Second line chaos and Jeff Carter’s slow start
Even in a rebuilding season, the Kings need more from their veteran players.
The Kings have their first three-game road trip of the season behind them. While there has been plenty of scoring, a lot of focus has shifted to how bad the defense and the goaltending have been. The Kings scored 11 goals in the first three games of the season. Managing that on the road is an added value. Whether it has been Anze Kopitar’s line, Ilya Kovalchuk, or Drew Doughty, the Kings have many sources of scoring goals.
However, their second line led by Jeff Carter went missing on the road trip. Yeah, Kovalchuk had four points, but two of those came on the power play, while the other one came as an assist to Tyler Toffoli. The lone Kovalchuk goal, which made it 3-0 in Calgary, was assisted by Adrian Kempe. That’s also the only point produced by that line and a single point for Kempe.
Ilya Kovalchuk shows off a little hand-eye coordination as he gives the LA Kings a 3-0 lead over the Calgary Flames 🔥🔥🔥#GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/WaK3Atthtk— LA Kings (@LAKings) October 9, 2019
The Kings have to sort this out sooner rather than later. Jeff Carter started playing on the right wing, while Kempe should have been centering him and Kovalchuk. However, Kempe is center in name only as it’s Carter who is the main center of that line. That line was solid against the Oilers in the opening game of the season. They took 18 faceoffs. Carter took nine, same as the Swedish skater. Nevertheless, Kempe was 2-for-9 while Carter went 6-for-9.
In the following two contests against the Flames and the Canucks, Carter took 37 faceoffs, Kempe had only 10 faceoffs. With less pressure to take faceoffs, Kempe was 7-for-10, Carter was 23-for-37. Carter’s overall faceoff percentage is 63.04, which is the best on the team. Don’t mind Trevor Lewis being perfect after taking only one faceoff.
The experiment, or desire, of moving Carter away from the center position, has not worked so far. Carter is exquisite at the faceoff dot. However, his line struggled to drive offense. At even-strength, Carter had 39.44% in Corsi for, and 34.58% at expected goals for. Adrian Kempe had similar stats, while Kovalchuk had a bit better numbers. No wonder he also has four points, and quietly, Kovalchuk has had a solid start to the season.
The 34-year-old veteran center is coming off a 33-point season, all that with taking part in 76 games last year. Carter has three years left on his contract worth $5,272,727 per campaign. The Kings don’t only need a healthy Carter, they also need a better Jeff Carter. Ultimately, it affects the performances of Adrian Kempe, as well.