Defending Staples appeared to hit a road bump on Thursday, as the Dallas Stars used a three-goal third period to defeat the defending champion Kings 5-2.
Dallas also got two goals from ageless wonder, Jaromir Jagr, who beat Quick on an early power play and then added an insurance goal at the 9:40 mark of the third.
Perhaps the Kings were a little overconfident heading into the third period after blasting the Blues with four third period goals on Tuesday, but Los Angeles played a sloppy final twenty minutes and on its heels the entire time after taking a short-lived 2-1 lead late in the second period.
Coach Darryl Sutter was quoted with this statement after the game:
"We didn't get good enough goaltending tonight," coach Darryl Sutter said. "We need to raise the save percentage. It's one stat that doesn't lie, right? ... If you're giving up four goals a game, you can't win. You need better goaltending and better defense. Simple. "
Yes! Better defense is the key!
And furthermore, if your defense lets your goalie out to dry on most of the goals scored against, then perhaps it is not so much your goaltender's fault, is it coach? On all four goals, the Kings defense broke down completely and Quick had no chance at stopping any of those attempts. Not even Superman could have stopped those shots, even though that was my nickname for Quick since he has taken over the number one job.
In fact, Mr. Sutter, you have made a mess of the goaltending situation thus far. Jonathan Bernier sat on his butt for the first eight games of the season before finally getting a chance to play against Anaheim on February 2nd. It was obvious that Quick needed some rest after undergoing off-season back surgery in October, but you insisted on playing Quick every night before it came to the point where he really NEEDED a night off and Bernier NEEDED to play.
Bernier has been solid all season in the games he has started right up until Tuesday against St. Louis after playing the night before. There is no reason for your backup goaltender to play back-to-back nights unless there is something wrong with your #1 guy. Unless Quick was not ready to go Tuesday, then what was your reasoning besides the fact Bernier had been the hot hand? Now, Quick gets both games against Dallas and Calgary, so obviously there was nothing wrong with him Tuesday.
The Kings were the better during the first period and into the second period right up until the Stars' Cody Eakin danced in past both Kings' defenders and finished a pretty individual play past Quick. Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen helped shut the door on several quality scoring chances the Kings did have while the Stars took over the game in the third.
On Saturday against a non-playoff contender, the Kings got on the board early again, as Jeff Carter neatly placed home a perfect pass from Dustin Brown for his 17th of the season, but again the defense broke down allowing for the Flames to keep up.
Los Angeles could not stay out of the box, as Calgary found the net on Mike Cammalleri's open net goal off a beautiful fake shot pass from Dennis Wideman. Perhaps Quick went down way to early, as he was faked out intially, but still a pretty play.
The Kings would then build up a 3-1 lead after goals from Jake Muzzin and Trevor Lewis, but the Flames answered with a goal with just 17 seconds left on the clock as Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov let both Alex Tanguay and Mark Giordano slip in on a 2-on-0 against Quick.
That defensive lapse seemed to wake up the Kings, allowing just twelve Calgary shots the rest of the game and the offense took over the third period as it had done previously in the week.
I had been a little critical of the play of Jake Muzzin a week or so ago, suggesting that he had been a little overmatched against the stronger teams, but he has certainly answered the call delivering some thunderous checks against the Blues and Stars and has also allowed his offensive ability to take over.
Muzzin's goal in the first period showed extraordinary patience to let the defender slide across in front of him to open up a shooting lane. His wrist shot from above the circle had eyes that snuck over Kiprusoff's shoulder and just under the crossbar.
In his last five games, Muzzin has been one of LA's top performers, with a plus seven rating, scoring three goals and adding a pair of assists. The 24 year-old blue liner has also logged an average of just over 21 minutes of ice time in those five games, and should also see more time on the power play. The kid is playing with unmistakeable confidence at the moment, and is making the organization completely forget about Willie Mitchell for the time being.
Who needs Willie Mitchell when you got Jake Muzzin!?
Even Dustin Penner has stepped up his physical presence on the ice, chipping in an assist in each of the last five games with a plus one rating.
Simply stated, the Kings need to sweep this series against the Flames on Monday after getting it through to the Flames on Saturday night that they are no match for them. Calgary will try to control the tempo early, but in the end the Kings should be able to earn the necessary two points. LA will need to stay out of the box and get it going from the opening face off. No time to fool around.
After Monday, the Kings will play five straight against divisional foes, with road games in Phoenix and San Jose Tuesday and Thursday before coming home to host San Jose Saturday then Phoenix for another two-game set the following Monday and Tuesday.
This stretch would be a good time for the Kings to earn some exclusive points against its own division and solidify a top eight playoff spot.
LA will need both Quick and Bernier to step up their game against its hated rivals.