Kings take loss on Thursday and prepare for Canucks

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Thursday Night the New York Islanders were here at the Staples Center to take on the Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings, who were probably happy they were finally at home again. They’ve only had one win on the road, before Thursday; Wednesday Night when they beat the Stars in Dallas.

09The Kings record before Thursday was 7-4-2, but last year they had a slow start as well. Their record after 13 games last season was 8-5 so it is too early in the season for anyone to get worried about the Kings.

For the Islanders their road record is better right now, winning four of seven on the road before Thursday, including impressive wins over the New York Rangers and the Anaheim Ducks. The Islanders and Kings are two evenly matched teams right now, but even with the home ice advantage, the Islanders proved to be more of a match for the Kings than what people expected. New York is skating well away from home, with great defense. Not much gets past their goalie, Chad Johnson.

In the first game of the season here in the Staples Center, the San Jose Sharks set the strategy for visiting teams: score first and build on that. If you take the Staples Center crowd out of the game that’s half the battle.

Dwight King
Dwight King

For the Kings scoring first, in the first period was key. At 3:49 Dwight King scored, with assists from Mike Richards and Jake Muzzin to give the Kings a 1-0 lead, but 13 minutes later the Islanders got on the board with a goal by Brock Nelson.

The game stayed tied for the regulation three periods, and then through the overtime. The Islanders were finally able to wrap it up in a shootout. It was another tough home game for the L.A. Kings.

They just didn’t look like the playoff team we saw last spring. L.A. didn’t attack the net like they have in the past and the Islanders were able to out play the Kings’ defense.

Plus, the Kings were in the penalty box a lot more than they expected. A team on the short end of a power play is defending their zone, not attacking the net.

After the game Dwight King said, “The more you play in your own zone the more tired you get. There’s no trick to that. We took a little bit too many penalties tonight to take advantage of that.”

Jake Muzzin
Jake Muzzin

Jake Muzzin said the same. About penalties, the defenseman said, “You want to stay out of the box as much as possible. You’re giving their top players a chance to score.”

New York was clearly the more aggressive team tonight, although they were not able to outscore the Kings in regulation or overtime tonight. L.A. became more aggressive late in the third periods and they sustained that energy into the overtime, but they were unable to score.

Tonight they play the Vancouver Canucks. They key for getting back to winning is clear to Muzzin. “It all starts in our zone again. We got to clean up our zone, be quicker coming out. In offensive zone create more chances, we were a little bit on the outside tonight. Bring the puck to the net. Get pucks and bodies to the net for tips and rebounds.”

That was the biggest asset of the Kings during the playoffs: swarming the net. Obviously, as Kings players pointed out after the game, they don’t get many chances to do that when they are in the penalty box.

Tonight’s game may prove to be even more difficult than the Islander did on Thursday. Vancouver has a great road record right now, winning six of their games on opposing ice. And they score a lot; 46 goals so far this season, over through 14 games. That’s about 3.3 goals per game. The Kings have scored 32 goals over 14 games, or 2.9 goals per game.

That half-goal difference in scoring shows up when comparing their records: the Canucks are 10-4 and the Kings are 7-4-3.

Dwight King’s goal for L.A. Thursday Night. In a post-game interview Kings said he thought  Mike Richards had scored the goal.
Dwight King’s goal for L.A. Thursday Night. In a post-game interview Kings said he thought Mike Richards had scored the goal.

But L.A. still has one extremely big asset the Canucks need to overcome: goalie Jonathan Quick. His save percentage this season is .943, one of the best in the NHL. The Islanders were only able to score 1 goal in regulation against Quick. So far this season opposing teams scored more than three goals only twice, both losses. Vancouver knows that if they don’t score at least four goals against L.A. their chances of winning are not that good.

This will be a tough game for the Kings and for the Canucks. The Staples Center is still a tough place for visiting teams to win. The Kings can thank the fans for that.

All photos by Claudia Gestro