7:00 p.m. PST, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Sportsnet Pacific, Radio: SN 650
It’s not like the Vancouver Canucks were going to impress for 82 games straight, right?
After being outscored 9-1 over their last two games, the shine on the Canucks hot start has turned dull and dreary.
Their 5-0 loss against the San Jose Sharks wasn’t as bad as it looked, but it was yet another game where Jacob Markstrom gave up an early goal, and the Canucks never recovered. The lack of high-end scoring chances from the Canucks also made Aaron Dell look better than advertised.
If they can make Dell look that good, then this matchup against the Kings doesn’t look so promising.
Jonathan Quick has been one of the best goalies in the NHL to start the season, and his strong performance is a big reason why the Kings are tops in the Pacific Division.
With nine wins and a .933 save percentage through his first 14 games, Quick’s return to all-star form is making people wonder whether the Kings still have it in them to make another run to the playoffs.
Quick should battle against Anders Nilsson for the Canucks tonight, who comes into the game boasting a .943 save percentage and two shutouts in four starts.
If there’s a silver lining for the Canucks tonight, it’s that the Kings have been knocked off of their pedestal over the past few games. They’ve shown cracks in their armour with losses in three of their last four and four of their last six.
In the Kings defence, they’ve only lost to good teams. In their last game, they lost to the Sharks in overtime on Sunday. They also lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 in their biggest loss of the season. In that game, they were down 4-0 in the fourth period.
The Kings are starting to bleed scoring chances over the last half-dozen games, and it’s clear that they are no longer the dominant possession team that we’ve all come to know.
Their 48.4% scoring chance differential ranks 23rd in the league. Despite their hot start, it’s clear that they are relying on Quick far too much in their victories.
On offence, one player I want to point out is first-line rookie Alex Iafollo.
Iafollo is an undrafted rookie out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. After an impressive fourth and final season in college hockey, he was signed as a free agent by the Kings.
Now, he’s third among all Kings forwards with 17:10 in ice time per game.
It’s strange to see a player completely come out of nowhere to play top line minutes, but that’s exactly where Iafollo finds himself. Only Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have more ice time among Kings forwards.
I’ll be watching for him tonight considering that I had no idea who he was coming into this preview. The Kings lines should look like this tonight.
Alex Iafollo - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Tanner Pearson - Adrian Kempe - Tyler Toffoli
Andy Andreoff - Nick Shore - Nick Dowd
Michael Cammalleri - Brooks Laich - Michael Amadio
Derek Forbort - Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin - Alex Martinez
Oscar Fantenberg - Kurtis MacDermid
Just a few short games ago, many were praising the Canucks fast-paced, up-tempo style that had flourished under Travis Green. For a few games there, the Canucks were a top-ten teams in terms of scoring chance differential.
What a difference a few games make, especially early in the season.
The Canucks now sit 24th overall in the NHL, one spot behind the Kings, with a 48.2% scoring chance differential.
This team was rolling four lines with any of them posing at least a moderate threat to score, but that’s gone astray over the last five games.
During the Canucks five games in November, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi have a combined 15 points.
The rest of the team has a combined 17 points over that span.
Some other players need to step up if the Canucks want to win some games, and there’s a couple guys in particular who will look to get each other going on the same line.
Markus Granlund has been silent offensively to start the season while he was playing in a defensive role with Brandon Sutter and Derek Dorsett. He will now move into an offensive role playing alongside Thomas Vanek and Sam Gagner. Granlund is only on pace for 15 points on the season with three points in 16 games.
Gagner was brought in as a power play specialist, but he still needs to contribute something on offence. He has two goals and five points on the season, but he only has two assists at even-strength. More production in either area of the game would be beneficial.
The Canucks will also roll out three power play units tonight, with the forward combinations being identical to each line minus Sutter’s unit.
Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Brock Boeser
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Loui Eriksson
Brendan Gaunce - Brandon Sutter - Derek Dorsett
Thomas Vanek - Markus Granlund - Sam Gagner
Alex Edler - Derrick Pouliot
Michael Del Zotto - Alex Biega
Ben Hutton - Erik Gudbranson
Game Day Battle Hymn
Let’s go with the one hit wonder from the American Nu-Metal band Saliva. With a poor offensive start to the month of November, the Canucks need someone to pull the trigger on offence, aside from the Horvat line.