After a convincing 6-3 win over the Kings in Game 1, the Sharks are hoping for a repeat performance tonight that would allow them to take a 2-0 lead to Staples Center when this series shifts there on Tuesday. Ahead of tonight's all-important second game of this best-of-seven matchup, we sat down with excellent Kings site Jewels From The Crown to ask them five questions about where the series is headed.
1. Mike Richards was ineffective in Game 1 and finished third-last on the team in even-strength ice time. Do the Kings need him to be a factor in order to come back and win this series? How can Darryl Sutter get him going, especially when this series shifts to Staples Center?
The Kings don't necessarily need Mike Richards to be a factor. They can win this series with him continuing to get owned by Joe Thornton, but they need to make up for it in other areas (which they certainly didn't do in game 1). As we pointed out in our series preview, Anze Kopitar has historically crushed the Sharks while Richards gets owned by the Sharks' top six, and this hasn't prevented the Kings from having success against the Sharks. The battle of third lines is what really could be the deciding factor. The most alarming thing from game 1 for the Kings was the fact that Jarret Stoll and the third line got peppered. In close situations, Stoll went +1/-12 in shot attempts at evens, despite spending 80% of his time against James Sheppard. It seemed on paper that the Kings 3rd line had an advantage over the Sharks' 3rd line. But, as any fan of grit will tell you, the game isn't played on paper.
2. Robyn Regehr was flat-out terrible in Game 1. Do you think he'll be a fixture on the Kings blueline all series long? Who would you ice on each of L.A.'s three defense pairings if given a choice?
Based on the history of his time with the Kings, there is close to a 0% chance that Robyn Regehr gets healthy scratched. He is a Sutter favourite, and has never been sat despite some pretty bad stretches of games over the last two years - as compared to younger players like Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez, who have repeatedly been benched as punishment for mistakes. The other issue is that the only available alternative to Regehr is Matt Greene, who, despite some great underlying numbers, isn't much of an upgrade. Greene has played pretty soft minutes this year and has taken penalties at an alarmingly high rate in those minutes. The only practical solution for the Kings in this regard is to try to give Alec Martinez some more shifts with Drew Doughty or Slava Voynov, and be a bit more selective about when they put Regehr on the ice. (This is probably not going to happen very much.)
3. Marian Gaborik has to be considered one of the best trade deadline acquisitions of the season. What has he added to the Kings lineup and what can we expect from him in this series?
The acquisition of Marian Gaborik has helped the Kings immensely with their depth scoring issues. Although their bottom six has been great in recent years from a possession standpoint (relative to other bottom sixes), they have yielded relatively little in the way of production. When low-event hockey with few defensive lapses is about all that you can expect from 50% of a team's forwards, the result is the Kings' consistent goal-scoring struggles over the past few seasons. With Gaborik in the lineup, the offensive talent is more balanced and spread-out, and the Kings can now ice goal-scoring threats like Tyler Toffoli and Dustin Brown (well, he once was a goal-scoring threat, at least) on the third line.
4. Aside from Tyler Toffoli, Linden Vey and Tanner Pearson are two young forwards who had effective stints with the Kings this season. Do you think we'll see either of them in this series?
Chances are that we'll see Tanner Pearson before the end of the series. He played really well in his latest stint in the line-up (post-Olympic break), not just in terms of underlying numbers, but also visibly, for "watch the games" types. In particular, he's very strong in the neutral zone, as he's been gaining the line with possession more often than not of late. He also doesn't take a ton of penalties, which are the problems with the gritty depth forwards like Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford who he'd be replacing in the lineup. Staying out of the penalty box should be a big priority for the Kings given the mediocre nature of their PK, and the strength of the Sharks' special teams.
5. Finally, is Dustin Brown the worst human being alive?
Raffi Torres still exists.