Say what you want the Kings’ new head coach, but one thing that Darryl Sutter has certainly been is successful. The Kings are unbeaten in regulation since the Sutter took over five games ago; and they’re 4-0-2 overall in their last six games as they continue to work towards a playoff spot. Despite the victories lately, the problem that the followed the team continues to hinder the club: scoring.
Sutter would like to tell you that those stats don’t matter. Who cares if they have the 25th ranked power play in the league? Who cares if they’re the worst scoring team in entire NHL (by a large margin)? Despite the persistent troubles with the man-advantage, Sutter likes what he sees from his new team.
“Our power play is awesome, other than the 5-on-3, in the two games we just played,” Sutter said after Saturday’s morning skate. “…I know, if I’m watching upstairs or I’m covering, I’m saying, `Oh, the power play,’ because it’s 14 percent or whatever, but you have to give them — especially the young players on the power play — you have to give them the ability to use their ability.”
Just to review, the Kings “awesome” power play has only scored twice in their last 42 opportunities. The 5-on-3 opportunity Sutter spoke about was nearly a full two minute, two-man advantage during the Kings 1-0 loss in Winnipeg. Having a strong power play is important for any team, but it’s even more important for a team that is struggling to score goals at even strength.
Perhaps that’s why the team practiced on their power play the day after a redeye flight from Manitoba (and back-to-back games).
Los Angeles will get to show what they learned tonight against the Canucks in their final game of 2011. At this point, fans at Staples Center may want a power play that is a little less awesome, and settle for one that is a little more productive.
Don’t look now, but Alex Ovechkin is starting to show flashes of—Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin dropped two more goals on Friday night to help lead the Caps to a 3-1 win over the struggling Sabres.
His first period goal on the man-advantage was his first power play goal at home in almost 10 months. It’s hard to believe that Ovechkin hasn’t scored a power play goal at the Phone Booth since the beginning of March. The sellout crowd at the Verizon Center even brought back the “O-Vie” chant. Looks like they’re ready to party like it’s 2009.
Despite Ovechkin’s slower start this season, he now has five goals in his last seven games. He’s still leading the high-powered Capitals in goals (14) and he’s second on the team in points. Does that say more about the lofty expectations fans have for Ovechkin or the underwhelming offensive performances of the rest of the team? Probably both.
Think about how dangerous the Capitals could be if their superstar sniper can start finding the net with some regularity like we had come to expect from him. Head coach Dale Hunter reunited the Nicklas Backstrom/Alexander Semin/Alex Ovechkin trio and it immediately paid dividends. The trio had five points against the Rangers on Wednesday and followed it up with six points against the Sabres on Friday.
“Goals we make are pretty plays but they were simple plays,” Ovechkin said about his new line combination. “We just have to continue what we do right now,” Ovechkin said. “It’s nice when you make some pretty plays and you score the goals, especially when the team needs it. It’s kind of good.”
It should come as no surprise that both games were impressive victories for the Caps. In fact, the Caps have posted a decent 4-2-1 record over a seven game stretch—the same seven game stretch that has featured a reemerging Ovechkin. It may not be the best run in the league thus far, but a few more 4-2-1 runs would at least have the Caps in a playoff spot.
Funny how a little goal scoring can make a coach look so much smarter.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
What could be the greatest compliment for Nicklas Lidstrom? Patrick Kane telling the world that he’s sick of playing him and wish he would just retire because he’s so good. (mlive.com)
Remember the ridiculous Bruins/Stars fight fest in Boston last year? The Razor boy remembers and has a hypothesis why it all went down. The rematch is tonight. (Dallas Morning News)
J.S. Giguere prepares to return to Anaheim to play for the first time since he was traded from the Ducks almost two years ago. “This game has been on my mind all year.” (Avalanche Official)
After missing six straight games with back spasms, the New Jersey Devils will get Henrik Tallinder back for their New Year’s Eve tilt against the Pens. (Star-Ledger)
More good news on the injury front: Andy McDonald is practicing with the Blues again. We all know that concussions take a while, but at least he’s out there with the “no contact” jersey. Baby steps. (Post-Dispatch)
This morning’s history lesson: Rangers fans can thank their own ownership for the formation of the Flyers. (NHL.com)
Coming into the World Junior Championships, Team USA expected to lean on Minnesota Wild prospect Charlie Coyle. So why was he stapled to the bench in a must win game against the Czech Republic? Apparently it’s rather difficult to play with the flu. (Coming Down The Pipe)
The Avalanche prepare for life without Matt Duchene. (Denver Post)
John Tortorella says that sometimes there’s “no honor” in the game; yet when his player pummels an unwilling opponent, it’s just a case of someone who “got what he deserved.” (NY Daily News)
Finally, Daniel Alfredsson shows everyone how to score a 400th goal in style. Yep, an OT game-winner will do just fine. (NHL)