Game Day Preview #10, Los Angeles Kings @ Montreal Canadiens

We meet again!

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (7-1-1) @ Montreal Canadiens (2-6-1)

How to Watch and What to Watch

I don’t know about you, but I’m still feeling some big big emotional whiplash from the Kings/Senators game. The constant swings back and forth from “they got this!” to “they don’t got this” were wild.

I mean, same.

But, on to Montreal. The Kings and Canadiens kept their last meeting tight until Adrian Kempe blew the third period wide open. The Canadiens were on the latter half of a back-to-back, playing their back-up goalie, mired in a very significant losing streak which they only just snapped on Tuesday with a 5-1 win against the Florida Panthers. So a team that couldn’t score (Montreal had twelve goals in eight games prior to their win) finally found their scoring touch. Sounds familiar.

Not much has changed on the Canadiens’ roster since these two teams met a week ago. Perhaps the biggest change is that Max Pacioretty finally broke his goalless streak. He’s been vocal about the challenges of being a captain struggling to score, and being the captain of a struggling team. It’s certainly a concept familiar to Kings fans, as we watched Anze Kopitar struggle underneath the weight of being a new captain on a low-scoring team that wasn’t meeting expectations. Kopitar’s managed to bounce back in emphatic fashion this season, and it’s only a matter of time for Pacioretty, who scored 35 goals last year, to do the same.  (While we’re talking about Pacioretty, here’s an interview with Jonathan Quick about their history together as childhood friends and Team USA teammates.)

In my preview of the previous Kings/Canadiens matchup, I spent so much time being angry about whatever it is they’re doing to Alex Galchenyuk -- and don’t get me wrong, as that situation has continued to devolve, I’m still mad about it -- that I didn’t get to talk about the big surprise on the blue line. Victor Mete, a 19-year old defenseman who played three seasons with the London Knights, has seen immediate success playing alongside Shea Weber on the top pairing. Mete’s speed and skating has been a good complement to Weber’s more physical, methodical game, and while he’s still looking for his first goal as a pro, he hasn’t looked out of place at all with Weber.

The Kings won’t see any lineup changes from their game against Ottawa. Kurtis MacDermid, after getting called out by me for being nothing other than “tall”, put together a fairly solid game against the Senators. He played a career-high 11:33, about the same as his defense partner Oscar Fantenberg, was fairly noticeable all night, and even had a breakaway chance:

So, sorry, Kurtis. I’ll be nicer next time.

The Nick Shore as 2C experiment lasted for about a game, as Adrian Kempe practically exploded onto the scene, playing with the speed and creativity we’d all been hoping to see from him. He wasn’t picked as this team’s number one prospect for nothing, and it’s the past few games for Kempe that have proven why he’s so highly esteemed in our eyes.  We’ve been waiting for Kempe to put all the aspects of his game together, and hopefully this is the start of something big for him.

Meanwhile, It’s good to know that Shore can fill in fine between Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli without being a detriment, but his game is probably better suited for right where he is, with Mike Cammalleri and Trevor Lewis. John Stevens said some interesting things the other day about Lewis, a prolific scorer in juniors who’s been molded into more of a checking line player with the Kings. Stevens doesn’t want Lewis to get away from that, but also spoke of allowing him to be creative and get involved in offensive plays. Lewis had a career high 12 goals last season; he’s already got three this year. The importance of depth scoring can’t ever be overlooked, and it looks like Lewis is poised for another year of being the depth hero we very deeply need.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Toffoli
Cammalleri - Shore - Lewis
Andreoff - Laich - Dowd

Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
MacDermid  - Fantenberg


Montreal Canadiens

Byron - Drouin - Lehkonen
Shaw - Danault - Pacioretty
Hudon - Plekanec - Gallagher
Scherbak - McCarron - Galchenyuk

Mete - Weber
Alzner - Benn
Davidson - Petry


Opposing Preview: Eyes on the Prize