On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Kings took down the Philadelphia Flyers on the first game of a two-week road trip. Over the course of 65 minutes and change, they hit a number of obstacles which they've faced quite often this year, as well as in the past. Here's how they overcame each one in a 3-2 shootout win:
Before the officials decided that the third period would be whistle-free, they called seven penalties in the first two frames. Five were on the Kings. Don't take this to mean that the refs were bad, though they did miss Drew Doughty getting his tooth knocked out by a late high stick; rather, the Kings were putting themselves in trouble, and plays like Doughty's trip and Kyle Clifford's boarding penalty were pretty cut-and-dry. LA's early-season special teams excellence continued, though, as despite taking three more penalties, they came out even. Shayne Gostisbehere's slapshot on the very first power play was basically unstoppable, but Jamie McBain scored through Marian Gaborik's screen on the Kings' first PP chance and Jonathan Quick stopped eight more Flyers shots with a man down.
1 for 5 on the PP isn't bad, especially against a v. good LA kill, but you do kinda feel like not getting one of those will bite 'em, yeah?— Kurt (@Kurt_BSH) November 18, 2015
OK, so in the grand scheme of things, faceoffs aren't that important. Tonight's game, however, was downright ugly: 21 wins on 59 faceoffs, good for a season-worst 35.6% win percentage at the dot. Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff actually broke even, winning 8 of 15, but Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar got absolutely smoked by Claude Giroux, who won 24 of 28 draws. Fortunately, when it comes to winning, losing faceoffs appears to be an even more effective strategy than playing Jamie McBain.
Kings won a season-low 36% of faceoffs tonight. Then again, they're 9-1 this season when they win fewer than 50%.— Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) November 18, 2015
When the Kings run into their former players, the old boys give the new guys problems. (This does not include Simon Gagne.)
i'm not saying the proper thing for the flyers to do on gagne night vs the kings is throw the game but....i'm not NOT saying it— John (@toshanshuinLA) November 18, 2015
Last season, when LA charged into Philly, Brayden Schenn scored the game-winner on a controversial overtime goal. He and Wayne Simmonds came out firing in this game, combining for 16 shot attempts, but neither managed to crack the scoresheet. Jeff Carter, on the other hand, only has one point in five career games in Philadelphia, and didn't do much of anything tonight. Case in point: he was on the ice for Milan Lucic's late equalizer, but he lost the offensive-zone draw and was the only King not to touch the puck as the other five guys cycled. Credit to Lucic for jumping on the puck off a strange carom; he saw it all the way.
You can cease your Toronto hate for a while, everybody. Recall that Schenn scored the game-winner last time the Kings were in Philadelphia, on an OT goal which sent Quick into a rage. Schenn appeared to have scored a go-ahead goal in the second period when he crashed the net, just as he did last season. Video review, however, came through for LA, as Schenn was shown to have kicked the puck in as it hung out on the goal line.
The Kings' shootout problem was well-documented last season, and it ended up being the primary reason they sat at home during the playoffs. The new 3-on-3 format has been a blessing, as it allowed the Kings to avoid the shootout for nearly a quarter of the season. You knew it wouldn't be gone forever, though. Tonight it returned after a thrilling overtime session featuring fine work from Quick and Steve Mason. Anze Kopitar was 1 of 9 on shootout attempts last season, but he got the only tally tonight on a pinpoint shot. Coming from someone who's known for deking the goalie, the move was unexpected, but effective.
A lot of the individual problems still exist, as shown above, and individual skaters are still fighting through their own struggles. The Kings are still looking for production out of Kopitar, Brown, and Gaborik, but each one was able to contribute in ways that didn't give them points. The bottom end of the defense is still looking for consistency, but McBain chipped in, in a big way. That third line of Brown, Shore, and Trevor Lewis was tremendous in possession, as they have been all season.
For now, it's been enough to squeeze out some close results, which didn't happen enough last season.
Throw out empty netters and LA now 8-2-0 in 1-goal games... a good change from years past. That has made up for a poor team sh%.— Andrew Leafman (@andrewleafman) November 18, 2015
Ride the close-game wave as long as it lasts; hopefully, the bounceback there doesn't come until the shooting percentage bounceback arrives as well.