All Hail, Trevor Lewis!
Kings 4, Colorado Avalanche 1
After a disastrous opening 30 minutes in Chicago last Sunday, the LA Kings have woken up and are once again playing up to its capabilities.
Okay, so the defending champs have won three in a row against the youthful Oilers, the weak Flames and the fragile Avalanche. Top dogs still need to find ways to overcome their opponents' weaknesses.
In the past three victories, the LA Kings have returned to the form bend but not break. In Edmonton, the Kings allowed a tying goal late in the second period, but did not break down. This time, the men in black waited to the last minute to break through, sort of toying with the young Oilers waiting for them to finally make a mistake. Trevor Lewis's shot-pass off the stick of Jeff Carter got the Kings two huge points.
In Calgary, one bad defensive breakdown led to a short-lived Flames tie game, but seconds later Trevor Lewis again led the counter-attack, firing in a rebound that put the Kings ahead for good.
On Saturday afternoon, the Kings smelled blood from the opening face-off and took it to the Avalanche, a team who had somehow beaten the Kings five straight times.
Giving Colorado some credit, their power play goal in the second period had seemed to take some of the momentum away from the Kings, but a very soft goal allowed by Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov on an LA penalty kill killed any chances of Colorado earning a sixth straight victory over a vastly superior Kings squad.
Jarret Stoll made a Jonathan Quick-like sliding block on a blast from the point which could have evened up the score at 2-2. Instead, his block set up a two-on-one shorthanded rush in which Trevor Lewis slid a weak shot along the ice that somehow eluded Varlamov give-hole for a back-breaking goal.
At this point, the Kings are back to being one of the hardest teams to beat. I only see Chicago in the West being the Kings' number one nemesis to repeat a trip back to the Finals.
Keaton Ellerby has filled in nicely for Matt Greene and Davis Drewiske is playing much better than expected, and could be even a better option than Willie Mitchell, who I guess does not want to play this season for whatever reason.
The only guy I am not sure about is Jake Muzzin. At times he still looks overmatched, but against teams like Calgary and Edmonton, he seemed fine. I guess I would like to see how he fares in games against Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver. If the Kings are to repeat last year's success in the playoffs, then they will at least need Alec Martinez back.
This afternoon, Darryl Sutter had Muzzin paired with Drew Doughty again. With Muzzin being the weakest of the six defenseman, and Doughty a minus seven after being a plus 3 today, I would rather see Muzzin with a veteran like Rob Scuderi. Personally, I would match up Slava Voynov with Ellerby, Doughty with Drewiske, then Scuderi with Muzzin.
On Monday, the Kings will look to cool off the high flying Anaheim Ducks and seek revenge for an uncharacteristic 7-4 loss back on February 2nd.
Defending Staples will continue...
Scrivens' Capabilities Sliding Away?
Maple Leafs 2 @ Ottawa Senators 3
Since the Leafs blanked the depleted Senators a week ago, Ottawa had regrouped and won three straight.
In that game, the Senator replacements had skated well in their first action, but simply could not beat Ben Scrivens.
Tonight, it was not much different, except for the fact that Scrivens was not the same as he was last time out against Ottawa. Scrivens and the Leafs allowed two killer goals at bad times that led to the 3-2 loss.
As I have been saying about the Maple Leafs, when they lose it does not look good. Tonight, they let the Senators steal two points; one from them and the other to Ottawa's regulation win thanks to another night of poor goaltending and inexperience from Ben Scrivens.
Ottawa's second goal of the game came off a bad play by Korbinian Holzer. Holzer was caught flat footed, after deciding late against pinching in to keep a play in the Senators zone alive. Once the puck was cleared out, he was out of position.
Eric Gryba fired a drop pass on goal, which Scrivens could not handle. He juggled the rebound unsuccessfully, letting it drop to the ice as Erik Condra bolted for the loose puck and was knocked into Scrivens courtesy of Holzer, who I believe jolted the puck into the net from midair.
Dion Phaneuf was covering the initial entry into the zone, but seemed to give up on the play altogether as Holzer finally broke onto the scene and caused all hell to break loose including taking out his own goaltender from the play.
