Flames @ Kings Recap: Cruise Control
Just one year ago, a Kings-Flames matchup was a high stakes showdown with big playoff implications. This time, the contest teetered on the edge of ho-hum.
On Wednesday night, the Flames suffered a Kings-Bruins style thrashing when they lost to the Ducks 8-3. Throughout the night, the Flames largely look disconnected and were broken up into series of good individual efforts with no greater playmaking. This was on top of the fact that they were no doubt tired from the night before. What resulted was a game that wouldn't be unfair to call rather boring. Playoff contention has sparked some playoff hockey from many teams, and what we saw was nowhere near the delight to which we've begun to adjust.
Both the Kings and the Flames eased out of the gate in the first period. For the Kings, it simply felt like they were taking their time and feeling the game out. There seemed to be no impetus to get to the net for the Kings, and as for the Flames, they were simply outmatched once they get inside their opponents' blue line. They could not get close to the net or get any kind of cycle going. In short, it felt like I imagine a Minnesota Wild game against the New Jersey Devils would.
The Kings finally decided to pick things up and try the last five minutes of the first period. They began to pile up consecutive shot attempts and chances. At this point, a new trend started to emerge - Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter could do whatever they wanted. In Kopitar's case, he could endlessly cycle below the goal and do a quick turn to lose his defender and open up space. He just never could find Tanner Pearson or Dustin Brown open to make the possession particularly dangerous. In Carter's case, the situation was worse for the Flames. Milan Lucic carried the puck along the boards basically at will, and the superior stick handling of Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli gave the Flames nightmares. Their only chance to get zone pressure relief was basically for the Kings to fail on a shot attempt and give the Flames a clear.
There were certainly more low points for the Flames. Despite getting two power plays, they failed to get a single shot on net. With just three attempts over the entire four minutes, the Flames' power play looked just as bad as their evens play. This is not to say that the Kings looked particularly effective on their own man advantages, but Jeff Carter did break open the scoring on a nice redirection from a Drew Doughty point shot. Speaking of Carter, the Kings' second goal, and his second as well, was probably the highlight of the night. On a rush situation, Milan Lucic foiled a defender in good position by reversing in front of the net for a behind-the-back pass that sneaked through a defender's skates and found Carter for the easy goal.
Baby got behind-the-back pic.twitter.com/jw1bD3PKHT— LA Kings (@LAKings) April 1, 2016
Jeff Carter would ultimately score the Kings' third and final goal when a rush with Anze Kopitar and Andy Andreoff paid off. Andy managed to not screw up simply going to the net and letting Carter's pass redirect in past a bamboozled Joni Ortio. They even gave Andy credit for his goal! This probably still wasn't as high in excitement as the Flames' disallowed goal for incidental contact earlier when the Kings had only a two goal advantage.
According to war-on-ice, the Kings racked up 32 scoring chances at 5v5 play. It never felt like that high of an event game because it felt like neither side was trying to the full extent of their ability, whether due to tiredness or a simple desire to cruise given the Kings have a playoff berth. Despite this, Nic Dowd managed to have his worst game, with some costly turnovers down low and finishing miraculously with a negative shot attempt differential. His presence, and the lack of Kris Versteeg for Andreoff, simply feels an attempt to get those players some more games in. It seems like a fair strategy, but it'd also be nice to get a sense the Kings care at least a little about seeding and who their first round opponent is, especially when Marian Gaborik may be a second round playoff option only.