phoenix Fans are still bitching about the Kings and have a “Free Raffi Torres” campaign complete with shirts and pictures . Anything to make sure the Kings lose, because they are still crying about last season, regardless Raffi put Hossa in a stretcher, he wasn’t in the wrong in their minds. Oh that dirty Dustin Brown hit on Rosival. Waugh, Waugh, Roy!
    I am still waiting for Jesse Jackson or even Westboro Baptist Church members to be picketing outside Staples or the Shark Tank with those colorful signs that say “God Hates The LA Kings”.
    When I hear a Shark fan or Coyote fan, or Canuck fan boast about their team, I can now use
    the “hang on a second, I need to pull the Stanley Cup ring out of my right ear, and the Western Conference Champions banner out of my left ear so I can hear what it is that is so important for me to hear from them!”
    This usually causes some disorientation, and their brain scrambles for some kind of retort, because Stanley Cup usually can’t really be disrespected, no matter how they think the team achieved this pinnacle of greatness.
    Dirty, Lucky, or the “conspiracy” theory whatever excuse they need to make themselves feel better for still being losers, still doesn’t negate the one important fact WWTC!
    GKG!

    • “it took 45 years to get one” was the best a Sharks fan could say to me last night
      At the end of the day, when looking at the history books, LA Kings have a cup victory under their belt. No mention of how long it took.

      • I heard that one too. I greatly enjoyed taking off my champs hat and looking at quizzically whenever someone said “Kings suck”, and then saying “I’m not sure what that word is right there, maybe you can help me out? Oh! That’s right, champions.” I’ve waited my whole to see the looks on those faces when I mentioned the Cup. God I used to hate it when Duck or Wings fans would say that to us, because there really is just nothing to say back, its the show stopped. So much fun to finally get to say it in enemy territory. Had a few other goods ones as well.

        Btw, thanks for coming up to say hi. Sorry I didn’t see your post about you sitting near us, Only saw it today.

    • “This is my Stanley Cup smile. It comes with a collection of Stanley Cup memories that last a lifetime. You don’t have one of these do you?” – the best line I spontaneously came up with and has had the desired impact on Sharks fans

    • Well said Neil! We won the fucking Cup! And in a dominant fashion I might add. GKG!

  4. “the Surly Smile”…are you the next Brett Pitt? LOL
    And btw, Bobby’s pic is much cooler than yours

  5. No surprise about the potential for a fight. Of ALL the hockey games I’ve attended over the years, the ONLY one I’ve ever left before the final buzzer was in San Jose. We Kings fans were in a luxury box and a drunk and belligerent Sharks fan six rows down wanted to kick our asses. Just because we were rooting for the Kings. This was the mid-90s so of course the Kings were going to lose, so to avoid any potential for an altercation, we ducked out with a couple minutes remaining. We didn’t want to misrepresent the company who have us the tickets.
    Stupid San Jose fans. And I can’t believe they STILL do that Jaws thing every power play.
    Would it be beneath us to start a “Beat SJ” chant when they return to Staples?

  6. This got somewhat longer than your average comment, so if you want to put it somewhere else or do something else with it, go for it. Also for anyone brave enough to read it, I’d definitely like to hear thoughts on my points and discuss as much of it as possible.

    “What I felt was lacking the most for the Kings was the poise to skate the extra two strides with the puck to beat encroaching Sharks one-on-one to create the space needed to make the plays.”

    Love the blog, but I’m worried. It wasn’t the poise that was lacking so much as the speed.

    How do you beat a really big team with the best forecheck in the league, aka our LA Kings? That’s the question San Jose asked themselves before this series, and the question teams couldn’t answer last postseason (but that was a different Kings team). You can deny entry to the blueline to keep us from skating or passing the puck into the offensive zone, which is basic defensive strategy for every team these days to prevent clean entry of possession into the offensive zone, but that’s not good enough because the Kings will just dump the puck in behind the net from outside the blueline, retrieve it, and start their forecheck. That’s where we’re at our best anyway, behind the other team’s net, protecting the puck along the boards with our big, gritty forward group.

    So how do you do you prevent a team from dumping the puck in? You take the neutral zone trap a step further. The next defensive scheme evolution in the NHL that we are seeing invented before our eyes in this series. Instead of trapping your blueline to prevent clean entries, you trap the red line, center ice. You make it so the other team can’t even dump the puck in without icing it from their side of the redline. Now all they can do is soft chip it right back to you, basically, or ice it.

    This strategy won’t work against the Chicago Blackhawks because if your defense plays too aggressive and tries to charge the red line and keep them from gaining it, the likes of Patrick Kane will just skate right past them and go on a breakaway. But against the Kings? It is causing us nightmares.

    How is it working? What is it exactly that is working? To the first question first, our whole top line appears to be injured. Normally Kopitar, Williams, and Brown would be able to skate around these strategy (and thereby prevent it) same as Patrick Kane, even if they’re not quite as fast even when healthy. However, Kopitar has looked slow all playoffs, like he’s nursing a groin injury, Justin Williams keeps suspiciously missing time every game and playing low minutes, not to mention he’s been invisible, and Matt Barry wrote that Dustin Brown’s back was “not as fine as Drew Doughty’s” after Doughty got hit in game one, and everyone was worried about him (when, Barry is essentially saying, we should have all been worried about Dustin Brown instead).

    Additionally, the strength of this team was always more it’s size than its speed, especially with Jordan Nolan and Dwight King not skating as well as last season, and with Colin Fraser in the lineup, all on top of our missing top line. Plus we just came off a much tougher series than the Sharks had in round one, with more travel, on top of a longer, tougher run last postseason, with more travel, than them, and it just seems like they have their legs more right now, which matters a lot.

    So what are they doing exactly? Without screenshots to post, I would describe it as blitzing their defenseman in the neutral zone. Picture this scenario: San Jose is forechecking hard as usual, cycling the puck along the boards in our zone. We have all five of our players collapsed back in the zone, working the boards, trying to get the puck from them. Eventually we do, but under their heavy pressure, we have to make a quick play and get it to the one open forward we have at our blueline skating up the ice.

    That forward gets the puck, but because we had everyone back defending in our zone, he doesn’t have immediate puck support. Normally, this would be fine. Normally, their defensemen would wait for him at the blueline, so he could buy a few seconds, wait for his linemates to arrive up the ice and give him puck support, and either try to pass them into the offensive zone or dump the puck in.

    However, because Todd Mclellan can be, in certain areas, at least with the help of Larry Robinson now, just as intelligent as he is a desperate, hypocritical ass who doesn’t care how many rules he has to bend and how many referees he has to influence to win, when the Sharks see this lone forward coming up the ice with the puck after the Kings scrambled to clear their defensive zone, they don’t wait even a split second. They blitz him before he can even get to center ice. Both defensemen come at him, even the defenseman from the other side of the ice who would normally have to defend that side. But because there’s no puck support, he doesn’t have to worry about anyone on that side. So both defenseman blitz the puck carrier, plus San Jose’s “third man high” from the offensive zone has tended to get there on the backcheck much faster than our own puck-supporting players.

