Kings @ Predators Recap: Too Little, Too Late
The Predators outplayed the Kings for the better of two periods. That allowed them to amass an insurmountable lead.
The Nashville Predators are fighting to keep their wild card spot, or maybe even to move up to third in the Central Division. They certainly played like a team doing exactly that as soon as the puck dropped.
The Los Angeles Kings took the ice with Andy Andreoff in the lineup for the first time since I'm-not-going-to-check-it's-never-enough games ago after Kris Versteeg was injured blocking a shot off of his foot against the Boston Bruins on Saturday. We're usually not particularly enthused about this here at Jewels, but fortunately, Versteeg is on the road trip with the Kings, so we expect to see him in Winnipeg if not tonight in Minnesota. That being said, Andy wasn't the problem last night. Yay! The Kings lost in a pretty bad fashion though, so we have to find the small victories.
To provide context for the game, it helps to talk about Nashville's underlying strengths. They are very good at limiting scoring chances due to the depth of their defense. They are best in the NHL at keeping opposing teams out of the low slot area. This is why perhaps not so great goaltenders like Pekka Rinne can put up very good numbers. This is also why the Kings struggled to score until the third period in this game.
While the Kings battled to even on shots in the third, they only generated two scoring chances at even play. Sure, their power play looked promising halfway through the first, but the Kings have been in somewhat of a rut lately despite being very good most of the year. They failed to convert on any of their four power plays in the game, which is really not great if you want to win hockey games.
When you look at scoring chance numbers for the whole game, it's not a pretty picture. According to war-on-ice, the Predators out-chanced the Kings 27 to 14 across all strengths, and also beat them by a similar margin on high danger chances at 11 to 5. The Kings are a team that can routinely put up over 30 chances per game, so to limit them to half of that is quite a feat. What's more, while the final shot total came out to 30 a piece, a large part of that was the Kings' push in the third when they were trailing by as many as three goals (the third of which caused this utterly terrifying gif of Sutter). Of those 30 shots, the Kings' forward group barely accounted for more than half at 16. It's no wonder that the two King goals were by a defenseman and a deflection off a defenseman's shot.
While the Kings held it scoreless in the first, they were pretty much decimated in the second period. As defensive mistakes piled up, the Predators were able to lob 17 shots at Jonathan Quick. Those numbers were only with one power play - a power play the Predators scored on unfortunately. Getting scored on a power play that was created by a freak too many men situation was just a symbol of the Kings' night as a whole.
All of this is not to say that the Kings looked terrible all night. Two quick goals early in the third period actually brought them back into contention before Ryan Johansen's redirection of a Shea Weber shot was the final dagger. The Kings came mighty close to tying it before that, in fact. The Kings had a golden chance thanks to Nick Shore that they simply couldn't convert on. This sparked an intense twitter debate about the offensive merits of Nick Shore. It suffices to say that if Dustin Brown is snake bit, then Nick Shore is perpetually stuck in the chamber of secrets with a giant basilisk.
Even with the loss, the Kings maintain a Pacific Division lead by two points. If they win tonight against Minnesota, they can draw even with the Dallas Stars and have the tie-breaker for best in the Western Conference. After last night's game, they may want to do the latter so they can face Minnesota or Colorado in the first round. They play Minnesota tonight, who gave them a tough time generating anything when the Wild gained a lead. They may want to try and jump out in front early in that one tonight. Just a suggestion.