Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks will take on the LA Kings during the next stop on the West Coast road trip. I asked a few questions of Nick Chapin (@dightkwing) from Jewels From The Crown (@JFTC_Kings) to get ready for the game.
Jen: The Kings are playing a strong puck possession game, out-shooting opponents and yet failing to score and win. Are they just unlucky at this point or does the team lack offensive skill?
Nick: It's a combination of a few things. They are most certainly unlucky right now. But they aren't blessed with a ton of skill. Pretty much all of their players are in a scoring drought right now which is just not going to continue. Only Anze Kopitar is going, and that's not enough to carry the roster. That said, Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown just aren't going to continue to not score as they have been. Aside from all their puck possession, those guys have enough skill to score even if the team is struggling to generate possession.
The thing about the Kings is that they really only have top-end skill. Their bottom six is kind of a mess. Though their possession numbers are strong, almost every single one of their depth forwards has been out-chanced at even strength, and many of them have been out-chanced by a significant number. Not a single one of them has more than an iota of offensive ability. So when some of their top-end guys hit a scoring slump, there isn't anyone that can pick up the slack.
Jen: How are Kings fan's handling the recent trend of losing games in which the team has obviously outplayed their opponent?
Nick: Poorly. Even I'm depressed about this to an extent and I've always been a bit of an optimist. I see lots of people convinced that this team is bad, which is kind of tough for me to personally deal with. Though this fan base should be better conditioned than most to deal with this exact type of adversity given that they went through it in 2011, they aren't handling it well. I guess when you don't see a Terry Murray to be fired or a Jeff Carter to be acquired, it's a little tougher to handle. Not many people are defending this team right now, but thankfully the few that are have pretty strong voices and aren't afraid to show them off. Jewels From The Crown is basically serving as a support group right now.
Jen: The defensive duo of Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty has become one of the best in league. What makes that combo so good?
Nick: Why is the combo of Doughty and Muzzin good? Because Drew Doughty is on it. It's simple, but it's true. All Doughty needs to succeed is a partner that can limit turnovers and get him the puck, and Muzzin can mostly do that. At the center of this recent stretch of poor play, Jake Muzzin's mistakes have been highlighted, but he really doesn't make *that* many. They've just been so high profile lately that he's been taking a bit of a beating. That said, Doughty drives this pairing. Among offensively gifted defenders, he's at least in the top-3 on the defensive side of the puck. He's an incredible shutdown defender that also happens to be one of the best players in the league at advancing the puck, regardless of position. The only defenders that Doughty has really struggled with in his career are Jack Johnson and Robyn Regehr, which should tell you quite a bit about both of those and about the kind of player that Doughty is.
Thanks to Nick and everyone over at Jewels From The Crown for answering my questions. Be sure to check out their site and also on Twitter.