The Los Angeles Kings lose 5-2 in their season opener against Chicago.
After an extended pre-game Stanley Cup celebration that lasted close to half an hour, the Kings took the ice against the 2010 Champs. The Kings, without key components Anze Kopitar and Willie Mitchell, started the game flat footed. Darryl Sutter's puck possession oriented system never had a chance to get off the ground as Chicago capitalized off early opportunities.
At around 2 minutes into the game, the Kings took a pair of bad penalties which resulted in a 5-on-3 goal by Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane. Roughly ten minutes later, Chicago added a pair of goals. One, a lucky bounce off Drew Doughty's skate, and the other a nasty wrist shot by Michael Frolik just outside the slot. Frolik received a nice feed from Marcus Kruger that left the out of position Matt Greene and David Drewiske flat-footed. The game was pretty much over from there.
The absence of Kopitar had a huge impact on how the Kings handled this game strategically. Last year during the cup run, the Kings were satisfied with sending the Kopitar line out against the opposition's best line night in and night out. Without Kopitar, Sutter shuffled matchups throughout the game and had trouble finding something that worked. Not much really did. The Kings will move on and look for their first victory of the season on Tuesday night.
- UPDATE: The Kings won the scoring chance battle 13-9 and 10-5 at even strength. Scoring chances were heavily impacted by score effects as the Kings trailed by 3 or more for almost the entire game. In spite of that, it is a big plus to acknowledge how few chances the Kings gave up even with the game out of hand.
- The Kings out-attempted Chicago 34-30 at even strength. In and of itself that differential is not very impressive when you consider the Kings numbers were going to be inflated by needing to play catch-up the whole game. But I am considering it a small positive because the numbers ended up being much better than it may have seemed to many who watched the game (or at least attempted to).
- The most effective line for the Kings was the Carter line who helped generate attempts at a 70% rate while they were on ice. Penner lead all Kings with a +9 shot attempt differential, while linemates Jeff Carter and Justin Williams were a +8. Jeff Carter also recorded 2 scoring chances. Update: This line created half of the Kings scoring chances at even strength.
- The Kings third line, Jarrett Stoll centering Trevor Lewis and Dwight King, drove play at a rate of 70% as well. This was made all the more impressive by the fact that they saw significant time against Chicago's top line. Trevor Lewis was able to tally 2 scoring chances on his own.
- The Kings top defensive pairing was solid as Rob Scuderi led all Kings defenseman with a 65% shot attempt rate. When Drew Doughty and Scuderi were on the ice the puck was usually heading in the right direction even while matched against the Blackhawks formidable top 6 throughout the game.
- The Alec Martinez-Slava Voynov pairing was the thing I was looking most forward to watching in the opener. They were unfortunately separated half way through the 2nd (as Voynov was dropped down to 3rd pair minutes with Davis Drewiske). They played well together and were able to drive play at a 63% rate. When separated, that number dropped to 50% for both.
- The Richards line, which consisted of him winging Simon Gagne and Dustin Brown, were dominated all game. They were only able to generate attempts at a 38% rate and were each a -3 in goal differential.
- Even though Sutter credited the 4th line after the game, they were actually victimized by some rather poor possession numbers. They were only able to generate attempts at a 38.5% rate. Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford were both -5 in attempts, while Fraser was -3.
- The play of the Kings 3rd defensive pairing was dismal. Davis Drewiske was a team worst -10 in attempts. Matt Greene didn't fare much better as he was only able to drive play at a poor 36%. Both benefitted by being split up and paired with Voynov and Martinez, respectively. Keep an eye on this for the next game. Will Sutter again feel the need to split up the talented Martinez-Voynov pair in order to stave off the poor play of Drewiske-Greene? Also, if Drewiske has another poor game, it won't be long before we see Jake Muzzin. And most of all hopefully none of this means that Mitchell will feel the need to rush back to the line-up should the Kings suffer from another poor defensive effort.
- Jonathan Quick's SV% was .773. He probably had the worst game of any King as he let in a few soft goals and seemed far from being the Quick of 6 months ago. Darryl Sutter admitted as much in the post-game saying, "[Quick] didn't have a good game. Don't get philosophical." Quick is coming off surgery and undoubtedly rusty, but hopefully that's all it is. We'll see if he can bounce back Tuesday night in Colorado. UPDATE: Only 1 of Quick's 5 goals allowed came within the scoring chance area.