LA Kings suddenly have plenty of issues on defense

9 Comments

The Los Angeles Kings are down 1-0 in their first-round series to the Vegas Golden Knights and things have only gotten more difficult ahead of Game 2 on Friday night.

The Kings will be without Drew Doughty, because he was suspended for an illegal check to the head of Golden Knights forward William Carrier. As you’d imagine, not having Doughty is a major problem for them. On top of that suspension, they may not have Jake Muzzin (upper body) and Derek Forbort (lower body) at their disposal. Muzzin missed Game 1 and the final five games of the regular season, while Forbort missed the last two games of the season and Game 1, too.

Let’s start with Doughty, who is the most important blue liner of the three. The 28-year-old played in all 82 games during the regular season. He averaged almost 27 minutes of ice time over those games and while his team got 50.01 percent of the shot attempts overall, they got 52.76 percent of them when Doughty was on the ice. There aren’t too many defenseman better than him, so the fact that the Kings won’t be able to rely on him for one playoff game is a major disadvantage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Muzzin, who averaged 21:39 during the season, also racked up an impressive eight goals and 42 points in 2017-18. With Muzzin on the ice, the Kings actually controlled slightly more of the shot attempts (52.93 percent) than when Doughty was on the ice. The 29-year-old hasn’t been ruled out for Game 2 yet, but he still hasn’t been able to take contact during practice.

Forbort isn’t as big of a name as the other two, but he still logged a significant amount of ice (averaged 20:47 throughout the regular season). He isn’t as gifted offensively as Doughty and Muzzin, but he still managed to post a Corsi For% number higher than 50 percent (50.33). Forbort played over 829 minutes with Drew Doughty, which means the Kings will be missing their top pairing in Game 2 and arguably their second-best defenseman in Muzzin.

As the old saying goes, “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” But heading back to Los Angeles down 0-2 is less than an ideal spot to be in when you’re playing an expansion team that is faster and deeper than you up front.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Byron nets hatty, Wedgewood blanks former team

Getty Images
3 Comments

Players of the Night:

Paul Byron, Montreal Canadiens:

Byron notched his first career NHL hat trick as the Canadiens annihilated the Detroit Red Wings 10-1. He now has nine goals on the season, well on pace to eclipse his career-high of 22 he set last season. Bryon was claimed off waivers by the Canadiens from the Flames on the day before the 2015-16 began. He’s exceeded expectations, to say the least.

Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins:

How’s this for a replacement for Matt Murray? Two wins, one shutout, one goal allowed in 120 minutes of play. Jarry has been sensational since Murray went down with a lower-body injury and the Penguins are reaping the rewards.

Scott Wedgewood, Arizona Coyotes: 

Wedgewood stopped 26 shots from the New Jersey Devils en route to his second-career shutout against the team that he recorded his first with. The Devils had yet to have been shutout this year prior to Saturday.

Highlights of the Night:

Wedgewood did this to Stefan Noesen:

Byron’s hat trick goal came off a nice snipe:

Ryan Miller did his best Domink Hasek:

Viktor Arvidsson was instrumental in a pre-game proposal:

Streak-ender of the Night:

The Buffalo Sabres finally scored. Jason Pominville, mercifully, fired home in the third period against the Penguins, the first goal for the club since Nov. 24, some 233:19 of game time.

Factoids of the Night:

A couple from the night of destruction in Montreal:

Alex Ovechkin moved himself up the all-time goal-scoring list again. Ovechkin is tied with Nikita Kucherov, who scored twice on Saturday,  for the league-lead in goals at 19.

Tyler Seguin played quite a bit tonight:

MISC:

    • The St. Louis Blues have lost three straight and four of their last five after dropping a 2-1 overtime decision against the Minnesota Wild.
    • So close, yet so far: The Oilers had a 6-1 lead early in the third period only to watch it get cut to 6-5 as the Calgary Flames stormed back after a brutal start. Alas, the Oilers held on to win their sixth game in a row against their Battle of Alberta rivals.
    • Radek Faska has five goals in his past three games for the Dallas Stars.
    • Elliotte Friedman said on Hockey Night in Canada that there is a “sense and a hope” that the salary cap in the NHL could reach $80 million next season.
    • On the same broadcast, Friedman touched on what it would take for the Sabres to trade Evander Kane. The asking price, of course, is high. Friedman said the returns bigger than those of what the Winnipeg Jets got for Andrew Ladd (Marko Dano, 1st round and conditional picks) and the Arizona Coyotes got for Martin Hanzal and Ryan White (1st, 2nd, 4th round picks) should be expected.
    • Furthermore, the Los Angeles Kings are going to make pending UFA Drew Doughty a priority when it comes to inking him to a long-term extension.

