Waking up with the Kings: March 2
Without sounding too repetitive, the Kings are in a challenging portion of the schedule. Between the drop of the puck on Wednesday night and the final buzzer on Saturday, the Kings had finished three games in 69 hours, posting a 3-0 record and outscoring their opponents 5-0 in the third period. After breaking a deadlocked game with two third period markers on Wednesday, and scoring a valuable insurance goal in a 2-0 win at Calgary on Thursday, the recent trend continued as Alec Martinez posted the game-winner to conclude a perfect week in the return from the Olympic break. Third period goal scorers over the last three games have been Anze Kopitar, Dwight King, Martinez, and Justin Williams, who punctuated the Colorado and Carolina games with a pair of empty net goals. There have been times in tied third periods over the last two seasons where the thought of “This is where Jeff Carter usually scores the game-winner” enters into the collective spirit of Kings fans, but Los Angeles’ goal scoring superhero didn’t have his logo silhouetted into the sky over the final 20 minutes of the last three games, a la Batman.
Zone entries. Carolina made little use of a surplus of them. The Hurricanes took 28 shots on 79 total zone entries, of which 25 were actually controlled entries. The .35 shots per entry were among the lowest shots per entry by an opponent this season, and the 32% of zone entries that were controlled (i.e. in which the puck was carried into the zone cleanly) was on the low end amongst Kings opponents as well. This is an indication that Los Angeles operated a useful forecheck on Saturday, and that very little of the action was sustained in the Kings’ defensive end. Credit L.A.’s defense for also breaking up several quality rushes; I counted at least two Drew Doughty interruptions of Carolina odd-man advances, while Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez were also well positioned to reduce the potency of quick Hurricanes counterstrikes.
A byproduct of Los Angeles’ pre-Olympic slump was that the special teams performance took as big of a hit as it had all season. While there’s not a firm indication that the special teams numbers are profoundly rebounding, the team has been banking on key special teams efforts that represent timeliness over quantity. It began with Anze Kopitar’s power play goal late in the Colorado game, followed by a circus Martin Jones save on Gabriel Landeskog during a late Avalanche power play. This trend wasn’t really represented in the Calgary game, when the Kings produced an outstanding third period and weren’t assessed any late penalties. But against Carolina Alec Martinez ended a 2-for-23 stretch on the power play with an important goal with the man advantage, which was followed shortly afterwards by a Kyle Clifford delay of game penalty. Jonathan Quick denied the only shot on net, a 10 foot wristshot by Eric Staal.
Speaking of Quick, he has now stopped 73 of the last 75 shots faced, dating back to the Columbus game. Carry on.