Four lines, or three?

Earlier this season, Terry Murray talked about the need to play four lines throughout a game, but recently he seems to be tending toward rolling three lines, particularly late in games. Saturday against Detroit, he went with three lines for the entire third period, meaning Teddy Purcell, Raitis Ivanans and John Zeiler all stayed on the bench. I asked Murray whether that was by design or whether it was a response to game circumstances…

MURRAY: “That often is dictated, when you’re playing on the road, by the home team. They keep coming back with their top lines when you put your fourth line out there. They load up and try to take advantage. In Detroit, you had a tie game and then we had the lead. Now they’re putting their top guys out there and I’m not willing to risk having a Datsyuk line vs. a Purcell line out there. It was the same situation in Buffalo. It’s very hard and demanding for the fourth line, and it’s almost not a fair situation because we evaluate them on their play, and they’re out there in a very difficult situation.”

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  • wavesinair

    That answers one of my questions: Despite repeatedly losing 3rd period leads, TM thinks that playing the fourth line wouldn’t have made a bit of positive difference. On the contrary, he thinks it would have been worse. It would seem that our top 9 forwards are outmatched late in games and the double shifting by opposing teams begins to take a toll. Kopi, Fro, toughen up late. Deano, get us a mean defensmen or two pronto. Who’s available?

  • anthony

    I’m not sure, but isn’t his comment a spit in the face of the Purcell line. Like he has no confidence in those three players.
    Pretty hopeless when a team has a coach that doesn’t back some its players.

  • JonG

    That was an insightful response by TM. I probably should have figured it out myself though.

    Perhaps I still have a bit more to learn before I step behind my first NHL bench.

  • JonG

    Anthony, I would be much more concerned if Murray DID have confidence in matching our fourth line against the Datsyuk line.

  • Anthony – TM & DL could lead the Kings to a Stanley Cup and you would find something to bitch about. Would you really want to match that line against Detroits top line in a close game. TM’s not the first couch to do this and wont be the last, look at the ice time for every teams “4th line” i guarantee they don’t get a whole lot of time late in a close game. Clam up.

  • Quisp

    Does anybody think Ivanans and/or Zeiler want to be skating against Datsyuk? The coach doesn’t put them out there against the other team’s first unit, because it’s not their jobs to skate against the other team’s first unit. Murray is coaching, and to a certain degree, this is a chess match played against the opposing coach.

  • anthony

    JonG & Ian,

    I agree with the rationalle.
    I have a problem with how the message is communicated.
    He should have done it in a different manner.
    It was not professional.
    It sounded like he was almost insulting three of his players.


  • Marc Nathan

    yeah, they can skate against them in the first or second periods, but not the third šŸ™‚ It’s very hard and demanding for the fourth line, and it’s almost not a fair situation because we evaluate them on their play, and they’re out there in a very difficult situation.”

  • wavesinair

    Quisp, are you saying a team’s 4th line or CHECKING line (to continue the chess reference) shouldn’t ever ‘check’ the opposing team’s 1st line? Or are you just referring to OUR 4th line not being able to do so?

  • ian

    I tend to like TM’s honesty, even if it’s a touch on the brutal side. If the Kings had a bit more depth of talent perhaps the current 4th line sitch wouldn’t exist..

  • NMKingsFan

    I think Murray was communicating very well, rather him be honest than give a sugar-coated, roundabout answer.
    That’s what a coach does, matches up lines to get the right combinations out there.
    Especially for those readers that dissect every little word to find fault, I thought it was an insightful quote, be happy.
    Thanks for getting these quotes Rich.
    Merry Christmas everyone!

  • Anthony – They are professionals, the only person who takes it as a insult is you. With the exception of Purcell that line knows their role.

    And in regards to Purcell; if he has good character he won’t sulke about his “demotion” to the 4th line but rather he will work that much harder on the things the team needs him to work on to be a consistant 1st or 2nd liner.

  • voice of reason

    Anthony–would you have been upset if he said he wasn’t willing to risk Detroit’s top line versus a Gauthier/Harrold pairing?

    And last I checked, you have called Zeiler “worthless” on numerous occassions. Why would you care if TM “insults” him?

    You just love to pick and choose, huh?