    I can’t tell you how many times, especially in game three when San Jose played even more aggressive from feeding off the emotion of their noise-friendly building and the constant jumbotron promps of “Let’s Go Sharks” and “Make Some Noise,” it would be just one Kings player with the puck trying to get to the red line, and three or four Sharks players surrounding him, with no help. You can say we need to play more poise, but there’s nothing you can do there. Maybe if you’re Patrick Kane, you can go 1-on-4, but even he will turn it over most of the time against three or four defenders, and that’s why you saw the Kings players choose to just soft chip it and at least not turn it over at their own blueline.

    This is a huge problem for us. It negates our cycle entirely. And another of the reasons San Jose can do this is because most of their defense is so mobile. Even their third pairing, which has traditionally been bigger defensemen for them with less mobility, is now Stuart and Hannan. Very mobile. Underrated mobility, especially Hannah since everyone thinks of him as slow, but he’s not.

    And Boyle, Braun, Vlasic, and Irwin, they can recover on everything. And if they don’t recover, the Sharks’ third man high, whether Thornton, Marleau, Burns, Couture, Pavelski, Gomez, usually do, because they’re fast too. We’re having trouble with their speed because our guys who would normally combat it, namely our top line and Kopitar in particular, don’t seem to have their legs.

    Now the most obvious solution to this red line blitz, as I’ll refer to it, would be “have more puck support,” but there’s a reason our puck support has gone missing magically in this series, too, and that reason is the other biggest problems we’re having tactically.

    San Jose’s forecheck, with their three forwards, would be pretty good by itself, just the three forwards. But the biggest thing giving us trouble about their forecheck is that it takes defending it five times it seems most times to get one clear of the zone. What do I mean? Well, we knock the puck off their forwards’ sticks, get it to our guy along the wall, and we should be good to clear, right? No. Because their defensemen, every time, even when it’s grey and most defensemen would be conservative, are pinching like absolute demons. They are pinching to within feet of our goal line. And they can because they keep a third man high very well, usually someone with speed, plus their defensemen have speed, plus our wingers lose their legs from chasing around trying to break up their cycle for their whole shift that they have no legs to make San Jose’s defensemen worry about an odd man rush going the other way.

    It’s like in soccer, for those that understand how offsides work in soccer. Why don’t soccer forwards just sit in front of the other team’s goalie all game long and wait for passes to come to them so they can have 1 on 1′s with the goalie 10 times per game? Because if you as a forward go beyond the last defender, you’re offside. In other words, you can only go as far forward as the defender is willing to go back, so as defenders, you want to set a line and stand your ground.

    It’s the same thing here. If all five Kings players stayed very high in their defensive zone while defending, the Sharks would not be able to send all five skaters low in the zone, for fear of having breakaways or odd man rushes go the other way. But of course, it’s all about balance. If the Kings kept all five of their skaters at our own blueline while the Sharks had possession in our zone, the Sharks wouldn’t need to send all five skaters deep to creative offense. They’d only need to send one deep and he’d be all alone with Quick while all five of our guys stood at the blueline. That’s why this example of all our guys standing at the blueline is an extreme example, something you’d never see in a real hockey game.

    But have we gone too far to the other extreme? It’s obvious why all teams, including ours, have a defensive strategy of “everyone collapse to the net.” Especially with how the Sharks forwards forecheck all three down low, many behind the net, we need a strong presence down low in our defensive zone both to defend the cycle along the boards and also guard the slot for any passes that might come out.

    But now is the point at which I’d like everyone to call recall my soccer analogy. Remember that the farther back you go on defense, the farther forward the offense can move everyone. In soccer that’s because of a different offsides rule; in hockey it’s because you don’t want to leave the possibility of any opposing forwards getting behind your last line of defense, or even leaving you with only one defenseman back.

    But if every forward and defenseman is back, completely collapsed, deep in the defensive zone to defend against the Sharks forecheck, what risk is there for the Sharks to send their defenseman forward pinching all the way to goal line, especially if they have a third man high in support and everyone in involved is mobile to boot? By the Kings employing a strategy where the wingers stay in the zone locked against the boards to basically try to win that puck battle against the pinching defensemen and defeat their pinching strategy, you are allowing the defensemen to pinch in the first place! By staying low in the zone along the boards, like halfway up from the goaline (and then they get pushed even deeper when the defensemen pinch), they are allowing the defenseman to pinch that far down the boards without having to worry about anyone getting behind them because hey, there you are, deep in your defensive zone! You can’t be there and behind them at the same time.

    How does this problem lead into the red line blitzing in the neutral zone? Well first, San Jose’s defenseman pinching is creating tons of extra zone time for them, and making it much more difficult for the Kings to clear their defensive zone in the first place. But then even once they do clear, usually up the boards on one side, because San Jose’s defenseman is pinching on that side, and the Kings are using the strategy I just described where the winger on that side stays in the defensive zone to make sure the puck gets past that pinching defenseman (usually having to stop and hit it a couple more times and win that puck battle until it gets past that defenseman), what this means is the only Kings forward shooting the zone is the winger on the other side.

    You basically have the Kings two defensemen behind the Kings net or deep in the zone defending the Sharks forecheck against the boards. The center is either with them, too, or guarding the slot. They would have just gotten a stick on the puck and rimmed it along the boards to the winger a few feet above the goal line along the boards. Then comes the Sharks pinching defenseman along the boards, so that winger has to stay along the boards, or sometimes skate even deeper into the zone to try to get to the puck before the pinching defenseman and get an extra second of time. Then, when he’s lucky, he’s able to rim the puck past the pinching defenseman and up the boards out of the zone. Zone cleared.

    But we’ve already been over exiting the zone. The important aspect of that otherwise redundant paragraph is to remember where everyone is in this situation. The puck-side winger is stuck along the boards, at most halfway between goal line and blueline, usually only a few feet above the goal line. The center and defensemen are also deep in the Kings zone, if not below the goal line.

    So who does this leave to take possession of the puck for the Kings and actually move the puck up the ice and create some offense, hopefully even off the rush in a perfect world, but if not at least through dump and chase?

    It only leaves that one weakside winger. He will usually skate across the ice or to wherever the puck, rimmed around the opposite boards up out of the zone, has bounced and ended up. But guess who was tracking back while the other four Kings were completely occupied deep in their zone with just poking the puck out from the possession of the big-assed Sharks forwards and get it around the boards enough and out of the zone? That third man high on the Sharks forecheck, that opposite Sharks defenseman (non-puck side) who would have tracked back with the Kings non-puck side winger when he saw the puck get rimmed out of the zone on the other side, the Sharks puck-side defenseman who pinched far enough to try to keep the puck in the zone and give the Kings winger on that side some trouble, but who still would have kept top position in the zone and would have been able to get back faster than the Kings winger as a result.

