Angeles Analysis – Black on Black Friday

Not a bad way to spend a Black Friday, eh?

Wearing their black jerseys on the road in honor of the holiday, the LA Kings defeated the California Seals by a 5-2 final yesterday evening. The Reverse Retros worn by San Jose looked pretty good, but not quite good enough to stop the Kings from snapping a 0-2-1 skid, heading into a four-game homestand.

Most important was the win. The Kings had lost three straight games and all three of those games were winnable. Last night’s game was winnable as well and the Kings played a solid road game and got the two points. That’s what was most important.

Secondly, though, certain situations stood out to me as ones that helped secure those points. After both goals in the first period, the Sharks came back quickly with scoring chances, but in both instances, Jonathan Quick and the Kings defense kept the puck out of the net. Timely saves on bump-up shifts, on which the Kings conceded a momentum-killing goal in each of the aforementioned three losses, were key.

Then there was the goal late in the second period. The Kings played a very good period until that point, with 4-1 feeling more likely than 3-2. It’s obviously a play they’d like to have back, but the goal came inside the final 60 seconds of the second period. Todd McLellan felt that the group was already past it when they came back for the third and Rasmus Kupari restored the two-goal lead shortly thereafter. While you might be inclined to be hard on Sean Durzi for that play, remember that he had two assists and hit a post earlier in the game, commanding an effective power play unit with expert puck movement. That unit hadn’t scored in Durzi’s absence, albeit with limited chances, but Durzi is a huge piece of why that unit ticks. On their second sequence, the puck was snapped around the ice, leading to Phil Danault’s go-ahead goal. Despite the play late in the second, Durzi was excellent when it came to his bread and butter. No harm, no foul?

Lastly, it was nice to see the Kings take advantage of mistakes by the opposition and turn those mistakes into a win. Last night, opposing goaltending gifted the Kings a couple of softies. We saw a couple like that come in Calgary, when the Kings stormed back to make it a one-goal game as the usually outstanding Jacob Markstrom wasn’t at his best. Last night, the Kings got two goals that squeaked through the five hole and made them count towards a victory rather than an almost point. It’s important to seize the moment on plays like that and claim the two points as a result.

Up front, all four lines contributed to the win and at least members of all four lines contributed on the scoresheet. Kevin Fiala had the crisp feed to Viktor Arvidsson that led to the eventual game-winning goal, and Anze Koptiar and Adrian Kempe combined on the empty netter. Kempe was robbed twice, first by an offsides challenge and second by the glove of James Reimer. That play also robbed Mikey Anderson of an assist, after he activated from the point, deked to his forehand to evade a defenseman and slid a perfectly weighted pass through the low-slot to Kempe for what would have been an early goal. Anderson has showcased more of a willingness to activate offensively this season and while it will never be the focal point of his game, it’s an area of growth for the important blueliner.

The second line was the second line and they got the power-play goal late in the first period, as well as Arvidsson’s goal off the rush in the second period. Blake Lizotte had the primary assist on the game-opening goal……and finally, the fourth line. Todd McLellan said they played their best game as a group. Their splits read 16-4, 11-1 and 7-1 in terms of shot attempts, scoring chances and high-danger chances for versus against. Led by Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who led all skaters in each of those categories, the line controlled play on a night when the Kings needed everyone. The reward for JAD was a season-high in time on ice and the fourth multi-point game of his NHL career. Outstanding night for he and his linemates, Arthur Kaliyev and Rasmus Kupari, who all turned in stout performances.

We’ve now passed by Thanksgiving and Black Friday and have reached Small Business Saturday. The Kings entered turkey day in a playoff spot in the Western Conference. As divulged by Steven “Hoover” Dorfman of Bally Sports West, since 2006, just over 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot on Thanksgiving hold on to qualify for the postseason. That was certainly true last year, as 12-of-16 teams in a spot on turkey day were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Kings were one of the outliers, not the mainstays. On Thanksgiving 2021, the Kings were just 8-8-3, sitting behind Anaheim, San Jose and Vegas, all teams they would surpass en route to the playoffs.

The three games heading into San Jose weren’t the finest of the season, but the reaction to a short, three-game skid in November felt a bit much for what it was. The defeats, while inconsistent, were predicated mostly on individual plays, as opposed to larger, structural issues. Now, through 23 games on the season, the Kings sit two points ahead of where they were a season ago, with a .565 winning percentage being a fine place to be in late-November. There are still areas to clean up, with the pursuit of consistency still one the Kings are on, but more than a quarter of the way home, the Kings are in a good spot.

Today we rest, Insiders, though the AHL’s Ontario Reign are set to host the Tucson Roadrunners this evening at 6 PM from Toyota Arena, the first game in a back-to-back set between the two clubs. Tomorrow begins a four-game homestand for the Kings, with the Ottawa Senators in town, followed by Arizona, Seattle and Carolina. Full coverage to follow from morning skate in El Segundo!

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