    These guys are professional atheletes, and more importantly they are grown men. They aren’t going to be upset or insulted by their boss stating the plain facts. Oh and in this case the plain facts are that they might not be capable of handling some of the top players in the world.

  • mrbrett7

    Anthony, these guys are professional’s, if they can’t handle it, they need to find a new line of work.

  • wavesinair

    voice of reason said: “They aren’t going to be upset or insulted by their boss stating the plain facts.”

    Well, Keith Tkachuk would beg to differ… here are his thoughts on our good old friend ANDY Murray just a couple of days ago.

    “I don’t need the coach to tell me through the media, or any other player through the media … if that’s what he’s searching for, it’s a very young and fragile team to be doing that right now in the middle of the season.”

    In other words, players can be insulted. They’re human.

  • nykingfan

    It’s becoming quite clear that no matter what TM or DL does, cetain people are going to go after him. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for the good of the franchise or not. It’s becoming painfully obvious.
    People who look to each word as a sign of a different meaning need to start listening to themselves in conversation. How would you like every word you use in a conversation with your boss or colleague to be taken out of context or looked at as having some type of black meaning?
    What he said was fairly easy to decipher. He doesn’t feel that putting Purcell/Zeiler/Ivanans out in the 3rd period against the Datsuyk line is good strategy. Does anyone disagree with that? If not…drop it!
    Who cares who’s feelings get hurt. OMG this is prefessional hockey not kindergarten class. Did any of you play competitive sports growing up? Did the coach always roll 4 lines no matter the situation and if not, did you cry to mommy?


    Count how many times tonight that the 4th line and the Harrold/Gauthier line is out on the ice together in the first 2 periods.
    Murray is essentially saying Lombardi isn’t giving him enough talent to compete.
    Is that the case?
    Is it the players or the coach who is responsible for the team? Or, come from ahead losses? I thought a good manager accepted the responsibility for the performance of his “team?” No?
    Joel Quenville seems to be getting quite a bit out of his Chicago team after Savard was sacked. We don’t have as much talent as Chicago?
    “The Garbage Line” has been a steady influence on the team’s performance since the end of November. I think the Kings record over that time speaks to it’s futility and uselessness.
    Murray better let go of that anchor before he’s buried in the sand.

    The King’s theme should change from “I love LA” to “Lies, Lies, Lies…Yeah”

    We’ll have Zeiler for another 2 years after this season, but Boyle will be somewhere else.


    Has this man lost his bottle?
    Let’s review who scored the 3rd, 4th, and 5th goals in that game.
    Even our top 3 lines can’t stop their 3rd and 4th liners.
    Having 1/4 of your team unable to take a shift isn’t a great strategy.
    Nor is dumping the puck and conceding possession a good way to protect a lead, especially against Detroit.
    If Murray’s system is so bullet-proof, why did the team look it’s best in the first 10 games and why are we getting worse? If the players are so inept, why did they perform so well with less instruction?

  • mrbrett7

    No ETR, we don’t have anywhere near as much talent as Chicago where it counts.

    In net.

    Lombardi has been trying to get goaltending since the day he arrived. He failed miserably with Cloutier.

    Chicago has spent almost 12 million per season on their goaltending for this season (could be more/less by a slight amount…I didn’t look up the numbers). But, that is the point. It has cost Chicago that much money just to stablize their goaltending situation, and it took signed 2 free agents to do so.

    What’s the difference? Something that most people seem to realize, but many fans don’t. Players WANT to go to Chicago, they do not WANT to come to LA. This really has nothing to do with LA, the franchise nor the culture…it has everything to do with LA in general. Your a hockey player, do you want to play in a city where you are a God, or a city where nobody knows you even exhist?

    Free agents to fill the holes will come, eventually, but winning needs to come first. It’s unfortunate, to an extent, that this young team is showing so much marked improvement across the board that those few holes are showing up, and costing them games.

    1. EVERY team in the NHL shortens their bench in the 3rd period of a close game. This is not hard to figure out why.

    2. The Kings have not had a true #1 go to starting goaltender since Kelley Hrudey, and even he wasn’t the beez neez. Before him, probably not since Rogie Vachon. It’s not hard to figure out the scurge of this franchise’s history. You get decent goaltending, and it’s worth 15 more points every season, easily.

    You all can complain until the cows come home, it’s still not going to speed up the progress and development of what Lombardi and company are attempting to do here. The playoffs were never in the cards this season. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy watching these kids learn for the first time in their career’s in LA.