    That’s three Sharks skaters back against one Kings winger, sometimes more. It can be 3 vs 1, 4 vs 1, sometimes 4 vs 2 if the Kings puck-side winger can transition from stopping along the boards and trying to tip the puck out to skating full speed up the ice faster than normal, because usually that’s not a fast transition, or if the Kings center happened to have higher position in the defensive zone than normal. But because Kopitar’s legs are gone from his injury, Mike Richards isn’t fast to begin with, and Colin Fraser is the bane of my existence with his awful skating, the Kings centers aren’t usually going to be able to help as much as you’d like in this area of puck support. Certainly, Thornton, Couture, and Gomez are going to smoke them getting back in most circumstances.

    So both these situations, the Sharks defensemen pinching so aggressively in their offensive zone with absolutely no worry of getting beat back for an odd-man rush because of the third man high and the fact the Kings never fly the zone, and the Sharks defensemen blitzing Kings forwards in the neutral zone after they’ve cleared their defensive zone before they get to the red line, feed into each other. They’re connected. And they’re killing the Kings, especially in game 3 when San Jose really stepped up the blitzing in the neutral zone. There was just zero time for the Kings to make any plays in the neutral zone, gather any speed, or even dump it in most times, and Daryl Sutter made no adjustments.

    I mean it’s hard to dislike Sutter since he just won us a Cup, but that was the easiest run to the Cup in history, basically. Our team was stacked, and all he had to do was roll lines one after the other, all with the same forecheck system, and we won the first three games of every series. Were there ever really any adjustments?

    What I’m saying is, winning the Cup proves a lot. Last year, it proved we were a stacked team. But did it prove that Daryl Sutter has an unsurpassed eye for the game? That when his team isn’t as stacked, when it’s in a 50-50 battle, that he can out strategize the other coach? I don’t know if it proved that because we never really got to that situation. And the one team that took us to six games, the Devils, had Larry Robinson as their assistant coach, the coach credited for getting that no name Devils defense to play far above its talent level.

    And now Robinson, with the experience of going up against our team in the finals last year, seems to have transformed how the Sharks play defense as a team, too. And I saw these two tactics, the incessant Sharks pinching in the offensive zone, and the equally incessant blitzing in the neutral zone, happen from the first period through the end of the game, with Sutter doing absolutely nothing to counter act it.

    And that worries me. But I’ll get more into Sutter’s decisions, specifically the team he dressed and how he used guys, later.

    For now, the question is how do you even counter act what the Sharks are doing? With the way Thornton, Couture, Burns, Pavelski, Marleau, Galiardi, Gomez all have their legs and are flying, plus Boyle, Braun, Vlasic, Irwin, Stuart, and Hannan all skating very well on the backend, is there even anything the Kings can do to get back the run of play and start dominating this team when Kopitar, Williams, and Brown all seem to be skating in lead, plus where they have skaters on the back end, we have Regehr, Scuderi, and Ellerby, plus Muzzin, while a better skater, still isn’t fast? That question worries me too because I don’t know if we can beat them without our top line being able to skate and make plays.

    But here is where I would start. I mentioned that the last line of a team’s defense, aka “the defensemen” in NHL hockey, can only venture as far forward as your top line of offense. In other words, NHL defensemen can only pinch forward as far as your forwards stay back, or if they have a third man high to cover for them (and then that third man high becomes the defacto defenseman, and he can only pinch as far down as you sit back.

    So what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do the Kings forwards, particularly their wingers, need to stay deep in the offensive zone to help get the puck out because they know the Sharks defensemen are going to pinch, and you can’t just leave them uncovered coming down the wall to get the puck and drive the net 5 on 3 (which it would be, 5 on 3, if the two wingers fled the zone), or do the Sharks defensemen only pinch like that because they see the Kings wingers sitting back there, so they know they can move in without any risk of those wingers getting in behind them?

    That’s the question alright. My answer? It’s time to find out. I’m not an NHL coach, so I don’t have to perfect, tried and true strategy for this. But I definitely have the general idea, which is that if you can find a way to trade 2 on 1′s for 5 on 3′s at an even split, that’s a grade trade (for the team getting 2 on 1′s). In other words, the Kings need to find a way to fly the zone. The Kings need to find a way to make the Sharks defensemen pinching much more risky for them. They need to provide some disincentive for the Sharks defensive pinching, because right now its open season on the Sharks sending five skaters deep into the Kings defensive zone (or 4, anyway, with one always rotating back up high to cover just in case, plus there being different layers to assure no odd man rushes the other way).

    And really, this has become an issue around the NHL. No one used to pinch like this five years ago because they were worried about odd man rushes the other way. But now with the way systems have evolved, the effectiveness of a third man high, teams have figured out they can pinch much more. It’s just that the issue has become so much more acute because the Sharks are taking it to extremes and really capitalizing in a way that all NHL teams could do, but most haven’t figured that out yet. The Sharks defense has figured out that, when the Kings are trying to clear the puck or they have the puck, no matter where on the ice, they can pinch or blitz the Kings up to a very small gap. So wherever the Kings have the puck, the Sharks figured that as long as that’s their highest forward on the ice and there is no other threat to get behind them, that they can play very aggressively and with an extremely tight gap, knowing that it’s near impossible for any forward to deke by defenders in today’s NHL 1 against 2 or 1 against 3, especially the Kings forwards who mostly aren’t that style of player.

    So this strategy has really evolved around the NHL in recent seasons, and it’s evolving even further in front of our eyes. And as all this has happened, you know how NHL coaches are, it’s always just about “get it out.” They’re nervous. They want to prevent the goal. They don’t want to look back on that tape and see the blatant mistake. Even if “just getting it out” 50 times a game with no regard for keeping possession afterwards or creating an attack off the rush negates way more offense overall than it aids the defense, coaches don’t care because the only thing you’ll see at the end of the day is the goal against on tape if you didn’t get the puck out or make the safe play soft chipping it down. It’s much harder to conceptualize, “what if we hadn’t just gotten the puck out all those times, even though their forecheck was ferocious and we were in trouble? What if we’d tried to make plays anyway and keep possession? What if we’d flown the zone a few times even if they were going to pinch their defensemen anyway? Sure we would have given up a few more goals, but we might have scored even more back.”

