If not for a solid defensive performance from a team that usually isn't capable of them, the Kings probably win this one going away. Thankfully, Cam Ward wasn't enough to completely stymy the Kings; LA managed to skate away with 2 points in the end.
Eric has the game story here.
- 1st line (Brown - Kopitar - Williams), Grade: C. Kirk Muller opted to hard-match the Jordan Staal line against Kopitar and company and it paid dividends. J. Staal managed to keep the Kopitar line in check. Jordan even turned the play against Kopitar and personally registered 4 chances for Carolina, 2 of them in a direct matchup with the Kings' top line. Unfortunately, things didn't get better for Kopitar when he met the other Staal. The top line lagged big time against Eric Staal in terms of possession and wound up with their worst game of the season in that regard. In spite of this, Sutter gave Kopitar very public and effusive praise. Kopi still deserves it, because he always deserves everyone's praise. Even in a game that didn't see him control the flow of play as usual, his impact was apparent. Corey Sznajder of Shutdown Line was also very mindful of (and has more on) Kopitar's contributions on this night. As a unit, this line wasn't great. Williams in particular wasn't very good. Brown, however, was solid, though a lot of his damage happened to come while playing apart from Kopitar and Williams.
- 2nd line (Carcillo - Richards - Carter), Grade: A. Dan Carcillo: defensive star. Okay, not really, but it was another excellent performance at both ends of the ice for the 2nd line. Muller again chose to hard-match, this time throwing Eric Staal's line against Richards' line at every opportunity. This trio killed that matchup and anything else they saw all night long. All. Night. Long. In direct competition with the Eric Staal line, Richards went +7 in shot attempts. Against Jordan Staal, with significantly less time against each other, the Richards line again went +7. In one of their most complete performances as Kings, Richards and Carter (ft. Dan Carcillo) dominated the Hurricanes all over the ice. Aided by their dominance of the puck, the two were on the ice for just one chance against at even strength.
- 3rd line (Clifford - Lewis - Frattin), Grade: B-. This is basically the game you probably had in your head when you were analyzing our depth forwards. Low event hockey with solid possession play. This line spent its night playing against the Jeff Skinner line, and it fared pretty well. All three forwards came out even or slightly better in scoring chances and shot attempts. Not a lot to dissect here. Just a good, solid, quiet game for this trio.
- 4th line (King - Stoll - Nolan), Grade: Grade: C-. Not as pretty for the 4th line. Certainly much worse than what it had been to start the year. The line never gained much traction with the puck and Jarret Stoll capped it off with a bad penalty late in the game. Individually, I thought Dwight King was decent (and so did Jim Fox, as he told us repeatedly). King managed to come up with 2 scoring chances while shorthanded and scored the only Kings goal of the game. However, at even strength, this line was a little rough around the edges. Nolan wasn't nearly as active as he had been in the games prior, and Stoll seemed to only show up when he was on the ice with more skilled players.
- 1st pairing (Regehr - Doughty), Grade: B+. Much better game from this pairing. They were fairly strictly matched against the Eric Staal line and did commendable work in shutting it down. In fact, Doughty was on the ice for just 2 scoring chances against. Regehr was on for 4, but 2 of those came with Slava Voynov. The pair received more offensive zone starts than they had been accustomed to, and they took full advantage. It was the best possession game of the season for the duo, as they went +10 in shot attempts in the game.
- 2nd pairing (Mitchell - Voynov), Grade: B+. After a nice game against Ottawa, Voynov slid backwards a bit in Carolina. Hard to say if it was just tough puck luck or something worse, but Voynov had serious trouble handling the puck. Several times, Voynov had passes bounce past him in some way or another and wound up on the chase to cover for his mistake/bad luck/karma for actions in a previous life. Mitchell, meanwhile, was outstanding. On 66% of his ES shifts, he saw the top two lines for Carolina. Mitchell allowed just 2 chances against in the game at evens, while Voynov ended up on the ice for an additional 2 chances with other partners. The pairing itself was pretty solid, but Voynov's individual effort -- while still decent-- was not the one we're accustomed to.
- 3rd pairing (Martinez - Greene), Grade: D. Definitely the worst game of the season for the 3rd pairing. Once again and as always, they received very soft minutes, but lost the possession battle for the (I believe) first time in 5 games this season. Although they came out even in chances during 5v5 play, it's reasonable to expect more from a pairing getting the easy minutes that this one gets. Sutter didn't outright slam Martinez, but he did question Martinez's defensive zone play (while praising his play at the other end of the ice). Sutter may #FreeMuzzin against Florida. As a wild card, he could give Keaton Ellerby the nod against his old team.
- Power Play, Grade: F. Not quite the efficiency with which they operated to begin the season. The Kings were given a power play in overtime and... gave up the only scoring chance of the overtime to Jordan Staal. Yikes. Aside from that? Well. Let me tell you. It was really bad. The Kings also had a power play at the beginning of the 3rd. While they managed 4 shots on that power play, the closest to the net one of those shots originated from was 41 feet. They had big-time issues with Carolina's aggressive penalty kill and never got set up for an extended period of time. Carolina (well, Jordan Staal) created 2 scoring chances while short-handed as well, which bested the Kings' 1 scoring chance on their own power play in the game.
- Penalty Kill, Grade: B+. Any bad (the Skinner goal) was equaled by good (the King goal). The Kings penalty kill was effective in limiting chances and, like the Hurricanes' PK, created quality opportunities of their own. Dwight King wound up with 2 shorthanded breakaways and managed to pull off a slick deke to score on one of them. Several Kings even managed to come out a positive in chance differential as well. The lone power play goal against wasn't a fluke or a breakdown in coverage or poor goaltending or much of anything besides an excellent play by Jeff Skinner, really. The Canes did what you're supposed to do when you're struggling with an opposing defense: throw it at the net and hope some good things happen. Skinner happened to be the lucky recipient. The goal knocks the grade down a tad, but I'd take that kind of effort from the PK every single night.
Goaltending, Grade: A.
In all honesty, Quick played well enough to earn a shutout. He wasn't heavily tested at any point, really, with only a few chances coming from point blank range. Still, he was a formidable test for Carolina, and it was a test they didn't pass. Except that one time. Dammit. Still, I already acknowledged that I don't blame him for that goal, and he was everything the Kings needed him to be the rest of the game. He stopped 11 of the 12 scoring chances that were directed on net and never even seemed to be in any particular trouble aside from the goal.
Overall Team Grade: A-
Easily the team's most complete effort of the season. If there are knocks, you could look to the power play to be more effective. As has been the case for large chunks of the past four seasons, we'd also like to see this team finish their chances better, but they were rudely greeted by a solid Cam Ward performance. The breakout and transition game was excellent, or much better at the very least. Even Robyn Regehr didn't piss me off that much. Wait, he took a penalty? Well, fuck that guy. Anyway, this is the kind of performance that carried the Kings to the NHL's elite over the past season and a half. Here's to hoping they can repeat it.
Notes: Jarret Stoll, Jeff Carter, Dwight King, Justin Williams, and Dustin Brown all had 2 chances; Trevor Lewis, Anze Kopitar, and Mike Richards all had 1. Dan Carcillo and Anze Kopitar each set up 2 chances; Alec Martinez, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter all set up 1.
Match-up Corsi courtesy of Robert. Click to enlarge.