It has been a tough two games, yeah. Let's admit that right from the get go. The Kings have looked sloppy, meager offensively, and have made uncharacteristic defensive mistakes. They've also lost their goalie to an injury that could put him out an upwards of....the season?
It. Has. Been. Rough.
There has been a lot to take in over the course of the two games though, things that might have been lost in the sea of "Oh god we are terrible" negativity. Both games the Kings deservedly lost with unfocused, uncharacteristic, sloppy play. Is there reason to have hope after just two games? What other take aways are there other than the impulsive "Gee we are really bad." Let's see if we can't pull out some deeper talking points other than the obvious.
Game two and Game one were very different losses.
Both games were ugly in their own way, but they were very different kinds of loses. While the Sharks outright dominated the Kings in Game one of the season, Game two the Kings were the architects of their own demise. Sloppy line changes put the Kings in a hole on two of the four Flyers goals, and poor coverage led to another. Against San Jose it was more about simply how good the San Jose forecheck and neutral zone play was. Again Philly the Kings couldn't get out of their own way, while San Jose was simply one team getting flat outplayed by the other. Lumping the two losses together is a little bit unfair. If you want to be mad about one, be mad about the simply mental mistakes that cost the Kings the Flyers game. This team will lose, and it is probably okay that they lose a game like they did to San Jose. San Jose is a good team. While the Flyers likewise are going to be a much improved team this year, that was a game the Kings looked to have some semblance of control around and let it slip away. Heck, they held the Flyers without a shot through most of the first period.
Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy
We touched on it above, but the play has been sloppy and out of synch.
Tracking zone entries and exits last year gave us insight to the level of play that normally goes with a Kings victory in terms of cleanly getting the puck out of the zone. When the Kings dominated games, it was not out of the ordinary to see games in which they broke out of their own at a scary 80-85% success rate. These two games? 65% and 66%. Ouch. Last year 77.8% was the average over the course of around 60 games. So it will definitely have to improve. To be fair, the Kings played two of their worst games of the season last season in their two first games as well.
Forbort and Greene, oh my!
This pairing has had a rough couple of games. While there have been significant positives from Forbort's play, he still very much looks like a player making his way into the NHL. Hiccups will happen, and hesitation has been prevalent on at least a few plays, while execution was an issue on others.
The problem that has been at least painfully evident with both players is that teams are getting far too many chances against them. On Wednesday night the two were on ice for 16 shot attempts against, with only 9 going their way while on the ice. Friday not was identical for Greene, with Forbort seeing only 14 shot attempts lobbed up against him. Regardless, each night has been negative, and this pairing, at least in the early stages, is showing signs of needing to be broken up. It was fairly interesting to see the duo together in the first place since it drifts away from the shutdown/puck mover combo the Kings generally like. Forbort has been okay on puck movement, but in a perfect world he would not be the one driving the play. Perhaps Tom Gilbert is in line for a game or two alongside Forbort to see what comes of it.
The offense, unsurprisingly, is frustrating
This one is a no brainer really, but it still makes it painfully true. The Kings have mustered very little in terms of offense in the first two games. Even extended zone time has led to few real grade A chances. While the Flyers seemed to log less zone time in Friday night's contest, they had some real solid looks on Jeff Zatkoff and the Kings defense. On the flip side, the Kings high shot attempt numbers were undone by a ridiculous amount of blocked at missed attempts. Kings hockey right?
Here is another unsurprising yet completely jaw dropping set of statistics from the first two games. Draw your own conclusions if you will.
51 dump plays. Four shots generated from those dump plays. Four. FOUR.
That is an unbelievable amount of zone time for just four solitary shots on goal. While the silver lining outlook on this is that the Kings have put the puck 200-feet away from their own net, and have had zone time 51 times that wasn't in their own end, that is a ton of time to be spending in the opposition zone doing a whole lot of nothing. Again though, this is a staple of Kings hockey. Safe and responsible play that keeps the puck as far away from Jeff Zatkoff as possible while keeping it tucked into the boards in the other end. It is a good way of preventing opposition play up ice, but at the same time early statistics gathered have shown a stark difference in when and how the Kings generate chances. Controlled entries have accounted for 90% of their scoring chances and 88% of their shot generation at even strength, but have only been utilized 52% percent of the time. If this trend continues, we might have to look a little bit deeper into the why at a later date.
