October 04 2013 03:01PM
The first true test for the Western conference Jets comes tonight in the MTS Centre. There will be more than a few mentions of the Kings' 2012 Stanley Cup victory, but it's their league-leading possession numbers rather than the ghost of seasons past that will haunt the Jets tonight.
In close games during even strength play, the Kings had a whopping corsi percentage (that is, percentage of shot attempts for rather than against) of 58%, almost 9% higher than our Jets. It's no wonder when you look down their roster. The Kings have exceptional depth at forward, including more high-end talent than they're given credit for, and some big names combined with a few young out-performers on the back end. In my day, we'd call that team 'stacked!' with the kind of emphasis reserved for sick skateboards and various things that were rad, dude. Now that I'm an adult, I can make a clever (not clever) pun (is it even a pun?) and put them among the royalty of the Western conference. It's time for a peasant rebellion! With Jet planes! (I won't be submitting this on my resume to do copy writing for NHL.com)
- Ladd - Little - Wheeler
- Kane - Scheifele - Setoguchi
- Tangradi - Jokinen - Frolik
- Wright - Slater - Thorburn
One small tweak from the Edmonton game - James Wright moves down a line (and the crowd goes wild!). As we saw in the corsi numbers and zone entry data from that game, all of Wright, Slater, and Thorburn were problems in the game against the Oilers. Now they're all in one place. Perhaps Noel will isolate the problem and keep it on the bench.
The LLW line was given fewer minutes than expected in game one. Perhaps Wheeler is still nursing the 'total body injury' Noel diagnosed him with in the pre-season. The Jets will need their best possession line on the ice often tonight if they mean to win.
How about that second line?! Scheifele and Kane led forwards in even strength ice time, as both were double shifted toward the end of the game. Both had excellent zone entry numbers and seemed by eye to create a lot of second and third chances once in the offensive end. Imagine if the Jets had a second line this year! Oh, the places you'll go.
- Enstrom - Byfuglien
- Bogosian - Trouba
- Stuart - Postma
The defence group still has some issues, though the Enstrom-Buff pairing was outrageously good in game one. Trouba/Bogosian played heavy minutes with positive results, though Trouba's corsi was low at just 40%. Still, his first NHL game included a goal and an assist and the most minutes among defenders. Not bad, rookie.
The biggest issue with this group is the third pairing. Stuart's corsi % in game one was 23%! And Postma's just 36%. Those are numbers that will bury any team, and indeed, Stuart was on for 3 of the 4 goals against. It's just one game, and Stuart should look better battling against the Kings low cycle game. We will be watching. Some of us through the gaps in our fingers.
- King - Kopitar - Williams
- Frattin - Richards - Carter
- Lewis - Stoll - Brown
- Clifford - Fraser - Nolan
Huh. Well, they have that... Colin Fraser... there was that one time... This group is pretty good, I guess, or whatever.
The addition of Frattin to what I'm going to call the Frat Boy Line (that will make my highlight reel this week) makes the designation of 1st and 2nd line somewhat meaningless. What's important to note is that they have a lot of scoring power in those top two lines, and the games doesn't get much easier after that. The line up is big, gritty, and hard to play against - not in that mythical way, but in the way that they have the puck all the time and it's very tiring to wrestle them for it. With four lines, the Jets defenders will be taking the puck off their own end-boards every shift, and the team will have to move a full 200' to score. That alone is challenging and tiring.
Brown occassionally jumped onto that top wing where King is during their game last night, and we should expect him to move around the lineup to get his minutes.
- Regehr - Doughty
- Mitchell - Voynov
- Muzzin - Greene
DailyFaceoff.com is reporting that Quick is likely, but not confirmed. Interestingly, defence was a weak point for the Kings last year. Quick had a very poor .902 sv% after returning from hip surgery into a shortened season. In total, their 5 on 5 save percentage was in the bottom third of the league (hey - so was ours! Besties?!).
The assumption is that Quick will bounce back after a strong end to the 2012/13 season, but questions linger. Speaking of questions, Robin Regehr has struggled since leaving Calgary two seasons ago and there are questions about him slowing down. He pulls top pairing on paper, but Mitchell has traditionally taken their heavy minutes. Doughty's offence has dipped in recent years as his assignment has become more challenging, and we may see the team lean on Voynov to give Doughty a chance to create more often. Still, the emergence of Voynov and Muzzin over the last two years has solidified an otherwise spotty defence group, and given the Kings some depth scoring from the back end.
The Kings just don't really have holes in their roster, and where Dwight King or Jordan Nolan might not be worth a kings' ransom (never give up, kids) on their own, the LA Kings are able to put them in positions to succeed next to experienced and successful NHL players.
The Kings are tired after an extra-time game against the grinding Minnesota Wild. The Jets hold on to enter the third down 2-1, and leave the game with a 3-2 win. Frolik gets another goal and is given the key to the city. Evander Kane scores the winner and celebrates like a confident young athlete. In turn, he is helpfully reminded he's black in the post-game interview.