Offseason Analysis: If postseason berths were awarded based on goals allowed, Los Angeles would have been not only the third seed in the Pacific Division in 2017, but also the entire Western Conference. In fact, at 205 goals allowed, Los Angeles was the only non-playoff team in the entire league in the top-15 of the statistic.
Unfortunately for the Kings’ offense, that’s not the way this game works.
Last season, Los Angeles couldn’t score to save its life. Even with F Jeff Carter’s team-leading 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists), the Kings could only manage 201 markers – tying for the fifth-fewest in the league.
If a club is struggling on offense, what better place to find a scorer than the entry draft? That’s exactly where new GM Blake looked, selecting 18-year-old C Gabriel Vilardi (29-32-61 in the OHL) with the 11th-overall pick. Fans shouldn’t grow too attached to the idea of him wearing black and silver this year though, as Los Angeles’ top two center positions are locked up for at least the next five seasons (Carter will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022), barring a big trade. Both Nick Shore (6-11-17) and Nic Dowd (6-16-22) will be free agents following this season (restricted and unrestricted, respectively) and could open up a hole in the lineup for the youngster, but I’d be concerned about playing the potential future of the offense, should the scouting reports prove correct, on these more physical lines during his development. Vilardi will almost certainly be back in Windsor trying to win his second-straight Memorial Cup this season.
And that leads us to a major problem with the Kings: they are returning almost an identical roster as last year. That is just fine for the Pittsburgh Penguins or Nashville Predators, but teams like the Kings that are trying to capitalize on a two-time Cup-winning goaltender still in his early 30s – like Jonathan Quick – should be doing all they can to help him out.
General Managers in all sports face the tough job of building a competitive team, keeping a balanced budget, appeasing the owner and making the fans happy. It’s a touchy situation that often doesn’t have clear right or wrong answers.
Unfortunately, Lombardi didn’t find the right balance between those things last season. Currently, the Kings have eight forwards signed to contracts through at least the 2019-’20 season for $1.6 million AAV, at minimum. Six of those are Lombardi’s responsibility, as his attempts to keep the 2014 Stanley Cup-winning gang together and hope they rediscover that magic ultimately led to him losing his job this offseason.
Then again, it doesn’t seem Blake learned from his predecessor’s mistakes, as he is responsible for signing 25-year-olds LW Tanner Pearson (24-20-44) and F Tyler Toffoli (16-18-34) this summer. My concern with these signings is not that these players aren’t worth their contracts, but that it has only added to the logjam of talent that will make it difficult for youths like Vilardi to make the team and could make it difficult to trade pieces in the future.
Offseason Grade: C+
The Kings added Cammalleri to replace unsigned Jarome Iginla and shored up the backup goaltending position (sorry Mr. Game 1 Jeff Zatkoff, but Kuemper is better and younger), but they’re returning almost an identical lineup as last season. Unless Stevens can find a way for the offense to increase production and Quick can add four more wins than Peter Budaj could manage in his absence last year, the Kings are on their way to another postseason on the couch.
The time has come for my annual prediction of how the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft will go. This year’s draft class is overall weaker than years past, but comes with a difficult choice for the New Jersey Devils, as they hold the 1st overall pick. The talk surrounding Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier is reminiscent of the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin days leading up to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.
With that in mind, let’s see how many picks I get wrong (it’s an annual tradition!)– this year’s draft is being held in Chicago.
1) New Jersey Devils –> C Nolan Patrick, Brandon (WHL)
A gifted center, Nolan Patrick’s status as the long-time coming predicted 1st overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft should not be affected by his injury shortened season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Patrick is a 6’2″, 199-pound gifted two-way player that can not only contribute in goals and assists, but brings some size down the middle for the Devils.
2) Philadelphia Flyers –> C Nico Hischier, Halifax (QMJHL)
If New Jersey doesn’t take Nolan Patrick 1st overall, then the Flyers shouldn’t really have any complaints, because either Nico Hischier or Patrick is quite the impressive steal for the 2.4% longshots at the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Hischier stands tall at 6’2″, 179 pounds, and had 38-48-86 totals with the Halifax Mooseheads in 57 games this season en route to being named the CHL’s Rookie of the Year.
3) Dallas Stars –> C Gabriel Vilardi, Windsor (OHL)
Gabriel Vilardi was part of this year’s Memorial Cup champion, the Windsor Spitfires, and amassed 29-32-61 totals in 49 games played this season. He’s a two-way center that remains composed in all situations while utilizing unparalleled hands and finesse in this year’s draft. Vilardi would be quite the addition to Dallas’s prospect pool at 6’3″, 203 pounds and only 17-years-old (until August 16th, that is).
