Thursday’s win at Montreal – the LA Kings’ 12th in 73 visits – wasn’t exactly a frameable, pristine performance, but it did reflect a step forward after a recent step back in Winnipeg, and during a span in which the Kings are down four players they expected to open the season with, including two whose numbers will hang from the rafters, style points aren’t as important as the understanding that points are points are points. There were some puck management challenges shortly after puck drop, but an airtight penalty kill and Jack Campbell’s excellence afforded the team a few extra minutes to get their team game together, and an opportunistic Adrian Kempe, who hadn’t scored since February 7, again was the hammer to the Canadiens’ nails in providing the comfort of an early lead. Jaret Anderson-Dolan shook off several hits behind the Montreal net before issuing the puck to an unmarked Michael Amadio in the slot, and the second-year center snapped the puck inside the far post to provide early insurance. Amadio, who worked closely with Matt Price and the team’s Strength and Conditioning department over the off-season and was taken out of his comfort zone to evolve his training regimen, fully bought in and reaped the rewards with a strong preseason in which he showed off some improved first-step quickness. He’s an interesting playmaker who scored 50 goals in his 19-year-old junior season, and if there are opportunities to afford some younger players additional playing time, he’s a prime target to benefit from such an allotment.
But, yeah, Campbell. The team game was better than it was in the other three games this season, and the Kings’ defense did a good job sweeping pucks away from danger and limiting second and third opportunities, but L.A. used a generous helping of Soup to come away with points at the Bell Centre. They’ve now allowed at least 50 5×5 shot attempts in four straight games after never going more than two consecutive games last season, and while results and direction of play aren’t necessarily harbingers of anything over the first three weeks or so of the season, you’d still prefer to be pushing the play instead of having to play to that type of degree in your own zone. But the Kings got their legs going and had a good response to what was anticipated to be a strong Montreal push to begin the third, and when Jeff Carter spun and swatted Jack Muzzin’s deflected feed past Carey Price, it was a representation of the team’s ability to handle the expected push efficiently, even if they were out-shot. The gap in chances wasn’t anywhere near as wide as the gap in shot attempts – Montreal’s a high-shot volume team that likes to test goaltenders from all over the ice – and Natural Stat Trick placed scoring chances at even and high-danger chances favoring Los Angeles by a significant margin. It was a reflection of an encouraging road performance, even if the power play remained a sore spot.
The Kings were poised to begin the year with pretty good balance in their scoring lines, but Brown’s injury threw that out of whack, and the team relied heavily on its top forwards over the first three games of the season. On Thursday, Jeff Carter was moved to right wing, where he skated opposite Anderson-Dolan on Amadio’s line. (Carter also took 11 faceoffs, winning nine.) Carter has experience skating alongside and serving as a strong influence on younger players, and on Thursday, generated a significant portion of Los Angeles’ high-danger opportunities as part of a three-point performance catalyzed by the contributions from his two linemates. “I thought that line was terrific,” Stevens said Friday. “I thought that change was good for us. Gave us some really good energy, but I think the important thing for us right now is we take the good here and we continue to improve our team game, because we know it’s going to need to be really strong as we move along here with the teams we’re playing.”
-Lead photo via David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire