Don’t let Edmonton’s record fool you. This isn’t the Edmonton that we’re used to since their epic run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. That was the last time the Oilers were in the playoffs, but this team has some new energy. They look like they’re a few pieces away from being a solid threat. Most of this is thanks to the draft where they’ve acquired guys like Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi.
I’m saying this because it would be easy to think that the Kings should have cake-walked to a victory last night, but it was a hard fought battle and an earned win.
The Kings got important performances from several key players. It’s these types of performances the Kings will need down the stretch in order to make the playoffs.
Ryan Smyth did what he does best last night; screen the goaltender and tip pucks in. With all of the talk this season being about the lack of a top-line left-wing, Smyth has quietly put up 21 goals in 52 games. That’s a 33 goal pace. The second line has been so potent this season that Smyth and Williams have 39 goals combined compared to the first line of Kopitar and Brown’s 33. The Kings will need consistent offensive production from Kopitar, Brown, Williams, Smyth, and Stoll if they plan on making the playoffs. UPDATE: According to Puck Daddy, Smyth claims he didn’t touch either puck, so they might end up as Doughty’s goals. Regardless, the screens are key.
Kopitar in particular needs to be the type of guy that shows up when his team needs him most. The skill he has, the money he’s paid, and the title he holds as an “All-Star” points to him as the go-to guy.
Jonathan Quick also played a very strong game. Quick allowed just one goal in the contest, which was one more allowed than his counterpart Jonathan Bernier the previous night. However, Bernier’s first NHL shutout ended up a shootout loss to the Wild. The Kings have been a very strong defensive team all season and despite their lower rank in the standings, many Kings players host a healthy, positive plus/minus rating.
It has to be a two-way street though. The Kings will need stellar goaltending to make the playoffs due to their scant goal production, but the goaltenders will need more goal support than they got in Minnesota to put W’s on the board. Just 1 goal would have won that game.
Guys who contribute at both ends were hot last night as well. Drew Doughty had the primary assist on both of Smyth’s tip in goals. Shots from the point and tips in front are huge for the Kings game and Doughty did well getting the puck to the net. Doughty was on a tear last night and was maybe a bit lucky not to take a penalty. After taking what looked like a high-stick to the chops from Taylor Hall, perhaps revenge for Doughty’s massive hip check in their previous contest, Doughty shot off at the mouth. Later, Doughty targeted Hall and harassed him all night. The competitive fire is appreciated, but Doughty will need to stay disciplined in order to help the team.
Jack Johnson had a great night with a goal and two assists. His breakout season continues as he has already matched his career high in points from last season, 36, in 28 less games.
The road trip from hell continues on Saturday when the Kings face-off against the Calgary Flames. The Kings have 8 games remaining in their 10 game road-trip and won’t play at Staples Center again until Thursday, February 24th.
Maybe the road is just what the Kings need to cement themselves as a team and rattle off some big wins…
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney