Waking up with the Kings: October 8 - LA Kings Insider

There’s plenty to say about the Kings’ newer and young players passing a good early season test at the Shark Tank, but the smoldering aftermath of Saturday’s win told of a more familiar attack driven by Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty and backed decisively by Jonathan Quick. There’s also a general rule that early season hockey shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but 2-0 is better than 0-2, and the Kings haven’t looked half bad in getting to where they are. And while there have been other games won in San Jose with much higher stakes, I’m hard pressed to think of the last time the scoring chance count was as lopsided as it was on the road in recent series history. Game 5, 2014? The Kopitar-to-Brown lob pass game?

Don Smith/NHLI

There are a number of positive early season indicators. Muzzin was terrific in the preseason, and other than one first period battle lost to Jannik Hansen that resulted in Mikkel Boedker scoring unmarked on a deflection, he has been superb in the first two regular season games. Earning every bit of his game-high allotment of ice time, he intercepted Brent Burns’ lob and quickly turned it into a pivotal goal by feeding Kopitar in the first period, and in the third he channeled Doughty by denying a pass and clearing the puck while defending a three-on-one rush. Oscar Fantenberg strongly suggested that his skill set isn’t only about tempo and graded well in a heavier divisional game. He went straight for the body and laid a sturdy hit on Paul Martin, allowing Anze Kopitar to play the puck up ice to Dustin Brown for the Kings’ first goal, and later in the period showed good balance on his skates by clearing Boedker out of the slot while defending. The Iafallo-Kopitar-Brown line was on the ice for three goals. The Clifford-Shore-Lewis line has been on the ice for two goals in two games, and Shore is inheriting a greater responsibility at the faceoff dot. Adrian Kempe’s line is still a work in progress, but there are two practices before Wednesday’s game.

Don Smith/NHLI

The identity that binds the Sharks and their arena has been palpable, one that often produces a harrowing opening 10 minutes. When they’ve been successful, San Jose doggedly forechecks its opponents, pinning them back in Los Gatos early in the game and raising the importance of coming out of the first period even. Only the Red Wings (393 wins) have won more home games than the Sharks (379) since 2000-01. Is that dominance fading? The Kings have gained traction in the road portion of the series, going 7-5-1 in regular season and playoff games in their last 13 visits. It’s way too early to get a firm sense of the hierarchy of power in the Pacific, and surely San Jose, the fifth best defensive team in the league a year ago, is better than a 4-9 aggregate score. But the murky early season readings do depict a division in which even the better teams have some sort of question marks, and the lesser teams may finish among the lowest NHL percentiles. One factor that kept Los Angeles from solidifying its playoff position a year ago was its 4-4-1 record against Arizona and Vancouver (as part of a 12-14-3 divisional record), and it’s imperative that L.A. finds better success against its neighbors if they’re to return to the postseason. Wednesday’s game at Calgary should serve as an important and potentially emotional early season meeting in advance of eight straight games against the Eastern Conference.

Don Smith/NHLI

-Lead photo via Don Smith/NHLI

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Adrian Kempe

#9 | 6′ 2″ | 195 lb | Age: 21

Born: September 13, 1996
Birthplace: Kramfors, SWE
Position: LW
Handedness: Left

Bio

Kempe was selected by the Kings in the first round (29th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft.
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Alex Iafallo

#19 | 6′ | 185 lb | Age: 23

Born: December 21, 1993
Birthplace: Eden, NY, USA
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

Iafallo was signed by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent on April 18, 2017.
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Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

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Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right

Bio

Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

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Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

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Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

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