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 to watch in the Kings-Wild game this afternoon

First, the Kings power play clicked only once in 18 chances over five games to start the season for a paltry 5.6 percent success rate that ranked them 25th among the NHL’s 30 teams. That’s not very good, especially when you look at their company at the bottom of the rankings. The Colorado Avalanche were 26th (4.6 percent) followed by the New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets (0.0 percent). Shudder. That’s not select company, by any means.

Second, the Kings won their third consecutive game with a 1-0 shootout victory Thursday over the St. Louis Blues, after starting the season with losses to the San Jose Sharks and the Arizona Coyotes. Goaltender Jonathan Quick recorded his 32nd career shutout, tying him with Rogie Vachon for the franchise record. Quick also improved to 37-22 in shootouts, having stopped all but 61 of 209 shots. Jeff Carter had his three-game points streak (three goals, two assists) stopped Thursday, but scored the only goal in the shootout.

Third, Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper, who gave up his first goals of the season in a 2-1 loss Friday to the Ducks after consecutive shutouts of the Colorado Avalanche, won’t play today. Niklas Backstrom is scheduled to start for the Wild (2-1-0). Jason Zucker, a Newport Beach native, scored Minnesota’s lone goal Friday.

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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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Kings questions and answers (part 3, expanded version)

Can veteran winger Marian Gaborik bolster the Kings’ ineffective offense?

The Kings ranked near the bottom of the NHL in scoring last season with only 206 goals, the fewest of the 16 teams that advanced to the playoffs. The Pacific Division champion Ducks scored 266, by way of contrast. Gaborik’s scoring during the postseason was one of the reasons the Kings won the Stanley Cup, however.

Gaborik enabled Kings coach Darryl Sutter to form a strong first line with center Anze Kopitar and winger Dustin Brown. It also allowed Sutter to team Jeff Carter with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, giving the Kings the sort of scoring punch they lacked. Gaborik and Kopitar seemed like a match made in hockey heaven. They are two skilled European-born and -bred players who see the ice better than most. When they click, it’s like magic on the ice.

The Kings have so much going for them that it’s strange to think they struggle in any one aspect of the game, but their inability to score cost them a better seeded place in the Western Conference standings. They won the Stanley Cup despite having home-ice advantage in only the last of the four playoff rounds. At some point, the stress of travel and the unpredictability of road conditions will prove costly to the Kings. Scoring more goals, moving higher in the standings, could ease their burden in 2014-15.

Gaborik is the man to make that happen.

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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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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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Stanley Cup moments (part 5: Jeff Carter’s third-period hat trick against Chicago)

Jeff Carter’s hat trick in Game 2 vs. Chicago, May 21: The defending champion Blackhawks won Game 1 handily, turning misplays into goals and then built a 2-0 lead in the early moments of the second period of Game 2. Carter led the Kings’ comeback with three third-period goals in a 6-2 victory that changed the course of the series and put the Kings on a path to the Stanley Cup Final.

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Quotes from the Kings Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli after Game 3

Here’s what Jeff Carter had to say about playing with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli after their line propelled the Kings to a 4-3 victory Saturday night in Game 3 and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series: “It’s been great. Obviously, they have a lot of chemistry playing together in Manchester (of the AHL). They’re working hard and they’re having fun. They use their speed and skill to create opportunities. Kind of dragging me along with them, so it’s been good.”

Pearson: “I think everyone is stepping up all at once and knowing the job we have to get done. Tonight, we succeeded in that again. … We’re definitely rolling pretty good, but we can’t take our foot off the gas pedal. We’ve got to keep on going, each and every game. We’re capitalizing on our chances and it’s working out.”

Toffoli: “I’m having fun. This is incredible. Obviously, as a young guy, you dream of being in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the past three games have been probably my best three games of the playoffs.”

 

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