Last year, as the Kings trudged through the regular season on their way to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they had little trouble with the also-ran Ducks, winning five of six meetings. So far this season, the defending Champion Kings has struggled, going 2-2-2, while scoring a grand total of 12 goals, ranking 28th in the league in goals-per-game. After a start marked by not just a lack of scoring but also by porous defense and lackluster goaltending, they have held opponents to six goals in regulation over the last four games, but the offense has yet to pick up the pace. Only Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter have more than a single goal this season. We wrote at the start of the season questioning Jonathan Quick’s health, but over those last four games, he’s been the primary reason the Kings have been in every game, and after his awful start, he’s gotten his GAA down to 2.44 and his Save Pct. up to .907.
Reebok Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings 2012 Conn Smythe Award T-Shirt
|On the other hand, the Ducks have been scoring and winning, but they beat Minnesota last night with not Jonas Hiller in goal but rather behind another strong performance from Viktor Fasth, who has been brilliant in his two starts this season. Nevertheless, HIller will be back in goal tonight against the Kings. It would seem to be a great chance for Hiller to shine, as the Kings have scored more than two goals in a game only once this year. The Duck, conversely, are sixth in the NHL in goals-per-game and have averaged 4.5 goals in their four wins.
It looks like the Ducks should win this one, and
the second key after goaltending might well be penalty killing, where it looks like there could be a clash of strength against strength and weakness against weakness. While the Ducks are 28th in killing penalties, the Kings are an even worse 30th and last in power play scoring, scoring in only 6.1% of their opportunities. On the other side, the Kings are fifth in the league, killing 86.7% of penalties, while the Ducks are a decent number 10, scoring in about a quarter of their opportunities.
If the Kings are to win tonight, and go on to anything close to last year’s finish, they will have to start scoring. While last year during the regular season, they were 29th in the NHL in goals per game and now are actually one spot better at 28th, they are scoring almost one-half goal per game less than last season, 1.83 to 2.29. In the post season a year ago, that number jumped to number three in the league, at 2.85. They did it then, they can do it now.