4) Colorado Avalanche –> D Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (Finland)
One can assume that the Avalanche are bound to be trading a bunch of forwards for forwards this offseason (at least), but more important than having an offense is having a defense and an offense (which Colorado has had one in recent years and I’ll give you a hint– it hasn’t been a defense). Miro Heiskanen is a 6’1″, 172-pound two-way defenseman that had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 37 games with HIFK this season and is just part one of many moves towards turning things around at Pepsi Center.
5) Vancouver Canucks –> C Casey Mittelstadt, Eden Prairie (HS-MN)
The Vancouver Canucks can begin to start thinking about their long term approach to the end of the Sedin era by assuring themselves of a strong presence down the middle. Casey Mittelstadt brings that strong presence at center by virtue of his 6’1″, 201-pound frame and tremendous skill. There’s a reason why he was named this year’s Mr. Hockey in the state of Minnesota. Mittelstadt had 21-43-64 totals in 25 games with Eden Prairie and 13-17-30 totals in 24 games with the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) this season.
6) Vegas Golden Knights –> C Cody Glass, Portland (WHL)
For their first draft selection in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights are bound to select perhaps the most tactically smart playmaker of the draft in Cody Glass. The 6’2″, 178-pound, right-handed center had 32 goals and 62 assists (94 points– T-7th in the WHL) and is sure to fit right in with the Golden Knights roster and longterm plans. Vegas would be wise to let him play coming out of the draft, since Glass is perhaps the most NHL ready player besides Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.
7) Arizona Coyotes –> D Cale Makar, Brooks (AJHL)
The Arizona Coyotes have been stockpiling forwards (if you can believe it) in recent drafts, so this year seems to be the right time to snag a puck moving defenseman that’s committed to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst next season. Cale Makar had 24 goals and 51 assists (75 points) in 54 games with the Brooks Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season– a 20-point improvement in as many games compared to last season.
8) Buffalo Sabres –> C Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City (WHL)
At 6’6″, 215 pounds, Michael Rasmussen is exactly what the Sabres need to compliment the already sized up centers of Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly. Sheer intimidation could be one thing Buffalo banks on in the near future, thanks to their Goliath centers, but don’t let that be the only thing. Rasmussen has silky hands and had 32-23-55 totals with the Tri-City Americans this season in the Western Hockey League.
9) Detroit Red Wings –> RW Owen Tippett, Mississauga (OHL)
Owen Tippett has been drawing comparisons to Phil Kessel (no, not necessarily because he’s a hot dogs and hamburgers guy– though we haven’t asked him– but rather, because Mike Morreale of NHL.com says so). The 6’0″, 200-pound, right winger had 44 goals and 31 assists (75 points) in 60 games with the Mississauga Steelheads and is a natural sniper.
10) Florida Panthers –> C Martin Necas, Brno (Czech Republic)
Martin Necas is a versatile center that can create space for the puck and generate offense with his playmaking mindset. The right-handed shot had seven goals and eight assists (15 points) in 41 games with Brno this season. Florida shouldn’t be too concerned with his 6’0″, 167-pound frame, considering they’ve got a good mix of forwards to balance things out while Necas works on adding some muscle to his game.
11) Los Angeles Kings –> C Elias Pettersson, Timra (SWE-2)
After missing out on this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings fired their now former head coach (Darryl Sutter) and general manager (Dean Lombardi) and immediately replaced them with John Stevens behind the bench and Rob Blake as GM, so trying to predict who they’ll draft is difficult based on recent history. However, Elias Pettersson (19-22-41 totals in 43 games with Timra) might just happen to fall into their hands at 11th overall. He’ll need a year of seasoning before appearing in the Kings lineup.
12) Carolina Hurricanes –> D Timothy Liljegren, Rogle (Sweden)
After a bout with mononucleosis in November, Timothy Liljegren wasn’t fully able to rebound this season with Rogle BK, however his skating remains unparalleled as one of the better defensemen of the draft. Liljegren can join the rush and pinch in from the point when needed in the offensive zone and scouts have yet to see the full potential impact of his style of play. Given the uncertainty surrounding Carolina’s money-puck strategy and how it will affect their blue line, drafting Liljegren might provide some security.
13) Winnipeg Jets –> C/LW Klim Kostin, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Klim Kostin missed a lot of time thanks to a shoulder injury, but that shouldn’t stop the Winnipeg Jets from taking a chance on what might be the best Russian forward in the draft. Puck possession is Kostin’s middle name and his 6’3″, 196-pound frame certainly must have something to do with that. The Jets could use him down the middle or restructure their wingers around the Kostin model, albeit acknowledging Blake Wheeler‘s size and existence already in Winnipeg.
