I was looking forward to working Thursday night's game between the Stars and the Kings for one reason -- and no, it wasn't to see how the stunningly out-of-sorts
In fact, outside of a pair of third-period defensive zone turnovers -- the kind that are inevitable when you handle the puck as much as he does -- Doughty performed like the most experienced player on the ice. Even without putting a point on the board, his impact in all three zones was undeniable.
But as impressive as Doughty was, another Kings rookie managed to snatch a bit of the spotlight for himself. 19-year-old center
Moller can't match Doughty the defenseman on the national buzz index, but he's quietly established himself as key component of the Kings' rebuilding effort. Watching him, it's hard not to think of another Bruin:
Moller went to camp, but wasn't physically ready to make the immediate jump last fall. That wasn't an issue this time around. Stronger and more confident, he's earned a spot on the second line with
The trio seems to be meshing well, but given Murray's propensity for mixing up his lines, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Moller lining up on L.A.'s top unit alongside
"You don't want to rush things, put a player in a position where he's less likely to succeed. [But] I don't think that would be a problem [for Moller]," one scout told SI.com. "He struggled through the first few games and you wondered if he'd get his game on track, but now he's just playing. You can tell he feels like he belongs."
"He plays with a lot of energy. He always finds a way to catch your eye when he's on the ice," another scout said. "The puck's always around him, and when he has it, he makes good decisions. He looks stronger, too. He looks ready to compete."
Anyone can scoop up a player when they're drafting in the top five. For a rebuilding team to expedite the process, they have to mine a few gems outside the first round. Moller may need some more polishing, but the Kings look to have a pair of jewels in him and Doughty.
A pair? Make that three Kings, with
After years of suffering with
What's more frightening for fans of the Flames: the fact that
After watching Kiprusoff blistered for 17 goals in his last four starts, it's easy to blame his struggles on the team's defensive woes. He definitely is facing higher quality shots than he did just two years ago, but that's only part of the problem. Much like Turco, Kipper's problems appear to be mental. The confidence and concentration that used to define his excellence aren't at the same levels. He leads the league in juicy rebounds, is giving up more softies, and seems to have a harder time shaking them off.
So what's a more frightening option for coach
After losing a pair of 6-1 games in a week, and with the team playing so dispassionately that it coughed up 50 shots to the Sharks, Keenan has to realize that he and his staff might not have long to turn things around. In that case, he has to ride the big dog. A couple more games like that San Jose debacle and Calgary's goaltending woes won't be Keenan's problem any longer.
The Thrashers could tie a franchise record with five consecutive wins if they can take care of the Hurricanes on Friday night. While the points are nice, the bigger picture is that Atlanta is playing with a level of confidence not seen in more than a year. In each of their last three wins, the Thrashers came from behind at least twice. In a 5-4 win over Buffalo last Friday, they erased three one-goal deficits before wrapping it up in overtime.
Not to oversimplify, but the biggest difference is the way new coach
Substance wins out over style again.