Friday, January 7, 2011

Blaming the goalie

L, 3-6
L, 4-7
L, 0-1
L, 3-4
L, 2-5

GAA: 2.09
GAA: 3.09

Hockey is similar to baseball in one key way. The season strings together wins and losses in bunches, with a team rarely containing the talent it displays during a long win streak and rarely missing the talent it seems to lack during a losing streak. Perception is a funny thing. If the Kings were winning 2 games and losing 1, losing 2 and winning 1, you wouldn't see the kind of wholesale panic out of the fan base. But the maddening inconsistency, the stops and starts, wear on fans and players much like LA traffic.

Unfortunately, I now have to do something I generally dislike doing. I have to blame the goalie.

The scores you see at the top of the post are not particularly outrageous. Despite being perceived as an inherently low scoring game, hockey usually produces between 3 and 4 goals for the winning team. When compared with the goals against averages below, however, an immediate problem crops up. Goalies with near league-leading GAA's and save percentages should not allow 12 goals in 4.5 games. Backup goalies with crappy GAA's and save percentages shouldn't allow 11 goals in 2 games. Both of the Kings' Jonathans need to step back and reevaluate what has made each of them successful in the past and move back towards those mechanics and mindsets.

Goalies don't usually lose games. They can frequently singlehandedly win games, but it takes a rare combination of poor goalie play combined with good defense to start pinning losses on a netminder. And sadly, this is where Quick and Bernier have found themselves over the last few games. Quick is often faulted for making spectacular saves while struggling with simpler shots. His soft goals allowed are excused when he routinely makes one or two impossible saves a game.

But he hasn't. He's been out of position, slow to react, and blind to soft wrist shots. Bernier has been in position but even slower, susceptible to weak shots five-hole and top shelf. Watching Bernier move side to side tonight was painful, reminiscent of my own pathetic lateral movement, and Nashville exploited it for two of their five goals, and perhaps a third if you count a lazy leg extension.

The frustrating part of all of this is that the Kings really are a fundamentally good team. But they're last in the Pacific division and falling out of the playoff picture once again.

This is not a good time for the Kings to turn back in to the Kings.

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