Several abbreviated thoughts on Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers:
-Darcy Kuemper kept the Kings in the game for the first period when the Panthers jumped out to a hot start and generated consistent pressure. His stops on Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov with Los Angeles leading 1-0 were both game-preserving stops; the Dadonov rebound denial was Florida’s best opportunity of the game. The Panthers outchanced the Kings 7-4 in the opening frame, and Kuemper’s play ensured that the visitors did not put a two on the scoreboard over the opening 20 minutes. Still, it didn’t really ever feel as though the Panthers had any firm control of the game. Though Florida generated chances early, it still seemed as though Los Angeles had a good feel and hold on the game, and as it progressed, they were able to find better footing that transferred into actual production.
-The Jonny Brodzinski goal represented an impressive individual effort – assisted by traffic in front of the net that helped the seas part as he strode down the center of the ice – but by and large, the Kings relied on excellent team play for their offense in which all players on the ice worked as effective five-man units. On the opening goal, Alex Iafallo drew a delayed penalty on Aaron Ekblad, and as the puck skittered along the ice behind James Reimer, Dustin Brown impressively tied up Keith Yandle’s stick and protected the puck well in the left corner before dropping it off to an alert Drew Doughty. He immediately surveyed the ice and found Tyler Toffoli, the extra attacker, drawing a straight line from the bench to the front of the net for an unchecked tap-in. On the third goal, Andy Andreoff won several battles behind the net to sustain zone time before the puck was worked to the right wing hash marks, where Adrian Kempe’s strong boards battle kept the play alive long enough for Toffoli to create a Jonathan Huberdeau turnover as the high forward on the forecheck. After his strong stick work that removed the puck from Huberdeau, he quickly found Andreoff in front of the net for a one-on-one chance with Reimer,
which he snapped inside the post, stick-side and beat him between the legs.
-That, minus the goal scoring, is Andreoff playing a role he’s paid to play. The scoring is an added bonus, but he’s expected to be strong along the boards, clear space for his linemates, forecheck, step in for occasional faceoffs and add an energetic, physical spark. There may be some rogue lapses, but he’s adhered to that role to a greater degree than several players on the team this season have adhered to theirs. Those calling to attention his offensive output would be wiser to refer to the analytics that the team places value in, the primary metric being the number of (and rates of) chances created off his forechecking. On Saturday, that directly led to a goal that he scored.
-It resulted in the ideal script for the first night of a back-to-back set against a non-divisional opponent. The Kings received good depth scoring. It would be a major boon for the team if Jonny Brodzinski’s added confidence and elevated play resulted in him becoming a lineup mainstay. They were able to roll four lines in a fast game with limited special teams time, creating a compressed range in minutes with Nic Dowd (9:22) and Drew Doughty (22:05) logging the highly balanced low and high usage. They were also able to give Jonathan Quick an extra day of rest as Kuemper earned the first star with a terrific 24-save performance. The circumstances surrounding the win presented a best-case-type opportunity heading into a match-up with the Vegas Golden Knights between the Pacific Division’s first and second place teams (!) on Sunday.
-Lead photo via Aaron Poole/NHLI