    I honestly think that’s the next evolution in strategy that we’ll see sometime in coming years from a bright new coach. Everything else has evolved. Defense. Gap control. Back checking. Defensive systems. Dump and chase hockey. Offensive zone cycle. Defensemen pinching. Trapping. But that one tactic evolution of, how do we defeat this gritty, big-body cycle hockey, with the defensemen pinching, and actually get the game more wide open so it suits our skilled players, and actually get more scoring chances in our favor, I don’t think that’s come yet. And I think the key to unlocking that may be in defeating the pinching defensemen and figuring out a way to have your forwards fly the zone without sacrificing too much on defense. Right now everyone is just collapsing and playing it very conservative, always everyone behind the puck, and that’s great except that smart coaches are catching on and realizing they can just abuse that because it allows them to push their offense forward farther than ever before, especially their defensemen who in the past always had to stay by the offensive blueline when their team was attacking.

    But whatever the case league wide in terms of when this evolution in counter-strategy will happen across the league, what I’m saying is I think Sutter needs to come up with something now! The way San Jose’s defense is playing so aggressive, and the areas on the ice our forwards are positioned in different situations of the game always allowing them to be that aggressive, is killing us! We can’t continue to get outshot and badly outchanced every game and expect to win games anymore let alone series. I’m not even sure we got a scoring chance the second half of last game besides the shorthanded 2 on 1 at the end. Tactically San Jose just completely shut us down and we couldn’t keep the puck for more than a few seconds every time we got it without being swarmed by multiple San Jose skaters all going much faster and harder than us.

    As for the harder, that’s something else they’ve been doing. When we try to cycle in the offensive zone, whenever we have forwards somewhat close together and the puck is being battled for, they just knock down all our guys in the vicinity and then take the puck and move it up ice. Some way to kill the cycle! It’s like the argument is “we didn’t know which one had the puck since the building is so loud and hectic and it’s playoffs and we were battling for the puck so that means we’re allowed to knock them down since we didn’t know!”

    Actually, that’s supposed to be a penalty for interference. You can knock down the one with the puck, if you do it legally, but not both our forwards.

    But, if the refs are letting that go, we need to start doing that against their cycle, too, because we haven’t been, and they’ve gotten a big advantage out of that, killing our cycle very quickly with that strategy, while we have to run around for minutes on defense trying to get the puck off them legally.

    Another thing they’re doing against our cycle, this one actually legal, even if they’re not tackling two of our cycling forwards, they’re running the one with the puck into the boards. When we defend their cycle, we’re physical with them to a degree, but it’s very containment oriented. We’re keeping them to the outside, but we’re not actually stopping them. What the Sharks defenders are doing is kind of jumping in front of our guys as they skate with the puck along the boards, and sort of just becoming a wall along the boards which makes their body stop moving, while the puck keeps moving off their stick and into the next Sharks defenseman who is there supporting. (They’re also very good at supporting, even on defense, even on the penalty kill or any outmanned situation. One example was when they had all five, or was it four on a PK, well either all five or four of their players on one side of the ice, along the wall, fighting for a puck against our three guys, because our other two were the defensemen, who were just maintaining their positions along the blueline).

    But that actually speaks to the whole point of what San Jose is doing and we’re not. They are drilled to take as forward a position on the ice as possible without risk. As in, like I’ve been over already, as far as you go back, that’s as far as I can go forward. So if all five of your players are behind your goal line, then I don’t have to stay at the blue line anymore. I can move forward into the slot while still not risking anyone behind me, because all of you are behind your goal line.

    And that’s what the Kings should have done in this situation, too. All the Sharks players were deep in their zone, in a corner, all on one side, fighting for a puck. Having everyone in one spot together gave them an advantage in winning that puck battle. That’s what the Kings want to avoid. So what should they have done instead? One of the defenseman, instead of just standing there on the far point at the blue line away from the puck, should have crept in to the slot. Now if by chance the Sharks lose that puck battle despite having the extra body over there, the Kings get a defacto breakaway, or clear slot shooting opportunity with their defenseman wide open in front of the goaltender. Maybe the Sharks see that and move one of their players back to that side of the ice, which would then even up the puck battle for the Kings, which is what they want. Maybe it’s too late by the time the Sharks player moves back to the slot and the Kings defenseman already got a pass and scored. Then maybe the Sharks don’t try that again.

    And the other defenseman should similarly adjust his position in situations like that. You still want to maintain a position between all the Sharks skaters and your defensive zone (and goal), but if they’re all very deep in the zone, my point is that you can close that gap some, especially when you have support. So move in ten feet, get into a position where when the puck squeaks out of that board battle, you can at least fight for it and get a stick on it and poke it back into your forwards. See what the Sharks do is with that extra body in the board battle, he’s not actually so much “in” the battle as everyone else, he stands right outside of it, poking at the poke here and there when he sees it, but his real role is to be the lone extra guy just standing right there when the puck squeaks out, and then the Sharks can break out. When the Kings defensemen see this, one of them should go do the same, just taking the spot on top of the Sharks player, as in the defensive spot.

    So there are just so many things like that where the Sharks players have been drilled to take every inch of ice available to them without risking anything on defense, while the Kings players are just content to stay in place in the natural areas their positions are associated with. That’s just not working.

    The other thing that helped the Sharks so much in game three, and it ties into this aggressive style of play, is what you talked about with their arena. Really, if everyone agrees that noise and home field advantage exists, then in a fair world all arenas would have to be uniform, at least in terms of acoustics. Because the Sharks are being rewarded with a very loud building not due to the genius of their organization or the superiority of their fans to every other team’s fans, but because of the acoustics of their building.

    More unfair to this, the Sharks are abusing this advantage by basically conducting their fans with prompts on the scoreboard. It seems to the Kings, and most teams, organist, or their scoreboard manager, is just content to play some music during commercial breaks, play some funny Cartman videos in the Kings case, that type of thing. But whoever has the job for the Sharks is clearly drilled. Sharks get scored on? Immediately after the next faceoff come the “Let’s Go Sharks” scoreboard prompts, and the fans chant it accordingly. The message is clear: let’s get that momentum back right away. Get the other team back on their heels right away even though we just scored. Even if the Sharks go down 3-0 in the 3rd period, they get the chants going, always pushing back against the away team, always creating adrenaline for the Sharks to feed off of, always creating momentum.

    And naturally, most times the Sharks don’t score on the ensuing faceoff, but the Sharks scoreboard manager keeps doing it. Every few minutes in the 3rd period, if you’re trying to hold a lead against them, the chant comes back, and it gives them more jump. They start playing even more aggressive. They come harder on the forecheck. Maybe it forces you to take a penalty. Then with the crowd going even crazier with the scoreboard conducting them to cheer for the powerplay, the Sharks score a powerplay goal. Now it’s 3-1, and the scoreboard prompts are getting even more frequent. Then a lucky bounce, 3-2, and it just goes from there.

