Friday night was a reason for celebration in Los Angeles. The Kings were not only playing their first home game of the 2016-17 season but they were dropping the puck on their 50th season in the NHL.
There was plenty of pregame festivities on and off the ice for all who enjoy Kings hockey to take in. From the fan fest outside Staples Center to the opening ceremony that featured the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Rob Blake, The Triple Crown Line and members of the inaugural Los Angeles Kings team that played in the Kings’ first game 50 years ago to the day, it was a celebration fit for a king in Los Angeles.
50 years prior to the start of the Kings’ 2016-17 home opener, it was the Kings against the Philadelphia Flyers, a game the Kings won 4-2. Fast forward 50 years and it was the Kings vs. Flyers again. The game also ended with a 4-2 final score, but this time, the Flyers returned the favor and beat the Kings.
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Let’s sift through all the bright lights and big intros that came along with the first game back at Staples Center and see what we can take away from the Kings 4-2 loss and 0-2 start to the season.
1. Zatk-Off to a Rough Start
A report came out before the puck dropped at the home opener that shed light on the injury Jonathan Quick suffered during the Kings’ 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on opening night. Unfortunately, for the Kings, there was no bright light pointing to a quick, no pun intended, return for their starter.
Sportsnet 590’s Darren Millard tweeted out the following message regarding Quick’s health and possible time frame for a return.
— Daren Millard (@darenmillard) October 14, 2016
With Quick’s untimely exit, came Jeff Zatkoff’s first start for Los Angeles. Unfortunately, that start could have been smoother for the goaltender.
Zatkoff allowed two goals in a 48-second span early in the second period, a period where the Kings were outshot 21-9, and allowed two more goals before the period was over. Ultimately, the 4-0 run for the Flyers was too much for the Kings to come back from.
Several of the goals were due to defensive lapses and shouldn’t be pegged as Zatkoff’s fault. But in the first game minus Quick, most would have hoped for a better performance than the 21 save game put together by Zatkoff and the team.
2. Will Jeff Carter Please Stand Up?
Through two games the Kings have scored three goals. In the first game of the season, Tyler Toffoli lit the lamp on the power play and Drew Doughty and Brayden McNabb accounted for the two goals against the Flyers. Not exactly the trio you would expect to get the offense going for Los Angeles.
One source of offense that has been thwarted is Jeff Carter. In two games, Carter has been held off the scoresheet, has only four shots on net and is a minus-3. Yes, Carter was the victim of an untimely line change by Andy Andreoff against the Flyers, a play Carter had no chance of catching up to, but the forward has been ineffective so far.
For a team that has been starved for offensive production in the past, the Kings can’t afford to have someone with 111 regular season goals continue to lay goose eggs in the points column.
Luckily for Carter, and the Kings, the NHL season is a marathon and not a sprint which means there is plenty of time for him, who has averaged 26 goals a season in non-lockout shortened seasons, to find his stride.
3. Drew Doughty Is off and Running
Doughty is Doughty, what’s new? The 2016 Norris Trophy winner is playing up to the title. He played over 28 minutes against the Sharks and followed that up with over 27 minutes of ice time against the Flyers.
Doughty has points in two games and is averaging 31 shifts a night. The defenseman led the team in shots on goal against the Flyers with four and stopped the bleeding after the Flyers took a 4-0 lead with the Kings’ first goal of the game.
The Kings will likely need much of the same from Doughty throughout the season if they want to stay afloat in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.