Waking up with the Kings: March 26
Several abbreviated thoughts on the Kings’ 5-4 win at Chicago last night:
-It was fitting that Dustin Brown scored the Kings’ game-winner. Though the third and fourth lines deservedly received recognition, Brown finished tied with a game-high with five shots and led all skaters with six hits in addition to his goal and plus-two rating. He followed his shot well after his original attempt hit Johnny Oduya in the back, allowing him to score into a mostly open net for the team’s fifth goal.
-Neither team was particularly polished in its own zone last night, and neither goaltender was sharp. Though there have been rumors of the Kings adding a high-profile forward, the holes left by two stalwart defensive L.A. veterans were felt as Chicago’s forwards swarmed the low slot and the crease and generated a variety of quality scoring chances from in tight. Keaton Ellerby has shown improvement this month, Drew Doughty as a whole has trended sharply upwards in his own zone since the middle of last year, and Rob Scuderi produced a gritty defensive performance – especially on the penalty kill. Still, with Alec Martinez seeing only 9:31 of ice time and Jake Muzzin enduring some learning moments in his 22:32 on the ice, the balance of playing without Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell did seem a bit uneven.
-After the lines changed throughout the game, I’m interested to see the pairings at practice in St. Louis on Wednesday. Will Jeff Carter playing alongside Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar endure through Thursday’s game? It’s really difficult to call – though the team scored five times, the third and fourth lines did much of the heavy lifting and the only King to enjoy a multi-point night was Kopitar.
-Tyler Toffoli scored on his only shot and now has two goals on six shots over four National Hockey League games. He was on the bench for certain stretches and didn’t finish with any secondary statistics such as hits or blocks, but the natural goal scoring he’s able to provide can’t be overlooked.
-The Kings produced a signature penalty killing performance reminiscent of their shorthanded success from a year ago. Killing off the double-minor assessed to Mike Richards in the first period and keeping the game a one-goal affair was a critical element of the victory, and Jarret Stoll’s shorthanded short-side top-shelf wrister represented the type of opportunistic goal needed to defeat a team like Chicago in its own building.