14) Tampa Bay Lightning –> D Juuso Valimaki, Tri-City (WHL)
Steve Yzerman may continue to be a master of the salary cap (in terms of carefully maneuvering around large contracts, drafting and developing talent on a consistent basis and the like), but he’s got some critical thinking to do this offseason, what with pending RFAs galore and the Vegas expansion draft. Juuso Valimaki might be just enough to help relieve some of that pressure, having been one of the best defensemen of the WHL this season and amassing 19-42-61 totals in 60 games played.
15) New York Islanders –> C Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound (OHL)
Offensively skilled, Nick Suzuki isn’t the biggest player (5’11”, 183 pounds), but he is one of the best power play specialists in this year’s draft– notching 14 power play goals for the Owen Sound Attack this season. Suzuki had 96 points alone (45 goals, 51 assists) in 65 games and would be an upgrade for the Islanders in more ways than one.
16) Calgary Flames –> LW/RW Kristian Vesalainen, Frolunda (Sweden)
Kristian Vesalainen is a 6’3″, 207-pound power forward that might be able to muster his way to a new arena for the Calgary Flames. Jokes aside, Vesalainen would be a solid draft pick by Calgary for his physical prowess and goal scoring ability. In the Battle of Alberta, the Flames could select their very own Milan Lucic, but with more of a two-way element to his game.
17) Toronto Maple Leafs –> D Nicolas Hague, Mississauga (OHL)
How could the Toronto Maple Leafs get any better than they already are with a lineup full of kids? Answer: they could draft Nicolas Hague. Toronto’s got a plethora of players waiting to insert themselves into their mix of forwards that it wouldn’t hurt them to give a little more attention to their blue line for a bit. Hague is a monstrous 6’6″, 215-pound, shutdown defenseman that can also contribute on the power play. He had 18-28-46 totals in 65 games with the Mississauga Steelheads this season.
18) Boston Bruins –> C Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
It seems unusual to say, but the Boston Bruins have a little something on the horizon to start thinking about– what will the team look like after Patrice Bergeron (and David Krejci)? Boston GM Don Sweeney has a recent history of opting for college players and could select center Ryan Poehling with the future in mind. The 6’2″, 183-pound, playmaker has great vision and puck protection and had 7-6-13 totals in 35 games with St. Cloud State this season. Additionally, Poehling’s got intelligence (both on and off the ice) as he graduated a year early from high school and just tuned 18 on January 3rd.
19) San Jose Sharks –> D Callan Foote, Kelowna (WHL)
The San Jose Sharks have some big names to re-sign this offseason, including Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Naturally, while one might think the Sharks should use this draft to find their eventual replacements, San Jose is already in a good spot regarding forwards. Their blue line, however, could use someone like the 6’4″, 212-pound, likeness of Callan Foote. He had six goals and 51 assists (57 points) in 71 games this season and is sure to follow in the foot(e)steps of his father, Adam Foote.
20) St. Louis Blues –> LW Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City (USHL)
A 30-goal-scorer in 52 games played with Sioux City this season, Eeli Tolvanen brings just about every offensive element the St. Louis Blues are looking for in a forward. He can shoot from just about anywhere on the ice– at any time too. Quick with his feet, Tolvanen can snipe an impressive shot. Don’t let his 5’10”, 170-pound setup fool you, this winger is ready to become even better at Boston College in the fall. After a couple of seasons of losing vital veteran forwards, the Blues get a chance for redemption by bringing in a goalscorer that could soon be skating on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko.
21) New York Rangers –> LW Jason Robertson, Kingston (OHL)
In 68 games with the Kingston Frontenacs this season, Jason Robertson (6’2″, 192 pounds) had 42 goals and 39 assists for 81 points. He knows what to do with the puck and with the unwavering uncertainty of Rick Nash‘s longevity, along with the legitimacy of Jimmy Vesey and others as impact players when you need them the most (like in the playoffs, for example), Robertson is a risk worth taking. He’s only a risk because his skating game could use some improvement.
22) Edmonton Oilers –> C Lias Andersson, HV71 (Sweden)
Lias Andersson is a mobile two-way forward that matches grit with nifty hands that generate scoring chances, as evidenced by his 9-10-19 totals in 42 games played with HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League this season. At 5’11”, 198 pounds, Andersson is the right fit for the Edmonton Oilers lineup, where he can increase his offensive skill by learning from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while taking a page or two from Milan Lucic in the physical game. Additionally, his father, Niklas Andersson, is currently a scout for the Los Angeles Kings and played in 164 career NHL games.
The Coyotes have two 1st round picks in this year’s draft and they’d be smart to take a forward with their second pick. Luckily, Shane Bowers is just the player for Arizona. The Boston University-bound center scored 22 goals and had 29 assists (51 points) in 60 games for Waterloo this season. The 6’1″, 183-pound forward models his game after Jonathan Toews, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Coyotes to have in their prospect pool with a clear need for a stable, solid, two-way center.
