Early Grades for Los Angeles Kings' Top Stars in 1st Round of NHL Playoffs
The Los Angeles Kings find themselves on the brink of elimination after a heartbreaking overtime loss in Game 3 on Tuesday.
The Kings didn't struggle like they did in the first two games, when the San Jose Sharks outscored them, 13-5. However, it was still far from a typical L.A. game.
So, what are the Kings' chances of tying the series?
The Sharks went up 3-0 on the Red Wings in 2011, ultimately winning in seven games. The Philadelphia Flyers came back from down 3-0 in the series and 3-0 in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in 2010 to win the series.
The Flyers had a number of brilliant individual performances, something the Kings will need if they hope to mount their own historic comeback.
With that said, here's a look at the grades for each Kings star thus far.
It's not often Anze Kopitar is a minus-three in a game. In fact, he didn't record lower than a minus-one rating all season. But, he was minus-three in Game 2, despite doing a number of little things well, like taking the body on the forecheck.
Kopitar has one assist in each game, but has yet to find the back of the net. He's been unable to consistently create chances or even maintain possession in the offensive zone.
While his defensive play is still better than many of teammates, Kopitar hasn't found success in the faceoff dot, winning just 48.5 percent of his draws.
Kopitar will need to be an offensive force in Game 4—especially on the power play—and win the majority of his draws for the Kings to have a chance at extending the series.
Marian Gaborik found great chemistry with linemates Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams at the end of the regular season, notching 12 points in his final 10 games.
That disappeared when the playoffs started. Gaborik has yet to click with anyone and has just one goal—albeit a beautiful one—and no assists through three games. He also has an even plus/minus rating, six shots on net and has played more than 20 minutes in just one game.
Gaborik was acquired at the deadline for the same reason Jeff Carter was in 2011-12: to put the puck in the net.
Taking the puck hard to the net may be the best way for Gaborik to leave his mark in Game 4.
Through the regular season and Sochi Olympics, Drew Doughty was one of the best defensemen in the world. He probably would like to have played better in the first three playoff games, but he certainly hasn't been one of the Kings' biggest problems.
Doughty's racked up three assists, matching his total from last year’s playoffs in which he played 18 games. And, in Game 3 he played over 28 minutes, getting the ice time he wanted after playing 23:29 in Game 2.
Doughty must continue to play physical and win more battles along the boards. Gaining possession of the puck in the defensive zone and setting up the breakout is a crucial part of Doughty’s game and a key to the Kings’ ability to dominate time of possession.
Jeff Carter has spent time on a line with Mike Richards and Dustin Brown—two of the Kings most disappointing players this season.
While this line may not have elite speed, the skill, physicality and defensive awareness should make them a difficult trio to play against.
Unfortunately, Carter has recorded a minus rating every game and is a minus-four in three games. Carter and company looked engaged and dangerous in the offensive zone in the first period of Game 2, but were ineffective in slowing the Sharks later in the game.
Carter does have three points, but just one goal. For one of the league’s elite shooters, that’s not good enough. If Carter can be a factor on the power play in Game 4, the Kings will increase their chances of chipping away at the Sharks' commanding series lead.
It’s been a rough ride for Jonathan Quick. But, despite allowing 12 goals in two games after allowing 29 in 20 games last postseason, Darryl Sutter is sticking with the American netminder.
Quick has a save percentage of .852 and a goals-against average of 5.78 through three games.
While many of the goals can be blamed primarily on defensive lapses, there are plenty that Quick should have stopped. He continues to make acrobatic saves and move from post-to-post effectively. It’s wrist shots and weak slap shots from beyond 20 feet that have given Quick the most trouble. And, many of those shots have beaten him high stick side.
He must find a way to steal a game, or two, or three, for the Kings to make a comeback. Tracking the puck better through traffic will be the key to keeping his goals-against below two going forward.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
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