While on paper it looks like the sixth best team in the NHL is going to play the 30th best team in the NHL, and that there likely won’t be much of a fight from a team looking to start their rebuild with a nice and high draft pick, the LA Kings have played like a well-coached team all season and been putting in the effort every night, even if most don’t end up with points on the board.
For a team as lowly as the Kings are this season, they’ve been a team with a very good corsi, limiting shots against about as well as the Lightning this year while actually beating them in shots for per game. Their expected goals is also quite good, looking at their heat map they’re a team that focuses on offense from the point and rebounds down low. There won’t be much slot pressure to deal with for the Lightning, but the wingers and defense will have to communicate well along the boards so no one gets too spread out and loses an assignment. There are still dangerous players on this team that can score if the defense is not careful.
So, despite having great shot metrics this year, why are the Kings so bad? The simple answer is goaltending, shooting, and special teams. At 5v5, the Kings do just fine. Their problem comes with the fourth worst team save percentage this season and the worst shooting percentage luck in the league.
I’ve said for a while that Jonathan Quick is not a good goaltender, but got the results he did because his teams were historically great at covering the front of the net and not allowing rebounds. Quick can generally make the first save if asked to do so, but doing so throws him 50 ft from the net. If there’s no second shot to be had, that makes his job infinitely easier. As the Kings have declined, so has Quick, massively. He’s got an .896 save percentage this year, and he’s the better of the two goalies they have right now.
So that’s the key for the Lightning tonight. Communicate and be responsible in the defensive zone, and work at those lateral rebounds in the offensive zone. If the team does that, they should be just fine.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn - Cedric Paquette - Pat Maroon
Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Yanni Gourde
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk
Los Angeles Kings
Lines from last game
Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Tyler Toffoli
Kyle Clifford - Jeff Carter - Dustin Brown
Nikolay Prokhorkin - Michael Amadio - Adrian Kempe
Jaret Anderson-Dolan - Trevor Lewis - Matt Luff
Derek Forbort - Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez - Matt Roy
Kurtis MacDermid - Sean Walker
It’s going to be an emotional night in LA as it will be the first sporting event to take place at Staples Center since NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven other people who tragically lost their lives in a helicopter crash on Sunday. There will likely be a pregame ceremony before the game and tributes throughout so keep that in mind while you’re planning your late night.