24) Columbus Blue Jackets –> RW Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane (WHL)
At 5’8″ and 153 pounds, Kailer Yamamoto is not a player to overlook. Why? Because he scored 42 goals and had 57 assists for 99 points (6th in the WHL in scoring) in 65 games with Spokane this season. Yamamoto is relentless on the puck and has hands beyond his years, as well as speed and skill that make him quite the threat on the ice.
25) Montreal Canadiens –> LW Maxime Comtois, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
After acquiring Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason, the Montreal Canadiens have made great strides at improving their group of forwards. But with the uncertainty of everything panning out as planned, why not add to the plan? Maxime Comtois is versatile and ready to take the next step in his professional career with the right guidance (*ahem* Claude Julien‘s system). Best inserted on the wing, Comtois had 22-29-51 totals in 64 games with Victoriaville this season. The 6’2″, 200-pound forward could play center if the Canadiens see it fit.
26) Chicago Blackhawks –> D Urho Vaakanainen, JYP (Finland)
Chicago is bound to have a tough offseason in a non-Cup year for the first time in a while, it seems, what with the Expansion Draft, as well as the salary cap working against their favor. While the Blackhawks may have to deal a top-4 defenseman or part of their core group of forwards (without getting too crazy, mind you, we’re not talking a trade involving Patrick Kane), Chicago can rest assured that Urho Vaakanainen is their defenseman of the future. The 6’1″, 185-pound blue liner is good at 1) getting the puck out of the zone and 2) playing his game– and a physical one at that.
27) St. Louis Blues (from Washington Capitals) –> D Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
An offensive-minded defenseman with a right-shot, Conor Timmins fits the bill for the St. Louis Blues. At 6’1″ and 185 pounds, Timmins can rush the ice as a two-way defenseman who contributed 61 points (seven goals, 54 assists) for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 67 games this season. Think Colton Parayko, but not, because this guy’s name is Conor Timmins and he doesn’t already play for the Blues.
28) Ottawa Senators –> C Josh Norris, USA U-18 (USNTDP)
A product of the United States National Team Development Program, Josh Norris had 23-28-51 totals in 52 games played this season. The 6’1″, 192-pound center could contribute to the Senators organization in a manner similar to how Colin White has been implemented into the roster. Who knows, he might be worth it, Ottawa.
Tremendous hockey sense and intelligence are part of Kole Lind’s game. A natural playmaker, Lind was also known to produce goals of his own for the Kelowna Rockets this season, amassing 30-57-87 totals in 70 games played. The 6’1″, 178-pound right winger could be a solid fit alongside the likes of Jamie Benn and Seguin in Dallas.
30) Nashville Predators –> C Robert Thomas, London (OHL)
Hey look it’s Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty! Again, I’m only kidding. This Robert Thomas of the London Knights had 16-50-66 totals in 66 games this season as a two-way forward. A noted playmaker, Thomas reads and reacts to the play before him beyond his years and will need some time to really come into his own at the NHL level. Yet, the Nashville Predators can afford to take their time carefully crafting the almost 6′, 188-pound, center in their system that’s produced the likes of Colton Sissons, Pontus Aberg and many more in recent years.
31) Pittsburgh Penguins –> D Henri Jokiharju, Portland (WHL)
It took Henri Jokiharju a few months to really transition to the North American style of the game, but for this offensively focused defenseman, that wasn’t a big deal. He can get the puck out of his own zone with ease– not just with crisp passes, but also due to his incredible stride and speed in the transition department. Jokiharju (6’0″, 180 pounds) had nine goals and 39 assists (48 points) in 71 games for the Portland Winterhawks this season.
Other top potential 1st round prospects that should easily be 2nd round picks if they’re not taken in Round 1 of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft:
G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (Hockey East)
LW Isaac Ratcliffe, Guelph (OHL)
D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
D Erik Brannstrom, HV71 (Sweden)
LW Filip Chytil, Zlin (Czech Republic)
C Aleksei Heponiemi, Swift Current (WHL)
G Michael DiPietro, Windsor (OHL)
LW Matthew Strome, Hamilton (OHL)
C Antoine Morand, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
LW Tyler Steenbergen, Swift Current (WHL)
So there you have it. This is how I see the 1st round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft shaking out. Be sure to tune in next Friday night (that’s one week from now) to watch your favorite team pick a teenager and hope for the best. I’ll be at work that night, so no spoilers, please. Let me believe I got more than two picks right for once.
It’s another Manic Monday in the NHL, with 16 teams in action this evening. Like it usually does, tonight’s festivities start at 7 p.m. with two games (Tampa Bay at the New York Rangers [TVAS] and Columbus at Philadelphia [SN1]), followed half an hour later by Carolina at the New York Islanders (NBCSN). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Winnipeg at Nashville, which precedes Pittsburgh at Calgary by an hour. A trifecta of matchups (Boston at Vancouver, Colorado at Arizona and St. Louis at Los Angeles) act as tonight’s tri-nightcap, as the all drop the puck at 10 p.m. All times eastern.
