Three things about the L.A. Kings victory over the Sabres

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick blanked the Sabres on Thursday for his team-record 33rd career shutout. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick blanked the Sabres on Thursday for his team-record 33rd career shutout. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Here are the first few paragraphs of Thursday’s game story:

The Kings had just enough Thursday. The defending Stanley Cup champions had 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders on their roster when they faced off against the Buffalo Sabres at Staples Center, and not one healthy or eligible body more.

There simply was no margin for error for the Kings in their first game since defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested by Redondo Beach police on charges of domestic violence and suspended indefinitely with pay by the NHL on Monday morning.

Under normal circumstances, the mere presence of the struggling Sabres would have eased the Kings’ minds and made for an easy night. But an early goal and a record-setting goaltending performance also propelled the Kings to a 2-0 victory, their fifth in a row.

Here are three more things about the Kings’ latest victory:

First, Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar scored power-play goals and the Kings clicked on two of three chances with the man-advantage overall. It’s a start for a power play that was 2 for 20 (10 percent) and ranked 25th in the 30-team NHL going into the game. The Kings must be better in their special teams play if they are to defend their Stanley Cup championship. It’s really that simple.

Second, Jonathan Quick stopped 29 shots and recorded his Kings-record 33rd shutout of his career, one more than the mark he shared since Oct. 16 with Rogie Vachon. “It really is nothing new,” Kopitar said of Quick’s play in goal. “He’s just solid back there. We try to help him out as much as we can. When breakdowns do happen, he’s back there. He’s saved our butts a bunch of times already. I’m sure he’s going to continue to do it.”

Third, the Kings welcomed defenseman Jake Muzzin to their lineup after he sat out the first six games of the season because of an upper-body injury. They also played for the first time since defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested on domestic violence charges and suspended Monday by the NHL, which turned out to be less of a distraction for the team than anyone might have imagined. The Kings are strong that way. Nothing seems to trouble them. Let’s see how it plays out long-term.

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Three things about the L.A. Kings victory over the St. Louis Blues

Here are the first few paragraphs of Thursday’s game story:

The Kings stole a game Thursday night at Staples Center. They reached into the St. Louis Blues’ pockets and swiped a 1-0 victory in a shootout that might have eluded them if not for a bounce here or there or a shot here or there or any number of reasons.

They committed robbery and presented goaltending Jonathan Quick with his 32nd career shutout, tying him with Rogie Vachon for the franchise record. Or more to the point, Quick helped them extend their winning streak to three in a row with a flawless performance.

“It’s nice, obviously,” Quick said of matching Vachon’s shutout mark. “It’s humbling to be put into that category. At the same time, it’s a team effort. It takes 20 guys. It’ll be my name that goes next to the shutout, but it’s 100 percent the group that went out there today.”

Kings center Jeff Carter scored the only goal in a shootout, after Quick stopped all 43 shots he faced in 60 minutes of regulation play plus a five-minute overtime period. Blues goalie Brian Elliott faced only 18 shots, but couldn’t stop Carter, the first shooter in a three-round shootout.

Here are three things that stood out:

First, that Quick guy can play a little bit. He he was under siege for extended periods and still blanked the Blues. He even showed a little fire when he got into a scrap with the Blues’ Alexander Steen and was penalized for roughing in the second period. Above all, he denied the Blues in a three-round shootout.

Second, the Blues remain a difficult team for the Kings to play. The teams play similar styles, keeping each other at arm’s length. There aren’t a lot of scoring chances in most games between the teams. The Blues were the more dangerous team with the puck Thursday, however. “They’ve obviously got a recipe for success and have two Cups in the last three years to prove it,” Blues captain David Backes said. “That being said, we’ve got our own personnel and strengths to produce wins.”

