The LA Kings dropped their third straight home game in the 2023-24 season, losing 4-2 to the Boston Bruins on Saturday. Many of the numbers would suggest that LA may have been a hard-luck loser.
The Kings out-attempted Boston 53-41 and were the better team in terms of puck possession in each period. While scoring chances were deadlocked at 19, LA held a 10-6 edge in high-danger attempts. Those ten high-danger attempts were their second-highest of the season (Winnipeg, 12). The Kings not only had the quantity edge, but the quality as well.
Boston goaltender Jeremy Swayman ended with an impressive 2.59 GSAx (per MoneyPuck).
Head Coach Todd McLellan talked after the game about the attention to detail – or lack thereof – from LA as a contributing factor to the loss. I’d concur with that. Given the share and quality of attempts being in the Kings’ favor, it can come down to details such as defensive assignments, finishing chances, and special teams. Boston was better in those aspects.
The top two lines played as such on Saturday night with both the Anze Kopitar and PL Dubois lines dominating play at 5-on-5. The two lines held shot attempt edges of 18-8 and 21-7 respectively. Kopitar’s line accounted for six of LA’s ten high-danger attempts.
Phillip Danault‘s line spent most of their time against the trio of Charlie Coyle, James van Riemsdyk, and Trent Frederic. It was the Bruins that won that battle. Danault himself was out-attempted 8-1 against JVR alone.
In 6:28 of ice time, the Blake Lizotte line held a 7-5 edge in shot attempts and a 3-1 edge in scoring chances. That line was rewarded with some power play time at the end of the game, on which Carl Grundstrom tipped in his third goal of the season.
Mikey Anderson and Drew Doughty played 9:28 together at 5-on-5 and they had the better of both shot attempts and shot quality. However, they were outscored 2-0. It was Doughty who missed his assignment on Boston’s second goal of the game, a rebound goal after a shot from the point.
The pairing of Andreas Englund and Jordan Spence only played 1:46 together. This was another game with plenty of special teams and Englund spent some time in the penalty box, so the Swedish blueliner spent more time with Matt Roy and Drew Doughty than Spence.
Englund spent 5:34 with Roy and since everything Matt Roy touches turns to gold, that was a good five and a half minutes. They out-attempted Boston 9-4 and were on the ice for four LA scoring chances to Boston’s zero. They ended with an xGF% of 92.2%.
It’s still early days but there hasn’t been a “set” third-pairing for LA. McLellan mentioned that assistant coach Trent Yawney, who handles the D, has free reign to do as he sees fit and that they’re still trying to get Englund and Spence acclimated to LA’s system.
The LA Kings were officially 1-for-6 with the man advantage but if we’re being honest, that is a little misleading considering the goal came when the game was already decided. Not to mention it wasn’t a true power play unit on the ice. Overall, I don’t think the power play looked all that bad. They created plenty of chances, especially in the first period, they were just not able to get one past Swayman before Grundstrom’s tip-in. LA ended with 11 scoring chances – six of which were high-danger – on the power play.
Production on the power play needs to come, but I’d be a little more concerned if they weren’t generating chances.
In a little over five minutes of power play time, Boston didn’t record a single high-danger attempt. David Pastrnak did find the back of the net in the first period though as the Bruins finished 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
5-on-5 Individual Stats
On-Ice Shot Attempts
Quinton Byfield has been trending on X since this game because he wasn’t able to find the back of the net. At some point, that simply has to happen – either scoring or him setting up his linemates – but it’s tough to argue his play on Saturday night. He was very good yet again. Byfield is second only to Phillip Danault among forwards in CF% at 5-on-5 this season. The play is there. The production needs to follow.
It’s a little surprising to see the Danault line struggle to generate chances the way they did, but it happens.
I’ve been critical of Andreas Englund in trying to figure out what it is that he brings to the table other than physicality. Credit where it’s due, he led the LA Kings in xGF% against Boston. On the season, while he certainly hasn’t hurt the team (51.1% CF%, 55.6% xGF%), I’m not sure how much he’s impacting the play and helping them, per se. That said, I think what he’s given so far is better than I expected.
Byfield shows well again here, pacing all forwards in on-ice xGF%.
Jordan Spence quietly had a good performance on Saturday in terms of limiting shot quality against.
There is only one LA Kings regular who is under 50% in terms of on-ice xGF% this season – Trevor Lewis (38.1%). He was, however, a tick above 50% against Boston.
Matt Roy was active in this one. He compiled five shot attempts and four shot assists for a total of nine shot contributions to lead the team.
Alex Laferriere continued his shooting barrage and he was finally rewarded, netting his first career NHL goal in the second period. His six attempts were second only to Adrian Kempe. On the season, the rookie leads the Kings in shot attempts (27) and shot contributions (37) at 5-on-5.
It’s been a weird start to the season for Kevin Fiala. His seven assists are the second most in the NHL, but he’s been inconsistent with his play this season. Against Boston, he recorded zero shot attempts. We’re starting to see him more involved, though, in a positive way. His four shot assists against Boston give him 17 on the season, tied with PL Dubois for second on the Kings (Danault, 18). Last season, Fiala had 15.9 shot assists/60. This year so far, he’s at 15.4/60, so he’s pretty much right in line. I still think the best is yet to come, production-wise, for Fiala.
Seeing the likes of Trevor Moore, Danault and Lizotte toward the bottom of this list is a little odd. But it was one of those games. I think the amount of special teams played a factor in this one in making it difficult to get into a rhythm.
Between the Pipes
Cam Talbot got his third straight start, allowing four goals on 25 shots (.840 save percentage). It’s tough to be too critical of Talbot. Two of the goals were off deflections, another was a missed assignment on a rebound, and the fourth goal he was in desperation mode to keep the play alive. MoneyPuck had him with a -2.16 GSAx.
I was a little surprised Todd McLellan went back to Talbot. Granted, he’d picked up back-to-back road wins, but given the travel, the early part of the season, and Talbot’s age and injury history, this seemed like a good opportunity to get Pheonix Copley back in the mix against a non-conference opponent. That said, this game certainly wasn’t on Talbot.
We’ll see how McLellan handles next week, with games on Tuesday (vs Arizona) and then a back-to-back on Friday (at Arizona) and Saturday (vs Vegas), I’m sure we’ll see both netminders.
The LA Kings play their next two games against the Arizona Coyotes, the first of which will be at home on Tuesday night.
(Main Photo Credit: Ashley Landis, Associated Press)