Waking up with the Kings: December 15
-The Kings’ 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon was the culmination of Los Angeles handily winning the goaltending battle and putting together a flawless special teams effort while relying on a dominant performance from its top line. During five-on-five play with Robin Lehner in net for Ottawa, the play was very even, perhaps even tilted to the Kings’ net when Dwight King, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter weren’t on the ice – which is perhaps natural for a game that reached a three-goal divide less than 13 minutes in. Los Angeles was gifted a goal 21 second into the game when King snapped a wristshot from the outside perimeter of the left circle towards the Senators’ net that deflected in off Craig Anderson, who was hardly set to face the shot. Ottawa was counting on Anderson, who did not receive a decision in the game but experienced a rise in his career goals against average against Los Angeles to 3.80 and a drop in his save percentage to .863, to stop a routine wristshot on the game’s first shot, especially when facing a streaking team like the Kings.
-He didn’t earn one of the game’s three stars, but Jeff Carter was outstanding in Saturday’s win and once again – as part of a recurring theme on WUWTK – showed that he is Much More Than A Goal Scorer. He started the sequence that put Los Angeles up 3-0 by getting in on the forecheck and denying Cody Ceci, who was playing in his second NHL game, any time to make a play to clear the zone. He deflected the puck away from Ceci as Kopitar also hounded the Ottawa defense, creating a turnover that led to Kopitar snapping the puck past Lehner. Even on Erik Karlsson’s tally – perhaps a forgettable goal that deflected off Martin Jones and into the net – he lifted up Bobby Ryan’s stick to deny the Senators’ top sniper an opportunity unleash a wristshot from point blank range. It almost seems silly to elevate one player over the line last night considering how dominant King, Kopitar and Carter were, but this was among Carter’s best games since returning from injured reserve.
-Though the team has risen to the top of the NHL ranks defensively, the Kings have experienced an offensive spike during their six game winning streak. The only game during the streak in which they did not score three goals was the Anaheim game, and in that performance they threw 103 pucks towards the net – 51 of which were on goal – and emerged as 3-2 winners in a shootout. Again, this is a reflection of the law of averages balancing out the team’s shooting percentage; Los Angeles has now scored 17 times on their last 103 shots. The uptick in their scoring rate, combined with the outstanding goaltending and the traditionally strong penalty killing has allowed the Kings to win games consistently even when the five-on-five play has been mostly even – or even favoring the opponent during some stretches – as it did in the games against Toronto, the New York Islanders, and perhaps Ottawa as well.