Late Night Update: Kings 4, Phoenix Coyotes 0
What a great save by former King Jason LaBarbera on a three-on-one chance on Justin Williams...
Jonathan Quick got the start and seemed to have returned to championship form. We got to see some "vintage Quick" tonight, as the Kings were in total control from beginning to finish.
Now, a bit more difficult decision for tomorrow as to who will be in goal. I have been very hard on Darryl Sutter for not giving Quick enough rest, but he did not have to work too hard tonight to be honest. I guess it would be ok to go back to him tomorrow then rest him against Dallas Thursday...Sutter just needs to be careful a bit.
Well, I have to give credit for the Kings tonight for playing a great game and looking like defending champions against the team they beat in the finals, the Phoenix Coyotes. But in all honesty, the Coyotes beat themselves tonight with some sloppy and uninspired hockey.
Los Angeles took advantage of several careless offensive zone Coyote penalties, including a delay of game against Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson for shoving the cage off its moorings when the Kings had a two-on-one chance from behind the net.
Twenty year-old Tyler Toffoli made no mistake on a partially blocked shot in front of Mike Smith and slammed home his first NHL goal. Hopefully, that will be the first of many for the big forward.
I have been very impressed with the confidence of Toffoli in these two games. In just 120 minutes of NHL hockey, the kid plays as if he has been in the league for years already. It is just amazing how the Kings can bring up youngsters who play with such a high level of confidence.
Regular Kings blogger Matthew Barry made a comment about Toffoli after Saturday's game against the Sharks that went a little something like this:
The Sharks had a chance to tie the game as newcomer Tyler Toffoli got beaten like a Mexican mule and resorted to slashing Wingels stick resulting in a penalty shot.
Toffoli wasn't bad playing on a line with Richards and Carter. He shanked a shot with a wide open net and was credited with one other shot in just over 13 minutes of ice time. I wonder how many scouts were in attendance tonight?
First of all, Toffoli just about made a great defensive play, trying to save Alec Martinez' butt after the defenseman had been caught in too deep in the offensive zone. It was just a shame that Toffoli had snapped the stick of Tommy Wingels. But what a heck of an effort.
Beaten like a Mexican mule? Not to sound racist, but Martinez is Hispanic isn't he? Perhaps you just picked on the wrong guy there?
Toffoli had a chance to redirect a hard shot, but just missed.
The youngster brings a lot of size, grit, skill and great hockey awareness to the team...and he is just 20 years old! My God Matt, just be happy the Kings have such talent to bring up and immediately fill into a highly structured, championship level system - and be effective!
Phoenix failed to show up tonight. They were totally out of synch right from the opening face off. And as defending champs, the Kings did not let them off the hook nor did they take their foot off the pedal.
Now, trying to tie this into the Toronto Maple Leafs struggles...
You look at the Kings, especially from this victory tonight, I can name about five to six guys who could easily wear the "C" for the Kings or for any other NHL team out there. LA is filled with leaders on and off the ice; Dustin Brown obviously, but then you got Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and perhaps Justin Williams.
Gee, I wonder why they play with such high level of confidence on most nights. There is so much accountability and defensive awareness. But in tonight's game, much of Jonathan Quick's shutout can be attributed to the back-checking by the Kings forwards. Several potential Coyote attacks were broken up by sticks from Kopitar, Brown, Carter, Richards and even Kyle Clifford, a fourth liner doing the job well coming from behind and hustling back into the play.
So, folks in Toronto need to pay attention to every little detail, When things aren't going so well defensively, you just cannot keep pointing the finger at guys like Phaneuf, Holzer, Kostka or anyone else. It is easy to blame goaltenders, and poor plays by the defensive pairings, and yes they have been brutal lately, especially Phaneuf and Holzer, but it is the responsibility of all five men on the ice to work hard in both zones. And if Toronto wants to get their act together and win games, that is what needs to be done.
Moreover, I hope the boys in Toronto got a chance to see the Kings game tonight or at least parts of it. They really should be taking notes. Instead of watching their own mistakes in video review sessions, why not watch the attention to detail that the Kings give the game, or other teams like the Kings; such as Boston, Chicago or Pittsburgh.
It comes down to how hard are the Maple Leafs willing to work. If they don't want to, then us die-hard Leaf fans are looking at another disappointing finish to a season, with no playoff hockey once again in the city of Toronto. Failure this time will be unacceptable and drastic changes will need to be made.
On the other hand, the Kings are willing to work hard, and the reward was a Stanley Cup...oh and on ice leadership is also pretty darn important and that comes with experience. Making the playoffs is just one big step towards maturity for the Leafs. It must be accomplished this season to continue any such faith in the current roster led by Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel...if I can say "led".