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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Final: Kings 2, Wild 1

Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson scored for the Kings and Jonathan Quick made xx saves in a 2-1 victory Sunday afternoon over the Minnesota Wild at Staples Center. The Kings won their second in a row when getting widely outshot. The Wild outshot the Kings 41-16, after the St. Louis Blues outshot them 43-18 on Thursday. Matt Cooke scored the Wild’s only goal, cutting the Kings’ lead to 2-1 in the third period.

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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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L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick makes a little history

Jonathan Quick stops the shot of the Blues’ Alexander Steen in a shootout at Staples Center. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)"

Jonathan Quick stops the shot of the Blues’ Alexander Steen in a shootout at Staples Center. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)”

Jonathan Quick recorded a shutout after making 43 saves in the Kings’ 1-0 shootout victory Thursday over the St. Louis Blues. It turns out he tied Kelly Hrudey for the second-most saves in a shutout in Kings history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, which keeps track of these things. Quick holds the record for the most saves in a Kings shutout with 51 in a 5-0 blanking of the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 13, 2010. Quick’s victory was his 37th in a shootout, fourth-most among active goalies. He is 37-22 in shootouts and has stopped all but 61 attempts in 209 shots.

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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 coach Darryl Sutter’s nutty quote of the day

Kings coach Darryl Sutter had this to say about pulling Jonathan Quick from Wednesday’s loss to the San Jose Sharks and replacing him with backup Martin Jones to start the third period of a game the team trailed 4-0: “I didn’t pull Quick because of his performance. Like I said, I don’t like pulling goalies in the first game of the year, or ever, but at that point in the game, it’s not Jonathan’s deal, it’s Jonesy’s deal.”

FYI: Quick gave up four goals on 27 shots.

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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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Kings questions and answers (part 4, expanded version)

Will the Kings be healthy enough to lead the playoff race?

Goalie Jonathan Quick and forward Kyle Clifford underwent wrist surgeries and Jarret Stoll had hip surgery during the offseason, signs of the toll a grueling regular season and an extended playoff run can exact on professional athletes. All three are sound and will begin the regular season on schedule. Injuries are always a concern, particularly for a team that relies on its physical play to win games. The Kings appear to have the depth to withstand various routine bumps and bruises in the season.

Luck plays a great role in a team’s success. Good teams avoid injuries, or at the very least they manage to use their depth to patch together a lineup that’s good enough to keep winning. There’s not a big drop-off. Bad teams get injured and there aren’t enough quality players to fill the void. The Kings appear to have plenty of depth, both on their roster in Los Angeles and at their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H. Any questions about the organization’s depth should have been answered by the likes of Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli during the playoffs last season.

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