    All of game 3, even though it was a 1-1 game most of the time, it felt like this for me, and I was just watching on TV. It felt like I was rooting against a mountain that the Kings were trying to climb, or something. It wasn’t like all the other playoff games, like Chicago vs Detroit, or any of the East games, where yes there is home rink advantage, but the fans shut up for most of the game outside of goals and penalties and let the guys play. In those games, things actually simmered down after a little while, and I don’t know how to describe it, but it felt like there was room to breathe, room for the teams to play, make plays. But in game 3 against the Sharks, all game, it was like climbing this uphill mountain. It felt like there was no time to think or to play. The crowd, lead by the scoreboard, was against us from the opening whistle, and it was like they tag teamed with the Sharks. The way they were forechecking, blitzing us in the neutral zone, just playing so aggressive, hitting us, which is another thing I’ll get to. You can tell how much the Sharks feed off having this scoreboard conductor and a building with loud acoustics, and it’s really not fair because the players and the organization haven’t done anything to earn this besides inheriting a building with good acoustics.

    Staples Center has gotten a lot better at Kings games since last year, because last series against the Sharks there was no comparison in noise or atmosphere, and in fact Staples has actually become better than a lot of the home ice buildings I’ve seen in these playoffs so far. However, it’s nothing like what the Sharks have, where you’re basically having to play against the noise, too, and the adrenaline and pressure and energy that noise entails that you know is all against you and all for your opponent.

    It really is a huge advantage, and I think as long as they’re the only one that has this, it’s unfair for the Sharks. I think the only way it becomes fair on a large scale is if every team finds a way to reconfigure their acoustics, or maybe other arenas should be able to amplify their crowd noise through microphones to the same level as HP Pavilion just like HP’s acoustics amplify the noise for the Sharks, and then of course every team should be using scoreboard prompts the same way to conduct the crowd to their team’s benefit.

    And in the meantime, why isn’t Staples dong this? Audible “Let’s Go Kings” chants from Cartman during commercial break or before faceoffs is cool and funny, except because it’s kind of a joke I’m worried many fans don’t take it as seriously as they should and kind of ignore it, but the biggest problem with Cartman is that he’s audio, and you can’t play audio chants during actual run of play. Why aren’t the Kings putting “Let’s Go Kings” on the scoreboard every few minutes all game long like the Sharks do at HP? Every time the Kings have a lull, every time it looks like the Sharks might be gaining momentum, they should be having the crowd start chanting for the Kings.

    It creates adrenaline. It creates momentum. It creates this “energy,” basically, that makes the team the chant is for skate faster and go harder, and makes the refs call more penalties for the home team. It’s just like this wave of energy that pushes the home team forward. Kings fans at Staples has gotten better at it, but the Sharks are still getting a much bigger wave at HP from the arena than the Kings are at Staples, and it could end up being the difference in the series. I just don’t understand why the people in charge at Staples are letting San Jose have this advantage and not doing more to get the crowd chanting when the Kings need momentum and even amplifying the noise if need be, which is only fair since HP’s acoustics amplify the noise there by itself.

    Speaking of hitting, first Raffi Torres took Stoll’s head off, illegally, and now Brad Sutart crushed Justin Williams, this time legally (well maybe should have been a charge, but otherwise legal). Where are the big hits coming from the Kings? I don’t mean retribution, but just putting money in the bank for later in the series, creating more time and space for themselves, something the Kings were sorely lacking in game three especially.

    The Sharks have a much quicker, more mobile defense corps now than they used to with Niclas Wallin, Douglas Murray, and Kent Huskins. The Sharks have more of the Detroit style of defense that can skate better and make better passes.

    And guess what? When the Sharks faced Detroit in the playoffs twice the last three seasons, the Sharks big forwards hit and forechecked Detroit’s skilled defense so much that it made San Jose’s defense look like the better group just because they had size and weren’t soft.

    Point being, that’s the tradeoff San Jose’s inherited with their new look defense. Right now Vlasic, Braun, Irwin, and Hannan look like this unstoppable facelift on defense for the Sharks, but if Nicklas Lidstrom can be turned into a giveaway machine by an aggressive, physical forecheck, I bet they can, too. It’s just that the Kings seem to have left their aggressiveness and physicality in St Louis.

    You’ll notice the Sharks always have three forwards forechecking initially, not to mention the two pinching defensemen later to create what they call a “five man forecheck.” But the initial forecheck is two forwards down low below the goal line, rotating with a third who sometimes also helps below the goal line at the same time, and also in the slot.

    Well, I’ve rarely seen three Kings below the Sharks goal line at once all series long. We seem to be using a more conservative version of the forecheck, and it’s not working as well. As I mentioned before, at times the Sharks are knocking both our forechecking forwards on the ground, and because of our more conservative looking forecheck, there hasn’t been a third there to support and get the puck back long enough for them to get up and rejoin/restart the cycle.

    And even when two forecheckers aren’t getting knocked down, the Sharks strategy of blocking off the Kings cycling forward who has the puck, kind of blocking him along the boards and letting the puck keep rolling, has worked for them because even down low in their defensive zone, they still have more puck support than the Kings, even on defense. They’ll have another player right there to pick up the puck, or the defenseman who blocked off the Kings player by jumping in front of him and wedging against the boards then rolls off the boards himself and picks up the puck and skates out with it. If the Kings had their normal, aggressive forecheck, he wouldn’t be able to do that because there would already be another Kings player there to pick up the loose puck.

    So the Kings aggressive forecheck and cycle, three forwards deep, is missing, like Sutter (or the players) are scared to commit that much to offense, and somewhat related, the Kings physical game is missing, too. Outside of Jeff Carter pushing Logan Couture, which was more an attempt to separate him from the puck than to actually hit him, I can’t remember one big hit delivered by the Kings with bad or even aggressive intentions. We’re three games through the series, and there hasn’t been one highlight hit by the Kings. I remember in game one vs Vancouver last season, there were like ten in the first period. Plenty against the Blues, too.

    But none vs San Jose, while they have delivered at least two huge ones against us, plus many more medium-impact hits, too, which have done their job of backing the Kings off and creating more space for the Sharks. What’s up with this?

    The last issue I want to bring up is the way Sutter is using the lineup. I mentioned how one of the problems the Kings are having with the Sharks neutral zone blitz (aka red line trap or red line blitz as I called it earlier), besides needing Sutter to adjust the tactics they’re using, is that they aren’t a team built around speed. And especially with Kopitar, Brown, and Williams all apparently injured and not skating well, the Kings are really lacking in players who can accelerate to a level of speed in the neutral zone that will make the Sharks blitz hesitate and back off and let them gain the Kings gain the red line, if not the blue line.

    While on the Sharks, Thornton, Couture, Burns, Marleau, Pavelski, Gomez, and others were able to gain the red line and the Kings blue line at ease pretty much singlehandedly whenever they wanted to because of their speed, I really only noticed Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli able to back the Sharks off their blitz through the neutral zone going the other way, and sometimes Lewis who has the speed but loses the puck due to his awful hands, and then Kopitar at times too, but more due to his reach and puck protection than his speed. Kopitar really had to zig zag and turn from one end of the neutral zone to the other horizontally before he could breach the offensive zone, and only at a bad angle at that. When he’s skating like he normally can he can attack with much more speed through the middle and not have to use his reach going sideways around people.

