Monarchs continue offensive onslaught - Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010
The Monarchs routed the Portland Pirates 6-1 Saturday night and have has scored 13 goals in their last two games heading into a trip to Worcester today. "It was really great to see our guys playing a complete game from start to finish," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "I thought all four lines were rolling. We had strong goaltending and our (defense) moved the puck as well as we've moved it all year. We just hope we can bottle it" [...] The Manchester onslaught began 2:36 into play as Corey Elkins scored his sixth goal of the season. Patrick Mullen's shot from the point was stopped by Leggio and Elkins banged [in] the rebound [...]. Oscar Moller made it 2-0 at 9:30, finishing off a give-and-go with Andrei Loktionov. [...] Brayden Schenn scored the third Manchester goal, tipping an Andrew Campbell shot in from close range at 13:43. Justin Azevedo completed the four-goal salvo with a laser one-timer off a Brandon Kozun pass in the right circle. The early bulge gave Monarchs rookie goalie Martin Jones (34 saves) some breathing room. "When you get that kind of goal support it's easy to get comfortable in there and know that if you do give one up, they're going to be there for you," Jones said. [...] The Monarchs got the lead back to four goals on a Moller tally at 4:04. Loktionov's shot from the left circle was stopped by Jhonas Enroth (in to relieve Leggio), but Moller was able to knock the rebound in on the right post. Manchester closed the scoring with the only goal of the third period. Ray Kaunisto scored his third of the season [...]. The two lopsided wins in as many nights has Morris believing that his team has turned a corner. "It appears to me (that) guys have taken ownership of the team now," Morris said. "Once that happens, that buy-in from our players and they know what they need to do to win it makes it so much more fun for everybody involved."
- Oh, the Kings? Yeah, they scored a goal on a 5-on-3 power play.
- Breakdowns happen. Jack Johnson had four turnovers, but I can't blame him on the one that led to the first goal.
- The second goal was an example of what happens when you drive to the net.
I think there may be a problem with goal support. As I pointed out in the Quick/Bernier/Ersberg post, less than 3 goals = a loss most of the time; more than 3 = a win most of the time.
- Also, I can tell you why the Kings went from 0-6 to 1-6 over the last 13 games.
Anze Kopitar Dustin Brown and Smyth/Loktionov/Richardson/Parse/Simmonds/Handzus/King have been the Kings #1 line all season. Conventional wisdom is that teams are keying on Kopitar and shutting him down, thus leaving the second line -- Smyth/Stoll/Williams -- relatively unfettered. This, the theory goes, explains the second unit's success. Kopitar is drawing the fire of the opponent's best players.
So QUALCOMP, which measures the quality of the competition a player faces, ought to show Kopitar and Brown at the top of the heap. Here's the Kings' forwards QUALCOMP ranking, from stiffling competition to weakest (top to bottom):
If you limit that list to players who have played 10 or more games, Kopitar and Brown are at the bottom of the list.
I think what's happened is (apart from the obvious key injuries), other teams were keying on Kopitar's line to start the season, and the second line took off, and teams realized -- somewhere along the way -- that they had better key on the Stoll line instead, and now they are; the second line is neutralized, and the first line, which is skating against weaker opponents, still isn't getting it done.
There is a stock response to any criticism of Kopitar. It's, "what do you expect with wingers like [insert whomever]?" I have said a million times I don't think it's reasonable or even rational to blame a bunch of (mostly) rookies for not magically elevating Kopitar's game to Kopitarian levels.
(p.s. the power play would be much improved if you just brought up Moller, Loktionov and Schenn and gave Brown and Kopi a rest; I'm not actually suggesting this; it's generally bad form to sit $11MM of salary in favor of a really hot AHL line; but seriously, does anyone think they would do worse?)
Unless Lombardi is planning on bringing in a legitimate top-six left winger (doesn't have to be Dustin Penner), I don't think Murray has much of a choice but to break up the second line. Teams know what to do now, and they're doing it.
I just remembered something good about tonight's game: the line of Clifford/Handzus/Lewis looked really scary and great. And Quick was sharp. So there you have it. It's not all doom and gloom.
(BONUS HAPPINESS: With tonight's win, Martin Jones' GAA dropped to 1.39, SV% up to .954, still good for second in the AHL. Not bad for a rookie playing his first pro games.)