Things have really tightened in the Western Conference wild card race, and that competition will be on full display tonight when the eighth and ninth-place teams square off in the Staples Center!
St. Louis enters tonight’s game with a 35-27-5 record, which is good enough for fourth in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference. It’s been an up-and-down season for the Blues, but they’re definitely riding an “up” right now with their four-game winning streak.
When St. Louis is winning like it is right now, it’s usually due to its offense. Having notched 185 tallies in 67 games, the Notes are tied for the 11th-best scoring rate in the league. As you’d probably guess, the engineer behind most of that scoring is Vladimir Tarasenko, who has an impressive 61 points to lead the team.
Even more impressive? His goal total, which currently stands at 32. He ties for third in the NHL in scores, and is on pace for seven more before the season comes to a close.
St. Louis is especially effective on the power play, as its 22.3% success rate ties for fourth best in the league (and best in the west). Although Tarasenko leads the team with 20 power play points and eight power play goals, he has not been very effective of late with the extra man. In his past five games, he’s only registered one point – albeit a goal – with the man-advantage.
Special teams seem to be a point of emphasis for Mike Yeo, because the Notes are also very strong on the penalty kill. Led by Captain Alex Pietrangelo‘s 29 shorthanded blocks, the Notes have successfully defended 83.6% of their penalties, the eighth-best rate in the NHL.
Playing host this evening are the 33-28-6 Kings, the fifth-best team in the Pacific Division and ninth-best in the West. Winners of their past two contests, Los Angeles‘ biggest struggle this season has been scoring, as their 166 goals is the eighth-lowest total in the league. That being said, the Kings have have managed to score a dozen goals in their past four games, so perhaps Darryl Sutter has finally found a solution for his club.
Although offense has been tough to come by for the club as a whole, Jeff Carter has been having a fantastic season. He’s notched 31 goals for 59 points, both totals that lead the team. It’s quite the resurgence for him, as – if he stays on pace – he’ll have the best campaign of his career since his 46 goal, 84 point effort with Philadelphia in 2008-’09.
But beyond Carter, scoring has been a struggle for Los Angeles. To put things simply, it’s not a good sign when the second-best scorer on the team – Tanner Pearson – has only 22 goals. Excluding those two, no other Kings have more than a dozen tallies.
The Kings have found their success this season on the defensive end of the ice, and that is no more apparent than when they’re on the penalty kill. Refusing to yield a goal on 84.9% of its infractions, Los Angeles ranks fourth-best in the NHL when down a man. Alec Martinez deserves a lot of credit for that prosperity, as his 28 shorthanded shot blocks lead the team.
To make this game even more important, it acts as a rubber match for the season series between these clubs, as they’ve both one of their previous two meetings. The Blues last visited the City of Angels on January 12 when they fell 5-1.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Los Angeles‘ Carter (31 goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]) and St. Louis‘ Tarasenko (32 goals [tied for third-most in the league]).
I’m not surprised that Vegas favors Los Angeles to win tonight, but I am surprised the Kings have a -145 advantage. Both teams enter the game hot, but I like Los Angeles to pull together a victory on the back of their solid defense and their newfound explosive offense.
Sparked by two quick first period goals to chase Devan Dubnyk, Chicago fought within a point of the Western Conference lead by beating the Wild 4-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Who else to get the Blackhawks on the scoreboard than Second Star of the Game Patrick Kane? Assisted by Artemi Panarin and Johnny Oduya, he scored a wrist shot only 51 seconds into the game to give the Hawks an early 1-0 lead. That differential doubled to two when Panarin (Kane and Niklas Hjalmarsson) scored a snap shot 3:47 later. Minnesota pulled back within a tally with 9:30 remaining in the frame when Eric Staal (Nino Niederreiter and Marco Scandella), but could not level the game before the first intermission.
5:28 into the second period, Trevor van Riemsdyk (Marcus Kruger and Jordin Tootoo) expanded Chicago‘s lead back to two goals with a wrister that proved to be the game-winner. Even though the Wild fired 20 shots on goal in the second period, they could not break through First Star Corey Crawford.
Once again the Wild pulled within a goal when Mikael Granlund scored an unassisted wrister 46 seconds after starting the third frame, but once again Minnesota couldn’t pull even. They couldn’t manage another goal for the rest of the game, and Marian Hossa (Third Star Duncan Keith) made sure a comeback would be difficult by setting the score at 4-2 with 6:18 remaining in regulation.
