It was the frustration of Kings fans everywhere last season, and, although it’s still painfully early in the season, despite all the talent on this team and all the talent added in this summer, the Kings are still having extreme difficulties scoring goals.
Two years ago, the Kings struggled mightily 5-on-5, but made up for it on the power play. Last year, opposing penalty killers adjusted to the Kings’ power play, but the power play didn’t. Why didn’t the coaches implement a new system on the power play? Good question. The power play looks awfully similar this year, dump and chase, often don’t recover, consistently have the puck cleared multiple times, three men high, two men low, keep firing from the point with no traffic in front, and no goals. Yes, it’s very early, and they’re currently 2-for-8 on the season, which isn’t bad, but it looks painfully similar to the awful power play that they had last year. Why don’t they switch it up? Again, beats me.
Is it the coaching staff and plays they draw up, apparently ran by assistant coach Jamie Kompon, or is it the players simply not adjusting and not executing? Or is it both? But, it’s not just the power play right now. This team just can’t score, period. In 3 games, the Kings have 6 goals, and only 5 goals in regulation, and haven’t scored more than 2 goals in a regulation game. The Kings were shut out for their last 63:13 of yesterday’s game, and didn’t score in the shootout. Which brings me to another point. Where the heck was Jarret Stoll? Why have him shoot 3rd? The Kings didn’t even get that far in the shootout. This guy was absolute money in the shootout last year, why was he not your 1st shooter?
Jonathan Quick, who was seemingly invincible in shootouts last year, got beat on both shots he faced, but there wasn’t much he could do on either of them, as two very talented players in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise made two very talented moves. Quick was the only reason the Kings were still playing past regulation and the only reason they salvaged a point yesterday.
It certainly wasn’t because of the offense, which still relies on dump and chase despite all of the talent they have, doesn’t have enough creativity, doesn’t generate enough traffic in front of the opposing goal, and just flat out isn’t scoring enough. How could a team with so much offensive talent struggle so much offensively? I have to put it on the system. The Kings play a very defensive system, and while it’s very important to play great defense, don’t get me wrong, you also need to score to win hockey games. And the Kings aren’t doing that. The Kings coaching staff needs to alter the system to allow for more creativity in the offensive zone. The Kings know how to play great defense, and we don’t want to get away from that, but they need to find a way to do both. There are six 30-goal scorers on this team. There are some fantastic young puck-moving defensemen. There is no reason this team can’t score a boatload of goals, and if the Kings get off to a slow start this season and are struggling to score goals, you wonder if Terry Murray’s job will be in jeopardy. That said, and let me make this perfectly clear, I’m not saying the sky is falling or panicking after three games. The Kings could still turn it around and score the lights out this season, they’re certainly capable of that when you look at this team on paper. It’s just worrisome and frustrating to see the offense looking so flat to start the year after how awful it was last year.
But, let’s focus on some positives, other than that it’s still incredibly early. The Kings are going to get a chance for revenge at the Devils later this month at Staples Center. They only gave up one goal before the shootout and kept the Devils as offensively inept as they were. Like I said after the Buffalo game, the Kings are going to lose a lot of games this year, every team will, it’s an 82-game season, so when you lose, if it’s to an Eastern Conference team, especially one that I think is pretty good like the Devils, then that’s not bad. Especially when you still get a point out of the game. You’re going to lose a lot of games, and the more you can bring into overtime or shootout the better. Let’s recap the game quickly:
1st period: The Kings actually got off to a fast start after Simon Gagne took a pass from Justin Williams and made a nice backhand move to slide it past Martin Brodeur, his 19th career regular season goal against Brodeur, the most Broduer’s given up to anybody, not a bad accomplishment for Gagne against the greatest goalie of all time, and more importantly, it was Gagne’s 1st as a King. Anze Kopitar also picked up an assist as he continues to be on fire to start the season. Just like what happened in the New York game, the Kings dominated basically the entire period but only managed a single goal, but on the other team’s first chance, tie game. Patrik Elias knocked in a loose puck at the 13:03 mark out of a scramble in front of Jonathan Quick. Petr Sykora and Zach Parise picked up the assists. Also like what happened in the New York game, and the Buffalo game for that matter, the Kings let that 1st goal deflate them and New Jersey took the play to them for the rest of the period. The Devils outshot the Kings 15-11, and the Kings went 0-for-1 on the power play. New Jersey didn’t have a power play.
2nd period: A scoreless, boring 2nd period. The Shots were 7-7. Johan Hedberg replaced Martin Brodeur to start the period as Brodeur had “upper-body soreness.” Jonathan Quick made a huge save on David Clarkson breakaway backhand deke on a New Jersey power play late in the period, and that was really the only highlight of the period. That was the only power play for either team in the period, and the Devils failed to capitalize.
3rd period: New Jersey outshot the Kings 12-4 in another scoreless frame, and got a late power play with at the 18:16 mark on a questionable charging call on Dustin Penner. The Kings avoided a scare and brought it to overtime and clinched a point
Overtime: The remaining 16 seconds of the Devils power play were killed, and the Kings ended up outshooting the Devils 5-3. The shot total for the game was 37-27 for New Jersey.
Shootout: The Devils elected to shoot first, and chose Ilya Kovalchuk to shoot first for them, who made a nice backhand move to beat Jonathan Quick.
Simon Gagne came in a faked a shot before going out to his left and hoped to have faked out Hedberg and would have an open net to shoot at, but Hedberg didn’t completely bite on the fake shot and was able to stack the pads and stop the puck.
Zach Parise came in and made a beautiful move and put a backhand upstairs past Quick’s glove that forced Anze Kopitar to have to score to keep the Kings alive.
Anze Kopitar did his patented one-hand backhand move, but Hedberg didn’t bite and kept the puck out, and that’s the game. New Jersey wins it 2-1 in a shootout and wins the shootout 2-0.
Dustin Penner also made his regular season debut with the Kings after suffering a lower-body injury at the start of training camp and playing through it before missing the end of training camp and the first two regular season games, and didn’t do very much.
So now with a 1-1-1 record and 3 points in as many games, the Kings head to Philadelphia on Saturday night to take on the new-look and unbeaten 3-0-0 Flyers. No Mike Richards, no Jeff Carter, no Ville Leino, no Kris Versteeg, no Sean O’Donnell, no Brian Boucher, no Michael Leighton, but in comes Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Jaromir Jagr, Maxime Talbot, Andreas Lilja, Brayden Schenn, although he’s in the AHL, and, most importantly for the Flyers, Ilya Bryzgalov. I still don’t like the Flyers’ moves, but they’re playing great hockey right now, so the Kings will be in tough to get their game together in this one. Especially as far as getting the offense going is concerned, as elite goaltender and Kings-killer Ilya Bryzgalov, who the Kings got to know all too well when he was with the Kings’ Pacific Division rival the Phoenix Coyotes, is expected to be in goal for the Flyers. The task of handing the new-look Flyers their first loss falls on the Kings and biggest name they moved in their summer overhaul, Mike Richards. Will it be a successful return to Philadelphia for their former captain, or will the Flyers keep their early season roll going? Stay tuned for a game preview likely coming sometime tomorrow before the puck drops at 7:00 PM ET in Philadelphia.