An NHL season has 82 games. Of those, how many feel like they can really have a larger impact on a season? Five? Ten?
It remains to be seen whether the Los Angeles Kings' 5-3 loss actually does signify anything on a larger level. At the very least, though, it was a missed opportunity, and one that stings a bit with three consecutive days off coming up.
The Los Angeles Kings have "welcomed" the San Jose Sharks to Staples twice this year, and both times, they've gotten a goal on their very first shot. What could be better? Of course, the last time it happened was on Opening Night, and Nick Shore's season-opening tally was LA's only goal of the evening. This time around, Tyler Toffoli victimized Martin Jones on a pinpoint shot two minutes in, and he was able to do it again in the second period when he and Tanner Pearson hounded Brent Burns into a turnover.
Burns is having a fascinating season. 31 points in 37 games, third amongst defensemen, after last night, and that's impressive. Pair it with a rather nasty-looking -13 +/- rating, though, and you end up receiving a great deal of criticism. (Side note: that puts him fourth-worst among defensemen, and I'll give you one guess as to who is in third.) Of course, +/- has its drawbacks, and Burns is pulling his weight. Or maybe he just does it more against LA; his .67 points/game against LA are the highest average he has against any team he's ever shared a division with. Anyway, Burns replied to that turnover with a goal from the point a minute later to pull San Jose within 3-2 just before period's end.
The rest of the damage came from Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. Sure, Burns had an empty-netter to get himself to three points, but Pavelski and Thornton already had three by the time Burns sealed things. And a word about Pavelski: last night's game was broadcast on NBCSN, so we got to listen to two guys who know a lot about the Sharks and slightly less about the Kings, Randy Hahn and Jamie Baker. And when the Sharks' color commentator went on a two-minute spiel about how Pavelski is better than anyone not named Sidney at tipping pucks, I rolled my eyes for about a minute and fifty-five seconds.
Naturally, Pavelski tipped the team's first goal (which Thornton then tipped again) and the game-tying goal past Jonathan Quick. Touche. Pavelski then scored the go-ahead goal shortly after on the power play, and to explain how it happened, here's Sheng!
1) BM loses 1v1 w TH 2) DD clears, PM lifts stick? 3) Weak clear sets up JT 4) Pass thru DD, NS poor read, TH pick? pic.twitter.com/wz6i5fdm26— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) December 23, 2015
The entire narrative of this recap might have been different if I'd been able to write it after the first period. Then I would have gotten to talk about Trevor Lewis! And Nick Shore! And Dustin Brown! The third line makes total sense on paper, and yesterday, it made total sense on... ice. The three dominated the first 20 minutes, setting each other up with spin-around passes and clever cuts to the net. Lewis got the line's goal on what Rich Hammond described as a "bunt single," putting the Kings up 2-0, but they couldn't keep up their blistering pace. Nick Shore, though, had two chances on a single shift late in the game in the slot, but one got stopped and the other bounced away.
With that, San Jose narrowed the gap in the Pacific from eight points to six points, and the Kings went home to think about what they had done. Will they be fine? Probably. They played well for most of the game! But if LA's traditional December/January slump comes about, everyone will point to 5-0 against Toronto, but this one might be a bit more meaningful.