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Kings @ Predators: Grades and Analysis

Another fun and exciting installment of Kings/Perds hockey.

The Nashville Predators suck so much that they can't even overcome a Jonathan Quick pokecheck
The Nashville Predators suck so much that they can't even overcome a Jonathan Quick pokecheck
Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

If you watched the Kings defeat the Wild in a shootout on opening night, then you pretty much watched the Kings defeat the Predators in a shootout last night.

John has the recap here.

Forward Lines

  • 1st line (Brown - Kopitar - Williams), Grade: C-. If the Kings had a passable line, it was this one. The numbers bear it out to an extent. The Kings spent 80% of the game against the top 2 lines for Nashville. Yes, that's right, Nashville does indeed have a top 6. Don't act so surprised. Anyway, Kopitar was the only Kings' player to break even in shot attempts and he did exactly that. On a night when Nashville thoroughly controlled play, this line went just -1 in scoring chances. It really wasn't a bad night for them, but they didn't assert themselves offensively at 5v5 play. That has been the theme of the season for this line so far. One semi-interesting note is that Sutter gave this line a bunch of offensive zone starts. Could be a one-game fluke or he could be trying to jump-start them. However, the down-side of those zone start numbers is that this line should've done more with them.
  • 2nd line (Carcillo - Richards - Carter), Grade: D. Not good. Although I remember mentally noting a couple of times that Carter came very close to registering scoring chances, this line managed just 2 chances and allowed another 5. On top of that, they lost the possession battle to the top 2 lines of Nashville. The lone bright side is that they managed decent possession numbers against Nashville's 3rd line. However, that's to be expected, as Nashville head coach Barry Trotz uses it as a true stopper line, deploying them in the defensive end to an extreme extent. Not a good night for this line after being reunited.
  • 3rd line (King - Stoll - Frattin), Grade: F. The outcast line had a rough night. All three players have struggled to find a role with the team this season and it wasn't fixed by throwing them all together. They failed to create a single scoring chance while allowing 7. Jarret Stoll's struggles continue to be a situation worth monitoring. Stoll's role has diminished recently, but this hasn't stopped him from being a black hole in the Kings' lineup. He's making the players around him worse right now. Thankfully, we haven't seen his big boat of stupid penalties yet. However, his consistent struggles are a big detriment to a team that was formerly able to boast some pretty solid center depth. This team still could have solid center depth if Sutter would split Richards and Carter, but it seems like a waste to split them as there isn't enough talent on the wings to give them both the tools they need to succeed. That means one of Stoll or Lewis has to perform in this role and neither has to this point.
  • 4th line (Clifford - Lewis - Nolan), Grade: Grade: C-. If Lewis is on a line, I almost expect to not notice it at this point. He's allowing almost no scoring chances against while he's on the ice lately which is good. However, he's not driving play very often and is usually being out-shot. We've seen his forechecking game be strong before and it needs to be again. Even on the 4th line he can get the puck in deep and force turnovers. That was his largest strength a season ago, but we've barely seen it so far this season. Bright side: Kyle Clifford was the only King in the black with regards to scoring chances. Doesn't mean a lot, but silver linings are silver linings.

