HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 6:00 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: The Copper & Blue
But First, This
Willie Desjardins joined the NHL Network yesterday and shared the following nuggets:
- “I think the power play’s always a key.” In response to a question about what it is about the team that’s been different over the last two games, which they won, versus other games in which they struggled. The Kings scored two power play goals against Edmonton but failed to even register a shot in three opportunities with the man advantage in Vancouver.
- “They’re not happy with the way the year’s going.” On what he’s learned about the team he now coaches. Understatement of the year perhaps.
- “I’m trying to juggle the team and I’m trying to juggle Kovalchuk and sometimes they don’t work together.” In response to yet another question about Kovalchuk’s ice time. “Since we cut back his ice time, we won a couple of games, but that can be misleading as well [...] It’s best for the team if he can come out and play well and contribute offensively.” In other words, one big verbal shrug from the coach.
- And then also, regarding Kovalchuk on the power play: “That unit just doesn’t get enough ice time. [...] We don’t seem to draw a lot of penalties.” Last time I checked, ice time distribution was something in the coach’s control?
Pretty much all hockey people speak in platitudes and cliches. Getting a straight, candid answer out of anyone is like pulling teeth. Players will look you straight in the face and say “get pucks in deep” and as a media professional, you have to try very hard not to laugh at them. Darryl Sutter was renowned for his short, generally meaningless answers to media. Not everyone is Dean Lombardi, loquacious to a fault.
So on one hand, expecting something different from Willie Desjardins is pointless. It’s wishing for something that’s never going to come.
On the other hand: oh boy was that a frustrating six minutes of audio to listen to.
So just, I don’t know, keep that in mind while tonight’s game unfolds.
I’ll admit that going into the previous game against the Oilers, I didn’t have much optimism that the Kings would come away with even a moral victory, let alone two actual whole NHL standings points.
That they beat the Oilers with Cal Petersen in net, on the back of a Dustin Brown hat trick, makes the victory all the more sweet, and, perhaps, surprising. Petersen stopped four shots from Connor McDavid and generally stood on his head for the Kings, and the team finally repaid him for it by not making him sweat out a victory until the very last seconds. Goal support? What’s that? Sounds like a very foreign idea.
Keep an eye on ice time distribution tonight — yes, including Ilya Kovalchuk. Desjardins’ reasoning for Kovalchuk’s sub-seven-minute performance against the Oilers was that he was trying to keep him away from McDavid, who would double shift and generally play all the minutes (24:27, highest of anyone on the Oilers other than Oscar Klefbom). If Desjardins couldn’t figure out how to get Kovalchuk away from McDavid at home, where the Kings have the last change, I’m curious to see how he’ll do it on the road, where the Oilers have the advantage.
The Oilers continue to be exactly what we know they are: a Connor McDavid-driven machine. If teams won Stanley Cups based solely on one player’s ambition, the Oilers would have a whole lot more hardware hanging around already.
It’s the supporting cast around McDavid which hasn’t quite been up to the task, for one reason or another. Right now, McDavid’s on a line with Leon Draisaitl (very good) and … Alex Chiasson? That’s right — Chiasson, who joined the Oilers on a PTO after winning the Stanley Cup with the Capitals last year, is the latest unlikely winger to suit up next to McDavid. And he’s already got that McDavid bump working for him: Chiasson has 10 goals in 18 games, already surpassing his nine goal, 61 game campaign last season. He’s well on his way to beating his career high of 13 NHL goals, set with the Dallas Stars in 2013-14.
Another surprising success story for the Oilers is Mikko Koskinen, a 30-year old Finnish goalie signed from the KHL. Koskinen has been remarkable and perhaps has been keeping the Oilers afloat as Cam Talbot has struggled. Koskinen gets the nod tonight after a shut-out win over the Dallas Stars. He’s 6-2-1 on the season with two shut-outs. Not bad for a guy that most people had never heard of before this year.