Waking up with the Kings: March 17
-Kyle Clifford made an impact in all zones of the ice, Tyler Toffoli drew notice in his first NHL game and 12 different Kings recorded points, but don’t overlook the major impact by Jonathan Bernier, who made key saves during the game’s most critical moments. San Jose came out with a purpose to begin the second period and scored 35 seconds in when Patrick Marleau snapped a flubbed Joe Thornton pass into an open net. While the graphics from that goal were still being displayed on the telecast, Joe Pavelski offered Logan Couture a deft backhanded feed that found the San Jose sniper alone in the slot in practically point-blank range in front of Bernier. Couture got just about all he wanted on that shot, but Bernier was in perfect position to receive it on the left side of his chest without any rebound. The whistle blew, and Couture gave off some body language that indicated he knew what type of a scoring opportunity he had in that moment. Six and a half minutes later, Bernier gloved Tommy Wingels’ penalty shot attempt with Los Angeles still leading by one. That opened the door for Jarret Stoll to backhand a Trevor Lewis rebound past Niemi to open the scoring in the second half of the period, which the Kings won running away in building up a 5-1 lead. Momentum was on San Jose’s side on Thursday, but by virtue of Bernier’s saves – and Kyle Clifford’s bout with Doug Murray – it was firmly planted on the Kings side of the ice Saturday night.
-On the other end of the ice, Antti Niemi – who has valiantly kept a low-scoring Sharks team afloat in the standings – allowed Kyle Clifford to score from the perimeter on the game’s first shot. When a team that ranks 29th in the league in scoring is forced to play catch-up hockey 2:27 into the game, in can have a taxing effect. Said San Jose coach Todd McLellan, “They scored on the first shot. When you need a save early in the game, they scored on the first shot. They got the momentum rolling from there. But there was a lot of other people involved in all 60 minutes, not just Nemo.” Reading his post-game comments, it’s clear McLellan wasn’t exactly happy with his team’s all-around performance.
-There were plenty of positive reviews to go around in Tyler Toffoli’s NHL debut as the 20-year-old rookie consistently put himself in areas on the ice where goals are scored and showed an aptitude of driving towards the net to create chances. It likely settled him down by having a strong first shift of the game as he generated several looks from both close range and from above the circles. He missed the net on a couple of high-quality opportunities, but considering Mike Richards and Jeff Carter continued to get him the puck in high-percentage areas, fans shouldn’t have to wait long for that first goal as long as that line remains intact. And how about this confidence: “I should have had two or three goals there,” Toffoli said after the game. His final stat line: 13:20 of total ice time, 44 seconds of power play time, one shot on goal, two attempts blocked, four missed shots, two hits and one blocked shot.