Waking up with the Kings: November 24
-It’s hard to place Saturday’s 1-0 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the context of just one game. The immediacy of the loss says that the Kings once again struggled to bury the puck, and that they finished with one win in the three-game homestand. The larger picture approach calls into account the nine-game point streak, that the team appropriately received two points out of a pair of games in which they most likely should have gone 1-1-0, and that they were able to claw a point out of a game against a team that entered the night 16-5-0 while fielding a lineup in which five regulars were unavailable due to injury. Ben Scrivens was as good as he has been in any game this season, and if the Kings are able to secure any particular playoff berth by one point, make sure to pour a sip out of your drink in recollection of this game. That the Kings have not only been competitive but have consistently produced points during this injury binge is a testament to the depth of players within the organization able to fill important roles, the preparation younger players have received from the coaching in Manchester, the development system in place, and the construction of the team culture and identity. With that in mind, Los Angeles will face a stiff challenge on this upcoming road trip, as the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks – like the Avalanche – will be unforgiving opponents, and continued astute goaltending by The Professor will be needed for the Kings to come away with points against a pair of heated divisional rivals.
-It’s a small sample size, but is there some strain being placed on the Kings’ top scorers, similar to what occurred during the 2011-12 regular season? Over the last five games, goals have been scored by Justin Williams (two), Anze Kopitar (two), Dwight King (two), Dustin Brown, Tyler Toffoli and Matt Frattin. Of that group, Frattin is the only player not associated with the team’s top two lines, and he’s currently injured. No goals have been scored by defensemen since Slava Voynov’s marker against the New York Islanders. When the secondary scoring experiences a drought, the team’s top players will face a touch of added pressure, and in the long run, such a development can be draining on an offense, as we saw two regular seasons ago. The power play will play an important role on the upcoming road trip, and over the last four games – again, a small sample size – the Kings are 1-for-14 with the man advantage.
-It was interesting to hear from Anze Kopitar last night that “it seems like [the Avalanche] don’t run-and-gun as much as they did.” Colorado was still able to utilize its surplus of team speed effectively – and most importantly – responsibly. It’s not the greatest surprise, as the Avalanche have had built up a wealth of offensive riches; the amazement is in how quickly their defensive game has turned around, which combined with the goaltending they’ve received from Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, makes their 17-5-0 record clearer. Nathan MacKinnon came as advertised, showing speed, balance, and strength on his skates. At one moment in the third period Robyn Regehr – who has been very good this month – made an attempt to hit the 18-year-old to the left of Scrivens and more or less bounced off him. He placed himself in dangerous areas around the net throughout much of the night, and Scrivens’ denial of his sharp redirect of a Ryan O’Reilly pass during a late power play was both the goaltender’s best save of the night and an illustration of how dangerous the rookie is in close proximity to the crease. Once his shooting percentage jumps up from 4.6% – which is an inevitability – he’ll draw even more attention. Patrick Roy for the Jack Adams Award? At this point of the season, he’s the easy choice.