Los Angeles Kings (last week: 2-1)
It hasn't been a great start for the Kings, but they made it through their first three games with four points. The season started off great with a tight, physical win over the Vancouver Canucks, the team that eliminated the Kings from the playoffs last season. The Kings then followed that high with a low, losing and mostly getting dominated by the Calgary Flames. Yesterday, the Kings started off looking they like they did against the Flames and finished looking like they did against the Canucks. The result? A 3-1 win, led by Ryan Smyth's two third-period goals.
The Kings have had most of their trouble in two areas: entering the zone and taking bad penalties. The Kings' big focus this training camp was on increasing their 5-on-5 scoring, with Terry Murray promising that the Kings would have more creativity from their forwards and pressure from their defense. That hasn't happened; instead, the Kings have looked listless in the offensive zone, without their trademark cycling behind the net that was somewhat effective. The Kings either need to open up the system more and allow two men to break up the ice or they need to close it down and be content with their low-scoring ways.
As for the penalties... boy, have there been some bad ones. The penalties are by and large lazy penalties, from holds to trips to slashes to hooks. Last night, Jack Johnson got a penalty for holding onto the puck for too long. Rob Scuderi got a penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. They're not just bad penalties, they're stupid and lazy and they need to be fixed. The Kings have been saved by their penalty killing so far this season, but they can't rely on that for long periods of time. They need to start skating.
The positive the Kings can take from this week is that they haven't played all that well and yet they're still 2-1. They have a pretty soft week coming up (only one game in the next seven days) so they have some time to adjust their lines and their systems if they need to. Or maybe someone just needs to tell them that the season has started.
Anaheim Ducks (0-3)
I had my doubts about the Ducks this season but I had no idea they would get off to this poor a start. I mean, they have been TERRIBLE. A few things to chew on:
- The Ducks' top line: three games, 0 Pts, -12, 52 PIM
- The Ducks' 4th line: three games, 0 Pts, -4, 26 PIM
- One player has scored for the Ducks this season
- The Ducks have three players with a point on the roster: Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, and Cam Fowler
- The Ducks are first in penalty minutes, first in fighting majors and first in minor penalties
- The Ducks have more roughing penalties (13) than second and third place COMBINED
- Jonas Hiller has a .900 save percentage and a 4.62 goals against average
- The Ducks have allowed 46 shots per game; they are getting outshot by 17 shots a game
- The Ducks are 8th in penalty kill percentage (90.9%) so... silver lining I guess.
It's not hard to see where the Ducks are going wrong:
everywhere they simply do not have the puck for a great majority of the game. The other team is holding possession constantly, which leads to either a shot or a penalty on the Ducks. They aren't breaking into the zone because they're not getting first passes from the defense and they're not preventing zone entry because they're not getting back-checking from their forwards. Neither unit is working together at all. The already depleted Ducks defense is hurting from the loss of steady Toni Lydman and experienced Andy Sutton; while neither player is a world-beater, they're still legit NHL defensemen. Can't really say that about their replacements.
The Ducks' top line, meanwhile, has been unconscionably bad. It's not just that they're slumping and not producing; they have blown games and taken unnecessary penalties. It's childish and pathetic. Take Tuesday's game, when the Ducks were losing 4-1 near the end of the 2nd. It's bad, but it's not insurmountable if the Ducks can get their game together. Instead, Corey Perry decks David Perron away from the puck, then Bobby Ryan jumps Perron and shoves his head into the ice while they're down.
David Perron weighs 180 lbs., by the way.
The Ducks ending up going on a seven-minute penalty kill, the Blues scored once, and Teemu Selanne didn't get on the ice for 12 minutes. And then there were two more fights and the game ended.
It's bad enough when the Ducks' top line can't be a positive on the ice, but they're killing the team when they're a negative. They're not kids anymore and they can't rely on Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger to save them; they need to actually lead their team, not cripple them.
There's no way the Ducks could possibly be this bad; the top line will get their act together, at least scoring wise, and Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu will pitch in some goals and the Ducks will win a few. Those games might be few and far between, though, unless someone comes in and saves the day. What is Scott Niedermayer doing these days, anyway...
Tonight: Anaheim Ducks vs. Vancouver Canucks (Home Opener), 7:00 PM
Friday: Anaheim Ducks vs. Atlanta Thrashers, 7:00 PM; Los Angeles Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks, 7:30 PM
Sunday: Anaheim Ducks vs. Phoenix Coyotes, 5 PM