Waking up with the Kings: February 28
-The quote that has stuck with me more than any other quote this season belongs to Dustin Brown. He offered it after the loss in Detroit – then the team’s fourth in five games – in what was an excellent effort for nearly all of the game’s 60 minutes. “Sometimes you say at the end of losing streaks and at the end of winning streaks sometimes you’re losing games you shouldn’t, and sometimes you’re winning games you shouldn’t, as well,” he said before the team rattled off wins in seven of eight. Not to cast an ominous cloud over the impending Vancouver game, but if the Kings are going to take two points from Rogers Arena on Saturday night, they’re going to need to show more than what was offered in a fortunate home win on Wednesday.
-The notes I took for most of the first 50 minutes of last night’s game weren’t exceedingly positive. I used a lot of exclamation points. That was until the Kings’ best players made their impacts on the game, and L.A. won a game in which it was not necessarily the better team. As the Kings struggled earlier this season, it seemed as though the game coursed from poor first period, to excellent second period, to variable third period. That trend is no longer relevant. Since Nick Foligno’s goal late in the third period of L.A.’s 2-1 win over Columbus on February 15, the Kings have outscored their opponents 10-0 in the third; Los Angeles now has a plus-seven goal differential in the third and a plus-five goal differential overall. Still, what’s up with the iffy starts? Two penalty kills had an effect on the Kings getting into any sort of a rhythm, but the first 10 minutes of last night’s game were reminiscent of the first 10 minutes of the games at Nashville and Chicago. It is because of Jonathan Bernier’s rebound control and his ability to be the team’s best penalty killer that this game was not 2-0 (or worse) after the first ugly 20 minutes of hockey. Is it possible to have a terrible-but-successful penalty kill? If so, the Kings had two of them in the first 10 minutes.
-The positives: Bernier is playing his best hockey as a King. Jeff Carter doesn’t need to score goals with his lightning-quick release. That ability to redirect the puck between his legs with his back to the net off a seam that only he and Mike Richards saw is another example of the nose-for-the-net inherent in his play and in the game’s true goal scorers. Dwight King has assists in three straight games and has started to find results after Darryl Sutter pooh-poohed any ideas that he’d be removed from the lineup. While the boards work by King and Trevor Lewis set up the game-winner, don’t overlook Anze Kopitar’s light shove of Cory Emmerton into Jonathan Ericsson to create the separation needed to execute that world-class move.