Several abbreviated thoughts on Los Angeles’ 3-2 loss at Edmonton on Saturday:
-Not hard to figure this one out. When you allow an early goal, fall behind by two and chase the game, the winning probability drops significantly. The Kings conjured up two important strikes to bring themselves back in the game, but both goals came while they were playing catch-up, and they couldn’t find that equalizer despite getting a pretty good grasp of the game in the second period. Credit the Oilers – among the things that Edmonton made enormous strides in last season (and has been somewhat inconsistent for them this season) was their confident and capable checking, and their third period lock-it-down suffocation made it difficult for Los Angeles to get anything going from dangerous areas or on the rush. Late in the game, there were copious numbers of Oilers back to stifle easy and clean entries and to force whatever looks the Kings were able to generate to come from the outside.
-Even though there was some controversy on the handling of a first-minute almost-icing, that’s more of a minute detail. In a broader sense, there just wasn’t the same level of urgency or intensity brought to the start of the game as there had been in earlier games on the road trip, namely in Minnesota and Colorado. And while Thursday’s game against the Avalanche featured a showcase of players drawing significant consideration for the Hart Trophy, Saturday’s game did as well, and the Kings had no real answer for Connor McDavid – a league-wide symptom not confined to L.A. – who was easily the most dangerous player on the ice and a supplier of two goals and a number of dangerous chances. His first goal came shortly after a clean and dangerous Edmonton zone entry, suggesting that Los Angeles was a touch spread out in its five-man checking efforts. The second was the result of a turnover at the Oilers’ blue line with McDavid on the ice, and you can imagine where it goes from here. (He fixes the cable.)
-Good road trip by Derek Forbort, who continued to grow into a more refined and chiseled out role with a nice string of four games. He was victimized on McDavid’s second goal, but that’s what the superstars do: they make players well beyond Forbort’s pay grade look silly. At the opposite end of the ice, he assertively used his skating to jump into the cycle and confidently served as an option down low. He’s not as much of a dangerous threat with the puck on his stick just inside the blue line, but is still able to use his advanced skating effectively in all three zones not as a clear play-driver or showstopper but as an effective play-calmer in his own end as a number four or five. Of course, this also comes amidst the context of the gauzed-up ear and ice bagged-body that defined his efforts on the earlier stops on the trip. He may have gained the Kings a point singlehandedly on this trip.
-Lead photo via Andy Devlin/NHLI