Doughty has been kind of rough
Doughty has been uncharacteristically sloppy the first two games. Passes have been forced and decisions have been spotty. There has yet to be the same kind of controlled dominance and management of the game from No. 8 that we have seen in the past. It is early, and he played a long World Cup campaign. He will get back to normal levels. It is just strange to see him struggle, even in back to back games. He has been getting the puck out of the zone only 66% in the first two games, something he hovered around the 90% mark last season. He was also a heavy negative in possession against San Jose, a game in which he failed on five out of nine exit attempts.
Jordan Nolan looks really good
Aside from the penalty taken in the Flyers game, Jordan Nolan has been a surprisingly positive player in his first two games. Worry had to be that Nolan would be a bit rusty have had missed the end of last season with a back injury that required surgery, but he has had a jump in his step, a confidence on the puck, and a high level of both speed and physicality to his play. While the fourth line was victimized on goals each night, Nolan individually had little to do with both goals and has been a bright spot overall. Outside of Kopitar, Nolan might have been the most effective player in both games.
Is the goaltending going to make THAT big of a difference?
Losing Quick is terrible. Yes. But Zatkoff has looked capable in his 100 minutes of Kings hockey in 2016-17. Let's be real, the types of chances the Kings gave up against Philadelphia were going to be a struggle for any goalie to stop. That is where the Kings defensive structure and safe, smart play will have to sharpen up. They have less of a margin for error without their No. 1 goalie behind them, but they have overcome his absence in the past and should be able to do so again. Mental slips and poor coverage though are probably going to be punished more than they usually are though. Quick can bail the Kings bad plays out once and a while, Zatkoff though? That remains to be seen. Just recall the Scrivens, Jones days. The Kings rallied behind the absence of Quick and played some of their best hockey of the season. They will need a similar performance from the group as a whole this year.
So, when are we going to see Nic Dowd and Tom Gilbert?
Right, it's only two games, and it is still an early season, but when the heck are we going to see Nic Dowd or Tom Gilbert? You have to ask yourself, what exactly is Andreoff bringing to the table that Dowd cannot? Is it physical play? Simple north-south hockey (That doesn't generate much offense)? What is Greene bringing that Gilbert cannot? Without a whole lot of success the first two games, maybe we see the mix up happen soon. Sutter is a pretty patient guy however when it comes to his roster in and outs, so it might be a while before we see a mix up of any kind in terms of scratches. He juggled the lines after one game, so he certainly was not happy with what he saw against San Jose.
What else is on your mind? What other talking points do you have from the first two games? What stands out to you as worth talking about? Say so in the comment section.
The Reign went down to San Diego to open the season against the Gulls on Saturday night. While unfortunately I was unable to attend (Feeling a little under the weather!), it sounded like the Reign got a huge performance from Jack Campbell. With Budaj up with the Kings, the reins turned to Campbell who put in a 36-save shutout. Campbell, who came out of the Dallas Stars system, has had a rough go since being drafted in the first round in 2010. However, the strong team defense and less wide open system in Ontario may help him right the ship.
The Reign also got two assists from Jonny Brodzinski, and a goal from new comer T.J. Hensick.
The team opens up play at Citizens Business Bank Arena this weekend with a Friday/Saturday date with the high paced Texas Stars and a completely rebuilt and new looking San Jose Barracuda squad. Come check it out and have some fun!
Also worth noting, Lindsay Czarnecki, the excellent beat report for Ontario on LA Kings Insider, has reported that the Kings will be sending highly regarded draft pick Erik Cernak back to the Erie Otters of the OHL. As Rob Scuderi comes into the fold, the log jam defensively has become too real. A healthy Leslie, Scuderi, and Trotman, have pushed out the likes of Damir Sharipzianov (Who is in Manchester) and Erik Cernak. With playing time being paramount, Cernak returns to the OHL and will have to stake his claim on the roster officially next year.
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