It’s such a broken record at this point, but if you’re going to find a game that’s the appropriate archetype of the 2017 portion of the Kings’ 2016-17 season, it’s Tuesday’s game in Edmonton. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Los Angeles played a really solid road game against a quality opponent but was felled by ludicrous deflections and failed to score more than one goal. It’s becoming hard (or at least gratuitously repetitive) to articulate at this point. The Kings didn’t necessarily “deserve” to win this game – it was an even game, and let’s face it, their third period, prior to the last gasp push for offense, failed to generate consistent looks against an opponent whose structure has improved greatly this season – and what does “deserving” have to do with anything? In baseball, there are hits known as “duck farts,” or, for a more reusable colloquialism, “dying quails.” After Paul LaDue stepped up to make a hit in an attempt to keep the puck in the attacking zone and Derek Forbort didn’t receive any support, Connor McDavid led a two-on-one – “You can imagine where it goes from there,” as Maude Lebowski says – and his attempted pass ramped off of Forbort’s stick and into the upper reaches of the net. You know a bounce is fortunate when it nearly goes bar-down. In the second period, the game-winner was provided by Eric Gryba when his net-bound wrister deflected off multiple bodies and bounced past Jonathan Quick. To the Oilers’ credit, a should-be Zack Kassian goal was taken off the scoreboard early in the third period, and again, Edmonton owned large stretches of the third despite Jeff Carter’s shorthanded chance, but this game was yet another toss-up in which Los Angeles received neither the scoring necessary to win a game, nor the fortunate bounces that the home team benefited from.
It’s also worth noting that eight days after the Oilers found success by getting pucks and bodies to converge at the front of the net, that they benefited from bounces in a game in which they had a goal disallowed early because of goaltender interference and spurred a Quick exchange with David Desharnais as well as the officials after the Edmonton forward brushed the Los Angeles goalie during a fly-by on a rush. The Oilers have benefited from enhanced structure and one of the two greatest players on the planet but have also done an admirable job of adding size and a net-front presence over the last year. Desharnais is not the embodiment of that size, but Patrick Maroon was a terrific addition to a team that needed his build and hands around the net. The Kings have been a team that will shoot from just about anywhere and vie for deflections and second and third opportunities around the net – the way most goals are scored – but that fortune hasn’t been there consistently this season.
It’s too late in the season to write an opera about it, but the Brown-Kempe-Brodzinski line had a number of really good looks, and the wings finished well in the black, possession-wise. Dustin Brown showed a consistent ability to lower a shoulder and make drives to the front of the net, and Adrian Kempe had one of the team’s best looks when he slipped past the defense in the second period before his wristshot from close range was fought off by Cam Talbot, who combined with Quick to produce an entertaining goaltending battle.