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2016 in Review, in One Game (or, Recap: Sharks @ Kings)

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December 31, 2016 unintentionally summed up all that was good and bad about the Kings in 2016.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On New Year’s Eve, LA took a 3-2 decision over the San Jose Sharks, and in 60 minutes, we saw most of 2016’s storylines play out. Read all about it!

[Box Score]

THE YEAR OF DOUGHTY

The most consistent Los Angeles King in 2016, as might be expected, was the one who got the most ice time. Drew Doughty’s first Norris Trophy was largely due to his special teams work and a lack of prior recognition, and given that both are lesser factors this season, he’s not even in the running right now.

But his game has hardly dropped off, and any real decline can pretty much be blamed on him spending most of his ice time with a rookie. Saturday was another fine effort from Doughty, and he got rewarded with the game’s second goal.

KOPITAR DEFENDS US, WE DEFEND KOPITAR

The other big (individual) winner this season was Anze Kopitar, who earned an All-Star berth, a Selke, and a Lady Byng for his work at both ends of the ice. This season, the defensive aspect of his game hasn’t changed, as aside from (hm) Kyle Clifford, he’s allowing fewer shots while on the ice than any other forward. He’s done so despite receiving a higher percentage of defensive zone starts than any other forward. Unfortunately, Saturday was a microcosm of his season so far:

via naturalstattrick.com

Despite playing well overall, the goals aren’t coming. We’ll have more on that tomorrow.

JEFF CARTER CARRIES THAT WEIGHT

Last season, Jeff Carter took an early lead in the LA Kings’ scoring race before Anze Kopitar passed him for good on January 2. It’s now January 3, 2017, and Carter doesn’t look like he wants to give it up this season. Even if Carter’s shooting percentage dips to his career average over the rest of 2016-17, he’d end up with 37 goals at his current shot rate. That’d be his highest total since 2008-09, and judging by the replies to this tweet, it’d remind a lot of people that he still exists. (This isn’t just this season, by the way; Carter had only four goals in 23 games in the first two months of 2016, but in March and April, he potted eleven goals in 25 games.)

PETER BUDAJ STAYS STEADY

Budaj stopped 18 of 20 shots on Saturday night, and his .900 save percentage was his lowest SV% in a win since October. It was also just his eighth-best start, in terms of save percentage, in ten December games. December has been his best month in LA, and he’s now putting up essentially the same numbers that Jonathan Quick has posted in the last two seasons. He’s only had to be spectacular every so often, but he’s been great, and his success has been one of the stories of the season.

OTHER NOTES THAT HELP REFLECT THE PAST YEAR

  • Alec Martinez got two more assists, ensuring he’d keep the team lead in scoring for defensemen.
  • Tanner Pearson scored again; he’s second on the team in goals and continues to assert himself with Tyler Toffoli missing.
  • Toffoli and Brayden McNabb still aren’t ready to return; LA hasn’t iced a healthy lineup all season.
  • The Sharks, who ended LA’s 2015-16 season, were the opponent.
  • Martin Jones and Peter Budaj have identical save percentages this season.
  • Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel played a combined 36 minutes.
  • Jordan Nolan, Nic Dowd, and Devin Setoguchi are still playing meaningful hockey.