Waking up with the Kings: October 14
-After developing their legs during a relatively even first period and weathering a Florida power play to open the second, the Los Angeles Kings didn’t allow much over the final 35 minutes and smothered the Panthers with a heavy forecheck while allowing opposing skilled players minimal amounts of open ice in a workmanlike 3-0 victory that extended the team’s winning streak to three games. Ben Scrivens was called upon to flash his glove and kick out several interesting Florida chances early as he made important stops to keep the game scoreless after one and didn’t face a surplus of dicey situations over the final 35 minutes or so of the game. The Kings spread their minutes around the lineup, with Willie Mitchell clocking in with 23:24 of ice time to lead the team, Anze Kopitar logging 17:50 of ice time – six minutes and 11 seconds less than he logged in Carolina – and the majority of the players fitting in somewhere in that “teen-minute” range. The two players who amassed the fewest minutes – Jordan Nolan with 10:17 and Daniel Carcillo with 11:58 – both contributed multi-point efforts.
-Congratulations to Justin Williams for producing his 500th career National Hockey League point. The goal was the result of having his stick in Brian Campbell’s passing lane while providing pressure during a somewhat broken play in the offensive end. Campbell’s pass deflected off Williams’ stick directly to Anze Kopitar, which set up a gorgeous give-and-go that the two forwards found some open space to capitalize on despite the even numbers in front of Jacob Markstrom. Kopitar deftly threaded the needle between Campbell and a diving Tom Gilbert with a soft backhand after patiently drawing the puck down to the goal line, and Williams snapped the pass past a diving Markstrom.
-Los Angeles’ other two goals were also impressive, with Mike Richards playing keep-away from Campbell, Gilbert and Scott Gomez before finding Daniel Carcillo on a no-look backhanded pass from behind the net that easily qualifies as the prettiest assist of the first six games. Credit Carcillo for sensing the play developing, finding space at the bottom of the right circle, and snapping Richard’s pass off the far post and past Markstrom from a sharp angle. The Kings’ third goal was scored by the Carcillo-Stoll-Nolan line against a line of Kris Versteeg, Scott Gomez and Jonathan Huberdeau and was the result of a quick-strike counter attack. Dmitry Kulikov sent a pass across the neutral zone that certainly could have been handled by Versteeg; instead, Versteeg attempted to play the puck off his skate, and it caromed directly to Matt Greene. Greene’s pass up ice was deflected towards the offensive zone by Daniel Carcillo and into the path of Jarret Stoll. With a nice reach, Stoll whipped a pass in front of Erik Gudbranson to find Nolan, who had beaten Huberdeau, the 2013 Calder Trophy winner, up-ice. I’m not sure if Nolan was necessarily Huberdeau’s man, or if he was helping out defensively after Brian Campbell went for a line change right as Versteeg misplayed the puck, but it was an important goal that put the game out of reach for Florida and came as the result of a quick and efficient transitional attack. Versteeg was unable to play the puck in the offensive zone with 7:40 remaining; by the time the clock read 7:34, Nolan was in the process of snapping Stoll’s pass past Markstrom 150 feet away.
-The win was the result of the Kings’ skaters consistently working as five-man units in concert with each other, and without some of the wider defense-to-forward gaps that had occasionally seeped into some of the preseason and one or two early season games. Considering the Panthers were only able to register six shots on goal in the third period that they entered trailing 2-0 – and really only offered three or four minutes of steady momentum prior to Nolan icing the game with a late goal – the game graded out as a strongly executed display of Kings hockey and revealed that the team appears to be modestly but steadily improving in the early season schedule.