Oh, hey. I guess it’s time to write about last night’s 2-1 Kings win over the Avalanche. Several abbreviated observations from Tuesday’s game:
-The Kings etched out a very strong 10 minutes to open the game, which featured a power play in which they controlled the puck in the offensive zone for nearly the entire time. It segued into a stretch of roughly three and a half minutes in which did not leave Colorado’s end, save for an icing. Los Angeles could’ve opened up the game with an early lead, but former Seattle Thunderbird star and highly touted goaltending prospect Calvin Pickard performed well in defeat, and when the Kings got into a bit of penalty trouble midway through the first period, the Avs used a momentum surge to generate several high-quality looks, though they missed the net on a few opportunities and Peter Budaj made an excellent sliding, left-pad save on Gabriel Landeskog (see below). Los Angeles’ penalty killing sharpness was a factor in the win.
-Still, Colorado claimed the first lead of the game when Anze Kopitar delayed a breakout rather than pass the puck up to a streaking Dwight King, who had gotten past the Avalanche defense. (He may not have had a clear passing lane, and everything always looks so clear upstairs, doesn’t it?) Instead, he dropped the puck back to Drew Doughty, who had his pocket picked by a red hot Mikko Rantanen. After the young Finn scored on a breakaway, Los Angeles responded quickly on an up-tempo play when Drew Doughty and Adrian Kempe exchanged the puck on a swift give-and-go that was representative of the soft touches Kempe used several times in the game (also see: that little touch to Brayden McNabb later in the period). Doughty found Toffoli, who at full bore made a gutsy move towards the front of the net, where he shot off the pass and relied on a little bit of pinball action as the puck deflected off Pickard’s left pad and in right before Toffoli crashed into the net and dislodged it. Toffoli couldn’t put the game out of reach after Dwight King’s excellent forechecking work on Mark Barberio dislodged the puck and created a Grade-A opportunity midway through the third period, but it was still important for him to resume his scoring and for the Kings to win a game in which neither Jeff Carter nor Tanner Pearson found the back of the net.
-Pearson might not have scored, but he made a very good defensive play to steal a puck in his defensive zone before issuing a banked pass up the left wing boards that hit Trevor Lewis in stride, allowing his teammate to tuck the puck between a sliding Pickard and the near post for the game-winner. The goal came against the run of play, one of Colorado’s heavier stretches of pressure of the game.
-Derek Forbort did another good job of using his reach and his skating ability to get out of trouble and calm plays down. In 20:20 of ice time, which included nearly two and a half minutes of work on the penalty kill, he put three shots on net, finished tied for second on the team with five shot attempts, issued four hits and was credited with two blocked shots. Without waxing too poetically, as I may have when asking Darryl whether last night’s game was representative of the strides he has made this season, he’s shown a lot of what the team had tasked him with improving. It’s interesting – I asked Dean Lombardi about Kevin Gravel on Monday, and whether he will be capable of adding that firmness and snarl to his game, as both he and Darryl Sutter had referenced over the weekend as an important and needed addition to his skill set (the team remains very high on Gravel). Lombardi used Forbort as an example of someone whose jam and hardness may have been questioned earlier in his career, but who has addressed his prior shortcomings encouragingly.