One of the most positive league-wide stories to surface during training camp was Devin Setoguchi’s ability to claim a roster spot off of a PTO. Given his ability to recover from an extremely dark time in his life in which he battled alcohol abuse before emerging nearly 20 months sober in landing an NHL job, the veteran winger had an at-peace, zen-like outlook prior to signing his one-year contract, saying, “if it happens it’d be a great story, and if it doesn’t, it’d still be a great story.”
The forward knew that by signing the contract, he’d still be subjected to “an everyday evaluation on my attitude, my work ethic, my play, my ability,” as he said prior to the start of the season. There haven’t been any concerns raised on the former two criteria, though with no goals and two assists through 11 games, it’s fair to raise the question over whether he and the team have been happy with his play in the season’s early stages.
By the official LAKI count, Setoguchi recorded two scoring chances against Chicago on Sunday, one more against Anaheim on Tuesday, and an additional two chances in the overtime win over Pittsburgh Thursday night. So even if the puck isn’t necessarily on his stick in the mid-slot with the goalie moving, he’s still been in the middle of a handful of chances.
“I think you start worrying when you don’t have the chances, when you don’t get in to the spots where you need to go to score, and yeah, it’s frustrating that they’re not going in, but I think you need to start worrying when you’re not in the scoring areas and you’re not getting those chances more,” he told LA Kings Insider this morning.
Those chances could develop into secondary opportunities for himself and his linemates with the right type of net-front presence, according to Darryl Sutter.
“Got to finish, and he’s got to stop around the net,” Sutter said. “Those goals are scored on second and third efforts around the net, not first ones. You see them on highlights once in a while, but for the most part, second and third, lots of screen-tip-rebound things, things like that.”
And, as Sutter noted, that’s not an observation limited to Setoguchi. Only Tanner Pearson has scored more than two goals this season, and eight of the team’s 22 goals have been scored by defensemen.
“It’s not just Devin,” Sutter said. “I think our top guys that have historically scored goals have to do a lot more of it. That’s why our team hasn’t scored enough goals. It’s spread around in that top skill group that have to do a better job around the net.”
There’s a good dose of north-south play Setoguchi’s line – he’ll skate to the right of Dustin Brown and Nic Dowd while at even strength for the second straight game – and in order to bury one of the chances he helps to generate, he’ll be looking to “simplify,” and as Sutter noted, gain position on the defensemen in front of the net.
“You’ve got to really bear down and focus on it when you get [chances], and like I said, you can’t read in to the scoring goals, you got to read in to playing the game the right way and the chances will come,” Setoguchi said.
“I think we read off each other really well as a three-man forecheck and it created a lot of space for us below the goal line and a couple slot plays and seam passes. Dowder does a good job of always being in the middle of the ice which creates a lot of opportunities for the wingers around the outside. We just got to keep it simple and Dustin and myself are pretty simple players, we go north-south and skate and so we just got to keep with the structure and they’re going to go in.”
Devin Setoguchi, on how LA’s defensive structure compares to other teams’ structure:
I think the game has changed just so much in the two years that I’ve been gone. It doesn’t matter which team you’re playing, every team has tightened up in to a structure and the speed and the pace that the game is played at right now there’s no room for a missing link. You got to check as a five-man unit and you got to break out as a five-man unit. If you don’t then you’re either in your end or you’re in theirs.
Calgary has moved several of its top players around in an effort to kickstart some of their production early in the season. This means you’re not likely to see Johnny Gaudreau (2-5=7, -9 in 12 games) and Sean Monahan (4-0=4, -9 in 12 games) skate alongside each other while at even strength.
Gulutzan on splitting up Gaudreau and Monahan: "The dynamic duos in the league have been broken up at some point in time…. (cont.)"
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) November 5, 2016
"If you look at the results, we just weren't getting them … I don't think they were clicking the way they usually click."
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) November 5, 2016
Instead, Gaudreau will skate to the left of Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer at even strength, while Monahan will center Micheal Ferland and Alex Chiasson.
How this affects Los Angeles’ matching remains to be seen, though it’s certainly possible that we’ll see less of the Anze Kopitar/Sean Monahan match-up than we’re used to.
“I don’t think there’s anything different than any other top-line player in this division or this league for that matter,” Kopitar said on lining up against Monahan. “I mean, you recognize the skill set and his ability to make them play so you just go from there. Try to play your own game, keep the puck away from them as much as you can, which means that we’re playing with the puck and making them defend.”
For Gaudreau, on the other hand, there’s a bit more than the acknowledged need to take away time and space.
“With him, you obviously cannot give him any space, you know on the ice because he’s very slimy and stingy with the puck, so obviously you’ve got to know when he’s on the ice and adjust accordingly,” he said. “But, at the same time, not be too focused on them because that can almost pull you away from your game plan and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Of course, there’s much more skill on the Flames’ top three lines than simply Monahan and Gaudreau. Sam Bennett, the fourth overall pick in 2014, has three goals and seven points in 12 games, while veteran Michael Frolik leads the team with nine points. Troy Brouwer also adds an additional net-front, physical presence and has four goals through his first 12 games.
One somewhat familiar player who will not face the Kings tonight: Kris Versteeg. The forward acquired by Los Angeles at the trading deadline and who attended training camp with Edmonton on a PTO was ultimately signed by Calgary but has been placed on IR with a groin injury. To replace him on the active roster, Hunter Shinkaruk was called up from AHL-Stockton.