Welcome to 2020, Insiders!
And what a way it was to end 2019. The Kings scored four goals in the first period last night and three goals on the power play, accomplishing both feats for the first time this season. And it all culminated in a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, who had entered last night’s action winners of five of their prior six games before they visited Los Angeles. The Kings controlled the game on special teams, with the three man-advantage tallies, in addition to one while shorthanded, negating one power-play goal against. Forward Adrian Kempe chipped in with a point on both units and his shorthanded goal was a good usage of speed between he and Blake Lizotte, turning around a Flyers man advantage that could have stopped the bleeding in the first period, but instead opened up the wound even further.
What impressed me most about the power play is how all three goals were scored in a different fashion, while still encompassing a similar theme – quicker puck movement. Todd McLellan said that “the best power plays in the league are fast. They don’t always score, but they’re fast.” Adrian Kempe talked about the emphasis on moving pucks more quickly on the man advantage, “we’ve been talking about moving the puck a little bit quicker and I think we showed that tonight. We had a shooting mindset and we got three goals. That was big for us.” Anze Kopitar added that “we’re just trying to be faster and have them be out of position, rather than try to make the perfect play and we can score off of that.”
Goal number one was one-touch passing, from Doughty to Iafallo to Kempe to Kopitar, with the quick puck movement creating space for Kopitar at the right point. The Kings captain used a hard pass to Iafallo for a high redirect that got past Elliott. “The play happened so much quicker, “ McLellan said of that sequence. “You could lay a power play from a week ago over the top of that one, video wise, and you could just see the tempo, or the pace of the power play was much quicker tonight than it’s been when we stall things and let people get set up.” That first power-play goal was the classic puck moves quicker than the skater routine. When the one-touch passes, in different directions, are functioning as they should, it moves the penalty killers out of position and opens up new lanes, which the Kings took advantage of on this particular power play.
Goal number two saw Kopitar use his hands and creativity to draw multiple defenders to himself in the left-hand circle, which freed up a lane and space for Doughty moving in from the right point. Doughty’s shot created a big rebound, which Tyler Toffoli buried on the second try, giving him goals from in tight in consecutive games. Goal number three…a Frk’n rocket. The shot was a thing of beauty, but the time and space that Frk had was created by Michael Amadio winning a battle along the boards and a couple of quick passes from Nikolai Prokhorkin and Sean Walker, which gave Frk the opportunity to do what he has done so many times with Ontario this season from the left-hand circle, simply known at Toyota Arena as Frk’s Office.
As the Kings conclude 2019 and move into 2020, they do so with optimism and as the California team with the most points in the standings, after last night’s victory vaulted them one point ahead of both Anaheim and San Jose. Small victories! After last night’s win, McLellan emphasized that the team knows where the organization is at, but isn’t content to simply remain at status quo. His words after last night’s victory spoke perhaps of cautious optimism, encouraged by the fight through adversity that the Kings displayed on the road and the importance of each and every game when it comes to improving. The homestand continues on Saturday, with practice days to come for the Kings both tomorrow and Friday. Here at LA Kings Insider dot com, we will have an update on each of the Kings prospects currently playing in the World Juniors, with the group stage now concluded and the knockout round beginning tomorrow. Until then, hope everyone had a great New Year’s celebration, is enjoying a relaxing day, and remembered to label their rent checks with 2020 instead of 2019!