    But really, it was mostly Jeff Carter who brought some top speed to San Jose, and Tyler Toffoli in second place. So imagine my shock to find out Tyler Toffoli only got 12 minutes of ice time in game 3! What the hell was Sutter thinking? Game 3 was our chance to put a stranglehold on this series, and all game long we were hurting so much for speed and any ability to get through the neutral zone and set up an attack (not to mention stop the barrage in our end), and even after scoring our only goal early in the game, Sutter still only gives Toffoli 12 minutes of ice time for the whole game? He could have been the difference in that game! With 6-8 more minutes of Toffoli, we might have won! I just have no fucking idea what he was thinking. Toffoli was bringing exactly the speed and the puck possession ability we were starving for that entire game.

    Heck, the commentator for NBC even said that Sutter claimed Toffoli was the best scoring chance for/against player in game two! So in a game we were getting dominated in that department, he didn’t think to play him more than 12 minutes? And a lot of those 12 minutes, even, were basically wasted with Colin Fraser, who is a line killer! I just don’t get it at all.

    And look at some of the other ice time totals. First, for context of what San Jose top players got. Pavelski got 23:41 of ice time, 16:30 of that even strength. Marleau got 22 minutes, Thornton got 21:21, Couture got 18:37 even though he missed almost a whole period.

    Now look at the Kings. Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar are both around 20 minutes, which is good. But Justin Williams? Only 16:24. Couture got 2 minutes more than that and he missed a whole period. If Williams is healthy, he should be playing more than that. He sure doesn’t seem to be, but if that’s the case, then why won’t Sutter move him off the top line, where he’s overmatched against the other team’s best competition? Hell, why not move Toffoli up there? Same type of player, both good territorial corsi guys. Move Toffoli up there because he’s going right now, healthy right now, might reinvigorate Kopitar and Brown, and at the same time maybe Williams can do more against lesser competition on the third line.

    Also only 38 seconds of powerplay time for Williams. He’s been taken off the first powerplay unit, which is fine since it’s been doing good, but basically no second PP time either? Suddenly Sutter has fallen in love with Lewis on the powerplay after one lucky goal… Lewis has no hands. He’s not a good offensive player, powerplay included. He can’t shoot either. Maybe we would have scored that key second goal on one of our few powerplays if Williams was on the second unit like he should be. He and Toffoli together on that second unit could make it very dangerous. But with Lewis instead it suffers.

    Brad Richardson only 11:20 of ice time, while Trevor Lewis got 16:59 (and almost double Williams’ powerplay time). Lewis is a good skater and he’s played well defensively, but this game has no hands, no ability to possess the puck. Richardson creates much more. Those ice times should probably be switched, although these are lesser issues compared to Justin Williams missing about 4 minutes of ice time in the game and Tyler Toffoli missing anywhere from 5 to 7:30 of ice time.

    Dustin Brown, likewise, only 17 minutes of ice time. He should be closer to 20. That’s 3 minutes Brown missed, 4 Williams missed, 5 to 7:30 Toffoli missed. We’re getting close to 20 missed minutes of ice time for one of our best players. In other words, that’s almost like if you missed Justin Williams, Tyler Toffoli, or Dustin Brown for a whole game, like they were out injured. That’s the net result of underplaying some of your best players, and it sure looked that way all game, like we were missing one of our best players.

    Dustin Penner 14 minutes. He played fine, although he looks to be back in regular season Penner form, but why is he getting more ice time than Toffoli? Dwight King, likewise a little over 14 minutes. If we’re going to win this series, Dwight King has to be a better player to Trevor Lewis, as his size and talent suggests he should be, so why is he getting less ice time?

    Jeff Carter almost 20 minutes which is fine, although with his speed and stamina, in a potential stranglehold game like that, why not try to get 23-24 minutes out of him, like Ilya Kovalchuk plays for the Devils often (more than that, actually)? And like Joe Pavelski did for the Sharks. You could see Mclellan treated this as a much win, and Sutter I guess didn’t? They have an extra day off before game 4, and Mclellan basically was able to trade a one or two extra minutes of ice time per key player for a game three win. That’s a great trade for them. Why didn’t Sutter go for the same? Just makes no sense.

    Fraser only got 7:04 of ice time, thank god. Tanner Pearson only 5:44. Why did he play again? What the hell was Sutter thinking? How soon we forget what brought us success in the first place: the size, speed, and puck control ability of players just like Jordan Nolan.

    I can break it down very simply for Sutter. Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Jared Stoll Dwight King, Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan, Dustin Penner, and now Tyler Toffoli, these are the type of forwards that carried the Kings to the Cup last season. Guys who can protect and/or keep possession of the puck, and thus control the game with the puck on the sticks of LA Kings throughout most of it.

    Some of these guys, like King, Clifford, Nolan, and Penner control the puck mostly through their size and work along the boards. Some, like Williams, Brown, Carter, Stoll, and Toffoli do it more with a combination of some (varying degrees) of size combined with more speed and skill. Mike Richards could be included with this group too, although he’s physically smaller. But he compensates somewhat for his size with his fantastic balance on his skates, his low center of gravity, and his excellent hands and hockey sense. And then there’s Anze Kopitar that has it all.

    But these are the guys. And Brad Richardson can do some things, too, because of his speed and capable hands. But Colin Fraser? Zero speed, zero hands. When your top three lines are absolutely pulverizing everyone in sight and all you need from your fourth line center is to dump the puck in and deliver big hits and hope his linemates can carry him offensively, not that it matters because the top three lines are doing all the scoring the team needs anyway, then he’s fine. But in a series like this where good forwards are stuck on the fourth line like Jordan Nolan, and his ability to score or not could be the difference in this series, then Colin Fraser as he is currently performing is unacceptable. Should not be playing, period, even with Stoll missing.

    And then there’s Trevor Lewis. His skating ability, in terms of backchecking and getting to lose pucks in the defensive zone, is a plus. But then again so are the size and speed of someone like Jordan Nolan when it comes to winning puck battles against pinching San Jose defensemen and getting the puck out of the zone, not to mention everywhere else. But back to Lewis, his speed and experience in a checking role are assets defensively. And on the extremely rare occasions where no puck possession ability is required to create offense because the puck rebounds out to him with a wide open net that he can simply tap it into because he outskated the guy backchecking him, then his speed can be an asset on offense, too, despite his poor hands.

    However, 90% of the time, Lewis’ hands make him a detriment offensively, and the other 9% of that 10% of the time he wastes too because his shot sucks. In other words, Lewis does not belong in the main group, the group of guys who propel this team forward in the areas of puck possession and territorial play. All those guys, while they come in different shapes and sizes, have skillsets which allow them to excel at protecting or possessing the puck and keeping it from the other team. Trevor Lewis does not move the cart forward in this area like the rest of these guys do. He doesn’t even match up to Brad Richardson in that regard.

