Several abbreviated notes as I wait out a morning flight delay at O’Hare:
-A defensive zone turnover along the boards led to an early Blackhawks goal, but there wasn’t much concern over the trajectory of the game heading into the second period had the Kings finished the first 20 minutes trailing 1-0. The Kings’ possession and offensive zone time was better than any point in Game 1, they out-shot Chicago 6-0 after Andrew Shaw’s goal and generated several B-opportunities while utilizing a high compete level – until the Clifford-Fraser-Richardson line got caught up ice in transition against a team that thrives in taking advantage of such situations. Brent Seabrook received a pass after slipping down the right wing and unleashed a precise slapshot that beat Jonathan Quick at the far post; it’s probably a stoppable shot, but hey, that’s Brent Seabrook, an Olympic gold medalist, a Stanley Cup champion and an eight-year NHL veteran with 246 points in 599 career games. He can score from the perimeter of the right circle if he has time and space to pick his shot. The goal was the pivotal moment of the game, one the Kings were never fully able to climb back in to.
-Quick does not have a wide margin for error. If he allows any more than two goals on the road, a scuffling offense is put under a heavy strain. He has a .958 save percentage at home in the playoffs and will be fine for Game 3.
-Dustin Penner, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli clearly comprised the Kings’ most effective line in Game 2, and though Los Angeles may lose a central, playoff-tested figure in Mike Richards for part of this series, Toffoli still has the potential to step in and provide a much-needed offensive kick. Any previous knocks on his skating ability were quieted with the speed he displayed in his puck pursuit and his ability to find soft spots on the ice where plays develop. He’s not leaving the lineup. Jeff Carter also aided the team’s effectiveness by winning 11-of-15 faceoffs.
-The Dwight King, Jarret Stoll, Trevor Lewis line, on the other hand, was less effective. After seeing his game improve through the middle of the San Jose series, King was unable to utilize his size effectively on the forecheck and the puck seemed to be hopping off his stick. He recorded one hit, did not attempt a shot, was a minus-2 and was whistled for a neutral zone penalty that led to the Bryan Bickell power play goal that put Chicago up 3-0.
–Late last night I was asked to speculate whether Anze Kopitar is injured. All injury information at this time of year is heavily guarded, so nobody has a definite answer outside of the team’s training room, but yes, Kopitar is probably hurt – and he’s not the only member of the Kings’ offense playing below 100%. In the week after the season ends, I expect to hear that multiple players have played through pain.