After an absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year, the Kings have once again drawn the San Jose Sharks for their first round opponents. By taking Game 1 with a score of 4-3, the Sharks on Thursday did what they have done to the Kings three out of five times during this year’s regular season.
Kings goaltender, Jonathan Quick actually did not see a victory against the Sharks in any of the three games he played against San Jose during this regular season. Backup goalie, Jhonas Enroth, however, took credit as the winning goalie for both of his starts against the Sharks. But San Jose didn’t win this round’s first game due to poor goaltending.
Looking at the numbers from Thursday’s game, one player on the ice scored more than one goal: Sharks captain, Joe Pavelski. Not only did Pavelski score San Jose’s first goal (a power play goal in the first period), but he also scored the game-winning goal, a wrap-around, which came only 17 seconds into the third period. Joel Ward was credited with two assists. For the Kings, Milan Lucic contributed with two assists.
Faceoff numbers were in favor of the Sharks, who won 54% of them. Joe Thornton was particularly successful at the dot, winning 8 out of 9 faceoffs.
As for penalties, the Kings took four penalties while the Sharks took three, and both teams only scored on one of their power plays.
One area that jumps out from the statistics are the number of giveaways each team made. The official statistics show that the Sharks gave the puck away 8 times, while the Kings turned the puck over 20 times. Giveaways occur when players turn the puck over to an opposing player. On paper, it sounds dramatic enough, but in reality, a turnover can develop into deadly plays or breakaways, and often represent a game’s momentum. For the Kings, defensemen Brayden McNabb and Jake Muzzin were responsible for nine of the team’s 20 giveaways (5 and 4, respectively).
Los Angeles displayed a strong offensive push in the final minutes of the game, but the push came too late in the game. Bringing that level of offensive effort and intensity, and reigning in the unforced errors will be crucial for the Kings during Game 2 tonight.
And just in case anyone needed a reminder, the Kings found themselves in a precarious situation during Round 1 of the Playoffs in 2014. Their opponents, the San Jose Sharks, won the first three games of the series, and pushed the Kings to the brink of elimination. Los Angeles came back and won four consecutive games against the Sharks, and eventually, the Stanley Cup.
Game 2 is set to begin at 7:30 PM tonight at Staples Center. The game will be televised on FS-W and NBCSN.