    Now, can you compensate for Lewis’ weaknesses by maybe putting him with some other fast players and creating a speed line, where all three forwards can share that strength and work off of it together to create offense? Maybe. Maybe if you put Trevor Lewis with Tyler Toffoli and Jordan Nolan, the latter two’s ability to possess the puck could carry Lewis in that area, while he could help them back defensively and with his speed and grit. Better yet, Lewis could only take half the shifts with those two while someone higher up in the linemate did the rest.

    And that’s really the point. Lewis can skate (and he’s not small either), and in a series like this, that can never hurt. The point is, however, that someone like Trevor Lewis should not be a feature in this lineup, leaned on like a core player to take this team to the next round, while Jordan Nolan sits on the bench. And most certainly, Colin Fraser should not be in the lineup while Nolan is on the bench. Fraser should not be in the lineup at all. I know we’re short on centers with Stoll out, but Fraser just crushes this team 5 on 5. I mean maybe if you put him with Nolan and King on his wings, or something like that, and they could dump it in and chase it down for him, but still, no, not in this series. In this series, you need all three forwards on every line to be pulling the cart forward and creating offense, creating puck possession, not just two. Fraser cannot be in this lineup.

    So what should the lineup be, then? Here are a few ideas. First, with 6 defensemen.

    Penner – Kopitar – Brown
    Williams – Richards – Carter (really love this line, could explode with a third true skill guy to really let Richards and Carter start to shine and dominate)
    King – Richardson – Toffoli (can’t have Lewis in the top 9 anymore, kills the offense too much)
    Nolan – Lewis – Clifford (hopefully. If not it can’t be Fraser anymore so you find someone with puck possession talent from the AHL, or maybe Pearson again)

    On defense, it stays the same except I’d probably put Martinez back in. Or the 7 defensemen lineup, you’d just add Ellerby in as the 7th defenseman in the place of the Pearson spot, assuming Clifford isn’t healthy yet).The 2nd pairing with Voynov and Scuderi is also getting manhandled by the sheer size of the Thronton-Burns line, so maybe it’s worth switching Regehr with Scuderi, so that both the first two pairs can have size on them. I worry that Doughty is completely carrying Regehr (a pretty bad move by Lombardi in that case) and that he could be a disaster without Doughty, especially against the Thornton line, but it’s worth a shot. It’s also worth trying some of the more offensive guys, like Muzzin or Martinez, with Doughty. Muzzin has a little size himself, so if he can get a little confidence playing with Doughty and round into form while Doughty makes up for some of his growing pains, that could actually turn into a better first pair than Doughty-Regehr, since Muzzin skates better than Regehr and also makes better outlet passes and is better offensively overall.

    And same idea with Martinez. You’ve tried these talented guys, Muzzin and Martinez, on the third pair, and they’ve been a disaster together. Meanwhile, the physical stay at home guys like Regehr and Scuderi have struggled somewhat at the top. So why not try mixing and matching? If you can get Muzzin or Martinez to really excel with someone who plays more their style, like a Doughty, now you’re getting more out of your top talent overall, plus that moves someone like Regehr down to the third pair where he can really excel more against easier competition. This way you can get more mobility and more offense out of your top pair, giving Doughty someone he can play off more offensively and create more off of (and vise versa with his partner), and then put Regehr more in that traditional Matt Greene stay at home spot on the third pair.

    And back to the overall lineup, don’t get fooled by Penner on the top line. The problem with what Sutter’s done so far is he has a whole top line, a whole third line outside Toffoli, and Dwight King on the second line all non-factors, not to mention the fourth line. That’s a lot of talent being wasted with Sutter doing nothing about it, just leaving it as is. If you have talented players like Brown, Williams, Kopitar, King, Richardson, and Nolan all not producing, I see a lot of potential there for moving guys into different spots and getting them going.

    I mentioned the Kings in general were getting knocked down and rubbed out on their cycle, and this apples to the first line (besides Kopitar) as well. Despite his apparent injury, Kopitar has still be highly effective once he gets the puck below the Sharks goal line, it’s just that the support has been lacking as both Brown and Williams have been getting knocked off the puck much more than usual. Just one idea I had to remedy this was to give Kopitar another linemate with top size, much more than Williams or Brown. That’s where Penner comes into play, although Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, and even Kyle Clifford could work too.

    Just because I put Penner up there, however, does not mean he should be getting top line ice time above everyone below him. The idea of this lineup is that Brown, Penner, King, Toffoli, Nolan, and Clifford can all move up and down the wings of this lineup, with Sutter giving the most ice time to whoever is going. Those are basically the x factors in this lineup. The constants, and the guys getting the guaranteed ice time, should be as follows. Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, and Tyler Toffoli should all be getting 18-22 minutes of ice time. Yes, including Toffoli. He is the one major improvement of this year’s team over last on a roster that currently has injured some of the most important players from last year’s team. You scarcely win the Cup getting worse from the year before, even if you’re the defending Champs, and the Kings only hope of not being worse than last year’s team given that Willie Mitchell and Jarret Stoll are out injured and many in the lineup are playing as if they are too, is Tyler Toffoli.

    Plus, comparisons to last year’s team aren’t really the point. The way the Kings are playing right now, Tyler Toffoli is one of the best six forwards on the team and needs to be played as one. He might even be among the top four right now, unfortunately. Outside of that, I’d like to see Jordan Nolan be given more of an opportunity, both in quantity of ice time and quality of linemates, since he has all the physical tools to be the piece the Kings looked to be so desperately missing in game three. And if Kyle Clifford plays, it might also be worth trying to recreate the magic of the Kyle Clifford – Brad Richardson – Wayne Simmonds line when they played the Sharks in the 2011 playoffs, with any of Tyler Toffoli, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, or left handed Dustin Penner, Dwight King, or Nolan replacing the departed Simmonds on that line.

    Key, however, is that if three of the Kings best players in Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Justin Willians continue to struggle as a trio at the start of game four, it makes absolutely no sense to let San Jose continue to check them into irrelevance all as a trio. That’s too much talent to waste all at once against one opposing line. If San Jose is going to shut down all three of those talented players, at least make them do it one at a time, with different lines and different defensive pairs. Make it more of a challenge.

    And just as important as awakening those three players is that they can be used to awaken depth players down in the lineup. How much better would Jordan Nolan look, for instance, with Anze Kopitar as his center instead of Colin Fraser? And might Anze Kopitar even look better himself finally having someone his size in Nolan on his line to forecheck and cycle with? (Or Dustin Penner, or Dwight King). And the same can be said for all these important puck possession forwards I mentioned, of which the Kings actually have quite an arsenal, if only Daryl Sutter didn’t waste one completely on the bench (Jordan Nolan) in game three, and one by only giving him 12 minutes of ice time in Tyler Toffoli, and only 16 minutes for Williams, and so on.

