Game Day Preview #55, Los Angeles Kings @ Boston Bruins
Can the Kings make it four in a row? I’m scared.
HOW TO WATCH
Game Time:10:00 AM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Stanley Cup of Chowder
February Road Trip Stats: 3-1-0
Hello from Boston, where yours truly prepared for today’s matinee game by catching some college hockey last night. While there are some prominent names on Harvard’s team, like Carolina property Adam Fox and New Jersey draft pick Reilly Walsh, I was mostly there to see two former players from my local USHL team, the Chicago Steel: Vegas draft pick Jack Badini and undrafted Baker Shore, the youngest brother of former King Nick Shore. Harvard beat Union 5-3 in a game where officiating seemed indifferent at best, but both teams did get dinged with too many men penalties in the first period alone, which seems like a thing that maybe student athletes would be able to manage better, but what do I know.
Today, though, we’re back to the NHL and back to checking on the Kings, who are looking to make it four wins in a row against the Bruins. It’s not necessarily going to be quite an easy of a feat as any of their past three wins, though. While the Bruins have slipped in the standings a bit, winning just four of their past 10, dropping them to the first Wild Card spot in the east, they still have one of the most formidable lines in hockey. David Pastrnak is in the top 10 in points (65) and goals (31) in the league. Brad Marchand is just outside of the top 10 for assists (42). Patrice Bergeron is just basically perfect, no matter what the stats say—and the fact is, he has 47 points in 38 games, so imagine what he could have done with a full, healthy season.
In net, Tuukka Rask will start. He’s 3-3-1 against the Kings in his career. Like most seasons for Rask, it seems like it takes some time for him to settle into a groove. He’s finally gotten there, it looks like. He’s sitting on a .924 save percentage, his best stats in that category since his Vezina-winning season in 2013-14. He’s won three of the last five full games he played; he was also pulled early once due to injury, playing just over 18 minutes against the Rangers before being knocked over in a collision at the net.
The Bruins played those same Rangers again on Wednesday, giving up a 3-1 lead en route to a shoot-out loss. Having partially paid attention to that game when it was on TV, everyone sort of checked out of watching when it seemed like the Bruins win was a foregone conclusion. Looking back up elicited more than a few “it was three to one” comments. The Bruins are looking to right their ship after that one and are going to hope to do it against the sometimes hapless Kings.
Those hapless Kings have looked much improved as of late, though, and today will be a test of whether or not they can hold their act together against much better, playoff-caliber teams. Their performance against the Flyers was a full-team win, with every line contributing and doing their best to successfully deny the Flyers zone entries, let alone shots on goal. The Kings largely dominated in shots for most of the game, making it feel much more like the Kings of old, where they put 30+ shots on a goalie without much to show for it. Of course there was the late goal against and the overall inability to slow the Flyers down once they really started pressing at the end of the game, but a win is a win, and for a team looking for motivation, walking away with two points is all that matters to them.
Dion Phaneuf comes back in tonight in exchange for Paul LaDue. Willie Desjardins spoke with Jon Rosen about the fact that Phaneuf, LaDue, and Sean Walker will all start rotating in and out of the lineup now. It remains to be seen how often Phaneuf will be the one to sit, but credit where credit is due to Desjardins for finally recognizing that it’s time for Phaneuf to be the extra man every so often. Trevor Lewis’ return is imminent; with Matt Luff being returned to Ontario, that clears a roster spot, but someone else will have to come out of the lineup. My guess is Mike Amadio, who’s been playing very well, and should stay in the lineup over Nate Thompson, but Desjardins rarely seems to heed any of my coaching suggestions.
Hope you’re up and ready for an early one. Get some coffee. It’ll all be okay.