Let's see if we can wrap this whole thing up before the EPIX series begins (here!), so I can remember why I enjoy watching this team...
Overall, a brutal evening for the Los Angeles Kings, who came in looking for a jump-start and ended up with a big downer after yesterday's visit to the White House. The Washington Capitals earned a 4-0 win for two big reasons. One: they shut down LA's offense, allowing 27 shots but limiting good chances until very late on. You could count LA's really good chances, while the game was still in reach, on one hand. In fact, we'll list them off right now:
- In the first period, Jeff Carter fought hard behind the net to earn a takeaway and fed Dwight King on the doorstep. King hit the post.
- In the second period, the Capitals got caught up ice, and Marian Gaborik got a breakaway in the other direction. Braden Holtby made the save to keep his team in the lead.
- King and Carter connected again, this time on a counter-attack, but Holtby slid across to deny Carter's one-timer.
Holtby's been very good all season, and three legitimate Grade-A chances won't cut it against a quality netminder. Especially if you give up four goals.
The first period was devoid of, well, anything for about ten minutes as the teams felt each other out. Thirty seconds after King hit the post, Tyler Toffoli took a tripping penalty, and though the Kings killed it off, they were on the back foot for the rest of the period. Jonathan Quick was sensational during the opening period, flashing the glove a few times, but he couldn't bail out his team after a defensive miscommunication between Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams. (I yelled at Stoll enough for another bad penalty tonight, but this one was much more on Williams.) No one took Troy Brouwer as he broke to the net, and a no-look pass by Evgeny Kuznetsov to the wide-open Brouwer set up a goal. 1-0 at intermission, and Washington had only lost four games all season when leading after one.
They weren't about to lose tonight, because the Kings only had those two scoring chances in the period. Washington did next to nothing at evens during the second period, but when Stoll went to the box for tripping during a 4-on-4, Brouwer tipped in a Mike Green point shot to make it 2-0. The Kings went to the locker room with their heads down, and playing aggressively in the third, Nicklas Backstrom and Eric Fehr capitalized on sloppy Kings mistakes to add insult to injury. Holtby held on for the shutout, and LA walked out with nothing to build on.
I tweeted it earlier, but I'll repeat it here: if 95 points is again the benchmark for making the playoffs, LA needs 41 points in their last 32 games. That's a 105-point pace, which ten teams in the league are currently achieving. Are the Kings capable of being a top-ten team? Certainly. If tonight's any indication, they need improvements on the PK, and they need fewer breakdowns in their own zone. We'll talk more about that in the coming days, but for now, enjoy the Road to the Stadium Series.