Waking up with the Kings: October 5
-There will be those questioning why Jonathan Quick was chosen to start the second game of a back-to-back with travel involved, and looking at the results – he hasn’t won starts on consecutive days since early in the 2011-12 season – it’s not exactly an obscure conclusion to reach. But while Quick wasn’t as brilliant as he was in Thursday’s season opener, he didn’t receive the help he has been accustomed to receiving, and through the first 125 minutes of the season it’s becoming clear that the Kings still have some work to do defensively. This appears to be a common theme around the league, though it is still slightly disconcerting to see a team that averaged 25 shots against per game in 2012-13 allow 29 and 33 shots through the first two games of the new season.
-For 20 minutes, Los Angeles played to a T the style of possession-dominant hockey that has become its hallmark. 24 hours after Minnesota carried much of the play, it was almost difficult to find a moment in the first period when the puck was on a Winnipeg player’s stick at even strength. Justin Williams, among the best possession forwards in the National Hockey League, was playing keep away from the Jets defenders through several impressive shifts early in the game. Ondrej Pavelec was as dominant in the first period as Jonathan Quick was through nearly the entirety of the Minnesota game, and there may have been some whispers of trouble in the first intermission after the Kings generated 18 shots on goal and a bevy of Grade A and B scoring opportunities yet remained locked up facing the remaining 40 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back set. Los Angeles appeared to record as many scoring chances in the first period as they did through regulation Thursday night, and had they faced a goaltender that wasn’t as strong as Pavelec was, there very well could have been a “2” or a “3” on the scoreboard after 20 minutes.
-Though Darryl Sutter referenced his turnover that led to Olli Jokinen’s 300th career goal, I agree with his assessment that Mike Richards was among the Kings’ best skaters early. One of the most intuitive and positionally sound players on the Los Angeles roster, there are often nights when Richards’ consistent contributions aren’t sharply defined upon a live glance. Friday night wasn’t one of those games. He was competitive throughout – as he always is – and provided a key screen on Matt Greene’s goal.
-As the game evolved, and as the scoring chances began to even out, the Kings were challenged at times to keep up with the speed of the Jets’ top players. It was hard not to be impressed with Evander Kane’s performance, which included a Gordie Howe Hat Trick. The player selected fourth overall in 2009 – one spot before Los Angeles took Brayden Schenn – was the most dangerous player on the ice and combined his usual net-driving and competitive power forward attributes with a sharp release and an impressive top speed. Having cut his teeth in the Eastern Conference for the first four years of the career, could he be on the cusp of a breakthrough season in the more rugged Western Conference?