I apologize for that title. I know I should have made it something about Jonathan Quick, but I did that for the last game. I really didn’t think it was possible for Quick to record THREE straight shutouts. Heck, I thought it was too much to ask him to get two in a row. I’ve learned my lesson.
Jonathan Quick was brilliant –stop me when you’ve heard this before– making 28 saves for his 17th career, and yes, 3rd straight shutout. He became the 1st goalie in Kings history to record three straight shutouts, and at the 16:46 mark of the 3rd period, broke the Kings all-time shutout record previously held by Rogie Vachon. 184:55 was Vachon’s record. The current record held by Jonathan Quick; 188:10… And counting. He became the 1st goalie in the NHL to record three straight shutouts since Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason did it in December 2008. Quick will be back in goal for the Kings on Tuesday when they host the New Jersey Devils, and when he takes the crease on Tuesday looking to extend his record shutout streak, it will have been 10 days since the last goal he allowed, which came last Saturday in Philadelphia at the 13:29 mark of the 3rd period on a Matt Carle power-play goal. Quick has made 84 straight saves in his last four games.
Unfortunately, Quick’s needed to be this good for the Kings to win. They’ve scored just 17 goals in 7 games, averaging 2.43 goals per game which ranks 16th in the league, and the five-goal outburst they had against St. Louis, who was playing awful and not getting much help from their goaltender, makes it look better than it actually is, and other than that game, they’ve failed to score more than two goals in a single game, not counting overtime. With six thirty-goal scorers on this team and some great young offensive defensemen (although Doughty’s not playing right now), that obviously isn’t good enough. Look, don’t get me wrong, I don’t care how much they score or how exciting it is or how pretty it is, as long as they win, and right now, they’re winning, but I don’t know if they can keep winning if they don’t start scoring. Quick can’t be perfect every night, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, whether it’s Quick or Bernier in net, it’s unfair for them to basically feel like they have to be perfect or have a shutout every night just to win because their team won’t score. Quick has to get scored on eventually. I think.
On the bright side, the power-play has been much better so far this year. They’re 6-for-24, good for 25% and the sixth-best power-play in the NHL (granted two of those goals have been 4-on-3 and another has been 5-on-3, but still, it looks a lot better). The biggest difference on the power play has very clearly been Mike Richards. He makes so many little but intelligent and creative plays that set up so much. He’s recorded the first assist on four of the Kings’ six power-play goals this year.
I do think the offense will get it going though. I know the Kings play a defensive system that doesn’t always allow for the most offense or creativity, but I truly do believe that there is enough talent on this team to overcome that. The Gagne-Kopitar-Williams line has been fantastic, as has Jack Johnson, but Penner hasn’t scored yet and only has one assist, but he’s playing well and the points will start to come for him sooner or later. Richards has been great and has six points in seven games, but only has one goal and hasn’t scored in his last six games, the goals will start to come for him too. Before last night, Brown had a power-play goal in his last two games, but overall only has two goals and two assists in four games and isn’t playing great, or physically, which is weird for them. His hits are way down. He will pick it up. Doughty will get healthy and get into a groove sooner or later. I do believe the offense will pick it up, but really they don’t need to score a ton of goals to win with how well they keep the puck out of their net. But they do need to score more than they’re scoring now if they want to keep winning.
Let’s quickly recap how the game went down:
1st period: The Stars outshot the Kings 10-9 in a scoreless 1st. Neither team had a power-play, but at the 16:42 mark, Mike Richards had his first fight as a King, taking on Steve Ott. It was a pretty even tilt, but Ott got the take down at the end.
2nd period: Another scoreless frame resulted in the Stars outshooting the Kings 11-10. The Kings went 0-for-1 on the power-play, while the Stars went 0-for-2. Jonathan Quick made a big save on Mike Ribeiro about midway through the frame, but the highlight of the period was a big Matt Greene hit on Stephane Robidas.
