Kings/Sharks Recap: Good Riddance

In the final match of the regular season, the Kings prove unable to stop the force that is Micheal Haley.

In the rubber match of the season series, the Kings and Sharks faced off Wednesday night with two critical points on the line. Critical for the Kings, at least.

First Period

Things started slow with both teams denying entry to the slot, but the Sharks were on the board first after a series of unfortunate events. To start, Drew Doughty played a puck behind his net – not normally a problem – but it came after a hand pass from [insert Sharks player name here] and negated what should have been a stoppage in play. Joe Thornton picked up the puck, circled to the high slot and then distributed to Brent Burns at the right point. Burns, strong as always, shuffled towards the high board and got off as ideal a deflection shot as possible. Deflect it did, catching Anze Kopitar’s stick in coverage and beating Budaj high, glove side.

To my eye, the Sharks seem to have watched tape on Budaj and appeared determined to cycle pucks to the point, get shots towards the net/below the knees, and hope for deflections or rebounds. While this is nothing new, it seems clear that teams are aware of Budaj’s strength, sound positional play, and are looking to challenge him deflections.

The tide turned just minutes later as LA got on the board. Derek Forbort received a pass from Dustin Brown at the right point and tossed a Charlie Huddy at the net, at least two feet wide. However, Tanner Pearson fought past Ryan Braun and deflected the puck past Martin Jones to even the score at 1-1. Peter DeBoer challenged the play claiming goaltender interference, but the call on the ice stood. No timeout for you!

The teams traded penalties – Gaborik of with a hook at ____ and Justin Braun at for holding at ___ - but both penalty killing units were strong. Everyone’s favorite LA King prospect, Derek Forbort, had strong shifts during the kill and dropped a knee to break up a Sharks 2-1 just after the Kings power play ended.

Just as I was about to type “play was pretty well balanced and focused in the neutral zone” the lethal combination of Michael Haley and Tommy Wingels struck, making it 2-1. Again, a bad bounce and broken coverage was to blame, as a Jordan Nolan pass to the point skipped over Alec Martinez’ stick and created a long two-on-one from the Sharks blueline. Haley fed Wingels with a quick past just inside the circle and he buried it - wait for it - high glove-side past Budaj.

It was an unfortunate goal after a strong series of shifts, and Brownie knew it.

Second Period

The Kings started strong in the second, finishing checks and maintaining control of the puck on zone entries. Ryan Carpenter went off for interference on Dustin Brown following an offensive zone faceoff, but the Kings did nothing with PP. As in no shots, making it no shots on two power-play opportunities. Sad!

Then, nonsense. With Jeff Carter off for high-sticking, a slow bounce off the boards and very slow near-post coverage by Budaj allowed Joe Pavelski to bounce the puck off Budaj’s left pad and in. I’m probably off here – Ward’s deflection of Thornton’s point pass was deceptive – but I just did not like this goal, and I suspect Mr. Budaj will not either.

The Sharks carried play after the goal, yet the Kings picked up momentum with Kyle Clifford out of the box after serving a Trevor Lewis high-sticking penalty. Jake Muzzin’s shot from the point was blocked, but Dustin Brown’s efforts in front would push the puck to Marian Gaborik, who brought the Kings to within one.

Jim Fox made several comments in tonight’s broadcast concerning Dustin Brown’s “purpose” and his determination to play a more intentional north-south game this season. As always, Mr. Fox was astute as Brown had the most effective game of any King. With any luck, Brown’s strong play continues and he finds himself captaining the Las Vegas Knights in 2017 – 2018 with continued success in 2016 – 2017.

The Kings followed their second goal with several strong shifts, yet Devin Setoguchi’s awful terrible just no-good offensive zone hooking penalty led to the Sharks sixth power play of the night. I don’t want to say I’m tiring of the Setoguchi story, but I’m starting to tire of Setoguchi’s performance and questioning if there’s not someone in Ontario who could bring more to his spot in the lineup.

Then, drama. Sort of. In a call I’d love to see more of, Patrick Marleau was tagged with a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head. To be clear, it was without intent and through no real fault of Marleau’s as his pursuit of the puck behind the net time perfectly with Dwight King’s. Elbow meet head, and a two-minute minor. However, I think it is high-time that the league treat direct contact to the head – even inadvertent – in the same manner that they treat high-sticking calls: You are responsible even when you are not in control.

Peter Budaj closed the second with an enormous save against a Sharks 2-1 with seconds remaining in the second, and the Kings trailing 2-3. All told, it was an even game to this point with the bounces, and power play opportunities, going San Jose’s way.

Third Period

The Kings did nothing with their power play to start the third, continuing a pattern from the first period. Tyler Toffoli’s absence is a clear loss for the Kings’, and he is particularly missed on the power play.

The teams traded chances in the sixth minute of the period, with Michael Haley (!) hitting the post and Dwight King putting a perfectly placed shot into Martin Jones’ pad, but the first half of the period largely consisted of battles along the boards.

If I’m being honest, the Sharks did a great good job of keeping Los Angeles to the outside after King’s scoring chance. I was bored. I didn’t really think to write much. The Kings needed a game breaker or a break, and nothing appeared for what felt like an eternity. Things happened – Michael Boedker had a breakaway and nearly put it into the crowd – but not really. Here’s a random collection of third period thoughts:

Forbort has played well.

Kopitar looks tired.

We have zero juice upfront if Carter or Pearson aren’t firing.

Yeah, I’ll deal for Landeskog.

TL/DR Game Summary