  • Anonymous

    mrbrett7: Very well said

  • jet


    Unfortunately, many boys these days grow up with no responsibility, insist on instant gratification, are never wrong, and are insulted if someone calls them out (politically incorrect). Look over the comments; it is easy to determine who among us fits into this category. If you can learn to ignore posts from a couple of time wasters, then the reads will be much more enjoyable.

    Christobal/Eat the Rich/Anonymous – Murray is still trying to get a feel for what he has. Something that looks good for one shift of one game may not be a permanent solution. You have some valid points, but 6 months ago you said that we were going to field a team that could not even compete. You have to admit that the season is above expectations for nearly all. I can only hope that you have the patience to stick around for another 20 months.


    Enjoy watching these kids learn for the first time in their career’s in LA.

    I wish.

    As to where I’d want to play, I’d want to play where I thought there is a commitment, every year, to winning. As an athlete, that’s all that matters. If one is great enough to be in the record books, great, but the most important thing to a competitive person is winning every time they play. The Kings with AEG have always been about the bottom line. So until I saw that they want to win all the time, I’d stay away too.

    In my opinion, we’ve got much more talent than Chicago, except, of course, in net.

    It’s sad to think that we could get our kids in for some playoff experience if Lombardi hadn’t bottled the goal situation with Cloutier so horribly. Lombardi has done great at scouting his guys (i love Moller and Simmonds and like the look of Lewis and Purcell) but I think he’s a bit gun-shy with transactions after some of the earlier stuff made him look bad.

    If the playoffs are out of the picture I have no clue why it matters if we let Purcell, Boyle, and Lewis spend the season playing here. The party-line most people will parrot about learning to be tough and earning time makes zero sense.
    Plus, if we can’t make the playoffs, there’s little reason for Lambs to be on the club anymore.


    Who cares who’s feelings get hurt. OMG this is prefessional hockey not kindergarten class. Did any of you play competitive sports growing up? Did the coach always roll 4 lines no matter the situation and if not, did you cry to mommy?

    Isn’t this also applicable to the coach and GM?
    The hypocrisy is amazing.

  • nykingfan


    I don’t get it. How does that apply to DL or TM?

  • anthony

    Eat The Rich,

    It is isn’t it.


    Jet – Why do you think you know anything about my life and my “responsibility” in life? It’s funny that you seem to have a problem with my comments about the team, but you have no problem rushing to judgement about me personally. I’d love to get into a discussion about stuff like that with you, but my comments would just get deleted. I’d just ask that you look in the mirror when you’re pointing out what other people do or say that you don’t agree with.

    As far as the team goes, 6 months ago I had never seen Drew Doughty and Sean O’Donnell and Kyle Quincey weren’t on the team. I have eaten my words on a few things Lombardi’s done, happily, and I really have renewed hope in his abilities. There are still things he’s got to prove, but Doughty, Moller, and Simmonds are good enough additions (plus I like the look of Lewis) that I am amazed at how well the team has played at times.
    I was never sold on Murray, and I like some of his stuff a lot, but he’s underachieving with what he’s got and he looks more stuck in the past with every game lately.
    The team has been horrible over the past month. I blame Murray.
    If the coach is going to be credited with the good, he’s got to take responsibility for the bad, too.
    You’re right. Lombardi has somehow provided him with a better squad than last year, but Murray’s only slightly better on the ice, and that’s only if you factor in the “hot” start we got off to.

    I haven’t posted under cristobal or anonymous for a while. It’s because of personal attacks like yours that I changed names. It’s not too hard to figure out who’s making the comments I post, so I don’t think your uncovering a mystery by pointing it out. Maybe alerting some cristobal haters who don’t pay close attention. If that was the goal, I’ve got no problem with it.


  • Quisp

    Wavesinair, re “are you saying a team’s 4th line or CHECKING line (to continue the chess reference) shouldn’t ever ‘check’ the opposing team’s 1st line? Or are you just referring to OUR 4th line not being able to do so?