3rd period: The Stars outshot the Kings 7-5 in a penalty-free period, that appeared to be on its way to a scoreless draw heading to overtime. Dallas put a lot of pressure on throughout the whole period, and throughout most of the game for that matter, and got their best chance about five minutes into the period when Michael Ryder snapped one from the slot that beat Quick’s glove, but not the post. Hey, you’ve got to be lucky to be good, and you’ve got to be good to be lucky. Finally, at the 15:02 mark, Jack Johnson broke the deadlock with his 3rd goal of the year, as well as his 3rd game-winning goal of the year, after not having even one in his career before this season. From the right circle in the Dallas zone, Mike Richards won the puck back to his left to Rob Scuderi, who passed it off to his right to Jack Johnson, who from the blue line near the Stars bench took a one-time slap shot that ended up being a bit of a knuckleball that ended up beating Andrew Raycroft, who was hopelessly screened, up high. It also may have hit Steve Ott on its way in. The Stars pulled the goalie late but still couldn’t find a way to beat Quick, and Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams also missed the empty net several times on glorious chances, Kopitar passing up a chance to extend his season-long point streak. Kopitar and Williams joked after the game that they were going to have to work on hitting empty nets in practice on Monday (Sunday is a day off for the Kings). The Stars outshot the Kings 28-24 on the night, while the Kings went 0-for-1 on the power-play and the Stars went 0-for-2 with all power-plays coming in the 2nd period.
This was about as entertaining of a 1-0 game that didn’t have a goal until late in the 3rd that you could ask for. There was tons of end-to-end action, big hits, specifically the Greene hit on Robidas in the 2nd period, and several big scoring chances and tense moments.
Also, I want to give the Dallas Stars some credit. I thought their 6-1-0 start was a fluke, and it still very well may be, but they played great yesterday. New head coach Glen Gulutzan has his team playing a tough system with all five men back which makes it tough for opponents to carry it in and generate offense, and the Stars’ offense comes from being opportunistic and capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes.
Fortunately for the Kings, they didn’t make enough mistakes yesterday. And as much as I made fun of him on Twitter (follow me @JWSportsGuy), Andrew Raycroft played great yesterday. If he can provide steady play backing up Kari Lehtonen all year, and Lehtonen can stay healthy and play even close to the way he’s playing now on a consistent basis for the rest of the year, then who knows, the Stars could continue to surprise people. We’ll see if they can keep it up.
So the Kings get a big 1-0 regulation victory over the Pacific Division-leading and Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars, who have their five-game winning streak snapped and fall to 6-2-0, while the Kings improve to 5-1-1, to pull within one point of the Stars with a game in hand, although that really doesn’t matter right now. The Kings now extend their winning streak to four, and their point streak to five.
The Kings will remain at home and will host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, the Devils are the last team to beat Los Angeles and they’ll try to be the next team to beat them as well, while the Kings seek revenge from their 2-1 shootout loss in New Jersey a couple weeks ago.
Will Drew Doughty be back in the lineup? Doughty could be activated off the injured reserve in time for Tuesday’s game, but it’s unknown yet whether he’ll be ready. If he is, it like means Slava Voynov is on his way back to Manchester, but I think it’s safe to say that he made a good impression and will be back up as soon as there’s room for him.
The fans at Staples Center will get another chance to boo Ilya Kovalchuk, after he turned them down last summer as an unrestricted free agent and eventually decided to re-sign in New Jersey. The fans were pretty relentless on him last year when the Devils visited LA, booing him from the first time he stepped on the ice and it lasted all night, to whenever his name was announced, to whenever he stepped on the ice, to whenever he touched the puck. Kovalchuk got the shootout winner over the Kings in New Jersey, and now will come to LA looking to get another win over the Kings and to silence the Staples Center crowd that will likely be booing him heavily once again.
Stay tuned for a game preview for that game either coming tomorrow or on Tuesday, but rest assured there will be one before the puck drops at Staples Center at 7:30 PM PT/10:30 PM PT on Tuesday.