Several abbreviated notes from the Kings’ 5-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday afternoon:
-A 6-0 homestand? Sure, a 6-0 homestand. The Kings made history on Sunday by finishing what represented an important two-week stretch in which they racked up standings points if not style points. I’m getting the sense that Darryl Sutter is still looking for individuals to refine their performances, because he gave a lukewarm appraisal of Sunday’s game. On the surface, the win over the Blue Jackets held water: the Kings outnumbered the visitors 57 to 47 in total shot attempts, utilized an effective forecheck that seemed to disrupt Columbus’ zone exits for stretches, and limited their opponents to just three power plays. On the other hand, there’s not a ton going for the team offensively outside of Pearson-Carter-Toffoli, a combination that combined for four goals, 10 points and a plus-seven rating in the three-goal win over a team that should be expected to return to the playoffs (though is currently battling injury issues).
-Tyler Toffoli’s lob to Tanner Pearson was reminiscent of the Anze Kopitar rainbow pass to Dustin Brown from a 4-0 win at San Jose in the 2010-11 season. Pearson used his wheels to outmaneuver James Wisniewski to the puck, and once he had leverage, he ripped a tremendous wristshot that beat Sergei Bobvrovsky glove-side, just under the crossbar. Along with Toffoli’s dangles and shorthanded goal against Edmonton, it was the offensive highlight of the early season. There’s the obvious chemistry between Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, but this Pearson-Toffoli chemistry – already established in Manchester but perhaps catalyzed by Jeff Carter – has been among the most impressive developments of the early season.
-Also among the most impressive developments has been Jonathan Quick’s pristine run of form through eight games. Since the season opener nearly three weeks ago he has been as good as any goaltender in the league, stopping 165 of the last 169 shots he has faced for a blistering .976 save percentage. He was never concerned with any adjustment time after off-season wrist surgery; he deemed himself ready to go from his limited action late in the preseason. That he has played to the level he has following a short, rehabilitation-affected off-season and preseason is remarkable.
-On the road again. The Kings have played just one road game this season, the lowest total in the league. Away from the cushier confines of the Toyota Sports Center and Staples Center, it will be interesting to see how the Kings will fare having dealt with injury and personnel challenges and as a targeted opponent in less familiar surroundings. The character of this team will be tested over the coming week and a half; this team has consistently graded well beyond expectations when any character tests have arisen in the past. But make no mistake – difficult games lie ahead, beginning with Tuesday’s bout in Philly.