Despite a strong opening 20 minutes, the LA Kings found themselves down 3-0 after one and were never able to recover, eventually losing 6-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Being down 3-0 after the first period certainly doesn’t help,” Kopitar noted. “But the thing is, you know, the period, as bad as the score was, I didn’t think our play was that bad. Just a couple of tough breaks and we were down 3-0, and you’re obviously playing catch up, you’re trying to make something happen, and it didn’t happen tonight.”
The Kings controlled the bulk of the first period, owning a 67.4% CF% at 5-on-5 but didn’t get the big save when needed from Cal Petersen.
“When I look at the start we had, I thought we played the way we wanted to play,” said McLellan. “We played fast, we were aggressive, we forced them into situations where they had to turn the puck over, and things were going pretty well for us. Even after the first goal, I thought we responded well, but by the time it got to three, unfortunately, it wasn’t the same way anymore, and obviously, we’d like to have a couple of those back in the first period.
The decision to start Petersen wasn’t all that surprising, considering the way the game in Nashville ended. McLellan spoke highly of Petersen’s late-game performance in that one and alluded to the fact that he hoped it would get him going. Unfortunately for the Kings, Petersen allowed three goals in the first period, two of which were questionable not only from his performance but from the complete breakdown in the defensive zone as well.
“We’re trying, just like we would with forwards and defensemen, to get (Petersen) to where he can be, and he has to be better,” McLellan added. “I can’t stand here and bull*hit you guys, it is what it is. There are others that have to be better as well in certain situations, but we had the momentum, and we couldn’t close it.”
As Kopitar said, “it wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
The LA Kings went 1-for-6 on the power play, with the goal coming late in the third from Carl Grundstrom. McLellan noted after the game that the fourth line played well and deserved the opportunity. Brand Clarke picked up his first career point with an assist on the play.
Here are some clips from things I saw on the earlier power plays with the more traditional units.
This first one is from the first power play of the game, and we saw some of the things that I continue to take issue with. There is no look to the middle of the ice, no look down low, and there are two low-percentage shots taken:
Those are two great examples of why “shoot!” isn’t always the best option. Kopitar takes a contested shot, and Doughty takes a 60-foot slapshot that is not going to beat an NHL goaltender.
The next clip is from the second unit later in the period. First, we see yet another low-percentage, contested shot from 60 feet from Sean Durzi. The sooner this shot is taken out of the power play rotation, the better. However, I noted after the Nashville game, there is much more of an effort to make cross-seam passes this season. We do see that in the second part of this clip. So, a little bit of bad and a little bit of good.
These last two will be a couple more of the positive things I saw.
First, this one may seem relatively minor, but I want to point out again there are good times to shoot and bad times to shoot. Here, Doughty gets the puck in what looks like a prime shooting position. But, on the powerplay, it isn’t. Look at Jarry. He’s at the top of his crease, he’s set, and he’s square to the shot. In no scenario should Doughty shoot this. He makes the right decision by sliding it to Adrian Kempe, this forces Jarry to move his feet, and it’s a better scoring opportunity. Kempe didn’t get as much on it as he liked, but his shot is better than Doughty’s.
Lastly, again, Gabriel Vilardi continues to be smart down low. This is what I’d rather see from the top unit as opposed to the perimeter shots. Again, this doesn’t lead to a goal, but you see, it leads to a bit of chaos in front momentarily. Also, the more we see Vilardi do this, the more he’ll have a better feel of when to hold it, when to make a turn to the net, or when to pass it. But in general, I like this play.
- It’s great to see the Blake Lizotte line have a strong game. That said, if the fourth line is your best line in a game, chances are you aren’t winning that game. But, I did want to give them credit as they continue to be strong.
- Brandt Clarke picked up his first NHL point on Grundstrom’s goal. The 19-year-old has now played five NHL games, and the team can allow him to play four more before making a decision as to whether or not he should remain in the NHL or go back to Junior. In my opinion, it’s not much of a decision, he should stay. We’re not seeing the explosive offensive play we saw in the Rookie Faceoff and in the preseason, but what we also aren’t seeing is Clarke being overmatched, hemmed in his own zone, and struggling to keep pace. Through five games, he has a 53.1% CF% and 68.1% xGF% and 5-on-5. Of course, it is a small, five-game sample. But the decision the LA Kings have to make is on a small sample. He has not looked out of place.
- Cal Petersen is deservedly under the microscope right now. He is in the first year of a three-year, $15 million deal and has struggled between the pipes. But make no mistake, the Kings’ problems are not just Petersen. Jonathan Quick has not been good this season, either. The 36-year-old is 1-2 with a 3.73 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage. That, also, isn’t good enough.
- Among goaltenders that have played three games, both LA Kings’ netminders are in the bottom ten in Goals Save Above Expected (Per MoneyPuck). Petersen’s -3.7 is the third-worst, while Quick’s -1.9 is the eighth-worst.
- It’s not just the goaltending. Per Natural Stat Trick, the LA Kings have allowed the third-most scoring chances (141) and seventh-most high-danger chances (49). It’s a bad combination when there are defensive zone breakdowns not being bailed out by your goaltenders.