Kings @ Sabres: Grades and Analysis

Trevor Lewis's shootout attempt - Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Shooting 2nd for the Los Angeles Kings... David Eckstein.

The Kings lost a game that was more aggravating than Corey Perry. Eric has the game recap here.

Forward Lines

  • 1st line (Brown - Kopitar - Williams), A. Another excellent night for the top line; they've been very good since being reunited. While they didn't face the tough competition or zone starts that they did against Vancouver, they controlled play well, created some offense and didn't give up much in the other direction. They drew the top line of the Sabres more than any other, but didn't see any particular match-up an awful lot. Former Sabres' head coach Ron Rolston did throw the Ehrhoff pairing out there against Kopitar quite a bit though, so it wasn't as easy as it could've been. Just a solid, efficient night.

  • 2nd line (King - Richards - Toffoli), A. Though the Richards line did have their zone starts considerably sheltered, they did face the toughest competition on the team. They drew the Moulson line a lot and did a commendable job. They gave up 1 scoring chance against and it, unfortunately, found the back of the net. Richards was the most effective offensive weapon the Kings had on Tuesday; he was directly involved in 5 different scoring chances in total, 2 of those came at evens.

  • 3rd line (Nolan - Vey - Lewis), B. In typical Lewis fashion, not a whole lot happened with this line on the ice. While they didn't create a damn thing offensively, they managed to control possession in spite of being buried in their own zone to begin the majority of their shifts. Lewis, Nolan and Vey received the highest percentage of defensive zone starts among Kings' forwards. They also wound up seeing a lot of the Moulson line. That line ate them up a bit, but they were buried after all. Against the rest of the Sabres, this line did very good work. Sutter has shown quite a bit of trust in Vey and Toffoli since they were recalled. Some of that is by necessity given the injury situation the team is enduring at the moment, but Sutter has still surprised me. He's never seemed staunchly anti-kid or anything like that, but he's quite fond of "putting players in a position to succeed," particularly rookies. He's thrown Vey into some fires to start his career and Vey has been extremely respectable, even if he hasn't been as flashy as Toffoli. Also, kudos to Jordan Nolan for not being a mess with his own increased role.

  • 4th line (Carcillo - Fraser - Frattin), B-. Pretty solid night for the 4th line. While their minutes were fairly soft, Sutter has exposed his depth players to far less in the past. Sutter chose to roll all four lines against Buffalo and he got rewarded by solid efforts almost across the board. Matt Frattin created the lone chance on this line's ledger.

Defensive Pairings

  • 1st pairing (Muzzin - Doughty), A. Sutter opted to go with a lot of situational zone starts for his individual defensemen. While Drew Doughty received the most defensive zone starts on the defense, Jake Muzzin received just 2. Doughty also drew the tough match-up by playing against Moulson's line with some frequency. He answered by going +27/-8 in shot attempts. That's kind of absurd. Muzzin was almost equally as solid, but he did so in a slightly easier role. Both defensemen were +2 in chances in the game. Very solid night.

  • 2nd pairing (Regehr - Voynov), D. This pairing has gotten worse as Sutter has increased their responsibility. With sheltered minutes, they were solid. Voynov was feasting on weak competition and Regehr's struggles with the puck weren't as evident. Unfortunately, last night they got exposed a bit. They still controlled possession in the end, but they were easily the worst defenders on the team. These two were on the ice for 3 of Buffalo's 5 even strength scoring chances. Voynov is not nearly as excellent at moving the puck out of his own zone as Doughty is, and that's never more apparent than it is when he plays with Regehr. Doughty masks a lot of Regehr's problems (not all of them, but a lot); Voynov does not. I really think it's in the Kings' best interest to soften this pairing's minutes. I do like the idea of them playing against lower-tier competition. They get beat up when the going gets tough, though.

  • 3rd pairing (Mitchell - Martinez), A. Mitchell was often the defender on the ice when Doughty started in his own zone. Sutter chose to soften Martinez's minutes in the same way that he softened Muzzin's. However, when they actually played together, this pairing was pretty great. Each player controlled 75% of the total shot attempts while they were on the ice, and each player went +3 in scoring chances at even strength. Mitchell even did that with moderately difficult minutes.

Special Teams

  • Power Play, C. While it was a frustrating night, particularly in the late stages of the game, it's far from the worst performance they've put forth this season. The Kings generated a bunch of opportunities, particularly during Steve Ott's hilariously ill-advised penalty. However, they didn't convert one of those into a goal and failed on what amounted to 2 full minutes of 4v3 time.

  • Penalty Kill, F. They gave up 3 chances and a goal over just 2 penalty kills. Not good enough. The positive to take out of the special teams play is that the penalties matched the possession for once. Much better discipline from the Kings.

Jonathan Quick, :(

  • Barf. Cry. Barf.

Overall Team Performance, C

  • As has been the case far too often this season, the Kings played more than well enough to win the game. However, they made some rather egregious errors in their d-zone coverage and didn't do enough offensively. While they controlled scoring chances handily overall, their 5v5 play was lackluster. Ultimately, they got bested by a pretty mediocre defense. They only made Miller work hard a time or two in the game, even though they lobbed shots at him all night long. Quite frankly, they were lucky to come away with a point. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to call both of LA's goals flukes. On top of that, the greasiest player in hockey missed a tap in that you'd give to even the worst golfer. Sometimes the sum is larger than the whole of the parts; this game was the exact opposite.

The Numbers


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