Lost in the hubbub surrounding Anze Kopitar's death has been the subpar play from our 2 "star" defensemen: Jack Johnson & Drew Doughty.
Points by defensemen in the month of March:
Drew Doughty: 13 games, 4 points (2 power play, 2 even-strength)
Jack Johnson: 13 games, 1 power play assist
Willie Mitchell: 13 games, 3 even-strength goals
Rob Scuderi: 13 games, 0 points
Matt Greene: 13 games, 1 even-strength assist
Alec Martinez: 4 points (3 power play, 1 even-strength)
Doughty's totals pro-rated for a whole season comes out to about 25 points; Johnson's comes out to... 6. They're not putting pucks on net and they're not driving the play like they should be. Breakouts have been poor, too; Doughty's been getting around it by skating the puck up the whole way, while Johnson & Scuderi simply aren't getting the puck out of their zone. Just shitty play all round. When Willie Mitchell is leading your defensemen in goals, you know you're in trouble.
Terry Murray has noticed this and he made a statement in the last game. The top power play unit, the one with Doughty & Johnson on the back end, was actually the 2nd unit against the Oilers, while Jarret Stoll and Martinez were given top duty. After the game, Murray said this regarding Martinez:
Martinez, to me, has got the shot mentality that you want from all of your defensemen.
To me, that's a subtle jab at both Doughty & Johnson on the power play. Martinez has 21 shots on goal in the month of March, compared to Doughty's 19 and Johnson's 20; they're fairly comparable until you consider that Martinez plays almost half as much as Doughty & Johnson. Martinez has a mindset similar to Kyle Quincey on the power play: get the puck, look for a pass, if it's not there then put it on net for a rebound or deflection. Doughty & Johnson are often trying to put the puck in the net themselves. They're trying to score, not get the puck in the net. It's a small thing but it makes a difference.
With Kopitar out, the Kings need their best offensive defensemen to drive the team. Doughty should pick up, since he has most of his points at even-strength this season, while Johnson... well, he actually has less points at even-strength than Rob Scuderi, so I'm not as optimistic about him.
The Kings are built similarly to the Predators and the Coyotes now, and one thing both those teams have in common are top defensemen that lead their team in scoring: Shea Weber for the Preds, Keith Yandle for the Coyotes. Doughty needs to be that player for the Kings. Anything Johnson adds is gravy.
Prediction: Kings win, 3-2. Goals by Doughty, Johnson, and Martinez.