Game Day Preview #17, Toronto Maple Leafs @ Los Angeles Kings

oh no


Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Pension Plan Puppets

Hello, Marco Sturm!

The Kings’ new assistant coach joins the team this week after concluding his obligations with the German men’s national team. While Marco Sturm’s presence, particularly in the first game, most likely isn’t going to make the Kings do a complete about face in terms of remembering how to drive offense, it will be interesting to keep an eye on him, who he focuses on on the bench, if we start seeing any tweaks to the power play. Stuff like that.

Willie Desjardins, incidentally, already confirmed that he’s going to start tweaking the power play, now that he’s had a chance to see it in its, uh, natural habitat:

Sturm appeared to encourage simplicity when coaching in the Olympics, and perhaps that message will get through to the Kings, who frequently find themselves trying to get too fancy on the ice. If what’s truly ailing them is just the game getting in their heads — after all, it’s not as if Anze Kopitar forgot how to score goals over the summer — then perhaps preaching a back-to-basics approach will help the Kings make progress.

Some part of the Kings’ play has already been simplified under Willie Desjardins; the team seems to be much more successful entering the offensive zone than previously. Only now, once they get in, they don’t seem to know what to do with the puck. Overpassing, passing to players who are covered, dumping the puck in and not being able to get it back … it’s been pretty yikes. It’s been one thing after another for the Kings, and if regaining some form of competence (and confidence) means that they   also have to go back to basics, well, we’re in for a long season. Maybe by April, things will be interesting.

The Peter Budaj Experiment

Old friend Peter Budaj gets the start tonight.

Unlike Budaj’s previous stint with the Kings, he’s not playing behind the same tight defense. Sure, most of the personnel are the same — of the 18 Kings who skated in Budaj’s last game with the Kings in February 2017, 12 are still with the team. (Your departures are Nic Dowd, Marian Gaborik, Kevin Gravel, Dwight King, Brayden McNabb, and Nick Shore, about none of whom you’d usually find yourself saying, “ah, yes, the keys to the Kings defense”.) And the skill level should still mostly be the same. And yet, here we are, last place in the league with the worst goal differential and the fewest goals scored — 33 puts them a horrifying 11 goals behind Anaheim, the next worst team.

So, best of luck, Peter. You might need it.

The Opposition

I don’t even want to talk about Toronto. They’re terrifying. They score a lot of goals — 58, putting them seventh in the league. I’m very tired. I don’t want to play this team.

The Kings are probably going to win 5-1 just to prove me wrong. I’d welcome it, really. Because a win, or even a competent 60 minutes of hockey, seems so far out of reach right now.

The Kings are the first stop on Toronto’s swing through California. The Leafs lost their most recent game, a 5-1 drubbing in Boston on Saturday. They were on a three-game winning streak before that, where they scored a total of 14 goals and allowed only two. In three games, they’ve scored 42% of the goals the Kings have scored all season.

Oh, boy.

The Maple Leafs beat the Kings 4-1 in their only other meeting this season, with goals from Kasperi Kapanen, Mitch Marner, and Patrick Marleau, who just loves scoring against the Kings. Thanks to all those years on the Sharks, Marleau is 41-49--90 against the Kings in 111 regular season games played.

That’s a lot of points. Patrick Marleau has more career goals against the Kings than the Kings have this season.

Please help. We’re so tired.

Auston Matthews, by the way, is with the Leafs on the road, but is not playing. Small favors, I suppose.

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