The LA Kings didn’t overburden themselves in Monday’s 3-0 loss to Arizona, a game in which they were unable to match Arizona’s pace and early focus and couldn’t regularly will the puck into the heart of one of the league’s stingiest team defenses. I recall the first time I covered a game in Nashville, another 3-0 loss in the prime of Barry Trotz’s success with the club. I had lunch with a colleague the following day who shared that the Predators “sure have a way of making you feel lousy about your game.” It was a similar game on Monday. The Kings generated a pair of breakaways and some B-chances after picking up their legs upon falling behind 2-0, but by then, the Coyotes had set their boat on cruise control and the race, barring Arizona managing the game like a grenade, showed no signs of a reversal. The forecheck eventually forged some offensive zone time, but with so many one-on-three and two-on-four forays into the zone, Los Angeles was challenged to make plays and carry the puck into more dangerous ice against a stout defensive team. There were a few brief dynamic interludes – Drew Doughty hit Austin Wagner with a perfect, three-zone homerun pass through the eye of a needle, but his Nolan Ryan fastball deflected off Wagner’s blade into the offensive zone – and some lightning-quick puck advancements in the third period, but the Kings couldn’t take advantage of opportunities to climb back into the game with consecutive second period power plays. The score line was accurate: Tres a cero es tres a cero.
Some strong individual performances. Mostly by Arizona. Christian Dvorak was effective both in providing offense and as a nuisance, and his play to lift Sean Walker’s stick before whipping the puck behind him to Conor Garland opened the scoring after a free-flowing 3:12 to start the game. He could’ve tacked on a third point, but Jack Campbell made an excellent save by coming out to challenge his high-grade look from the slot late in the second period. Alex Iafallo has been very good as of late, and though Monday’s game ended his four-game point streak, his work, motor and competition on pucks were excellent, even by his standards. The past week has been a prime demonstration of his usefulness alongside Anze Kopitar, who enjoys having the puck-plucking forward to his left. It also allows a team without a great deal of offensive punch to spread out some of the options relied upon to provide scoring. On the other hand, Los Angeles is still not getting consistently good performances from centers who play below Kopitar, putting a bit of a cap on the wingers who play alongside them. A lot has been asked of Michael Amadio and Blake Lizotte this season, and they’ll continue to be given every opportunity to sand off the edges in their multi-dimensional games as they look to build that consistency. There are some very intriguing options at the AHL level and currently playing major junior and NCAA hockey, and surely L.A. will be patient with Gabe Vilardi and will ultimately roll out the welcome mat for Alex Turcotte. But the familiar acknowledgement that they lack a true, second line center in the here-and-now still definitely applies.
::chef kisses lips:: Good work, Coyotes game operations. The Taylor Swift banner is funny, it’s contemporary, it makes fun of a divisional rival with whom they’ve shared some history. After enough time, the team has experienced the “Beat LA” chants (there were some of those on Monday), watched the South Park imitations and what-have-you in Anaheim and a montage of King Joffrey getting slapped in Dallas. This was a good prop, it remained directly adjacent to the bench all game and created the type of digital buzz mascots and marketing teams seek out. It will also probably be the only thing we remember from this game some
two years two weeks from now.