Los Angeles blew the Lightning out of the water early and coasted to an easy 5-2 win. Eric has the game recap here.
(reminder to keep score effects in mind as I present my grades and the numbers)
- 1st line (Brown - Kopitar - Williams), A. All three players were on the ice for more goals than scoring chances at 5v5, which tells you all you need to know about the night that Ben Bishop had. Ben's been better, we'll put it that way. At any rate, the top line of the Kings took the Lightning to task much as they have been lately. They've once again ascended to the top of the league in possession, proving themselves to be one of the most dominant lines in the entire league. In spite of facing the best forwards Tampa Bay has to offer, all three players dominated possession. I guess I'd like to see them generate more scoring chances, but when you score about half a second after entering the zone, it's tough to do that. Their possession and goals speak for their play in this one.
- 2nd line (King - Richards - Toffoli), B. They received easy-ish competition and zone starts, so you might expect a bit more offense. However, they controlled possession in the game and did out-chance the opposition. Richards has been an extremely steady force in the offensive zone this season and nothing changed against Tampa Bay, as he contributed 2 more scoring chances to his season total. Unlike the top line, however, not one of the three players on the line ended up on the ice for a 5v5 goal.
- 3rd line (Carcillo - Stoll - Frattin), C. They were loaded up with tough zone starts and competition, and got out-possessed, out-chanced and gave up a goal. However, they answered with a goal of their own, and depth scoring has been a question surrounding the Kings. It wasn't as quality as the games Stoll has been turning in, but it was a respectable performance amid difficult circumstances.
- 4th line (Pearson - Vey - Lewis), A. Excellent bounce-back game from this line. After bleeding shots and chances in their last two games, they settled things down in their own end against Tampa, allowing nary a chance against all night long. Linden Vey surrendered just 3 shot attempts against over the course of the game, and the line as a whole out-chanced their opposition 3 to 0. Vey and Dwight King also teamed up for a shorthanded goal to pretty much shut the door on the Lightning.
- 1st pairing (Muzzin - Doughty), A+. The best game that a defensive pair has turned in yet this season. In spite of neutral zone starts -- Muzzin was not sheltered in this game, by the way -- that included a bundle of d-zone starts, the Kings controlled about 72% of all shot attempts with this pairing on the ice. Doughty and Muzzin also saw the top line of the Lightning the vast majority of the night and surrendered just one chance against. On top of all of that, they absolutely dominated the opposition offensively, helping the Kings to create 8 scoring chances (as a reminder, against elite competition and middling-at-best zone starts). Doughty only got credited with one scoring chance, but he was an enormous factor in a pair of goals that weren't counted as chances. An elite night for an elite defenseman.
- 2nd pairing (Regehr - Voynov), C. While the Kings controlled possession with this pairing out there, they didn't control scoring chances (0/-3). I wouldn't call it a struggle defensively, but this pairing has played better games under tougher circumstances. They faced favorable zone starts and slightly above average competition, so the possession numbers look about right. That's a positive for Regehr, who has watched the team struggle with him on the ice at times.
- 3rd pairing (Mitchell - Martinez), C-. Although they received extremely unfavorable zone starts, their competition wasn't particularly difficult, so you'd hope that they would manage to come up with more than 30% of the possession. At any rate, they went just -1 in chances, which isn't too shabby under the circumstances. I've criticized Regehr's pairing for putting up similar (albeit slightly worse) numbers in the past, so they won't escape my criticism here either. I do find it interesting that Sutter used this pairing primarily in the defensive zone. I'm curious to see whether it was just an experiment to see how they managed the defensive zone or if it continues going forward. He likes to ease players into the roles he wants them to play, so it's something to keep an eye on against New Jersey.
- Power Play, B. Can't argue with success. They scored a goal (I didn't count it as a scoring chance but maybe you would), but generated just 4 chances over their 5 opportunities. However, 4 minutes of their power play time came after the game went to 3-0, and both teams looked more interested in the game ending than in actually playing it.
- Penalty Kill, A. While they allowed a goal and probably too many chances, many of those chances came after the game was out of reach. I won't hold that against the Kings too much. On the bright side, they kept the goal differential at even while shorthanded thanks to nice work by Linden Vey and Dwight King.
Ben Scrivens, B
- Once again, the best word to describe Scrivens would be adequate. He allowed 1 goal against 7 Tampa chances that got directed on net, a comfortably average night. He went untested for a large portion of the night, as the Kings' defense turned in another excellent performance, allowing just 5 chances against at 5v5, and most of those came in the 3rd period of a decided game.
Overall Team Performance, A
- As I said after the Vancouver game, if you win a blowout, you've done something right. The Kings were once again assisted by a below-average goaltending performance, but they've been long overdue for some of those from their opponents. Thankfully, Roberto Luongo, Kevin Poulin, and Ben Bishop are here to help. The Kings controlled 67% of shot attempts while the game was close. Another very complete, very strong performance for a team that's starting to hit its groove.
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