Defensive Pairings

  • 1st pairing (Regehr - Doughty), Grade: D-. Kind of a tough night to grade the offensive acumen of a defensive pairing since the forwards did very little. However, this pairing had its scoring chance artery (located somewhere between the heart on their sleeves and the heart in their chests) severed and bled out again. Regehr was on the ice for an extra pair of chances over Doughty, but I'm gonna cut him a little slack as he was on the ice with Jarret Stoll, who has been a broken hockey player so far this season. Also, those extra chances came against offensive dynamos like Matt Hendricks and Paul Gaustad. I mean, who can stop them? Certainly not Regehr. The possession numbers weren't completely atrocious but the chance numbers were. That might be the Kings' October tagline.
  • 2nd pairing (Mitchell - Voynov), Grade: D. We'll start with the bright spots: Voynov scored again!!! Yes! YES! That's it. That's all the good. While Willie Mitchell also had an assist on a goal, Nashville scored that goal. This pairing struggled to contain Nashville as each player was on the ice for 6 scoring chances and 2 chances for. The 2 chances for this pairing is actually the highest total on the defense, so you know the Kings' were doin' some scorin' last night.
  • 3rd pairing (Martinez - Greene), Grade: D. This pairing struggled to drive play and lost both the chance and possession battles. They did this in spite of extraordinarily soft minutes against the 3rd and 4th lines of Nashville. Granted, Paul Gaustad is actually a pretty excellent defensive player that Trotz uses in a highly specialized defensive role. Still, of their 13 zone starts, 12 were in the neutral or offensive zone. They have to do more than what they did in Nashville. Top that off with Alec Martinez's late penalty and you have a pretty big mess. Sutter has surprised me a bit by giving Martinez a fairly extended look, and it would continue to surprise me if we saw him on Saturday against Dallas. While I think Martinez deserves a better fate, I don't think Sutter sees it as I do. We'll see.

Special Teams

  • Power Play, Grade: F. Pretty simple stuff. The Kings registered a big fat zero on the chance sheet while on the power play and had plenty of time to do so. The power play has regressed in the past 4 games. There's no real excuse here. Nashville's PK was 29th in the league a season ago and has remained dreadful to start this year.
  • Penalty Kill: Grade: A. Although it's been a little up and down to begin the season from the process perspective for the Kings, the PK has been on a definite upswing lately. Since struggling against Ottawa, it has been outstanding. They've created a small handful of chances, severely limited the opposition and allowed just 1 goal in that stretch. The Kings PK went 4/4 and that included a 4-on-3 situation in overtime. Mike Richards also generated a breakaway and came a few inches from giving the Kings the lead late in regulation.

Jonathan Quick, Grade: A

  • He was the reason the Kings won, period. Quick had a .929 SV% on scoring chances alone. He made a few highlight reel saves and gave the Kings 2 points when they did very little to deserve them. On top of that, his shootout game has been on point. He's stopped all 8 shooters he's faced so far this season. Not much to say about him in this one. He was the Kings' 1st, 2nd, and 3rd star.

Total Team Grade: D+.

  • I'm a little conflicted on what to write here. In a win, you wanna find the bright sides. The only two I can find are Jonathan Quick and the PK. The rest of it? Yuck. I'd almost rather lose a game like the Tampa Bay game than win a game like this, as I fear it might reinforce a bad habit or something. The Kings have won like this twice this season, with the previously mentioned Minnesota game being the other example. Even in that game, though, the Kings generated a few more shot attempts than the Wild. They simply got run over by Nashville. Still, Willie Mitchell called it one of the better games of the road trip. Maybe he knows something that I don't; it's certainly possible. The Kings were a little bit tighter defensively. The chances for Nashville certainly weren't of the quality that they were for Tampa Bay. That should be expected though, as Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis might score more goals than the entire forward group of Nashville. Okay, that's a bit of hyperbole, but you get the idea. The Kings allowed lower-quality chances in general, but still allowed a lot of very good chances. It's not even the type of reaction you expect from a complete meltdown like the one in Tampa. If you're going to go into safety mode, you expect to allow fewer chances than they did. On top of that, they generated almost literally nothing offensively, notching just 4 scoring chances at even strength and 1 more while shorthanded. Quite frankly, it's the type of win that defensive-minded-but-bad teams will squeeze out. I sure hope that's not the team the Kings are. Still, it was the last game of what amounted to a 3-1 road trip. Maybe they deserve a little more slack. I'm not sure.

The Numbers

(Trigger Warning: sadness ahead)

  • Extra Skater
  • Scoring chances and Corsi-table below. Read at your own peril.