But for a couple of inches, Pheonix Copley would have had a leg save Thursday night to preserve the chance for the LA Kings to win their OT game versus the Penguins. A couple of days passed, and here the LA team was, again facing a squad from Pennsylvania, this time the Flyers. Another game gives us a chance to keep discussing the team and its prospects.
A focus on the goaltending is probably not uncalled for. After all, the press went after Todd McLellan concerning Copley’s play on Thursday night. His response was to say that the team has full confidence in the netminder, citing the fact that he hadn’t played all that much up to that point. McLellan came back Saturday night with Cam Talbot, who came in with a record of 7-2-1, a GAA of 2.03, and a .930 save percentage.
He was not excellent on this night. The first goal was due to a defensive breakdown, but it also squeaked through the keeper’s arm and body. The second goal, scored just shy of midway, was another Talbot miscue. Morgan Frost brought a puck in on the left side, and Talbot slid too far to his right anticipating the shot. It never came. Instead, Frost wheeled around and flung the puck high into the open left side of the net. What would McLellan say now that he has two somewhat failure-prone goalies working for him? He focused on the wraparounds the team has been scored on lately. “It’s three wraparounds in the last four or five, something we’ll have to look at, something we’ll have to talk to the goaltending department about. Sometimes the goaltender is reading something . . . a stick blade, a pump fake, or something like that and that’ll get them out of position.”
Meanwhile, on the other end of the rink, the last (failed) Kings goaltending experiment, Cal Petersen, was keeping the LA team off the board. How infuriating must that have been for the Kings’ brass looking on? Petersen came in with a single game of NHL play this year, in which he let in five goals. Not exactly someone you’re going to regret letting go. He played OK, including turning back 19 of 20 shots in period two (29 total to that point), but the goal he let in was a bit suspect. It went through a defenseman’s legs on the rush and got between Petersen’s blocker and his body. He would eventually win the game 4-2, and McLellan was kind in his assessment, saying, “We lost the game, but those two guys [Petersen and former King Sean Walker] are quality people. . . . I’m happy that Cal had a good night, though not that it was against us. Maybe that will get him on track and get him going. . . . I’m happy for them. I’m happy that they’re having good years, and hopefully it will continue.”
So where was the good news? The Kings’ fourth line continues to produce. The goal described above, by Carl Grundstrom, was his sixth of the season, the 18th scoring point between the three line mates, which also include Blaze Lizotte and Trevor Lewis. McLellan said about that line, “I think that Lizzo’s line is one of our best lines. I think [Grundstrom] gives us everything he has all the time. I think he’s in a perfect spot, and the last thing we want to do is screw around with Grunny. He and Lizzo and [Trevor Lewis] are money. You can count on them night after night to get the job done.”
But the coach’s overall assessment of his team? They were “out-committed. We knew that tonight. I could give you everything I have right now [in that word].” Indeed, despite firing off a lot of shots 37 to Philly’s 26), the Kings rarely got into the opposition end with control, and almost never strongly to the net. McLellan enumerated many strengths seen in the game, all for the Flyers.
The team next plays next Thursday, with Florida in town.
The Philadelphia fans were out at the Kings’ arena, but not so many as for the other night when Pittsburgh was in town.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the PHWA and the author of a handful of hockey books, including Growing Up Hockey.