Biggest Takeaways from Start of Los Angeles Kings' 1st-Round Playoff Matchup
To call it a disaster would be an understatement. The Los Angeles Kings gave up five consecutive goals and lost Game 1 to the San Jose Sharks, 6-3. They responded with an excellent first period in Game 2, going up 2-0.
Over the next two periods, the Kings were eaten alive in the Shark Tank, allowing seven unanswered goals to go down 2-0 in the series.
Make no mistake: This is different than last year when the Kings found themselves down 2-0 to the St. Louis Blues.
The entire team needs to step up, find a way to match the Sharks' speed and play sound defense.
With that said, here are the biggest takeaways from the series so far.
The Kings Can't Handle the Sharks' Speed
The Sharks' speed is overwhelming the Kings, and it's not just the top six forwards. All four San Jose lines are giving the Kings trouble.
The LA forwards have had little success slowing them down in the neutral zone. The defensemen—such as Robyn Regehr—are getting beaten on the outside and can't clear the front of the net.
The Kings have to find a way to combat the Sharks' speed and prevent them from getting odd-man rushes and establishing the cycle.
Maintaining possession of the puck and forechecking effectively should help. But that's easier said than done.
Jonathan Quick Isn't Himself
Are all of the goals Jonathan Quick's fault? No, absolutely not. There have been plenty of defensive breakdowns, and just about everyone deserves a portion of the blame.
However, allowing 12 goals in two games is a major issue, especially for a Jennings Trophy winner. What's more worrisome is a number of these goals have been scored high-stick side. Have the Sharks found a weak spot? Or is this a coincidence?
Regardless, Quick isn't tracking the puck well and has been caught out of position on a few occasions.
If the Kings are going to have any chance at coming back in this series, Quick will need to allow no more than two goals in Game 3.
The Sharks Have Great Depth
With Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll, the Kings are deep down the middle. But now with Tomas Hertl back, the Sharks can move pieces around up front. For example, Joe Pavelski can shift from playing wing on the top line to centering the third line.
Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Pavelski down the middle are just as dangerous offensively and strong defensively as the Kings' top three. On top of that, the Sharks' fourth line has also contributed.
Pavelski leads the team with one goal and four points. Couture, Patrick Marleau, Matt Nieto and James Sheppard each have three points. Raffi Torres has scored two goals from the fourth line and has a plus-three rating. In fact, only three players on the Sharks' roster have been held without a point.
It's clear the Kings aren't going to win high-scoring games. They must maintain their physical play, win battles and work to limit the Sharks' scoring chances.
The Most Physical Series
It was expected to be a tough series, but what has taken place in the first two games is remarkable.
Nearly every shift features a battle along the boards and a big hit. The score hasn't been close, but the physical war has. The winner of this series will likely be beaten up heading into the second round—even if this series if over in four or five games.
The Kings outhit the Sharks 69-52 in Game 1 and 47-46 in Game 2. That's a total of 116 hits for LA and 98 for San Jose. No other series is anywhere near as physical. Even the first two games of the Chicago vs. St. Louis series saw just 45 hits for the Blackhawks and 68 for the Blues, despite both contests seeing overtime.
The Kings are the more physical team but not by much. The Sharks have shown they can take and deliver hits in any zone and have done a better job of staying out of the penalty box.
That's probably easy to do when they're winning by two, three or four goals.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
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