Third, the Kings’ power play unit isn’t very good. The Kings went 0 for 4 with the man-advantage and are 1 for 18 in five games to start the season. That’s a discouraging sign for a team whose struggles to score while skating at even strength are well known. Power play goals take off the pressure, creating a comfort zone that enables a team to rely on its special teams to score goals at key points in games. It’s not as if scoring power-play goals is an easy trick, it’s simply an easier way to score.

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Three things about the L.A. Kings rout of the hapless Oilers

Here are my first few paragraphs from Tuesday’s game story:

“The Kings didn’t actually score on every shift of Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers at Staples Center. It only seemed like it. The Kings didn’t create a scoring on every dash down the ice against the hopelessly overmatched Oilers. It only appeared to be the case.

“There will be nights when the puck doesn’t settle into the back of the net as easily or as often as it did during the Kings’ 6-1 rout of the Oilers. Defending their Stanley Cup championship certainly will be more difficult than it was Tuesday, when the Kings seemed to be skating downhill.

“After all, the St. Louis Blues visit Staples Center on Thursday.

“The Blues are one of the NHL’s elite teams.

“Clearly, the Oilers are not.”

Here are three thoughts about the Kings’ blowout victory:

First, that Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli line continues to roll. Pearson had two goals and an assist. Carter scored a goal and added an assist and Toffoli had a goal and an assist. Pearson has a team-leading four goals, Carter has three and Toffoli has two for the Kings, who have scored 12 in four games to start the season.

Second, Darryl Sutter said he would rather had gotten “the cob” for goalie Jonathan Quick than win his 100th game as the Kings coach. Cob? Well, it’s a folksy term for shutout since an ear of corn looks like a zero if you turn it the right way. Have we mentioned Sutter is a farmer back home in Viking, Alberta?

Third, the Oilers are a poor team and weren’t very competitive, which marked the second consecutive pushover the Kings faced, including their 4-1 rout of the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. Things get tougher with the arrival of the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. The Blues will hit back. They will score and play with the sort of grit and determination that you would expect from a team that believes it can make a deep playoff run. Don’t expect a third straight one-sided result in the Kings’ favor, in other words.

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Three things about the Kings’ first victory of the new season

The Kings took a 4-1 victory from the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday at Staples Center, their first win after a couple of clunkers to start their Stanley Cup defense. Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, aka That 70s Line, each had a goal and an assist. Anze Kopitar scored his first goal of the season and Martin Jones made 29 saves.

Here are three things about the game, which was a step in the right direction:

First, That 70s Line is carrying the Kings so far, having accounted for all but one of the team’s six goals to start the season. That’s good and bad. It’s good because you have to figure Kopitar and Marian Gaborik will begin to produce more, especially once the third member of the line is solidified. Or as close to it as it gets with Darryl Sutter as coach of the Kings. Kopitar and Gaborik started out with Dustin Brown, but Sutter switched Justin Williams onto their line for Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes and kept Williams there for Sunday’s game against Winnipeg.

Second, Kopitar pulled no punches when asked about his line’s lack of production. Said Kopitar: “It can be better. Definitely a step in the right direction. I think we were moving the puck better. We had some zone time and we were creating some chances. But there is definitely room for improvement and we’re going to work on it.”

Third, Jones continues to amaze as Jonathan Quick’s backup. Nothing seems to faze him, not that the Jets represented an especially difficult challenge. Said Toffoli of Jones: “That guy’s a machine. That guy does it all. He’s such a great goalie.”

 

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Three things about the Kings loss to the Sharks in their season opener

Here are the first few paragraphs from my game story:

“The Kings raised their second championship banner in three seasons to the Staples Center rafters Wednesday night. Team captain Dustin Brown held the Stanley Cup high overhead as a roaring sellout crowd bellowed like it was June 13 all over again.

“Then somebody had to go and spoil a perfectly good party by dropping a puck onto the ice and starting a new season. Then the San Jose Sharks had to go and stick the puck in the back of Jonathan Quick’s net. Again and again and again and again.

“Tommy Wingels scored two goals and the Sharks earned a very small measure of revenge after last season’s playoff ouster at the hands of the Kings, taking a comprehensive 4-0 victory in the regular-season opening game for both teams.”

