Recap, Stars @ Kings: Back and Forth and Back Again
The most goal-filled game of the season for the Kings does not go their way.
“Burn the tape.” That’s what they say after games like this, right? Every so often, the Kings play a game filled with the inexplicable, the frustrating, and the just plain stupid. Darryl Sutter seemed reasonably unfazed by tonight’s game, after all, seeming to realize that his goalie and his defense just had an off night. We got kind of fazed, though, so we’re not burning this tape.
(Especially since we don’t have a tape. This is 2017!)
So let’s look at a few of those goals, shall we?
Wait, whoa, Jeff Carter, what happened tonight? Four players scored goals tonight for the Kings. Dustin Brown had gone 15 games without a goal and 7 games without an assist. Drew Doughty had just one goal in his last 14 games. Nick Shore got his fourth goal, and that’s a career high! And Anze Kopitar, bless his heart, had one goal in his previous TWENTY-NINE games. Carter? He didn’t score a goal! And though he was one of ten Kings with a point, he was the worst Kings forward at even strength in terms of both goal differential and shot differential. But we’re burying the lede here, because Jeff Carter’s being announced as an All-Star today, and he can have an off day.
Peter Budaj can too; hey, he might be an All-Star as well. It’s tougher for a goalie to dodge the criticism, though, as we’ll see shortly.
Two guys who have had more off nights than either Budaj and Carter this season are Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin. Now, Martinez has been more lauded for his play thanks to overtime heroics and fewer glaring mistakes. Of course, expectations for Muzzin (who got a fifth-place Norris vote and won a gold medal at the World Cup) started higher than Martinez, too. Of course, as the game went on, the mindset went from “well, are these goals their fault” to “who cares, why are all these goals happening while they’re out there?”
The pairing has been good in a lot of ways this season, but the baseline expectation is that the puck can’t go in repeatedly when you’re out there. I give credit to Darryl Sutter for sticking with those two despite the results, but it was time to make a switch, and he finally went for it after the pair’s fourth goal against tonight. As weird as tonight was — how many times were Muzzin and Martinez fighting stick battles with Stars or trying to clear and whiffing? — it’s been too much of a trend.
After Budaj and Muzzin got crossed up, there were no more goals. That one finished a run of five goals in 5:28, after the teams had exchanged goals within three minutes of each other at the end of the second. Shore picked up a shorthanded goal, Brown and Kopitar both earned their long-awaited goals with perfect shots, and Doughty unleashed a blast to tie the game at 4. But in the end, it wasn’t enough, because LA couldn’t keep the puck out of its own net. Budaj got pulled after that last goal for Jeff Zatkoff, and as soon as we’re all assuming goaltending isn’t a problem, we got a dud from #31, who was all over the place. One rough start doesn’t tank a goalie, though!
What will we see on Thursday? Brayden McNabb got 16:40 of ice time to Muzzin’s 17:43, and Forbort got 23 minutes; does anyone fall back into the clear #5 role, or will we see some rotation? I don’t think Darryl Sutter will overreact, but I think he will react, and after this game I can’t blame him at all.