The Los Angeles Kings opened their 2015-16 season against the San Jose Sharks. Spirits were high, fans were excited and after an extended summer the Kings seemed ready to get back to hockey and put last season’s short comings behind them.
If only things went the way the Kings and their fans had hoped they would.
After all the new bells and whistles for the Kings’ new game night opening ceremony had taken place, once the official 23-man roster was announced and once all the Kings fans settled in for the game, the Sharks took it to the Kings.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Kings went into the locker room on the wrong side of a 5-1 beat down. The Kings did start the game off on the right foot when Nick Shore beat Martin Jones on the first shot of the game, and the season, just under two minutes into the first period. But after the Kings took the 1-0 lead, the Sharks came back and scored five unanswered goals to grab the ‘W’ on opening night.
The Kings are slated to get their second shot of the season against the Sharks in San Jose tonight. It’s no secret the Kings are looking for a much better performance than the one seen on opening night, and in order for Los Angeles to even up this season series at one game a piece there are some things that need to change from game number one.
Shooting Leads To Scoring, Scoring Leads To Winning
It seems pretty simple, right? You have to shoot the puck to score, and you have to score to win. In game one, this idea might have slipped to the back of the Kings’ heads. In the first meeting between the Kings and Sharks the Kings only registered 20 shots on net. Aiding this low output was the Kings’ opening 38 minutes of play, where they only got 12 shots on Jones.
Only getting 12 shots on a goalie in almost two periods of play will make winning that game a lot harder than it already is. But then taking only eight shots in the remaining 22 minutes of play will make it almost impossible to climb back into the game.
Since their opening night loss, the Kings seem to have figured out they need to shoot the puck. In the four games since the Kings’ loss to the Sharks, Los Angeles has taken 40 or more shots twice, notched a 37 shot campaign once and had an off night were only 15 shots found the net. The Kings out shot their opponents in three of the four games, it’s tough to out shoot a team when you only take 15, and posted a 2-2 record in those games.
Unloading tons of shots a night won’t guarantee your team a win, but it will make their chances a whole lot better. In order for the Kings to have a chance at winning their second meeting against the Sharks, they need to get as many shots on net as possible.
Big Guns vs. Big Guns
The overall make up of a game can be broken down from one big picture into tons of smaller pieces. In order to win the whole game, you often need to win at least two periods. To win two periods, you need your lines to outperform the other team’s lines. In order for your lines to outperform their lines, your players need to play better than theirs. That did not happen in the first matchup between Southern and Northern California.
In game one, San Jose’s star players carried their team to a victory. While Los Angeles’ big time players did almost nothing to help give the Kings a chance to win the game .
Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns combined for three goals seven points and 13 shots for the Sharks. At the same time, Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Drew Doughty combined for one assist, four shots and a minus-5 rating. That’s pretty black and white.
Outside of each team’s big three it was much of the same. For Los Angeles, Jeff Carter had zero points and only one shot on goal, Tyler Toffoli had zero points and two shots on net, Milan Lucic had a minus-2 rating and only one shot hit the net and Dustin Brown had one assist and one shot test Jones.
Those are the Kings’ offensive weapons, the guys that get paid to score goals and there are only nine shots between the seven Kings mentioned above. The Kings’ offensive weapons need to outperform the Sharks’, or else the Kings will likely suffer a similar fate.
Old Friend, New Foe
Most of this piece has been focused on how little offensive momentum the Kings generated in that first meeting and although there wasn’t much, Jones still came out as the winning goalie. That’s right, the former back up to Jonathan Quick, the once number two guy in Los Angeles, came out and won his first career game as a starter against none other than Los Angeles and the guy he used to sit behind on the depth chart.
Jones and Quick have had very different starts to their respective seasons. In five games Jones has posted a 4-1-0 record, a 1.18 goals against average and a .957 save percentage. While in just as many games, Quick has grabbed a 2-3-0 record, a 2.59 goals against average and a .898 save percentage.
Over the course of that time Jones also set a new franchise record for the Sharks. Jones allowed a goal on that opening shot of the season against the Kings and then went the next 234:33 without allowing another goal. So, to say Jones is off to a hot start in San Jose might be the biggest understatement possible.
Now it comes down to Jones’ former team and his former goalie partner to try to tame the fire. If the Kings can’t, they might get burned for the second time in the young season.
UPDATE: Back up goalie, Jhonas Enroth was off the ice first at the Kings’ morning skate today in San Jose. Which usually indicates Enroth will get the start in net tonight against the Sharks. Tonight looks like it will be once back up goalie, Jones squaring off against career back up, Enroth.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.