Here are three impressions about an uneven opening game:

First, the Kings turned in clunkers after each of their championship banner-raising ceremonies. They have been outscored 9-2 in losses to the Sharks on Wednesday and to the Chicago Blackhawks two seasons ago. So, what’s the answer? Not winning a Stanley Cup? Not celebrating it? Maybe the Kings could have the Lakers come in and talk to them about how to handle the distractions of such a ceremony. Then again, there aren’t many (any?) Lakers left who remember what that experience is like.

Second, the Kings have miles to skate before they can even think about recreating their incredible run to the Cup last spring. It was a long, slow process last season and it will be again in 2014-15. Patience is the order of the next few days and weeks, and maybe even months. Fans, players, coaches and reporters must realize it’s a process.

Third, the Sharks are pretty good. They’ve been humiliated by their playoff loss to the Kings last spring and they have plenty to prove this season. Don’t expect them to fold at every opportunity. Their collapse from a 3-0 series lead in the first round last spring was quite a pratfall, one they’ve been reminded of for, oh, probably every day since April.

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Three things about the Kings’ 4-2 exhibition victory over the Ducks

Jeff Carter scored three goals and Robyn Regehr struck once for the Kings in a 4-2 victory Sunday over the Ducks at the Honda Center. Carter’s goals sort of figured since he’s capable of such outbursts, but Regehr’s pinball shot in the first period didn’t. Regehr is what’s known as a defensive-minded defenseman. His offensive contributions are few and far between. They are not to be overlooked, however. Here are three things about the Kings’ second consecutive victory over their Southland rivals:

Rangers Marc Stall is checked into the boards by Kings Jeff Carter in the 3rd period of a Stanley Cup Final game. Carter had a hat trick in the Kings exhibition game Sunday. (Photo by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Rangers Marc Stall is checked into the boards by Kings Jeff Carter in the 3rd period of a Stanley Cup Final game. Carter had a hat trick in the Kings exhibition game Sunday. (Photo by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

 

 

First, Carter spoke after the game, a rarity. Here’s some of what he said when asked about his first three goals of the preseason: “You go to the net and good things are going to happen. Pucks drop down at your feet. It’s nothing different than what we usually do. Guys win battles and put pucks to the net. You get rewarded.”

Here’s what he said about linemates Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli: “They’ve both played great for us. They worked hard this summer to make sure they were ready to roll this year. It’s a lot of fun. It doesn’t matter how young they are or who they are or where they come from if they’re good enough to play in the league, and they’ve shown it. They weren’t given anything. They’ve earned it. They spent a lot of time in the minors.”

Second, Martin Jones looked sharp in goal again, stopping 33 shots. He looked poised and ready to play if needed if starter Jonathan Quick isn’t judged sound enough to start the regular season Oct. 8. Quick had offseason wrist surgery June 24 and hasn’t played in an exhibition game yet. He has been practicing with his teammates, however.

Third, the Kings know how to sit on a lead. They were outshot 18-7 in the third period, but neither their defense nor their goaltending cracked in crunch time. The Kings blanked the Ducks in the final period despite having to kill off a two-man disadvantage. They led 3-2 going into the third and finished up with a comprehensive 4-2 victory.

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Three things about the Kings shootout victory over the Ducks

Jordan Nolan, Dwight King and Tyler Toffoli scored in regulation play and King supplied the winner in the shootout as the Kings defeated the Ducks 4-3 on Thursday at Staples Center. Toffoli assisted on King’s second-period goal and Martin Jones had 25 saves. Here are three takeaways from the Kings’ win:

First, Toffoli could be poised for a breakout season for the Kings. We’ve seen flashes of offensive brilliance from him from time to time, never more than during the playoffs while skating with Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson. He scored a superb goal Thursday against the Ducks and set up King for the goal that tied the score at 2 in the second period. The pass was the better play than the shot, so he slipped a cross-ice pass to King, who beat Ducks goalie John Gibson. Here’s a link to the video highlights: http://kings.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=731825&navid=DL|LAK|home

Second, Ryan Kesler is going to be a major pain in the butt for everyone in the NHL now that he’s with the Ducks, a team that learned it must be better up the middle after losing to the Kings in the second round of the playoffs last spring. He’s strong on the puck, makes a pest of himself around the net and when placed in the right spot he could be a difference-maker against the Kings’ formidable centers, including Anze Kopitar.