Crawford saved 42-of-44 shots faced (95.5%) to earn the victory, leaving the loss to Darcy Kuemper, who saved 18-of-20 (90%). Kuemper came into the game in relief of Dubnyk, who was pulled after allowing two goals on two shots. Dubnyk earned no decision after 4:38 of play.
With that victory, home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have finally reclaimed an advantage, even if it is only by one point, over the roadies with a 74-52-21 record.
The San Jose Sharks remained perfect against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center this year, including both the regular season and the postseason, defeating the Kings 6-3 in Game 5 and winning the best-of-7-game series 4-1.
Martin Jones made 19 saves on 22 shots faced for an .864 SV% en route to the victory, while LA’s Jonathan Quick saved just 22 shots of the 27 he faced for an .815 SV% in the loss. Entering Friday night, Los Angeles was trailing 3-1 in a series for the 14th time in franchise history. Of the 13 prior occurrences, the Kings were only able to come back and win the series twice, once in 2014 vs. San Jose and the other time versus the Edmonton Oilers in 1989.
Joonas Donskoi kicked off the goal scoring frenzy at 1:08 of the first period to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead. Logan Couture picked up his first of three assists on the night on Donskoi’s first goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
At 2:45 of the period, Luke Schenn interfered with Tomas Hertl and was sent to the penalty box, giving San Jose their first power play of the night, which quickly turned into a 5-on-3 advantage 16 seconds after Schenn’s penalty, due to Dustin Brown having tripped Shark’s goaltender, Martin Jones. Despite the two-man advantage, the Sharks were unable to score on the power play.
Chris Tierney picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 11:21 of the first period with some help from Brent Burns, who like Couture, also went on to have a three-assist night. Tierney’s goal made it 2-0 San Jose with lots of time left in both the first period and in the game.
Sharks forward, Joel Ward was penalized for tripping Trevor Lewis at 16:27 of the opening frame, but San Jose’s penalty kill was able to avert a power play goal from the Kings.
After one, it was 2-0 San Jose. The Sharks were leading in shots on goal (13-4), hits (12-10), takeaways (1-0) and blocked shots (9-3), while Los Angeles was controlling the faceoff dot (14-12). Both teams had committed four giveaways each after twenty minutes of play.
The second period opened up to Matt Nieto making it 3-0 Sharks a little after four minutes into the period. Nieto’s first goal of the playoffs was assisted by Ward and Couture at 4:05 of the period. Shortly thereafter, Patrick Marleau was granted a penalty shot for being denied a scoring opportunity with 14:29 to go in the 2nd. Despite his moves, Jonathan Quick stood tall and denied Marleau of a penalty shot goal that would’ve given the Sharks a four-goal lead.
Just as it was looking like the Sharks might finally exercise some demons from the past, Anze Kopitar tipped one by Jones at 7:44 of the 2nd for his 2nd of the series, assisted by Dwight King (1) and Drew Doughty (1) to make the Kings trail by two.
Jeff Carter quickly followed up at 11:26 of the 2nd period with his 2nd of the postseason to cut San Jose’s lead to one. Jake Muzzin and Tyler Toffoli picked up the helpers on Carter’s goal.
Carter’s goal meant that Los Angeles was trailing 3-2 with plenty of time left to be a threat.
Nearly five minutes later, Kris Versteeg tied the game, 3-3, with his first goal of the playoffs, assisted by Kyle Clifford and Muzzin. The celebration was short lived, rather, nearly ruined when Trevor Lewis put San Jose on the power play at 17:26 of the second period after slashing Hertl. The Sharks did not score on the man advantage and the game went into the second intermission tied at 3.
San Jose held a slim lead in shots on goal (23-18) and dominated blocked shots (20-8), while Los Angeles had taken control of hits (27-24), faceoff wins (29-23) and giveaways (12-10). Both teams had one takeaway after forty minutes of play and the Sharks were 0/3 on the power play, while Los Angeles was 0/1.
There were no penalties in the third period, however there were still lots of goals.
Donskoi continued to set the heroic tone for San Jose almost four minutes into the third period with what would be the game-winning goal. Burns and Couture picked up the assists.
It wasn’t until 12:24 of the 3rd that the Sharks would score again when San Jose captain, Joe Pavelski beat Quick on a shot to the back of the twine. Burns and Paul Martin got the assists on Pavelski’s 5th goal of the postseason and the Sharks were now in command of the game with a two-goal lead.
With about four minutes left in the game, Darryl Sutter signaled for Quick to vacate the Kings’ net and utilize an extra attacker, but it was ultimately to no avail. Shortly after Joe Thornton iced the puck aiming for LA’s empty net, Melker Karlsson received a pass from Marleau and put the puck at the back of the net for his the empty net goal that sealed the deal on the series. Karlsson’s first of the series gave San Jose a 6-3 lead at 19:38 of the third period.
