Preview: Vegas Golden Knights (2-0) @ Los Angeles Kings (0-2)
I don’t blame you if you’re still tired from Friday night’s game. I still am and all I did was sit on my couch. Several players set career and franchise highs in ice time in the longest game in Kings history. And while the previous longest game ended in some Kings heroics, this one — not so much.
Alec Martinez (44:51) passed Drew Doughty (41:41 in Game 2 of 2014 F vs. NYR) for the most time on ice ever recorded in @LAKings playoff history (since 1997-98). #NHLStats #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/xTwscxHOF4— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 14, 2018
And while it was impressive to see the Kings buckle down on defense while missing their top three defensemen — and while Trevor Lewis put in a penalty killing shift for the ages — the simple fact of the matter is that the offense just wasn’t there.
All right, fine, name the damn Unsung Hero Award after Lewis— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) April 14, 2018
The Kings spent under six minutes controlling possession in the offensive zone; the Golden Knights doubled that. That can’t entirely be blamed on the depleted defensive corps. Not every play was lost via a defenseman failing to keep a puck in. Six minutes of zone time in more than ninety minutes of hockey is simply not good enough.
Quick had one of the best games of his career in game two, but his team couldn't match his performance and Vegas finally broke through for a 2-0 series lead. pic.twitter.com/1UOrqLEmAn— The Point (@PNThockey) April 14, 2018
The same problems that plagued the Kings in game one followed them through almost all of game two. The Kings were credited with six high danger chances during even strength play through all of game two, according to Natural Stat Trick. The Golden Knights had six changes in the second period alone.
Tonight should see an improved blue line for the Kings, with Drew Doughty returning from his one-game suspension, and Jake Muzzin healed enough to play. He looks to jump up onto the first pairing with Doughty, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the pairings get shuffled up as the game goes on. Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue come out tonight. While LaDue has scored the only Kings goal to date, Oscar Fantenberg proved himself more than capable of handling playoff hockey over the past two games and deserves to stay in.
But getting back two defensemen is going to be a moot point if the Kings don’t figure out a way to find some breathing room on the ice. Vegas simply smothers every chance the Kings could have. Thirty shots in ninety minutes is unacceptable.
Perhaps with the return of Doughty and Muzzin, the forwards will feel a little less obligated to have to compensate for the defenders behind them, and may take more chances at the net, or on the rush. At this point, I’d settle for an ugly goal that bounces off of someone’s chest, or deflects off a Vegas skate. The Kings got more bodies in front of Fleury on Friday, and you’d think it would pay off eventually — if only they could stay in the zone long enough to make it work.
Vegas’ lineup stays almost the same, with the exception of David Perron probably drawing back in over Tomas Tatar. That’s good news for the Golden Knights, as Perron is not only great for depth scoring, but also for being a pretty effective pest. Jonathan Quick has been absurdly dialed in this series, not letting anything get to him so far, and he’s certainly been tested more than his fair share over two (and a half) games. Perron’s return adds an additional variable in this game, as he’s certainly no stranger to getting under Jonathan Quick’s skin.
Vegas, from their perspective, doesn’t need to change anything they’re doing. They’ve dominated in every way so far. For the Kings, tonight is now or (almost) never. They’ve been so-so at home this year, but there’s no better time than tonight than to make a splash and figure out how to break through.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Carter - Toffoli
Rieder - Kempe - Lewis
Clifford - Thompson - Mitchell
Muzzin - Doughty
Fantenberg - Martinez
Phaneuf - Folin
Vegas Golden Knights
Marchessault - Karlsson - Smith
Neal - Haula - Tuch
Perron - Eakin - Carpenter
Nosek - Bellemare - Carrier
McNabb - Schmidt
Theodore - Engelland
Merrill - Miller
Opposing Preview: Knights on Ice