During a previous losing streak, Robert pointed out that the Kings weren't actually playing bad but were coming up "unlucky." Generally, the Kings were playing well in spite of their losses. That has not been the case during this current four-game losing streak. The Kings have been playing generally average (or worse) hockey. The best way to illustrate this point is to look at their season in game-by-game form. Extra Skater provides us with a handy graph to make things clear.
You can see pretty clearly that the Kings haven't really played much bad hockey this year. While there's no doubt that different problems have crept into their game at various times, they generally were still controlling play. That ceased in that bizarre "game" against Vancouver. Los Angeles then turned in its longest stretch of legitimately poor play this season.
With that said, the game against Anaheim was not like the others. It was like many of the losses they've suffered this season. They got back to controlling play and not scoring, which is a welcome sight to my eyes. It's poorly timed at the end of a couple of stretches of bad results, but I think it's a sign of good things to come.
- 1st line (King - Kopitar - Lewis), B. I got the sense watching that a lot of this line's positive gains came early. I didn't notice anyone on this line being much of a factor as the game went along. In fact, both of their scoring chances came in quick succession, culminating in Anze Kopitar's goal. I don't have any large complaints about this line's performance. They performed admirably in a shutdown role against Ryan Getzlaf's line by allowing no scoring chances against. That said, this line is never going to produce enough offense. I like King and Lewis, and I think King has proven himself to be a possibly capable complementary winger if he's playing with elite players, but they are going to force Kopitar to shoulder the entire load which is a very effective way to mitigate the contributions of the best player on the team.
- 2nd line (Brown - Stoll - Williams), C. On a night where you're putting your most effective role players on the top line, you need some real offense from your depth scoring. This line has consistently failed to provide a potent secondary option for the Kings at 5v5 play. They don't do any damage to the team, but this is too much of a third line for this team to stomach a lot of nights. That gives the Kings two third lines before we've even gotten to the line actually being used like a third line. As is typical, this line generated all kinds of possession but little in the way of scoring opportunities.
- 3rd line (Frattin - Richards - Carter), B-. As far as creating offense goes, this line was about it for the Kings. They created 4 scoring chances at 5v5 play; 4 is also the sum of the scoring chances created by the rest of the forward lines. They played a decent possession game against secondary (but still capable) competition as well. Not a bad game, though in such a sloppy game, 3 chances against is a bit much.
- 4th line (Clifford - Fraser - Nolan), F. The Ducks' depth was able to flex its muscle on Thursday night. They're not fan favorites, but the fourth line of the Kings has generally been capable of handling pretty soft minutes. However, they got run over by Anaheim. They surrendered 3 scoring chances against and were the only Kings to lose possession. They also didn't generate a single dangerous opportunity. Nothing good here.
- 1st pairing (Muzzin - Doughty), F. Perhaps the most damning thing that can be said about a top pairing is "the team was better without them on the ice." That's undoubtedly the case in this one. Muzzin and Doughty's performance is rivaled only by the pitiful effort of the fourth line. They were +2/-4 in scoring chances, which certainly isn't bad. However, the Kings struggled to drive possession almost exclusively with them on the ice. Anaheim only generated 25 shot attempts at 5v5 play in the game, but 14 of those came against Drew Doughty. His competition was fairly tough, but nothing he hasn't seen before. Both he and Muzzin received middling-at-worst zone starts. Bad performance.
- 2nd pairing (Mitchell - Voynov), A. Complete reversal of the top pairing. Although they faced similar competition, their zone starts were much easier and they feasted. In fact, this pairing saw more success than the rest of the roster. Each player was +4 in chances which handily led the team. Voynov had another controlled entry (his only entry of the game) and continued to be much more active offensively. His play has been considerably improved of late.
- 3rd pairing (Regehr - Martinez), C. Pretty average game. Though they came up with better possession numbers, they surrendered one more chance than they generated. To the eye, I thought it was Regehr's worst game in some time.
- Power Play, D. They improved ever so slightly by generating 6 scoring chances in 8 minutes of power play time, but they were still pretty bad. Anaheim was able to generate a scoring chance while shorthanded and none of the Kings' woes with entering the zone dissipated. The movement inside of the zone was pretty solid and something to build on, though.
- Penalty Kill, C. Despite the goal against, they weren't that bad. They allowed just 9 attempts in 8.2 minutes of shorthanded time and generated a couple of shots (no scoring chances, though) of their own. Anaheim generated fewer scoring chances than their Los Angeles counterparts and did so despite having more time to work with.
Jonathan Quick, D.
- Not great. Caught swimming on both goals, Quick once again was outperformed by his counterpart. I won't fault him much for the first goal as it was a goal-mouth scramble, but his overreaction to a non-dangerous play on the second goal is reflective of a much deeper problem in his game. Quick is often caught trying to do too much. It is certainly part of the Kings' system to have their goalies play the first shot while letting the defense handle the rest, but Quick (and Scrivens to an extent) have been caught in bad positions because they are constantly overreacting to the first shot. How often have we seen a shot going wide where Quick slides a few feet out of his net in an attempt to stop it? It leaves him in a bad position where he has to scramble. A lot of Quick's most athletic saves are making up for previous mistakes (kind of like the myth that used to perpetuate baseball where athletic diving catches automatically made you a superstar defender). Just recently in St. Louis, Quick kicked away a bouncing puck heading for the middle of the empty Kings' net. There wasn't any danger on the initial shot, but Quick was trying to corral it in spite of the fact that it was heading well wide. He was then forced to scramble back to his completely empty cagy to shut the door. I understand the desire to do EVERYTHING, but Quick gets caught in these positions time and time again. Had he been more calm and more technical in his read on the second goal, he probably slides back to the post and lunges across the net to seal off the far post. Instead he dove to cover a post that no one was attacking, then dove soccer-style across to the other post, leaving it exposed for the bank shot. Not pretty.
Overall Team Performance, B.
- They can certainly play better, but they still played pretty well. Anaheim had one extended stretch of decent play and they turned it into a pair of goals. The Kings otherwise controlled the majority of the game. They're still a bit lackluster offensively, but this was a stark improvement over the previous few games. This is also a rare occasion in which I think Sutter shot his own team in the foot. Scratching Toffoli barely touches the surface of his bizarre choices in this one. The Kings didn't lose the game when he played Kopitar with Lewis and King, but it was one of a few decisions that put the Kings in a hole before the game even started.