The Sharks defended the Kings last ditch efforts on their season and emerged victorious once again on road ice at Staples Center this (post)season.
San Jose finished with six goals on the scored board in what was the highest scoring game of the series and recorded 28 shots on goal compared to Los Angeles’s three goals on 22 shots on goal. The Kings finished the night leading in hits (39-30), faceoff wins (41-29) and giveaways (16-11), while the Sharks led in blocked shots (29-11). Both teams finished the night unsuccessful on the power play and with one takeaway each.
San Jose will now wait for the winner of the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators series to end and then face its winner in the Second Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Los Angeles will face many tough questions this offseason after a disappointing Game 5 loss and overall disappointing postseason performance based on how they got into the playoffs in the first place. They’ll also face the decision of whether or not to resign pending unrestricted free agent, Milan Lucic, who is sure to attract some attention from several teams around the league.
In any case, the fourth installment of San Jose vs. Los Angeles was yet another epic in the storied history of California hockey.
Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Martin Jones led the way for the San Jose Sharks to their 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night in Game 2 of their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One matchup. The Sharks now have a 2-0 series lead, having won both games on the road at Staples Center, before heading home to the SAP Center for Game 3.
Jones made 26 saves on 27 shots against, yielding a .963 SV% en route to the win, while Jonathan Quick made 21 saves on 23 shots faced in the loss with a .913 SV%.
Saturday night was the first game back from injury for Los Angeles Kings forward, Marian Gaborik, while it was the first game that defenseman, Alec Martinez missed with an undisclosed injury. Jamie McBain was inserted on LA’s blueline in Martinez’s place and Gaborik wound his way up in the top-six forwards, while Milan Lucic was bumped down to the Kings’ third line. Game 2 was also San Jose’s 16th consecutive playoff game against Los Angeles.
Pavelski kicked off the scoring at 3:37 of the first period with his 3rd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pavelski’s tally was assisted by Brent Burns and Joe Thornton and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead that they would hold until the first intermission.
By the end of twenty minutes of play, San Jose was outshooting Los Angeles 7-5 and leading in blocked shots (7-6), while the Kings were leading in hits (17-16), faceoffs (15-10) and giveaways (5-1). Both teams were tied in takeaways (0-0) and were unsuccessful on the power play (San Jose was 0/2, while Los Angeles was 0/1).
The second period saw more domination of the pace of the game from the Sharks as both teams swapped chances, but Jones and Quick stood tall in goal. Tyler Toffoli and Lucic took penalties at 8:14 of the second period and were sent to the penalty box for roughing and charging, respectively.
Thirty-seconds was all it took for San Jose to score on the ensuing 5-on-3 power play opportunity as Couture found Quick way out of position and was able to snap the puck home with ease. Couture’s goal gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead and was assisted by Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. The Kings were clearly shaken by the goal, but could not find a way to try to take back the momentum that was fully tilted in San Jose’s favor.
What seemed to be a rarity on the night, next occurred with under nine minutes to go in the 2nd. Tommy Wingels was flying up ice on a breakaway and Quick remained square to the shooter, instead of getting out of position— outside of the crease— thereby denying Wingels and providing a huge save in what might have otherwise all but sealed the deal for the Sharks.
San Jose took a couple more penalties as the second period went on at 12:18 (Matt Nieto for hooking) and 18:17 (Nick Spaling for holding), but the Kings were powerless on the power play, unable to convert on either opportunity.
At the end of forty minutes of play, the fans at the Staples Center began to grow restless, with the Sharks beating the home-team Kings, 2-0, and leading in shots on goal (16-14).
San Jose also led in takeaways (2-0) and blocked shots (16-13), while Los Angeles had a 28-16 faceoff win advantage, despite leading in giveaways (6-3). Hits were even at 31-31 and the Sharks were 1/4 on the power play after two, while the Kings were 0/3.
The third period began with a bit of a slow start, but the Kings were starting to press, given that they were down by two and in the final twenty minutes of play, unless they had anything to do about it.
Nick Spaling was sent to the box for tripping Los Angeles defenseman, Drew Doughty, at 10:59 of the 3rd, but once again the Kings were unable to convert on the power play as less than a minute later, Jeff Carter was sent to the penalty box for slashing at 11:28 of the period.
Yet the result of a slashing minor against Melker Karlsson at 14:06 of the third period resulted in a Los Angeles power play that sparked some high intensity desperation back into the game. In a frenzy of bodies and pucks loose in front of the net and with Martin Jones out of position in the crease, Vincent Lecavalier was able to find the puck and send it home with a backhand on the power play at 14:59 of the 3rd.
Lecavalier’s goal cut the Sharks lead in half to 2-1 and was assisted by Jake Muzzin and Tanner Pearson.
