Tonight the Hawks will conclude their annual November two-week displacement from the United Center at the hands of Sirs Barnum and Bailey on Figueroa against the Kings, who are taking a novel approach to their regular season by at least cultivating the image that they give a shit about it. But much like their visiting counterparts, they still do not give a shit about women or human decency.
Still, even pretending to give a shit in the Pacific division with the Kings’ roster is enough to be leading it given how god awful the other six teams have been. And it’s not like they’re doing anything new, as they still continue to lead the league in their share of 5v5 attempts at 56.2%, a full two percent ahead the next closest team, Carolina. Yes, Carolina. That number spikes to 57.8% at home, which is tough to handle no matter how much of a blunt object the Kings are. However due to their familiar scoring woes, that’s only translated to a 7-5-0 record on Staples Ice. Shooting 5.3% as a team will do that.
After starting the first month of the season freaking the fuck off with 9 goals and shooting 34.8&, Tyler Toffoli’s goal scoring has slammed on the brakes hard, with only two goals this month. He’s still getting approximately the same number of shots on goal per game and his assists have caught up (8 in November to 1 in October), so it’s not like his play has drastically changed or tailed off. The disparity just illustrates how streaky goal scoring can be. The big reason Toffoli has remained productive despite a cold snap has been the play of his centerman Jeff Carter, who only seems to get better with age. Once thought to be a natural conversion to a shoosty winger, or Patrick Sharp (sky point) with frosted tips, Carter’s evolution under Darryl Sutter is nothing short of astounding. He’s as reliable a scoring center as there is in the leauge, driving possession and making his teammates better. He goes to the hard areas of the ice, and despite being a big target never seems to take any direct hits, Duncan Keith’s stick to the mouth notwithstanding. Carter leads LA in scoring with 21 points in 22 games, and has been a model of consistency. Anze Kopitar’s scoring has picked up slightly but still only has 11 points on the season. But Kopitar is still doing his job driving possession above the team rate (58%) while taking the toughest competition.
The Kings’ blue line is still anchored by accused rapist Drew Doughty, whose workload has dropped from over 29 minutes a night to ONLY 27 minutes. Additionally, he’s getting significantly more starts in the offensive zone, so he’s not being completely worn thin as in years past. As a result Jake Muzzin has taken on more of the defensive zone workload, and of course he’s done just fine flipping the ice. After his annual case of the wobbles from brown brain, Christian Ehrhoff has slotted in nicely in the middle of the Kings’ corps. In fact, no one skating regular minutes on the Kings’ blue line is carrying less than a 52 share. And in a shocking turn of events, that number goes up at home 53.60%.
The cantankerous and overrated Jonathan Quick will get the cage tonight, who is having a solid season, same as he always does, with a .918 overall save percentage, the exact same as last year, with a .930 at evens. However his performance does take a dip on Staples ice, with a .912, even under a lighter workload (26.9 shots against at home vs 28.9 on the road).
As for the Men of Four Feathers, it’s a quick turnaround from their late rally at the Honda Center yesterday afternoon. Which, while hilarious, certainly didn’t offer any new perspective on the problems that this team faces on the road. They have three third pairing caliber defensemen and an entire line’s worth of forwards with questionable NHL worthiness. And when a home team is actually interested in changing into favorable matchups, it’s going to be an uphill battle.
Adding Scott Darling and his .885 road save percentage to the mix tonight suggests that Joel Quenneville is content with 7 of 12 points on this road trip. It’s a somewhat surprising move given a more than 24 hour turnaround from yesterday, though it’s very possible that if the outcome had been different Corey Crawford would be going again tonight.
While Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar usually play one another to a standstill, it stands to reason that Kopitar will get full look at Garbage Dick and the Russians tonight, as that little piece of shit tries to set some kind of meaningless nationalistic record that a drunk Pat Foley will yammer about endlessly. Toews, while better on the back half of the trip, still isn’t a threat enough himself, and Andrew Shaw and Ryan Garbutt certainly don’t instill terror in a team like the Kings. This could mean that Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli get a good look at Tanner Kero and Brandon Manshitter all night, which should finally expose their complete lack of intrinsic hockey value.
This has all the markings of complete ass kicking, and not even one that could expose any kind of new, unknown flaws with this team. The Kings are too deep at the blue line and matchup to well against the Hawks when they’re at home for even Joel Quenneville to not tacitly admit the bus is already running.