It’s the Ref’s Fault! It’s Muzzin’s Fault! It’s Our Top Line’s Fault! No. Stop It. (LAK vs SJS, 5/21/2013 Round 2 Game 4)

Herald’s Take

So… there’s a few areas where we are tempted (and should be) to point fingers as to why the boys lost.  Yes, I am just as infuriated as you are that Penner’s goal didn’t count.  I am absolutely livid that Muzzin did not bury his empty net shot.  How do you elevate a puck up over the net when you had an open net and just needed to tap it in?  Youthful exuberance?  Rookie excitement?  I’m not sure.  Brown/Kopitar/Williams go scoreless again… so one might be tempted to blame them.  I say nay, nay.  All of these things contribute, definitely.  The bottom line is we got beaten.  In spite of the Penner goal that was nullified by a ref’s overly eager whistle.  For those of you who don’t know what home ice advantage is (Kings’ being a stranger to it in playoffs,) let me explain.  The home team gets to select their line last.  This is huge in this series.  San Jose has done a great job of nullifying our top lines by selecting lines custom built to shut down our boys.  In faceoff circles, the visiting team’s player has to place his stick on the ice first.  This gives the home player the chance to make a faster, better timed and more strategic draw.  Finally, the psychological effect of playing in your own arena with your fans behind you cannot be denied.  While players do the best they can to block out the audience it undeniably (psychologically speaking) has an effect on play.

Two examples of how this has affected our boys:
1.)  Brown’s offensive zone drive
Dustin Brown has a uniquely powerful drive into the offensive zone.  You’ve seen this many times.  Brown quickly snatches up a puck along the boards and starts driving towards the opposing net.  A defender, sometimes two, will get between him and the net.  He keeps the puck by the boards and leans his body into the defender to continue the drive.  He typically gets to the net and then passes it or shoots it.  Due to the effective coaching of San Jose, this has been nullified several times by the defense getting an extra body in to shut Brown down.  (This is the same drive you saw when he leaned too hard and smashed his thigh into Elliot’s pipe in the STL series)

2.)  Kopitar’s offensive zone drive
With Kopitar’s height and strength, he often skates into the offensive zone while leaning at an awkward angle.  He keeps one hand on his stick, puck at maximum length, and uses his other hand and body to lean hard into opposing players.  This puts the puck as far as possible from the opposing player, keeps the puck driving forward and frees up his linemates to get into position.  Each time he’s attempted this in this series, he’s found an extra defensive body to shut him down.

Chemistry, chemistry, chemistry.  Something has happened to our boys here.  Passes don’t connect, plays aren’t successful and there seems to be a lack of supportive actions.  Meanwhile, the Sharks are cycling well and supporting each other well.

Greene and Clifford were in tonight, which should be a solid plus to the team.  Toffoli is now playing regular shifts which is great to see.  During the first period (which was awful), all I could think about was the fact that the boys have a ridiculous win record on home ice and we play 2 more games in Staples.  I was at the watch party tonight, and Jay Flats stopped by to mention, “They look really slow right now.”  I would have to agree.  I don’t think it was necessarily due to our boys being slow in terms of speed but rather a lack of connecting passes and chemistry.

The boys are already struggling in the first period.  Fraser then draws a penalty for hooking in an attempt to slow down the San Jose forecheck.  This was an unnecessary penalty to draw and accomplished nothing.  San Jose’s passes and puck cycling in front of Quick are great.  They’re able to pass and play the puck with near impunity as their plays are not broken up.  Greene was looking good tonight.  He had the presence of mind to smack several pucks out of mid air (was he playing baseball during his time off?  Maybe Wii tennis?)  The penalty call on Drew Doughty (in my mind) was a bad call.  His “slashing” looked to be normal agitation and did not affect the outcome of the play whatsoever.  Meanwhile, San Jose continues to agitate and get under the boys’ skin successfully.

At the end of the first period, Penner looked very strong as he has the entire postseason.  He was great with puck protection and digging the puck out of the corners.  I love the Lewis/Penner/Toffoli line and hope to see great things from them in the very near future (as in Thursday.)

