...And then I woke up. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
The Kings are doomed. We all know this. I mean... yeah, sure, they could win. Will they? No. Can they? Well hey, anything can happen. Not this specific thing, said thing being the Kings winning, but you know what I mean. In some far-off world, a magical land where Maggie and I are sea captains and hang out with Anze Kopitar's un-shredded ankle tendons, the Kings could win. Here's how they could:
1) Stop Joe Thornton. The thing with Joe Thornton is that he's really, really good. Ridiculously good. Fabulously good. But one thing he's not is fast. What Joe does is create space with his bulbous ass while he lets the play develop in front of him. The only way to prevent him from doing this is to cut off that space and prevent Joe from moving around along the boards. It's easier said than done but it can be done. The Kings have 3 players that can effectively take away Joe Thornton's breathing room: Willie Mitchell, Michal Handzus, and Matt Greene.
Now, this is good news for the Kings. Other teams (the Avs, for one) can use their best defensive players against Thornton but then they end up getting carved up by shitty players like Joe Pavelski. The Kings don't really have that problem. They can put Handzus on Thornton and not worry about Handzus getting beaten down the ice (since both he and Thornton are fairly slow), and they don't have to exert all of Mitchell-Doughty's energy on stopping Joe.
If I were Terry Murray, I'd putt Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi on a line together against the Thornton line, with whatever line Handzus is centering out there as well. I think those 2 defensemen would work well together: Greene can work Thornton and Scuderi is our best 1-on-1 defender if Patrick Marleau or Devin Setoguchi get a fast break. And, best of all, the Kings still have their best defensive defenseman and their best offensive defenseman for the Sharks' next 2 lines.
(If you're wondering what I'd do with Jack Johnson: he'd play with Scuderi for a few shifts at even-strength against a non-Thornton line while also skating with Alec Martinez. Murray did something similar in the playoffs last year when he paired O'Donnell-Greene and Johnson-Jones/Harrold together.)
2) Shoot on the power play. The Kings scored on the power play last season not because they had a ton of movement, or because they were somehow able to overcome Jamie Kompon's idiocy; they were able to score because they moved the puck and put it on net. This season they've been standing around a ton, passing it back and forth while waiting for a hole to open up. A hole isn't going to open up if a player's not moving but it's also not going to open if the puck isn't moving either. You can score while standing still as long as the puck is moving.
"Rudy's computer broke at the last minute so he asked me to edit his story for him. Also, he's gay"! -Megalodon
It's too late in the game to get more movement on the power play since they haven't been playing that way all season. Instead, they just need to perfect the power play that they have. That means not cocking your stick in the air for 3 seconds at a time, Drew, and not skating backwards across the line before dumping into a teammate's feet, Jack. Move the puck quickly, don't hold onto it, and get it on net. What I'd do:
1st Unit: Smyth-Stoll-Penner, Doughty-Johnson
2nd Unit: Ponikarovsky-Handzus, Martinez-Doughty-Johnson
Fuck it, the Kings can't score with 2 defensemen so give 'em 3. For the first half of the power play, let Drew QB it while he's flanked by Stoll and Johnson to shoot. When Martinez comes on, move Johnson to the middle and make Drew the triggerman on his off-wing. Shoot the puck and use the big guys down low to crash the net. Use Penner & Handzus, respectively, in case the defense starts creeping up.
But mostly, just shoot. You know those assholes who yell, "SHOOOOOOOOT!" all the time? This time, they're actually right.
3) Punch Dany Heatley in the face. I mean, why not? Dude deserves it.
4) Go with what's worked. The Kings (or I guess Terry Murray, really) have mixed up the lines so much that we really have no idea what the Kings are going to go with. We know the Sharks will roll:
But the Kings? That is a mystery. An intentional mystery, I think, so Todd McClellan doesn't have a lot of time to think about how he'll match lines for these first 2 games. But I think we can still suss out a pretty good idea.
-The Kings have had 1 line that has worked in the past: Smyth-Stoll-Williams. It's not a great line and it'd scare the shit out of me against the Couture line but it's the best we got. Put them together.
-The Kings' other line that has worked in the past was Frolov-Handzus-Simmonds. Well, we have another big lug that Terry Murray hates, so why not throw him on there? Ponikarovsky-Handzus-Simmonds.
-Lewis-Brown worked for a few games and so did Richardson-Brown. I prefer Lewis because he's better defensively. Match them with Penner (this is why we got him, right?) and I think a Penner-Lewis-Brown line could be pretty good.
-The afterbirth from these 3 lines would be Clifford-Richardson-Moller/Westgarth. Yikes. But who cares? We're only playing 5 games, might as well roll 3 lines the whole time.
Handzus gets Thornton, Penner-Lewis-Brown gets Couture's line (if only because it'd be hilarious watching Clowe get more and more pissed at Brown as the series goes on) and Smyth-Stoll-Williams gets Pavelski's stupid face. The key is to convince McClellan that he should use the Pavelski line against Stoll's line (since it's by far the best offensive unit) and hope that line doesn't get demolished, thus giving the Kings 2 non-terrible matches with the other lines. If that happens, the Kings could be... I mean, maybe...
...Shit, I don't know. Fuck, Kopitar's like Lebowski's rug: he really ties the whole thing together. Oh well.
5) Get Really, Really Lucky. Not "Quick has a .933 SV%" lucky; that wasn't lucky enough last year. Not "Go 38% on the Power Play" lucky; that wasn't lucky enough last year either. Somehow luckier than that. Yeah, that would be cool.
I mean, it could happen. Maybe. Not really. Definitely not. But it could!
Prediction: Kings lose 4-2. I'm proud of them anyway.