Kings-Ducks Recap: Picking Up Where We Left Off
An inexperienced Kings squad pulls out a shootout win behind the big guns.
It was good to see some new players under the (suddenly brighter) lights at Staples Center, but in the end, the familiar faces came through. The Los Angeles Kings developed a penchant for overcoming two-goal deficits in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and did it again in the first "full squad" game of 2014-15. Kings 4, Ducks 3, in the shootout.
Let's talk about the defense first, which was... shaky. That can happen when you only have one full-time NHLer on the blueline. Alec Martinez wore the A and was just fine, but everyone else from probable LA King Brayden McNabb on down to tryout player Kevin Raine has some stuff to work on. McNabb was steady overall and made a couple of stellar individual defensive plays, but he did make a couple of bad decisions in his own end. Derek Forbort had trouble on Dany Heatley's goal (more on that later) and was pretty invisible otherwise. Nick Ebert earned the third star and was dazzling with the puck, though he's still got to work on his strength. Jeff Schultz was Jeff Schultz, for better and for worse. And Raine was surprisingly confident and used his body well, but he's much better observed in the defensive zone.
Now that we've covered each d-man, let's let them off the hook a little bit! The Anaheim goals were largely due to coverage failures as a whole, not necessarily individual lapses. On the Anaheim Ducks' opening goal, Ebert and Forbort (I'm calling them Ebort) were pulled away from the crease, and Andy Andreoff lost containment on Emerson Etem. On the second, Alec Martinez yelled at Jordan Weal to pressure William Karlsson, but Weal collided with Martinez and Forbort was too slow to prevent Dany Heatley from wristing a loose puck past Martin Jones. On the third? Ryan Kesler found a soft spot...
... and didn't miss. These kind of team lapses aren't a major concern because these 18 guys have never played a game together; you'd expect there to be some trial and error. And overall, the sorta-Kings did what the normal Kings do: outshoot their opponent and keep things at their pace.
The offense, of course, was good enough to match Anaheim's three goals. The forwards with the most at stake going in were Andreoff and Adam Cracknell, who are battling for Opening Night spots, and both were relatively quiet. Cracknell rang a shot off the post and Andreoff was involved in the power play, but neither found the scoresheet and both only stuck out when they were hitting people. Jordan Nolan, on the other hand, flipped in a deflected puck for the Kings' first goal. Maybe we can't assume that Nolan is losing his roster spot to Andreoff? Kyle Clifford showed no ill effects from offseason surgery; don't expect him to be a scratch on Opening Night.
That battle will continue. There are no such questions about Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. Pearson didn't have any points but was noticeably stronger on the puck, fighting through checks rather than simply outskating them. He looks ready to go. As for Toffoli? He made a delightful saucer pass to Dwight King (also wearing an A!) for goal #2, then took the puck from Hampus Lindholm in the defensive zone and skated 3/4 of the ice before snapping a shot past John Gibson for goal #3. Sutter shuffled the lines a bit, but if those two continue playing like this, moving either player down to the fourth line is a waste.
Anything else? Nothing out of the ordinary. Martin Jones was good. Staples Center was full. The Kings and the Ducks had some scrums. It was fun. Hope you were able to enjoy seeing the Kings back in action; if you missed it, watch Toffoli, King, and Jones seal the deal in the shootout below.
Tell us what you thought about last night's game in the comments!