With about 90 seconds left in regulation, Kings head coach, Darryl Sutter, pulled Quick for an extra attacker but the effort was ultimately for naught. The Sharks downed the Kings 2-1 on road ice trailing in shots (27-23), hits (47-40), faceoff wins (41-27) and giveaways (14-7) to Los Angeles. San Jose finished the game leading in blocked shots (28-17) and takeaways (2-0). Both teams were 1/5 on the night on the power play.
Jones became the 2nd goalie in Sharks history to win his first 2 career playoff starts— the other being Wade Flaherty on May 17, 1995 and May 19, 1995. Per Elias Sports, San Jose also took a 2-0 series lead in a best-of-7 format via two road wins for the 3rd time in franchise history (with the previous two times being the 1995 Western Conference Quarterfinals and the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals).
The series now shifts to the SAP Center in San Jose, California on Monday night at 10:30 PM EST for Game 3 and can been seen on NBCSN nationally in the United States and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.
Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the Los Angeles Kings. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.
Los Angeles Kings (46-28-8, third in division, sixth in conference, Stanley Cup champions)
After winning their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, GM Dean Lombardi & Head Coach Darryl Sutter are ready to make it three for four. Based on the roster changes made over summer, or lack thereof, the Kings are no doubt in a position to do just that. All of the players that played every game in the playoffs are still wearing black this season, which should strike fear into anyone in the Western Conference come April.
The goaltending situation remains as it did to close last season in Los Angeles, with Jonathan Quick & Martin Jones returning. Quick, who played in 49 games last season posted a 27-17-4 record, allowing only 100 goals last season for a save percentage of 91.5% & only 2.07 goals against. He posted six shutouts over the course of the regular season, making over 22% of his wins a result of keeping the opposition off the board. In the playoffs, he played in all 26 games for a save percentage of 91.1%, but saw an inflation in his goals against average (2.58, an extra half-goal per game). Two of his playoff wins were shutouts (12.5%).
Martin Jones played 19 games last season for a 12-6-0 record. He only allowed 33 goals for a save percentage of 93.4% & 1.81 goals against (both numbers stronger than Quick’s, but with a much smaller sample). Four of his wins were shutouts, meaning that greater than 33% of his wins were a result of the other team being held scoreless.
The Kings come into the season having lost very few big names, but the most notable is Willie Mitchell (signed with Florida).
They lost only one of the top 11 players with most regular season games with the Kings last season in Willie Mitchell (76) playing 76 regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost two of the top 20 players with the most playoff games with the Kings last season in Willie Mitchell (18) & Jeff Schultz (seven, has been sent back to Manchester). The Kings are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Derek Forbort (74, 2010 draft pick), Vincent LoVerde (70, undrafted) & Scott Sabourin (69, undrafted).
The Kings are not bringing back only one of their top 16 shot takers this year as Willie Mitchell (73) is not returning. Mitchell accounted for fewer than three percent of the Kings’ shots last regular season, so his numbers will not be desperately missed in that perspective. More important than regular season numbers, Willie Mitchell is taking 23 shots from the post season to Florida. In the Kings’ quest for the Stanley Cup, he provided fewer than three percent of the Kings’ shots.
The top goal scorer from last season not returning to the Staples Center? Matt Frattin (traded to Columbus), who provided a whopping two goals (a little over one percent of all goals scored last season). The Kings have added Brian O’Neill (26, undrafted), Nick Ebert (13), Scott Sabourin (12), Colin Miller (5, 2012 draft pick), & Maxim Kitsyn (3, 2010 draft pick) to more than to make up for the missing goals.
One of the leading 14 assisters will not be with the Kings this season as Willie Mitchell (11) isn’t returning. To make up for this, the Kings have signed Nick Ebert (41), Brian O’Neill (21), Vincent LoVerde (18), Derek Forbort (16), Scott Sabourin (14), & Colin Miller (12). These new additions will spend most of this season in Manchester to further develop their skills.
Two of the top eight +/- guys in the regular season have been lost, including Willie Mitchell (14) & Jeff Schultz (10). Included in that, the Kings also lost Willie Mitchell’s 10 in the postseason, which led defensemen. To make up for these lost numbers, Los Angeles has signed Nick Ebert (53), Vincent Loverde (37), Brian O’Neill (31), & Derek Forbort (19).
The Kings lost two of the top six penalty minute earners in Willie Mitchell (58) & Daniel Carcillo (57). Sadly, the Kings picked up Scott Sabourin, who had minutes (115) equal to Mitchell & Carcillo combined. New hire Maxim Kitsyn only served two minutes in the sin bin last season (20 games), which averaged out to almost six seconds per game. This will be a huge asset to keep the Kings from defending the power play.
Present roster consists of 14 forwards, seven defensemen, & two goalies (23 men).