Kings @ Sharks Recap: Kings Score Four as Shooting Luck Rebounds
The Kings' lowly shooting and save percentages rebound at the same time. Good things happen.
Coming into the game into the night, the Kings were shooting 3.92% in all situations (second-worst in the NHL) with a save percentage of 89.15% (fifth-worst). Both of those rebounded hard tonight, leaving the Kings with a comfortable lead early that they were able to defend despite strong pushes by the Sharks.
In the rematch of their opening night bout, neither team iced the same roster we saw when the Sharks heavily outplayed the Kings and handed them a 5-1 defeat. The Sharks are already facing injury trouble with pivotal forward Logan Couture out through December and defensive acquisition Paul Martin out for an unknown period. Likewise, the Kings' Matt Greene is still battling an upper body injury, leaving last minute call-up Jamie McBain to suit up instead of the under-the-weather Derek Forbort. Human sloth Jeff Schultz is resting comfortably in calmer climates.
Tyler Toffoli started the scoring midway through the first when he coaxed Martin Jones out of out of position like a trusting puppy going in for a treat, before softly maneuvering the puck around Jones' outstretched pad and tapping it into the open net. It was quite a sight to watch.
Though the Kings left the 1st period down 18 to 8 in shots, a lot of the shot differential came from special teams. The Kings once again took too many penalties, though there were arguably very soft calls on Milan Lucic, Jordan Nolan and Brayden McNabb throughout the game. In all, the game finished essentially even on shot attempts at even strength, which plays to the Kings' favor since they spent 5/6ths of the game with a lead.
1st period 5v5 Corsi: SJS 19-15. So not quite as lopsided as SJS 18-8 shots advantage might indicate— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) October 23, 2015
Though both teams had periods where their play wasn't sharp, the Sharks suffered many worrying sequences where they looked heavily out of sync and were simply standing still. Allowing the Kings to easily steal the puck on your own powerplay, for example. It was definitely a deserved win by the Kings though, as they successfully pinned the Sharks in their own zone for several extended periods.
Further King goals came from Milan Lucic (his first as a King!) on the man advantage from a tipped Ehrhoff shot, a Carter wrist shot, and a Carter... weird bouncing shot following a faceoff that rebounded off of Jones' pad into the net. Carter had a very strong night as he picked up a point on every King goal, owning two of the goals himself.
Joel Ward picked up the lone Sharks goal off some solid work around the net that left Enroth with no chance. Speaking of Enroth, he had a strong debut as a King, saving 39 of the 40 shots levied against him. Way to go Jhonas! Nick Shore also had a quietly good game, finishing as one of the better Kings in shot attempt differential and winning eight of his 14 faceoffs.
In the second period, there was also an odd play when Muzzin engaged with Joe Thornton in a battle on the boards, and Thornton was knocked down to the ice, looking as if he could have potentially struck his head. Thornton got up and appeared to have trouble using his left skate, but seemed to smile at a ref coming off the ice. He was not ready for the start of the third period and played fewer shifts that period. Let's hope he's ok.
Despite all of the penalties taken, it was a more controlled game for the Kings as scrums were reduced and no fights broke out. As for bad performers on the Kings, we need look no further than the fourth line. Despite having a strong game the last time the Kings played, they were heavily out attempted and were on the ice for some scary chances against. Given there's a back-to-back game tomorrow, it wouldn't be a complete surprise to see Weal draw in for Nolan or Andreoff based on their play. Doughty and McNabb also struggled together at even play. Perhaps it is time to reunite the familiar top pairing with Muzzin.
In summary, it was a good effort by the Kings where they got a little lucky, but probably deserved most of the luck they were dealt. Tyler Toffoli is red hot, and after starting the season with three losses, the Kings have three wins and are sitting at an even 500. Considering the position of the rest of their division, the worries of a week ago seem like they're about to be in the rear view mirror.