With the Los Angeles Kings three points out of the second Wild Card spot and the St, Louis Blues and Nashville Predators having held serve in their most recent games, attention now turns to an event that holds significant sway towards whether the Kings will play past April 9.
“It’s pretty clear,” Dustin Brown said. “We’re three points out, even games, and tonight we need two points and it sets us up for [Monday’s] game against St. Louis head-to-head. That’s where we can gain ground by beating the team we’re trying to chase, but we’ve got to get this game first.”
In that pursuit, they’ll face the NHL-leading Washington Capitals, who boast the league’s best goal differential at +71. They’ve outscored opponents 68-30 in first periods and 82-50 in third periods this season and have allowed the fewest goals in the league.
Washington, though, comes in nursing their most noticeable limp of the season. The Caps have lost two straight in regulation for only the third time this season – they’ve yet to lose three straight in any circumstances at any point – and have been held to seven goals over their last four games, prompting some line readjustments by Head Coach Barry Trotz during yesterday’s practice at Toyota Sports Center.The Kings aren’t the only ones having trouble scoring in five-on-five play. Alex Ovechkin, who hasn’t scored at even strength over the last 16 games, was placed alongside Evgeny Kuznetzov and Tom Wilson.
Regardless, the Capitals, who have dropped six straight at Staples Center since a 3-2 win in the first half of the 2005-06 season, still rely on 10 players having reached double digits in goals scored on top of one of the league’s more dynamic power plays.
“It’s obviously Ovechkin off the right side,” Alec Martinez said. “They always look to feed that right side on both (power play) units. They have four righties up top – two on each unit – and that’s what they look to feed, and Backstrom is one of the best playmakers in the league and he’s going to find those guys, so you’ve got to make sure you take away those seams, block shots.”
On top of the offensive capability, which may resemble a sleeping giant at the moment, they’ve still allowed nine fewer goals than any other team in the NHL.
“I mean, they obviously have a really good goalie. That helps,” Derek Forbort said. “Really good D-core, they’ve got three really good pairs that are both good defensively and at the same time good offensively, so I’m sure that’s the key for them.”
It’s an example of the best defense being a good offense.
“Yeah, I feel like they have the puck a lot,” Forbort said. “They’ve got some guys who are pretty good with possession, so, yeah, I’m sure it helps them out as far as not getting scored against that much is that they always have the puck.”
It’s a useful combination of size, possession, speed, checking and goaltending, amongst a bevy of attributes that have made them “a dominant team for a number of years now,” according to Darryl Sutter.
“They’re a big team, a mobile team,” Sutter said. “They run a four-line team, which leads to extended success and more time in the offensive zone.”
Derek Forbort, on Ovechkin and other players on the Capitals that are hard to play against:
Yeah I mean, obviously he’s a good scorer. I think Backstrom does a really good job of finding space and just makes little plays that make it hard to close him out but we’ve got to do a better job of that tonight then we did last time.
Alec Martinez, on Evgeny Kuznetsov:
He’s a really skilled, crafty player. He can obviously make a lot of really good, sometimes fancy plays. They like that, Kuznetsov individually, likes to act like he’s kind of gaining the net and he’ll throw that same-side pass out. I think I’ve seen them score a few goals off that so, you know, he’s a really good player. He’s the total package.
Dustin Brown, on Ben Bishop’s role with the Kings:
Yeah I think he’s come in, I mean, we haven’t really played very well in front of him but I mean, you look at both of the games that he did play, he played really well for us. And it’s just coming down the stretch we’re going to need him so I think it probably takes off a little bit of pressure off of Quickie coming off and not having to feel like he needs to – knowing Quickie he wants to play every game but I think it’s important for him to pace himself and having a legit number one behind makes that a lot easier for us.
Brown, on his reaction to the Ben Bishop trade:
I mean, yeah, kind of a little surprised. But at the end of the day you’re improving the position. Boods played really well for us and helped us get to where we are but like I said, Ben’s a clear-cut number one goalie so I guess it’s an odd position to upgrade because you expect one guy to kind of carry the load but if you can upgrade a position, you upgrade it.