The Kings snagged all available points during a back-to-back on the east coast. I have the game recap here.
1st line (Brown - Williams - Kopitar), C+. It's not often that Sutter gives Kopi a significant portion of offensive zone starts, but he has chosen to do so each of the past two times the Kings have played the second game of a back-to-back. Even with soft zone starts, though, Kopitar had to face off against the top line of the Devils' a large chunk of the night, and that's not an easy task no matter where you start your shift. Sutter may have chosen to start Kopitar in the offensive zone as a response to Devils' Coach Peter Deboer's match-up tendencies. Deboer chose to go after the Kings' top line with his own. As a result, the top line of the Devils saw a bundle of d-zone starts and were rather effectively neutralized.
2nd line (King - Richards - Toffoli), B. Since the Devils' top line was busy with Kopitar, Mike Richards was free to roam against slightly easier competition. He wasn't too shabby, either. Richards went +3/-1 at evens, and he did that against decent competition and neutral zone starts. His linemates weren't quite as solid, but it was a good night for the group in general.
- 3rd line (Pearson - Vey - Frattin/Lewis), D. Ouch. Though they faced tough competition and zone starts, it's difficult to call this anything other than a rough night. For the second straight game, Trevor Lewis faced more chances by the opposition than any other forward (or player, for that matter). Tanner Pearson was not on the ice for a single Kings' chance (and just one shot attempt!) in the entire game. It's worth noting that 3 of the chances they faced came in a 16 second stretch, but they didn't light the world on fire the rest of the night either. Their zone starts weren't so tough to excuse such a performance, either. Frattin was okay, to an extent. At the very least he was the least bad of the four. Thanks to the Sutter Line Blender, he managed to go +2 in EV chances while his most prominent linemate was -3.
4th line (Nolan - Stoll - Lewis), C. I feel like Sutter is really pleased with the fact that he can start Nolan in the defensive end without much fear. It helps when the opposing coach isn't trying to exploit that match-up, but Nolan has been commendable during his first true foray into real responsibility in this league. Nolan had a 50/50 split between his offensive and defensive zone starts at 3 apiece. He managed to match that with a +2/-2 scoring chance performance while very narrowly getting outshot. Stoll was just above water in both regards. Certainly not world-beating, but I'll take it under the circumstances.
- 1st pairing (Muzzin - Doughty), C+. Sutter didn't use the same situational tactics that he had been deploying over the prior 2 games and instead chose to leave Muzzin with Doughty regardless of the situation for most of the night. The two of them faced decent competition and slightly easy zone starts. They won possession but came out even in chances (+4/-4). For the first time in a long time, Doughty wasn't particularly involved in the offensive zone. He didn't involve himself in a single scoring chance in any situation in the entire game. Muzzin came up with a chance and set up, though.
2nd pairing (Regehr - Voynov), C-. The numbers don't bear it out even a little bit, but I was pretty happy with Regehr's game. He was as positionally and physically strong as he has been all season. In a defensive-minded game, he played in important role. WIth that said, he and Voynov got absolutely run over in terms of possession. Though they got a very heavy dosage of the Devils' top line, they received fairly neutral zone starts. There isn't much excuse for how badly they got worked. Now, the two of them were often on the ice with the weakest forward line the Kings tossed out there, but they also saw even more time with 23/11/14. The two of them were also the weakest Kings d-men in terms of scoring chances. So, who do you think was to blame? Were Regehr and Voynov the culprits or were they the victims of their forwards?
- 3rd pairing (Mitchell - Martinez), B. While Muzzin wasn't as sheltered as he has been, Sutter didn't hesitate to leave Martinez on the bench for defensive zone starts. If a faceoff occurred in the Kings' end, you better bet that Martinez was glued to the bench. Of his 8 zone starts, 5 were in the offensive zone and 3 were in the neutral zone. This pairing faced pretty easy competition and even Mitchell didn't see the defensive zone very much. They turned in the best performance among Kings' defenders in both chances and possession, although I suppose it's to be expected.
- Power Play, A+. Kopitar's backhanded snipe was a beauty. (really, they get an F, they were again ineffective but it was a back-to-back and they didn't see the ice much).
- Penalty Kill, A. Very strong night. It didn't get a lot of action, but itw as effective. As I mentioned in my recap, Trevor Lewis provided strong up-ice pressure while shorthanded to draw a Devils' penalty in the late stages of the game. Earlier in the game, Linden Vey made an excellent read and displayed some pretty solid bunting skills in knocking down a cross-ice saucer-pass to create a half-breakaway for himself. He missed the net with his shot, but it was an impressive show. The Kings ultimately came out even in scoring chances (+1/-1) while shorthanded in the game.
Ben Scrivens, A
- Scrivens looked much more poised in New Jersey than he did in Long Island. Still, the Kings' defense played a pretty stingy game and didn't allow him to get tested often. However, when he did get challenged (Jagr untouched from the slot, Henrique on the doorstep after the puck ricocheted out from behind the net), he rose to the occasion and came up with the save.
Overall Team Performance, B
- The Kings do love their grit, and they showed all kinds of it in New Jersey. In the context of it being the back half of a back-to-back against a pretty good possession team, it was a very commendable performance. The game certainly could've gone either way, but the Kings did just enough to pull out the W. It was good to see the Kings play such a strong defensive game, as its been a concerning area of their game at times so far this season. I don't question this team's defensive ability in the long run, but it was good to see, hopefully, the beginnings of them putting it together.
- Extra Skater
- "Tables below," said the ceiling.