Waking up with the Kings: April 8
-Bookended by a shaky start and an ineffective shootout, the Los Angeles Kings etched out an impressive body of work for the majority of Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. Never playing the part of a weary team on the second night of a back-to-back set, the Kings improved as the game progressed and outshot the Ducks 29-15 from the second period onward. Even after Dustin Brown’s equalizer with 3:45 to play, Los Angeles had opportunities to win the game outright in regulation, and had this been a playoff game, I would have liked the Kings chances to score in overtime. The game had a playoff-style intensity, and the Ducks’ body language around their own net after surrendering the game-tying goal late in the third was similar to that of a team allowing an overtime playoff goal. There seemed to be more at stake than two points – or three points, as was the case last night.
-Drew Doughty was excellent in all zones for Los Angeles by asserting himself well in all situations without falling into a trap of trying to do too much. In his game-high 28:40 of ice time – only Francois Beauchemin was within three minutes of Doughty’s time on ice – he scored an important power play goal and recorded four hits, a pair of which were coarse introductions to Anaheim rookie Emerson Etem. He beautifully orchestrated a simple rush and set the tone in the first shift of the third period when he received a D-to-D pass from Robyn Regehr before starting a give-and-go with Brown. Using his speed to get past the Ducks forwards, he received the pass back from Brown while gaining the zone on a two-on-one with Justin Williams before snapping off a quick shot that Fasth fought off into the left wing corner. If you remember his “one-man breakout” against Phoenix on March 18 in which he carried the puck end-to-end and drew the chagrin of Darryl Sutter, last night’s puck advancement was a much more effective way of working in concert with his teammates and simply generating a quality scoring chance.
-For the second game in a row, the Kings allowed a quality power play too many opportunities to get comfortable, and the Ducks’ fifth-ranked unit scored on its fourth opportunity to take a third period lead. Three of the four power plays Anaheim received came by virtue of an offensive-zone L.A. penalty.
-The Ducks are riding a prospect wave, and for the second straight game in Anaheim I came away impressed by Kyle Palmieri, who opened the scoring with his ninth goal of the season. The 22-year-old has a nose for the net, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the leap towards becoming a 20-to-25 goal scorer next season. He’ll be a restricted free agent this off-season, but considering Etem, Patrick Holland and prospect Sami Vatanen aren’t RFAs until 2015, and the entry level contracts of prospects Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, Max Friberg and goaltender John Gibson don’t expire until 2016, there are a handful of intriguing, inexpensive pieces potentially capable of counterbalancing Ryan Getzlaf’s 8.25 million dollar cap hit and Corey Perry’s 8.625 million dollar cap hits through 2021.