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5 Thoughts on Kings-Red Wings
Los Angeles won, but it's still a good point for Detroit
DETROIT — The Los Angeles Kings beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 in overtime on Monday thanks to a pair of goals from Phillip Danault.
Fun game, fun night between two teams on the upswing. These are my thoughts.
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1. The Kings were coming off a win, but they weren’t exactly happy with how they played in a 7-6 victory on Saturday in Minnesota.
The general vibe in the Kings locker room after morning skate was one of relief, but also understanding that the first win of the season came as a gift from the poor play of Marc-Andre Fleury.
One player told me, “That wasn’t LA Kings hockey.”
Monday night wasn’t really “LA Kings hockey,” either, but it was closer to what Los Angeles wants to be.
The Kings were the better team, much better in fact, at 5-on-5, but won’t be happy with allowing the Red Wings to claw back multiple times. The late empty net miss in particular will be frustrating, but not as frustrating as it could have been after Phillip Danault scored in overtime.
2. From a Detroit perspective, this was the first real test for a young team.
The Red Wings were missing a pair of top-6 forwards, Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrana, were playing their third game in four nights, and actually faced an opponent with legitimate playoff aspirations this season.
And Detroit battled back from deficits of 2-1, 3-2, and 4-3 to force eventually overtime.
Dylan Larkin isn’t young, he’s the veteran trusted with guiding a young team, and he saved the game when he dove and stopped Viktor Arvidsson from scoring a gimme into the empty net with roughly 90 second remaining.
At the other end of the ice Oskar Sundqvist scored with 40.9 seconds remaining.
It was a tale of two dives for Detroit to salvage the point.
Earlier in the third period Detroit couldn’t contain a diving Anze Kopitar, who found a loose puck between a squadron of Red Wings to give the Kings a temporary 4-3 lead.
Later when, Detroit needed a dive of it’s own, Larkin delivered.
It’s a good point for Detroit, even though they didn’t win the game outright.
3. Personally, I’ve always felt too much gets made about a center moving to wing or vice versa.
Yes, the primary defensive responsibilities might change, but in general from the neutral zone forward, forwards are better categorized in the order they arrived on the forecheck — F1, F2, and F3 — rather than the official center or wing position.
I do think, however, it can cause a change in mentality and “moving to the wing” can be a coaching tool in that respect.
Gabriel Vilardi is an ideal example of that, he admitted so himself on Monday morning, and he’s adopted more of a shoot-first approach as a winger.
And that’s how he scored in the first period, pulling the trigger while using Moritz Seider as a screen, to beat Detroit goalie Ville Husso.
Vilardi, and his center Quinton Byfield, are living examples of confidence and how it can elevate younger players. Both came into this season building off strong finishes from the prior season, and felt added responsibility to deliver in roles they earned.
Byfield also said he noticed Vilardi’s confidence throughout Kings training camp and preseason.
“It’s a real thing,” Byfield said. “I think you saw it with him, and I know myself you feel like a different player when you’ve got that faith, confidence, in yourself.”
A lot has been made, rightfully so, about the Red Wings monstrous third line of Elmer Soderblom, Michael Rasmussen, and Sundqvist, but the Kings third line of Alex Iafallo, Byfield, and Vilardi have a similar impact with slightly less size.
They control the zone time, create pressure, and win the “field position battle,” as Red Wings coach Drek Lalonde called it earlier this week.
It’s also a nice sign of where the game has gone that a trio with that type of size is relied on for skill, and not the other extracurriculars that use to define monstrous players.
4. It’s becoming less common, but there are still typically a handful of players during warmups without helmets.
On Monday, there were a combined five sans helmet players between the Kings and Red Wings — Dylan Larkin, Ben Chiarot, Drew Doughty, Brendan Lemiuex, and Alex Edler — and one didn’t make it all the way through warmups after Edler took a puck to the face and was replaced in the lineup by Sean Walker.
As far as I know, the only team in the league with a rule about helmets for warmups is the Florida Panthers. General manager Bill Zito put that rule into place soon after he was hired, fearing have to explain an injury to a player because they weren’t wearing a helmet in warmups.
It’s probably a good rule.
As far as hockey ethos goes, a player typically earns the right to go through warmups by choice without a helmet after they’ve played 100 NHL games. It’s far from scientific, but I’ve always had the working theory that once visors became mandatory — players without are grandfathered in right now — the number of players choosing to ditch the helmet for warmups also started to dwindle.
5. Some other observations:
It’s notable how different the Red Wings play when Ville Husso is in net compared to Alex Nedjelkovic. Husso is a passive stickhandler, while Nedjelkovic is aggressive and want to push the play. Both approaches work, but it requires a different mentality from the defenders, particually when it comes to breakouts.
This is a goal of the year candidate if Soderblom scores.
I still don’t like the contract, but Ben Chiarot’s signing has gone better than I expected for the Red Wings. He brings some grit to a pair with Moritz Seider, and he drew Kevin Fiala into a bad penalty.