There’s no satisfaction in losing, nor is there any shame in recognizing Saturday’s game as one in which the LA Kings put together one of their best pace-based 50-to-60 minutes of hockey in a narrow 2-0 loss to one of the league’s most noteworthy speed and pace-based teams. “That team is viewed as one of the quickest teams in the league, and again, you almost have to define what speed is,” Todd McLellan said after Sunday’s brief practice. “It’s obviously skating, but it’s puck movement, it’s the ability to close, to forecheck, to make a play out of a scrum, to get back and reload and defend. Carolina’s known for that. Their shot differential, for-and-against is really high. And we played with them basically from minute one on.” He did acknowledge a sour taste over the inability to collect points while also weighing the importance of “the input into the game,” similar to Darryl’s “It’s not always whether you win or lose, it’s whether you’re winning or losing.” Saturday’s result was the effect of two teams executing their game plan well. “We’ve played poorer games and won,” McLellan added.
Adrian Kempe has added important bulk and muscle that wasn’t there before and has certainly nurtured a bit more power to his game. Whether his resurgence has been due to the work he put in, general maturation and familiarity with the league, the switch to wing, or something more cerebral or intangible, he’s been consistent recently – and that’s not something that was said about him earlier in his career. Pay little attention to his lack of finishing Saturday. He’s been getting regular chances over the past two months and has shown an aptitude to get to difficult areas of the ice and make an impact. His added strength has allowed him to get underneath the opposition as he drives to the net and positions himself to make plays on pucks, perhaps a reflection of the added freedom associated with his new position. This is an important development for Los Angeles, but those wheels have to stay in motion. Along with Michael Amadio, he’s one of two Kings born after 1993 with more than five goals to his name this season, so his enhanced play serves as an important bridge between the establishment in Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty and the youth movement that will incorporate the growing stock of noteworthy L.A. prospects.
The road doesn’t get easier, though it does get friendlier. This is the Dads Trip, a biennial roadie that this year will swing through Tampa and South Florida. It’ll be a great time for the dads to reconnect, just as it was in Dallas and Nashville in 2017-18, New York in 2015-16, San Jose and Vancouver in 2013-14 and Chicago and Winnipeg in 2011-12. (Winnipeg?!) It’s a well-deserved shot of love and warmth for a group of players who again drew Todd McLellan’s praise on Sunday for buying in and avoiding deviation. “Guys keep giving us everything they have,” he said Sunday. No season is easy; those in which teams consistently play pretty well without reward are particularly grating. This is well-timed on the longest business trip of the year, providing a friendly reset in advance of the hiatus in one week. There’ll be some great stories along the way that we’ll share on LAKings.com, LA Kings Insider and FOX Sports West, so keep your clickin’ fingers ready.