NOBODY’S WALKIN’: The Royal Half
RECORDS: Kings 4-4-0 Hawks 4-3-1
SCORE ADJUSTED CF%: Kings – 56.0 (1st) Hawks – 51.4 (10th)
POWER PLAY: Kings – 17.5% (20th) Hawks – 22.6% (13th)
PENALTY KILL: Kings – 77.8% (21st) Hawks – Let’s not even
TRENDS: Kings have five players with a CF% of 60.0+… Zatkoff gave up five goals on 16 shots his last outing
It used to be this would raise everyone’s eyebrows when seen on the calendar. But these days, it only takes one first-round exit for both at the same time, the first West final to not feature either in five years, and suddenly it feels like we’re harkening back to something in the past to feel the rivalry between these two teams. Both getting off to somewhat wonky starts probably doesn’t help either.
The Kings were considered to be pretty well fucked without any of the customary fun once Jonathan Quick went down on opening night. He’s going to be out a few months. But that ignored that A) Quick is really only just “good,” despite what Team USA and Barry Melrose might think, and B) the way the Kings suppress shots they can get by with just “ok” goaltending. And really, they’ve gotten it from Peter “Oh lord, stuck up in” Budaj again. He’s got a .947 SV% at evens, and a .913 overall.
The Kings are still dominating the possession game the way we’ve all become accustomed to. They let the fourth-fewest shots per game, and they attempt the second most shots per 60 at even-strength. They do this as they always have, simply not letting anyone carry the puck into their zone and using their size to win it along the wall, but making sure they do the opposite at the other. When they can’t carry it in, they’re still pretty dominant on the forecheck.
What has gotten the Kings off to this ho-hum start is they aren’t scoring much and their special teams have let them down (sound familiar?). They haven’t scored more than three goals in regulation all season. And looking over the team, without Gaborik, if you can even assume he’d be interested, they’re just short on top end talent. Of their top six forwards, only four at most should be there in Kopitar, Toffoli, Carter, and Pearson and he’s debatable. Dustin Bones has been clinically dead for at least three seasons, only being reanimated every so often to knee someone. Nic Shore is one of the best fourth line centers around, but that’s more a luxury item. When grinning doofus Dwight King and the part-stolen-from-the-dump Devin Setoguchi are on your top six, your team sucks.
The Kings still have a deep defense, though one that got a little dinged last night in Meth County with Brayden McNabb leaving early. That means rock person Matt Greene should draw in tonight. The Kings will also have to make do with Jeff Zatkoff tonight, who’s simply been horrific this season in two full starts.
For the Hawks, the lineup should mostly remain the same. Forsling and Desjardins both skated yesterday but this one looks like it comes a bit early for both. Coming off a comeback win Q probably wouldn’t want to change much anyway. Vinnie Heinz coming in for Hartman looks to be the only change, with Schmaltz shifting to a wing with Kruger.
The Hawks have only managed to pile up two wins in a row once this season, and will look to start putting a streak together here with the Flames and Avs in afterwards. This is a pretty big test for Kempny tonight, as you won’t find too many heavier teams than L.A. But they’re also slower than they’ve been in a while, so you can get away from them in your end and get up the ice. Their defense is pretty mobile though, which makes it harder to decide how to get around them. They can go back and retrieve but also have the confidence to hold their line and squeeze the play. Some chip-ins are probably more preferable than straight dumps (PHRASING).