At the beginning of the second period, the boys hadn’t had a shot on goal since 10:02 of the first period.  Shortly after the beginning of the period, Brown and Couture collided in a magnificent manner.  I was rather hoping that Couture would limp off again to put on a show hoping to draw some discipline.  Toffoli skated towards Niemi and provided him with a little snow shower, which prompted the San Jose boys to lose their minds.  The same thing happens to Quick the entirety of each game, yet nothing is done about it.  Quick did shove someone tonight, followed by a pimp slap with his glove hand to another.  A ref skated over to discuss it with him, but I imagine Quickie explained he was simply defending himself.

Quick Scrappy

At this point in the game, Jay Flats stopped by again to say, “I think we’re going to start cheering any time we win a faceoff.  Need to get some energy going.”  I can’t argue with that, San Jose has had great success with face off draws.  Fraser received a roughing penalty, which again irritated me.  Fraser’s play was just sloppy tonight and he was buying into the agitation that San Jose has been providing.

Something the NBC Announcers irked me with tonight- the phrase “attempt to use the defender as a screen.”  This phrase was applied every time a Shark fired off a shot, as though they are absolute geniuses.  The penalty to Galliardi felt like a teeny tiny bit of justice.  He received a penalty for attempting to work on his MMA skills in Quick’s crease.  On this penalty, we saw the best puck cycling and play building we’ve seen all night and I was quite hopeful the boys would bury something.  None of the pucks managed to get through as San Jose defenders blocked the shots before they got to Niemi.

One play in the 2nd period really irked me.  Fraser was shoved to the ice and then punched, which was not called by a zebra.  This left a guppy open for a 2 on 1/semi breakaway chance which Quick managed to stop with a magnificent glove save.  Also in the second period, we saw the absolute heart breaking play by Muzzin.  Wide open net, and Muzzin elevates the puck up and above the cross bar.

Muzzin

Greene gets a high sticking which is unnecessary.  Buddy of mine requests that I quote him saying, “Quote me on this.  What the puck.”  (He thinks he’s punny.)

Burns absolutely destroys Richardson with an ass to stomach body slam.  I think he was actually knocked down by the force of the critters and stench of wet dog smell coming off of Burns’ beard and hair, but that’s another discussion.  Jay Flats cut in with “If I were Richardson right there, I think I would have simply died.”

In the last few minutes of play, the boys made a great push.  If only they had played the previous 56 minutes like this, the game would have ended differently.

Goal Breakdown

0-1 Burns, with assists by Thornton and Galiardi
Voynov goes to chase down the puck.  Thornton snatches it up, passes it to Burns who fires off a shot.  Thornton picks up the rebound, feeds it to Burns cross crease who slaps it in.  Carter attempts to cut off the pass and doesn’t quite get there in time.  Quick is covering short side, defenders didn’t cover cross crease.

0-2 Couture, with assists by Boyle and Pavelski
Powerplay goal.  Pavelski passes to Boyle at the slot.  Boyle fires off a rocket, Couture tips it in.  Kings are in the middle of a line change when Couture rockets up the side.  This leaves only Scuderi and Greene to defend.  Puck deflects off Couture’s knee and bounces past Quick.

1-2 Richards, with assists by Carter and Kopitar
Powerplay goal.  Kopitar passes to Carter, who quickly snaps off a shot.  Pavelski blocks it, it bounces back to Kopitar.  He again passes to Carter, who fires off another shot.  Niemi sprawls out to stop it, and Richards manages to contort his body around the edge of the pipe to get a stick in and force the puck past Niemi.

Netminder Breakdown

Quick ended with a .913%, stopping 21 of 23 shots.  He looked good again, making several huge saves to keep the boys in the game.  I don’t know how many more ways or times I can say it.  Quick’s shoulders are broad, and he’s carrying this team through a rough patch.

Niemi ended with a .957%, stopping 22 of 23 shots.  14 of these 23 shots came in the third period.  We only had 3 shots on goal in the first period, followed by only 6 in the 2nd.  Niemi wasn’t made to work all that hard, as the shots were not good scoring chances.