This was the second time this week in which bad, lazy plays from Phaneuf and Holzer cost the Leafs a goal and subsequently a chance at a victory. Perhaps it is time to mix up the defensive pairings a bit and Phaneuf back with Carl Gunnarsson. I am tired of seeing one mistake by the captain be amplified by another mistake by his rookie pairing.
Toronto was able to tie things up midway through the third period on a power play scramble in which Clarke MacArthur was able to find a loose puck and finally put it past Senator goalie Ben Bishop.
Bishop stood tall in net, stopping 26 shots in helping an Ottawa team without Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson, Peter Regin, Jason Spezza, etc. continue to find ways to win. Oh, and without their solid netminder Craig Anderson.
Ottawa and Montreal do not seem like very strong teams, especially with all of their injury and health problems to start this season, but somehow they are finding ways to win. Eventually, these teams are going to get healthier and the Maple Leafs are going to find themselves in a dog hunt to make the final eight. At some point, Toronto is going to need their guys back and ready to go. If James Reimer cannot stay healthy down the stretch, then the front office will have no choice to make a deal for a goaltender (Jonathan Bernier) in the off-season.
Why amplify the goaltender's position again? The third goal and decisive goal should never have happened for two reasons.
Scrivens made an easy glove save on an attempt from near the boards. I really don't think it was a legitimate shot on goal, more like a desperate attempt at a frozen puck Toronto end. At Ottawa's advantage, Scrivens decided to hold onto the puck despite having three white jerseys in front of him with no red jerseys threatening. Scrivens should have dropped the puck to a teammate, and allowed one of them to clear the puck and head to overtime with a point in the back pocket.
It was not to be.
Ottawa managed to win the ensuing face off and a shot from the point made its way to Scrivens, who again misplayed the puck allowing a juicy rebound. As the Senators all night had been driving to the goal, smelling blood, Colin Greening beat Gunnarsson to the puck and masterfully swatted the puck out of midair and into the back of the net.
Two mistakes, seconds apart in the final seconds of the third period in a tie game is not acceptable. These are the types of mistakes that will ultimately destroy a teams' chance at making the playoffs in the end. Perhaps Randy Carlyle should have used his timeout after Scrivens decided not to play the puck? He could have used that as an opportunity to make sure all his guys on the ice at the time were on the same page after his inexperienced goaltender made a rather poor decision.
In the end, the Maple Leafs lost a point and gave another one away. This game still shows that the team is indeed a work in progress, but I still think there is more good ahead in the next thirty or so games than bad.
The eventual return of Reimer, Joffrey Lupul, Matt Frattin and Jake Gardiner will be the driving force that should get this team back in the playoffs. Right now, a tandem of Scrivens/Rynnas and Holzer paired with Phaneuf are not going to get it done.
The Maple Leafs will head to Philly on Monday in a game that is sure to feature plenty of goals (bad goals to a minimum I hope for Toronto's sake), fights and lots of action. Toronto needs a better performance from Scrivens if they are to earn at least a point out of this one.
Sadly, I will not be able to watch it as I will be at the "Madhouse on Madison" for the Oilers-Blackhawks game.
I am glad to say that I am not one of those thousands of bandwagon fans in Chicago who just woke up and realized that Chicago had a hockey team. I was one of those poor souls sitting up in the 300 level five or so years ago watching the youthful 'Hawks lose to the Stars 7-2 and the Sharks 5-1...Used to get into the United Center for only $11 on a five year-old college ID and sit wherever I wanted to in a sea of red seats in the upper sections. Funny, now you cannot get a standing room only ticket for less than $40!
My father and I still split nine-game Bobby Hull plans since the 2005-06 season on top of our Chicago White Sox season ticket plans we have had since the 1986 season.
What a fair weather city we live in here in Chicago...maybe that is one reason why they call it the "windy city"? Only show up when teams are doing well...
I do support the Blackhawks and enjoy going to games, but my heart is always with the Maple Leaf and the Crown...