Third, has everybody had enough of the preseason yet? Let’s get going, shall we?

 

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Kings coach Darryl Sutter talks about a shootout loss to the Coyotes

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Here’s some of what Kings coach Darryl Sutter had to say after a split-squad loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday in Glendale, Ariz.: “You are still wanting to see more of your young players who you want to give opportunities to in an exhibition game, as I said before. When you play two in one day there are a lot of guys that normally would not get a game at all, so now they get an opportunity.”

Here’s more: “Looking at Jeff (Carter), Tanner (Pearson) and Tyler (Toffoli) as a unit not as Jeff Carter. And we are trying to get some lines together and seeing if it can work together. Yeah, I think that line is really good. They were good all night.”

 

 

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Three things about the Kings shootout win over the Coyotes

Marian Gaborik scored two goals and Andy Andreoff had one, but the Kings lost a 3-1 lead in the third period of their split-squad exhibition game against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday at Staples Center. Nick Shore then supplied the winner in a 4-3 shootout victory for the Kings. Here are three things about the Kings’ exhibition opener:

If Gaborik and Anze Kopitar appeared to be in midseason form, it might have had something to do with a short summer after the Kings won the Stanley Cup in June. “It feels like we never left,” said Gaborik, who slipped behind the defense to score a second-period goal and then converted on a pretty give-and-go play with Kopitar while on the rush in the third. “I feel good out there.” Gaborik, Kopitar and Dustin Brown formed the Kings’ top line after they acquired him at the trade deadline last March. There’s no reason to think they won’t play together again this season.

Shore doesn’t have much of a shot at making the Kings’ roster to start the season and most likely with play for their American Hockey League club in Manchester, N.H. He showed some veteran poise when he scored the winning goal in the shootout, however. He seemed unfazed by the fact that there are no jobs available in Los Angeles and that his ticket is all but punched for the minors. “Everyone in the organization takes a lot of pride and being an L.A. King and the tradition they’ve had the last couple of years, it’s fun to be a part of,” Shore said. “Ever since I was drafted and even before that they started to turn things around. It’s really just a mindset, and it starts at the top and trickles all the way down.”

Martin Jones started in goal, with the Kings in no rush to hurry Jonathan Quick back into a game after he underwent offseason wrist surgery. Jones stopped all nine shots he faced in 31 minutes, 13 seconds before Jeff Deslauriers replaced him with the Kings leading 2-0 in the second period. That’s another good sign that the Kings’ goaltending is in capable hands. Quick isn’t expected to be held out of too many upcoming games, although the Kings are typically secretive about such things. The Kings also played J.F. Berube in the split-squad game Monday at Glendale, Ariz. Depth is a wonderful thing to have, especially in goal and especially for an organization that didn’t have enough of it over the years.

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Sometimes there’s a madness to Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s method

Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter had to say after the Minnesota Wild rallied in the third period for a 3-2 victory Monday night: “We were better in the third (period) than we were in the first. We turned a lot of pucks over in the neutral zone. It had nothing to do with the third period, it was all the first period.”

Sure, the Kings held a 1-0 lead in the first period and were outscored 2-0 in the third, but Sutter didn’t like the way their sloppy play led to chances for the Wild in the opening 20 minutes. He also didn’t like how that set the tone for what followed. He wasn’t happy with the final result, but the game wasn’t won or lost in the third.

That was his story and he was sticking to it Monday.

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