Recap: Kings Stifle Canucks, Regain Playoff Spot
LA dominates the second and third periods to shut out Vancouver, advance into playoff position.
The Kings are back in a playoff spot! They're now an entire point ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, so the Kings can pretty much coast through the rest of the regular season.
Well, probably not. But the Kings certainly gained a lot of ground today. Let's look at how they overcame the Vancouver Canucks.
In the opening minutes Jeff Carter had a jarring collision with the boards after tripping over defenseman Chris Tanev. He didn't miss a shift and spent the rest of the game flying around the ice, not quite literally but almost, so he seems to be okay. The Canucks probably had the better of the play for most of the period, slightly winning the possession battle (16-13 5v5 shot attempts) and getting a few in-close chances on Quick.
Nevertheless the Kings grabbed the first goal, thanks to a helpful play by Derek Dorsett, who took a slashing penalty about 100 feet from the puck. Dustin Brown cleared out Luca Sbisa to retrieve a dump-in and got the puck to Justin Williams, who made a nice pass to an unmarked Tyler Toffoli lurking by the side of the net. Toffoli delivered an elegant finish into the top corner.
A stronger period for the Kings. The Kings took advantage of poor Vancouver defending to quickly double their lead. Brayden McNabb had the puck on the boards with no Vancouver pressure at all. Instead of simply throwing the puck at the net, he took advantage of this space, skated in, and found Justin Williams for an easy tap-in backdoor. Vancouver had a few flurries around the ten-minute mark and looked to be making a strong push, but the Kings completely dominated the second half of the period. Vancouver only registered two shot attempts in the last ten minutes, and none in the last five.
Sitting on a two-goal lead, the Kings did an admirable job suffocating Vancouver's offense in the third. It took Vancouver seven minutes to get their first even strength shot attempt of the period. By that time the Kings had already gone up 3-0, after Trevor Lewis pressured Dan Hamhuis (a guy who really just cannot handle the Trevor Lewis forecheck) into turning the puck over to Anze Kopitar in the slot. Kopitar didn't miss from there.
The rest of the period saw Jonathan Quick make a nice glove save on Daniel Sedin, and Dustin Brown spectacularly fail to get shots on multiple odd-man rushes, making some at Jewels from the Crown rather suspicious.
The Canucks pulled the goalie down 3-0 with about four and half minutes left. Statistically the early goalie pull is a smart move, but this time it only led to a Marian Gaborik empty netter (from a nice Kopitar flip pass) seconds later. The Canucks put Eddie Lack back in net down four, and Quick was never in serious danger of losing his shutout in the final minutes.
The standings implications are of course the most important thing about this game, but there is one other item of interest. The Kings and Canucks would not be matched up if the playoffs started today, but the best playoff model I've seen suggests that the Canucks are by far the most likely playoff opponent for the Kings. With the Kings so dominant in the season series thus far, and the Canucks' possession numbers down lately (only a 48.7% SA-Corsi over their last 25 games), the Kings would have to be happy with that. It would certainly be the easiest first round matchup the Kings have had in the Kopitar/Doughty era.
Finally, courtesy of @Bobrbrts, one last Vine for you:
Fun times to be a Kings fan!