    San Jose is too good a team for Sutter to not use all his weapons to their full capabilities against. You’ll notice the seven forwards most going for the Sharks, Thornton, Couture, Burns, Pavelski, Marleau, Galiardi, and Gomez, were also the ones most utilized by Todd Mclellan. And as Mclellan has done all year, when a line of his isn’t working, he changes things up until he gets a combination that works. Daryl Sutter needs to do the same and not be afraid to play his best players, even in the third period, as scawwyyy as that might be! I just really did not get that from Sutter in game 3. Why do you guys think he hasn’t done any of these things I’ve mentioned?

    From not adjusting to the Sharks tactics to not dressing the best lineup to not utilizing the lineup he dressed correctly or even playing the best players the most, to not switching the lines or defense pairs up at all even though, as Sutter himself said, the top line has zero even strength goals through three games, his decisions just don’t have any logic to me other than that he thinks all he has to do is roll the same lines from last year and the Kings will magically win the Cup again. I just don’t get how he seems to be missing all these important aspects of the game and the series, aspects that will probably end up deciding who wins the series, while a stupid fan like me notices them.

    That’s why I’m worried. Do you think Sutter can come up with ways to defeat the Sharks super aggressive defensemen pinching in the offensive zone and blitzing the red line in the neutral zone? Do you think he realizes Colin Fraser needs to sit or will he just keep on wasting the roster spot and the whole 4th line by playing him? Do you think he realizes that he could probably wake up half his forward roster and really get a ton more zone time and a ton more cycle simply by matching his big forwards better with each other against this Sharks team (where against some others you don’t necessarily have), or in terms of guys like Williams, Toffoli, and Richardson, matching the skill guys each other better, too? I mean Justin Williams and Jeff Carter could probably explode if they were on each other’s wing with Mike Richards in the middle. Instead, Williams has done nothing on the first line, and Dwight King has done little with Richards and Carter while they have created everything themselves. How hard would it be to just switch Williams and King for a few shifts and see what happens, forgetting the rest of the lineup?

    Do you think Sutter realizes that by only playing Toffoli 12 minutes in game three, he wasted one of his better players and one that had really been going the last couple games and really had a lot of momentum to his game after assisting on the GWG in game 2 and scoring the early equalizer in game 3? Do you think he realizes he could potentially get Jake Muzzin (or to a lesser extent/probability Alec Martinez) going by pairing him with Drew Doughty, and in doing so, if it worked, fixing a huge problem with the entire defense core that could maybe be the difference in the long run between repeating as Champions and getting eliminated?

    Does he see any of the things I’ve talked about in this whole comment? I’ve very worried by the way he managed game three, both strategically and in the deployment of his players. Do you guys think I’m right to be or are you all still confident we’ll take the series even though we’re getting outshot every game, and really have been almost every game of the playoffs, and the top line can’t score with the current combinations that Sutter doesn’t seem interested in changing? And even if Sutter did everything I’m saying, would it even matter against a team that all of a sudden has so much speed and size going in Thornton, Burns, Couture, Pavelski, Marleau, Galiardi, and Gomez. The additions of Gomez and Galiardi back to form, plus Burns up front who is excellent, plus them getting so much faster on defense, are they just a different team now? Maybe this is their year like it was ours last year? In theory I think Chicago takes either of us right now but the way they are 12-2 or something in playoff overtimes the last few years, the way they work the referees and “draw penalties” (you know what that means), plus the way they score on that powerplay once they do, plus Corey Crawford could self destruct at any time, you never know. I still hope it’s us taking Chicago to the limit, but we’ve been outplayed three games in a row now, and game three they completely bottled us in with their pinching and neutral zone play, and our whole top line seems injured, so I’m losing confidence. Quick can’t do it all.

    What do you guys think?

    • Wow, 64 question marks in your post. Gonna be difficult to get back to you on this one.

      • Some of them are similar questions, but the edited version.

        1. How can Sutter adjust to the Sharks aggressive defensemen pinching so deep in our defensive zone?
        2. How can Sutter adjust to the Sharks aggressive defensemen blitzing our forwards before they get to the red line so we cant even dump the puck in?
        3. Why did Sutter only play Toffoli 12 minutes in game three, and why did he sit Nolan, and only play Justin Williams 16 minutes?
        4. Does Sutter realize that playing Colin Fraser is killing the 4th line and Nolan and that Fraser needs to sit?
        5. Why is Trevor Lewis getting 2nd PP time over Justin Williams? Why is Trevor Lewis getting a core role all of a sudden period? He has no hands and no shot and outside of his defense, Brad Richardson and Jordan Nolan are both better puck possession players than him and should be getting those minutes. Ditto for Dwight King and Toffoli.
        6. Why isnt Sutter moving guys like Nolan or King or Penner up with Kopitar to help him and Brown get their cycle established better, while maybe trying Justin Williams with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter for a potentially explosive combination since Carter and Richards would have a third top line calibre skill player to work off of instead of the acceptable but unspectacular King?
        7. With the whole top line struggling, why isn’t Sutter trying to get Brown and Williams easier competition, period, and using them to ignite guys further down the lineup, while using guys from further down the lineup to ignite Kopitar in return, as outlined in “6.”?
        8. With the second defense pair being undersized and Voynov in over his head against Thornton and Burns, why not swap Scuderi and Regehr to get more size with Voynov, and have side on both the top pairings?
        9. Why isn’t Sutter trying Muzzin with Doughty to try to get Muzzin playing well, which could fix a big problem with the defense core and move Regehr down to a better spot on the third pairing where his physical type of depth defenseman is better suited?
        10. Does Sutter even think of these things, in particular the strategic issues from game three, because he made no adjustments all game long and it didn’t seem like he even realized what was going on? And how could he mess up such obvious things as playing Toffoli more than 12 minutes and more than Lewis? Or giving Williams powerplay time instead of Lewis?

  7. So…you need to get some things off your chest do you…

  8. Uhh ohhh: Must be one of those frustrated arm chair NHL coaches! Someone from the Kings Insider bin, escaped and just unloaded whatever pent up frustration they have been storing for the summer.
    Why this, and why that?
    Why? Maybe because he is the coach and because he is there in practice to see what works and who might be dinged up.
    Why? Maybe because he is a little more qualified than you or I to make these types of ?decisions.
    Why? Because with the exception of a few players, the Kings are almost the same lineup as last season.
    Why? Because they just disposed of St. Louis, and just were handed his first loss in the series against San Jose.
    Why? Because this series isn’t done yet, and to look ahead of San Jose is to be short sighted.
    Why? Because the Kings haven’t advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

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