It's only one bad game, but a poor performance from Pheonix Copley has to leave the Los Angeles Kings front office in somewhat of a panic.
Goaltending killed their record into December when Copley took the number one spot from Jonathan Quick and has been a big factor in their resurgence of late. Thursday against the Dallas Stars, shaky goaltending once again plagued the Kings in their 4-0 loss.
Of course, that loss isn't solely on Copley. The team in front of him, before he got pulled, provided zero goal support, as Scott Wedgewood put in a fantastic performance for Dallas. But still, gifting a team like the Stars an early goal is a death wish and can't happen regularly.
Time to take a look at some plus and minuses from Thursday's game.
– Pheonix Copley
I have to get the obvious one out of the way, this was a big minus for Copley. He's been the savior this season for the Kings, but as Todd McLellan put it, "maybe his poorest game that he's (Copley) had with us." The first goal in particular was awful. Tyler Seguin threw a nothing shot on net from the top of the faceoff circle that went off the inside of Copley's blocker and trickled in. Giving a Dallas team that's currently leading the Central Division a one-goal head start is a backbreaker.
The second goal against you can't fault Copley, it's a bad turnover that gives a former 40-goal scorer an open look from just inside the left faceoff dot. He buries that on 90% of NHL goalies.
The third and fourth goal are interesting ones. They aren't bad goals necessarily, especially Esa Lindell's, but they're still problematic. Lindell's goal came off a good shot, but everyone in the NHL has a good shot and if your goalie can't come up with saves in those situations you're in trouble. So much talk surrounding the Kings' goaltending situation has revolved around making timely saves, that is a situation where they need a timely save.
The fourth goal could have been stopped by a more explosive push from post to post but wasn't the end of the world.
For now, that's a one-off poor performance that Copley can put behind him and not worry about. If these performances continue, the Kings are in a lot of trouble. Bad goaltending can ruin their season and Rob Blake has to be willing and ready to make a trade if the bubble has popped on Copley.
+ Quinton Byfield
It feels weird giving a forward a plus rating in a shutout loss, but Quinton Byfield deserves it. He wasn't amazing, he didn't take over the game or anything, but it was a nice bounce-back performance after he struggled against the New Jersey Devils in his last game.
He wasn't fighting the puck or throwing errant passes all over the defensive zone Thursday and was generating offense. He had a good look in the first period that he put just wide and set up Viktor Arvidsson for a fantastic chance that Wedgewood denied.
There were also a few deft touches and quick moves that Byfield pulled out that impressed. Again, it wasn't a barn-burning performance but it was impactful and noticeable. One Byfield can continue to build off of.
– The Drew Doughty-Mikey Anderson Pairing
Anytime a pairing is a negative three on a given night question marks have to be raised. Yes, the first goal against is in no way their fault, that's a goalie letting you down. The next two though were problems.
The Stars' second goal was particularly tough for them. They were caught scrambling in the defensive zone, along with the forward line. Leaving Mikey Anderson defending the point and Drew Doughty down low. Doughty received the puck after a Dallas player tried to throw it on net. Instead of clearing it, he tried to make a move around Seguin in a dangerous area. Seguin stripped him and a few seconds later the goal light turned on.
It was an undisciplined shift from the Kings' go-to pairing, capped off by an unnecessary risk from Doughty.
The Lindell goal wasn't great from them either. A big positive from Anderson's game this season has been his more aggressive pinching in the neutral zone. He's stepping up on opponents early, forcing them to either dump the puck or take a big hit. On this goal, he tried to make that step and it didn't work. Ty Dellandrea was able to hold off Anderson and allow Jamie Benn and Wyatt Johnston to pick up the puck with speed in the neutral zone.
Once in the zone, Doughty was caught playing too far back in the zone and completely flat-footed. He stood still and was unable to properly contest Lindell's shot.
On both goals, it's fair to point out that it wasn't just this pairing that struggled. The forward line in both occasions, particularly the Seguin goal, were at fault as well. But, on both occasions that pairing made crucial mistakes that lead to the goal. Doughty's turnover on Seguins. Then, Anderson's failed pinch and Doughty's poor positioning.
Look for them to have a bounce-back performance Saturday in Nashville.