The Los Angeles Kings were pretty fourtunate in this game, scoring early off a slick Dustin Brown wrist shot, electing to shoot instead of pass for a change. Martin Jones played the angle poorly, but it’s almost hard to blame him considering the Kings have long been a pass-and-cycle team.
The visitors didn’t Muzz around defensively and were Quick to lock up the middle of the ice and keep pressure to the outside. They looked very Shore of themselves and did not Dowd their abilities, even though the power play failed to score (again). That Iafallo who wears number 23 was the best Pearson on the ice and left a Dustin of salt in his wake, hitting everything and seeming to believe he was perhaps in Arizona. Clearly Jonesing for more offense, the guys in white were most dangerous, and didn’t look like they were Cart-ing around something heavy while skating.
They faced Toff competition and the best way to explain that nothing was a Kopi from last year: the Kings’ goalie may have Folin a few times, but he didn’t break. Don’t be Lew-d or even rude, if they keep working this hard there is no Doughty they will be given their LaDue. For fans in San Jose, the Kings surely Brod the house down Andreoff’d to sleep dreaming of how the Sharks couldn’t Kemp up. A game between these two rivals is typically not for the Fant of heart, but alas the visitors Mac’d on the home team and dominated them in just about every facet. The only thing that could eCliff this good feeling is the complete and utter failure on SIX (!) power plays (despite at least 15 shots on goal).
And now back to your regularly scheduled recap.
In the first five minutes or so of the game, it felt a lot like, Oh here we go again, another endless game of cycling and chess between the San Jose Sharks and the Kings, which is how things have been for the last five years or so. No one wants to give an inch and scoring is often low and difficult to come by. In many respects, scoring was still hard. They had quite a few quality chances (about 18 Grade-A and B) but were stymied by good goaltending. Despite being chased after four goals, Jones actually had a lot of great saves. The World’s Okayest Goalie (aka Aaron Dell) was even better and posted a 100% save percentage.
So what changed after the first 10 minutes? Brown scored off the rush.
Oscar Fantenberg had a decent first NHL game. He was quiet and rather unnoticeable, though sometimes that’s what you want from defensemen. He had a great second game. He was far more noticeable in this game and just seemed more comfortable. Brown’s goal starts with the Swedish d-man knocking Paul Martin off the puck and getting it up to Anze Kopitar to start a rush the other way. A more “shoot first” mentality surprised Jones and the Sharks, who all probably thought he was going to try to pass or cycle around the net. Instead, Brown elected to shoot finding some daylight between the top of Jones’s shoulder and the net.
The Sharks answered back quickly with a goal of their own. Mikkel Boedker deflected Dylan DeMelo’s shot from just inside the blue line. Adrian Kempe failed to mark Boedker, leaving the Dane completely alone in front of Jonathan Quick (who had another great night).
In this sequence, Nic Dowd tries to block Dimelo’s shot but is unable. Christian Folin has his man tied up so it falls to Kempe to be the last line of defense and he gets caught puck watching here. At no point does he move towards Boedker until after the puck is in the net. Perhaps you could assign some blame to Quick for being a tiny bit aggressive to his right, but tipped pucks are hard to track and stop.
The whole play started when Jake Muzzin lost a board battle against Jannik Hansen. Logan Couture came in for secondary support beating out Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri then makes the decision to block out the middle of the ice forcing Couture to go up the boards to Brendan Dillon who makes a quick pass to Dimelo, who sends a great pass up to Boedker. Oh, and this all happened in a span of about four seconds. Hockey is a fast game.
Despite the brief setback, the Kings set about going back to work. In the dying seconds of the period, it would’ve been easy to just play out the clock and go into the locker room. Anze Kopitar, captain and leader that he is, elected to shoot the puck one last time. Why not? The worst thing that would happen is he’d miss or Jones would save it. Best case scenario: He scores. Which is exactly what happened.
Oh, my, what a thing of beauty that is. Jim Fox called it the “perfect wrister” — over the pad and under the glove, utilizing the twerk of the stick for a perfect placement. Muzzin made up for his earlier gaffe (if you can really call a lost board battle a “gaffe”) with a beautiful pass right on the tape. Don’t underestimate the importance of the “easy” pass. All too often, the simple thing to do gets over complicated.
On Kopitar’s second goal, Dillon accidentally deflected the puck into his own net. Kopitar spotted Alex Iafallo hanging out in front of the net and attempted to pass to him. Dillon tried to break it up and ended up putting the puck into his own net. Whoops! Iafallo put it back in for good measure but still hasn’t scored his first NHL goal or point. Yet. It’s coming. He was terrific in this game again and earned a huge, five minute bump in ice time. Is he the left winger to play with Kopitar that we fans have prayed so long for? It’s still too soon to say; however, he is off to a great start.
The Kings’ fourth goal came just two minutes later. Jones misplayed the puck and Nick Shore tried to poke it into the net underneath him. The puck slowly slid near the cage but before he could stuff it in, Brent Burns locked him up. A seemingly innocuous play with a small error was on the verge of being no harm no foul until in comes Melker Karlsson to safely escort the puck out of harm’s way. Except things didn’t quite go as planned and he goofed. Under pressure from Kyle Clifford, Karlsson rushed to finish the play as quickly as possible but ended up scoring in his own net. Oops.
That got Jones the hook and in came Dell. The Kings backed off slightly at first but that lasted only a few minutes of game time before they got right back to it. Dell was actually pretty good and stopped a few Grade-A chances of his own. He robbed Kopitar of the hat trick and kept the game from getting out of hand. Not bad for the World’s Okayest Goalie.
Let’s go back to Kempe for just a second. He has great speed and great situational awareness offensively but his defense is a bit shaky at times as evidenced on the goal against. His inconsistency on defense was one of the biggest knocks against him in Ontario. It’ll be interesting to see what the Kings do with him, especially since they keep trying to make him a center, even though Dowd is just fine as a 3C.
Speaking of rookies, Jonny Brodzinski was scratched in this game in favor of Shore. My guess is that there will be a rotating door of wingers in the bottom six until someone can really claim a place of their own. Also, Kurtis MacDermid saw his ice time drop below six minutes. He took a dumb retaliation penalty for a clean hit and was largely inconsequential. The team has four days off until they go up to Calgary. Will John Stevens play Paul LaDue in that game or will he give MacDermid another chance given that Matthew Tkachuk loves to take a run at people? Guess we’ll have to wait for the song to find out.