Roster Breakdown

Scratches for tonight:
Jarret Stoll (injury)
Tanner Pearson (not needed with Clifford back in tonight)
Jordan Nolan (out for Toffoli)
Alec Martinez (out for Greene)
Keaton Ellerby (out instead of Muzzin, Skadi knows why)

Boxscore, Stats for the Game

Shots: LAK 23, SJS 23

CATEGORY LAK SJS
POWER PLAYS 1/3 1/4
HITS 53 36
FACEOFF WINS 26 34
GIVEAWAYS 7 14
TAKEAWAYS 1 12
BLOCKED SHOTS 17 25
PENALTY MINUTES 8 6

Watch Party Experience

Tonight’s watch party had probably the lowest attendance I’ve seen yet.  This puzzles me, seeing as it’s a playoff game at 7pm.  In attendance tonight were Jay Flats, Carrlyn, Alexis, Jessica, Hannah, Jake and Mikey.  Bailey as well, of course.  Mike Lavender made a civilian appearance tonight as he was there to hang out, enjoy the atmosphere, and support the team.  He arrived in lovely salmon colored shorts with a white loopover belt and a button down.  (BTW, it’s his birthday this weekend so toss him a happy birthday when/if you see him!)  Tonight’s giveaways were plentiful and great.  A Justin Williams game used, signed stick.  A team signed stick.  A replica Stanley Cup.  Two Carter signed pucks.  Two tickets to either game 7 of this series or game 1 of the next.

They also did a “hat off the head” giveaway with hats coming off of the heads of the lovely Carrlyn, Alexis, Jessica, and Hanna.  During 1st intermission, they played the always interesting “Who wants to date a Kings’ fan?” game.  Carrlyn was the question provider tonight, and the questions/answers were as follows.

If you had a day with the cup, what would you do with it?
Contestant 1: Drink beer out of it.  All day long.
Contestant 2: Take it to the local ice rink so all the kids could see it.
Contestant 3: Take it to the lake and use it to fish.  (What?)

If Bailey were to have a little mascot friend, what kind of animal would you be and what would your name be?
1- Tony the Tiger (because his name is Anthony?)
2- A bear (a lion, a tiger, a bear, I see what happened here.)
3- A wolf, because wolves are better than coyotes.  (Jay says, “Even squirrels and ferrets are better than coyotes…”)

If you were a hockey player would you rather have your teeth knocked out or a broken nose and why?  (At this point, contestant 1 was eliminated)
2- I would rather have the broken nose, because a smile is too important
3- I would rather have my teeth knocked out because I need to breathe and a broken nose is hard to breathe out of.

If you could switch names with any Kings player, who would it be and why?
2- Robin, because I’d still have a girl’s name
3- Drew, because he has a cool name.

What is your hockey superstition?  If you don’t have one, make a cool one up.
(Jay says he’s still wearing the same underwear he had on in game 6 of last year)
2- Always wear my Kopitar jersey with a different King’s shirt underneath
3- Purple crown jersey, Bailey hat, and playoff beads

Contestant number 3 won a pretty cool Kings’ blanket that zipped up each side.

At this point, Jay decided to inform us that he had a “real, legit, replica Stanley Cup championship pin to go with a shirt”  (Real, legit replica made me giggle a bit.)

A little girl won a replica ring tonight, so Jay told her she could “Wear it around her wrist.”  She jumped up and down on top of her seat, which I thought was just a perfect picture of a future life long Kings’ fan.

Bailey was feeling frisky tonight, I believe he had some catnip prior to the game.  He walked over and fork fed me a portion of my salad, followed up by petting two women on the head and finished off by making out with a dude wearing a Bailey jersey and hat.  He also was climbing all over the place and cavorting.  One of my favorite moments of the night was when Jay asked if anyone could translate mascot, so Mikey translated Bailey asking us all to say a prayer for the boys.

The environment was great tonight.  The room was perfectly sized to house the number of attendees, so it felt intimate.  Again I say that this is the only way to watch a road game, since we can’t head over to Staples.  Jay and the ice crew did a good job tonight.  I am sure some of the Ice Crew are thinking about and preparing for the upcoming tryouts, when they will have to give their absolute best to come back again for next season.

Jessica competed in a roster challenge tonight and managed to somehow stress out and flip flop Fraser/Williams numbers as well as Ellerby/Muzzin’s numbers.  She told me later on she’d never forget again as she is now traumatized for life.  I thought the Alexis/Hanna/Jessica/Carrlyn group tonight did a great job of roaming the room chatting people up and keeping spirits high as the game went on, in spite of poor performance on the part of our boys.  Jessica especially was radiant and excited tonight.  Hanna did a great dance down the aisle to Black Eyed Peas to get everyone up and moving.  Carrlyn always does a great job on the mic and with the crowd.  Alexis sold quite a few raffle tickets tonight, I’m sure, as she roamed the room.

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