Scores:

Bruins 3, Flyers 0

Wild 2, Blues 1 (OT)

Canucks 2, Leafs 1

Canadiens 10, Red Wings 1

Lightning 5, Sharks 2

Penguins 5, Sabres 1

Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 3

Hurricanes 3, Panthers 2 (OT)

Coyotes 5, Devils 0

Predators 3, Ducks 2 (SO)

Stars 3, Blackhawks 2 (SO)

Oilers 7, Flames 5


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Crosby, Toews, Weber, Price lead pack in NHL 16’s ratings

13 Comments

After unveiling the top 10 goaltenders for the upcoming video game NHL 16, EA Sports has done the same for every other position.

As was the case last season, Sidney Crosby has the highest overall rating at 96, but there are some alterations after that. In 2015, Steven Stamkos ranked second overall with a 93 rating and he kept that rating for 2015-16, but he’s been leapfrogged by Jonathan Toews (94), Shea Weber (94), and Carey Price (94).

Pavel Datsyuk (93) and John Tavares (92) round out the top-five among centers. Both Detroit and Pittsburgh have two players in the top-10 with Henrik Zetterberg (92) and Evgeni Malkin (92) securing eighth and sixth place respectively.

As previously established, Weber leads the pack among defensemen and is followed by Duncan Keith (93), Drew Doughty (93), Ryan Suter (93), and Erik Karlsson (91). Nashville is the only team with two defensemen in the top-10 as Roman Josi (90) ranks ninth.

When it comes to right wingers, Corey Perry (92) got the top position, although he’s closely followed by Patrick Kane (92). Vladimir Tarasenko (91), Jakub Voracek (90), and Marian Hossa (90) make up the remainder of the top-five. Phil Kessel, who was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh over the summer, saw his rating slip from 90 in 2014-15 to 89 following a rough campaign with the Maple Leafs.

When it comes to left wingers, it won’t surprise many to learn that Alex Ovechkin secured the top rating at 93. He’s followed by Jamie Benn (92), Taylor Hall (90), Zach Parise (90), and Max Pacioretty (89). The Dallas Stars’ acquisition of Patrick Sharp means that they now have two players in the top-10 as Sharp took the final place on that list with his 89 rating.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe. If you want to see each position’s top-10 list, you can view them here.

Poll: How long will the Kings remain Stanley Cup contenders?

15 Comments

All of a sudden the Los Angeles Kings’ roster doesn’t look so young anymore.

Jeff Carter is 30.

Ditto for Dustin Brown.

Jonathan Quick will be 30 in January.

Marian Gaborik is 33.

While pending unrestricted free agents Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic are still only 27, and Drew Doughty is even younger at 25, studies have shown that the typical NHL player peaks before the age of 30.

Combine the fact that so much of the Kings’ core is signed long term with a prospect group that doesn’t rank very highly and it’s more than fair to ask how long this group has as a Stanley Cup contender.

So, go vote:

Kings’ biggest question: What about Voynov?

43 Comments

For the Los Angeles Kings, the optics would be doubly terrible if Slava Voynov were ever to play for them again.

Not only would they be allowing a player who spent time in jail for domestic violence to wear their sweater, they’d be allowing it to happen after terminating the contract of Mike Richards, who while reportedly part of a police investigation has still not been charged with anything.

The difference between Voynov and Richards is that the former is an on-ice asset, with a reasonable contract, while the latter became a liability, with a big cap hit and term to go.

There’s already local media pressure on the Kings to cut ties with the 25-year-old Voynov.

“That he’s a top-four defenseman isn’t reason enough to keep him,” wrote Helene Elliott in the Los Angeles Times. “It’s irrelevant. He doesn’t deserve to wear their uniform and they shouldn’t grant him that privilege.”

If the Kings agree with that sentiment — and assuming Voynov isn’t deported or banned by the NHL — they would seem to have two options. One, they could terminate his contract, a la Richards. Two, they could try and trade him. (“Try” being the operative word there, as any team that would pay a price to get Voynov would also have a significant PR challenge with which to deal.)

All that said, it seems the Kings may opt to keep Voynov. According to LA Kings Insider, “the expectation, based on multiple conversations with those in hockey operations, is that he’ll be a part of the blue line when he recovers from a ruptured Achilles.”

If that’s the case, it’ll be because Voynov is a valuable hockey player and the Kings — despite professing things like, “It’s a privilege to be an NHL player, not a right” — can’t afford to miss the playoffs again, bad PR or not.

Last season, L.A.’s blue line was so thin that Drew Doughty often played more than 30 minutes a night. Since then, the Kings haven’t added anyone; they’ve only lost Andrej Sekera (free agency) and Robyn Regehr (retirement).

Related: Dean Lombardi is under pressure