The puck dropped on the 2016-17 NHL season on Wednesday night and there were four games on tap for NHL fans to finally quench their thirst. Among the group of games was the first meeting of the season between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
Broadcasted nationally on NBC Sports Network as a part of the network’s “Wednesday Night Rivalry” coverage, the two California rivals didn’t disappoint. A game filled with post-whistle scrums (one that involved a goalie), heavy-hitting play and fast-paced action ultimately ended with the Sharks on the right side of a 2-1 score.
It was only the first of a long 82-game season for both teams, but there is plenty to look at after the first 60 minutes of the Kings’ season.
1. A Quick Exit
Jonathan Quick started the game in net for the Kings and stopped 14 of the 15 shots sent his way during the opening frame. However, when the Kings returned to the ice for the second period, it was Jeff Zatkoff in net for Los Angeles.
Quick’s absence left most confused but it was later announced that Quick didn’t return because he suffered a lower-body injury in one of the final plays of the first period.
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— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 13, 2016
It looks as if the injury may have occurred when Quick’s right leg slid out from under him when he tried to recover from Joe Pavelski’s redirection. After Quick got back to the post to fend off a Pavelski wraparound, it seemed as if the Kings’ goalie was favoring his leg.
Zatkoff came in and saved 15 of the 16 shots he faced but came up short in the Kings’ losing effort. If Quick is out for any type of prolonged time, the Kings could be in trouble. The Kings have relied on Quick to shoulder a heavy workload in Los Angeles in the past and a prolonged absence by the goalkeeper could handicap the Kings significantly.
2. This Isn’t L.A.’s Finished Product
Yes, the start of the season has come and gone and the Kings are winless after one game. But what was on the ice in San Jose isn’t what you should expect to see for the rest of the season for the Kings.
Tanner Pearson is currently serving his four-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson and will be back in the lineup for the Kings’ third game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.
Marian Gaborik went down with a foot injury during his time with Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey and will be out until mid-November, which will keep him off of the ice for about the first 20 games of the season.
Pearson getting back into the lineup, likely on a line with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli, should prove to be an offensive catalyst for Los Angeles, who managed only 22 shots on goal against the Sharks.
The Kings will have to wait until around Thanksgiving to get Gaborik back, but like Pearson, his return could provide a jolt to an offense that may need a spark at the quarter mark of the season.
3. Welcome to the Toffoli Show
It didn’t take long for Tyler Toffoli to make his mark on the young season. Toffoli put one past former teammate Martin Jones just 1:22 into the game and gave the Kings a 1-0 lead.
On the power play, Toffoli buzzed Jones’ ear with a shot that had virtually no room to get past the Sharks goalie. Toffoli led the Kings in goals last season with 31 and many expect him to have another career year following last season, when he set career highs in goals, assists and points.
Toffoli could dethrone Anze Kopitar as the team leader in points come season end. Kopitar has led the team in this statistic for nine consecutive seasons.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.