(Editor’s Note: This is a tag-team recap between Robyn and Eric. Enjoy! Or at least try to enjoy!)
This game ran a span of emotions, mostly negative ones. As far as road games goes, this was one of the worst of the season for the Los Angeles Kings. This was an incredibly low event game. The Kings only mustered 34 Corsi events (total, including special teams) and allowed 45 to the New Jersey Devils. That was the second-lowest total in an NHL game this season, and the lowest for a losing team. It’s no wonder the Kings looked like they were skating through mud very often.
The combined total of 79 shot attempts was the second-lowest total in any NHL game this year. The lowest? 78, in LA's win over Florida on 11/18.— Eric (@EricJFTC) December 13, 2017
Full marks go to the Devils who are... actually good now??? Anyway, their forecheck seemed to stymie the Kings, who had trouble entering the zone. They were pretty decent at leaving the defensive zone, but getting the puck in deep was problematic. The Devils, on the other hand, had no trouble entering or even sustaining pressure in the offensive zone. It wasn’t quite as bad as the 3v3 OT from the other day, but it wasn’t much better than that, either. The New Jersey attack wasn’t necessarily impressive, as they weren’t peppering Jonathan Quick at any point, but after clamping down on LA in the first and scoring two goals late in the second, they didn’t need to be.
Quick shouldn’t take much blame for this one, although he probably wasn’t happy about allowing a soft goal five-hole to Brian Boyle at 17:04. Taylor Hall converted two glorious chances on a power play one-timer and a sudden breakaway, and Quick didn’t have a shot on either. The first goal came from Travis Zajac in a flash off a crazy rebound. The goalie is fine, and when Hall picks Jake Muzzin clean and gets that stride on Drew Doughty before anyone can react, you can’t blame him.
LA has been riding on the back of their best players this season, and it was a difficult night for their two best forwards. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown spent their time against Zajac, Brian Gibbons, and Blake Coleman, and that fairly anonymous line easily won the battle despite Kopitar’s scorching recent output. (And despite nine of the ten faceoffs between the two lines taking place in the neutral zone, as per Natural Stat Trick.)
Only one forward actually managed to come out ahead on Corsi differential, and that was Jonny Brodzinski. So it wasn’t necessarily a surprise that Brodzinski was on the ice for LA’s lone goal, and it also shouldn’t have been a surprise that Torrey Mitchell was the goalscorer. Mitchell had several dangerous chances on the evening, and his deflection of Alec Martinez’s harmless point shot was the only attempt that beat Cory Schneider. It was his first goal as a King, and he made John Stevens’ decision to play him (ahead of Jussi Jokinen) look good.
Other than that and a decent showing from returnee Kyle Clifford, there wasn’t anything positive to take away from this one. The blueliners looked shaky, the defense looked ineffective, and New Jersey had their way with the Kings on the ice. Maybe LA needed a blowout wakeup call after a couple shaky performances near the end of the losing streak, but that didn’t mean it was enjoyable.