Preview: Vegas Golden Knights (3-0) @ Los Angeles Kings (0-3)
It might be because I’ve been sitting poolside in Cabo for the past couple days, a margarita never too far from my hand, that I’ve been significantly less stressed than expected about tonight’s game.
Then again, a guy from Edmonton today spotted my Kings hat as I was getting out of the pool and asked me a very specific question about the playoffs, which I will not repeat here for anti-jinxing purposes, and I felt every muscle in my face start to twitch.
Maybe I’m not as relaxed as I thought.
Anyway, tonight’s game is for all the marbles, or whatever you want to call it. It’s maybe better for our collective blood pressure to try to find some state of chill over it, but — we’re Kings fans. We know no chill.
So here we are. The personnel for both teams is expected to remain the same. The game plan for each team — hard, physical hockey — is going to remain the same. And the Golden Knights are going to play the exact same game they’ve played for the last three — why change now, when what they’ve been doing has been working so well already?
For the Kings, now’s the time to re-find whatever early season magic propelled them to a hot start, banking points before the rest of the West caught up. Now’s their chance to rediscover the whole “best third period team in hockey” thing.
They made strides towards that in Game Three, comfortably outshooting Vegas in each period, until a thirty-second lapse in judgement ended any hopes at overtime, let alone a win. But still, the Kings are struggling to get many quality chances in front of Vegas’ net. Vegas’ chances were more limited than in the first two games, but the chances that they have had are grade A chances — fifteen high danger chances at even strength compared to five total for the Kings.
Every game’s gotten a bit better, and a bit worse, because the winning isn’t coming. The goals aren’t there. Forget depth scoring, we’re still waiting for reliable offensive forwards to show up in this series. When two of three goals are scored by players with a total of 12 NHL goals between them, that’s very good for those players, and very bad for everyone else counted on to move the needle on offense. Whether it’s Vegas disrupting their chances or everyone’s shooting percentages taking a dangerous dive off a cliff at the same exact time, it doesn’t necessarily matter. The fact is that there’s no more time for excuses. This team is out of runway, and they need to find their wings and re-learn how to take flight.
The comparisons to 2014 are inevitable, but despite the roster crossover between this team and that one, these are vastly different teams, finding themselves with different issues against the competition.
But still. It only takes one win to get the ball rolling.
It’s now or never.
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