    Since it’s possible to imagine a fourth line so talented and defensively solid that you would be able to put them out in any situation at any time in the game, I guess I would have to say it’s a little of both. However:

    In general, I don’t think it’s “either/or.” Are there situations where you might decide to allow your 4th unit to match up against the other team’s 1st unit? Sure. Probably not against the Stanley Cup Champ’s 1st unit, but sure. For example, when our 1st unit was so discombobulated, it might make sense to throw a 4th unit out against them, just to agitate them. Also, keep in mind, there are four lines on a team, not just two. If there were only two lines, you would (as a coach) have to choose between matching your best line against theirs, and your grinders against theirs, or the opposite (1st against grinders, grinders against 1st). If you have four lines to work with (and to coach against), the combinations are vastly more complicated.

    And you still might decide you want your 4th unit to go out against their 1st unit, because then your 1st unit can go out against one of their weaker lines. A good time to do this, for example, might be right after an opponent’s powerplay, because their 1st unit will be tired.

    It occurs to me to mention that, in the case of the Kings, Murray has one “stopper” line, and that’s the 2nd unit Frolov/Handzus/Simmonds line. Ideally, they’re the ones that go out against the other team’s #1 unit. The 3rd line — Calder/Stoll/Brown — can also perform this function. Both of these lines have obvious offensive capabilities.

    Obviously, many coaches like to shorten the bench in the third, and Murray has been doing this a lot. It can be useful, as he said, on the road when you don’t get the last change. Another effect of rolling three lines is you force our opponent (potentially) to do the same. This can work to your advantage if the other team is old, or tired because they played the night before.

    And of course, shortening the bench frequently has the most to do with how your top forwards are playing that night. If the Kings’ top three lines are playing their asses off, it makes sense to roll three, because you want them out there as much as possible.

    Murray has been trying to make their question moot by creating a more effective and dangerous fourth line. The POS/Boyle/Harrold line was a great example of this. Putting Moller back there was about this, too. I think, if Boyle gets his act together, that will be the last of Ivanans. When Clune is healthy, I hope that’s the last we see of Zeiler (although I am not an enemy of Zeiler’s, and I do think he will get scooped up on waivers…apologies to Eat). If Cliche hadn’t been hurt in camp, I think he (as a defensive specialist) would be ideal for that line. These are probably thoughts for next year. And if Purcell turns the corner, he can play on the third line and Calder and Armstrong and Zeiler (not a terrible line, really) can be the fourth unit.

    Anyway, long answer, sorry. Hope that answers your question.

  • Rich Hammond

    OK, this can stop now, thank you. It’s absolutely stunning to me that grown people, on a sports blog, can’t go more than two days without devolving into a personal online-shoving contest. That’s directed to everyone, not one or two people in particular. If people can’t figure out how to talk about the Kings without getting personal with each other, I’ll just shut down comments and make my life easier by tenfold. Thanks.

  • KingzzFan

    Well no one could ever say Kings Fans arent compassionate.

    Merry Christmas Rich and to all you great Kings Fans


    Sorry for my part in this, Rich.
    I’ll try to be better. Promise.
    Happy Holidays.

  • jediknight329


    happy hanukkah, merry christmas and happy new year to you.

    you are right about the personal attacks. i don’t deny that i have on more than one occassion lashed out at fellow posters.

    what i will say though, from someone who very much enjoys and appreciates your site, is that it gets very frustrating when you read some of the intense nit-picking and wretched attacks on the players and management that gets posted here. this is a kids game, best played on frozen ponds in the great white north, that we, here in l.a., are lucky enough to watch others who love the sport and who are immensly talented enough to get paid to play it.

    i do get personally offended by posters who continually disparage our coach because his age is north of 50 and who disparage our gm by intentionally mis-spelling his name in a juvenile fashion. if i said or did these things at my work, i’d be fired for harassment and creating a hostile work environment. its sad, pathetic and completely un-called for.

    no one will agree with every comment that is posted. 10 people can look at the same play and see 10 different things, good and bad that took place. but some of us, maybe more than others, just like to ridicule for the sake of ridiculing. i’m really tired of that. maybe you should shut off the comments section for the holidays. have a “comment freeze” while the nhl has their “roster freeze”. i’m 95% kidding, but sometimes its too much to take.

  • wavesinair

    just got around to watching the game. yeah!

    quisp, thanks for the expanded version. i pretty much fall in line with your thinking. but i do think TM should have played the 4th line in the third lately, even if it wasn’t against the 1st line. glad to see they got some minutes tonight.

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