Drew Doughty

Discipline has been key for Flames (also, how the NHL has changed since obstruction crackdown)

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Of all the things to admire about the surprising Calgary Flames — from the way they’ve overcome the loss of Mark Giordano, to all the shots they’ve blocked, to the skill and speed they’ve displayed off the rush all season — one of the more under-reported keys to their success has been discipline.

Did you know the Flames haven’t taken a single minor penalty in their last three games, all of them victories?

Did you know they’ve had eight games when they haven’t gone shorthanded, and that they’re 5-1-2 in those games?

Did you know they’ve only been shorthanded 182 times in all, the fewest in the NHL? (In contrast, they’ve had 253 power-play opportunities.)

The Flames aren’t the only disciplined team in the NHL. The Hurricanes, Blackhawks and Islanders don’t take many penalties either.

Of course, compared to 2005-06, which was the season following the lockout when the league made a commitment to crack down on obstruction, no team takes too many penalties these days.

Consider: The Winnipeg Jets have been shorthanded an NHL-high 306 times this season. That would’ve made them the most disciplined team in 05-06, when the Devils had to kill the fewest penalties (348) and the Capitals the most (550!).

Part of it is the players getting the message. But another part is the officials letting more go. The NHL can deny the latter, but it’s clear to anyone who’s watching that the standard has slipped, for better or worse.

For example, this wasn’t an interference penalty the other night in Vancouver:

source:

For the record, Alex Burrows wasn’t upset that Drew Doughty didn’t get penalized there. He was actually happy with how the officials let the Kings and Canucks play. How closely the game is called is a personal preference. It’s a balancing act. Too many power plays can ruin the flow. A little obstruction may help reduce injuries too.

But here’s another stat to consider:

In 2003-04, the season before the crackdown on embellishment, the Devils were shorthanded 266 times, the fewest in the NHL, and way fewer than the Flames will be in 2014-15.

That same season, the Ottawa Senators led the NHL with 80 power-play goals, and the 30 teams combined to score 1,717 power-play goals.

With two days left in the 2014-15 season, the Detroit Red Wings lead the NHL with 70 power-play goals, and the 30 teams have combined to score just 1,391 power-play goals.

Related: GMs to consider a “re-set” for obstruction rules

 

Eliminated Kings are disappointed and upset … but maybe a little proud?

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There’s no sense denying the fact that the Los Angeles Kings are unhappy about being eliminated from the playoffs. Still, just moments after the Calgary Flames crushed their hopes, some reactions give you the sense that the team hasn’t lost sight of some resounding accomplishments.

Head coach Darryl Sutter was mainly talking about the effort on Thursday when he praised his team to LA Kings Insider, yet it felt like he could have been discussing the season at large.

“We played hard. I got no complaints about anything to do with our team,” Sutter said. “Give the Calgary Flames lots of credit. Now, I get to pull for them.”

The Kings carried themselves like a team that has won two recent championships, even giving the Flames some kudos (beyond Sutter, who has some simple reasons to root for a franchise he toiled for years ago):

Even Kings bloggers seem to have some nice perspective on the situation.

Well, sort of.

Again, don’t get things twisted; the team is obviously upset about this letdown.

Still, you get the impression that the Kings still believe that they have the makings of a contender going forward. Assuming, of course, that there aren’t big changes this summer.

“As a defending Cup champion I don’t think there’s any way that you shouldn’t make the playoffs the next year,” Drew Doughty said to the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott. “It’s disappointing especially because of the group we had. Or have.”

A tight salary cap situation would indicate that the Kings probably will stick with this group, minus some key pieces (perhaps including Mr. Game 7, Justin Williams). Even if the message comes with a heavy heart, one cannot help but feel as if the Kings are really saying “We’ll be back.”

Video: Doughty beats Bachman with blast from center ice

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This made things interesting for a bit between the L.A. Kings and Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

Down two goals just before the midway point of the third period, Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty blasted a slap shot from center ice on Oilers goalie Richard Bachman. The puck somehow squeezed through Bachman’s legs, into the net, getting the desperate Kings back within a goal in a crucial game for the defending champs.

It wasn’t enough, however, as the Oilers held on for the 4-2 win, putting the Kings on the brink of elimination from playoff contention.

Embarrassed in Los Angeles, Oilers need to play ‘with a chip on our shoulder’ tonight versus Kings

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The Edmonton Oilers have a chance to get some revenge on the Los Angeles Kings for last week’s embarrassing 8-2 defeat at Staples Center.

You see, the Kings are in Edmonton tonight, and a loss for the defending champs would deal a serious blow to their playoff hopes.

“They embarrassed us last time, and frankly, I thought we looked like a junior team out there,” said Oilers forward Rob Klinkhammer, per the Edmonton Sun. “It was ugly. We just have to come in with a chip on our shoulder, play hard and play the right way. We can’t feed their game, they are super hungry, they’re making a push for the playoffs and they are a great team. We have to have our best game if we want to have a chance.”

Another factor in Edmonton’s favor, besides revenge, could be fatigue. The Kings played last night in Vancouver, where they lost 2-1 in a shootout. Drew Doughty logged almost 30 minutes in that one. Jonathan Quick was similarly busy in goal, where he faced 38 Canuck shots. There’s even been speculation Martin Jones could get the start tonight.

Of course, while the Oilers haven’t played since Saturday, they’re not counting on a diminished opponent.

“If we have the same effort that we had the other night in L.A., it’s going to be the same result,” said Taylor Hall.

Kings’ Sekera hurt during loss to Chicago

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Los Angeles, still battling for a playoff spot, has made life harder on itself with back-to-back losses on Saturday and Monday. The Kings will try to rebound Thursday versus Edmonton, but they might have to do so without the services of defenseman Andrej Sekera. The 28-year-old was hurt late in the second period of last night’s contest against Chicago.

“He fell on my leg, and I felt something went wrong, and that was the night for me,” Sekera told LA Kings Insider.

The Kings gave the Carolina Hurricanes a first-round draft pick and prospect Roland McKeown to acquire Sekera on Feb. 25. His presence has been a factor in Drew Doughty going from nearly 30 minutes per contest to an average of 27:26 minutes in March.

Sekera has a goal, four points, a plus-four rating, and has averaged 19:12 minutes per contest in 16 games with Los Angeles.

He’ll be evaluated today.

Related:

How bad are things for the Kings after Monday?