Marginally Exciting

Lots of storylines existed around the Kings and Ducks, playing their first game against each other on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The Kings had two Dmen out to injury. They also had a couple of guys sidelined by Covid protocol. The Kings had their purple and gold retro uniforms on. The game was hyped as the “Freeway Faceoff,” to keep a tradition going. Tough dudes Kurtis MacDermid and Nick DesLauriers were set to fight. Arthur Kaliyev was making his NHL debut for the Kings.  So much could happen in this otherwise-mundane midweek offering!

Lots did happen, starting at the three-second mark, when the two aforementioned bullies threw down right off the opening faceoff.

What didn’t happen, at least early on, was scoring. The teams traded rushes and chances in an entertaining first period in which the only goal came from Danton Heinen at 10:07. The Ducks outshot the Kings 15-4, if nothing else erasing their slow start late last week when they gave up three goals in just over two minutes to set a negative record for their team and a positive one for their opponents, the St. Louis Blues.

Tuesday, the Ducks were coming off a loss of a two-game sweep against those same Blues. In that pair of games, they had been outscored 10-2. The Kings were coming off splits with St. Louis and Minnesota. Each team had eight points, but the Kings had played two less games than had the Ducks.

The Ducks added a goal early in period two, very early—17 seconds gone. It was by David Backes, who scored his first of the year.

Arthur Kaliyev then got into the action. Drew Doughty brought the puck down the right wall, and threw it in front to Michael Amadio. He shoveled a shot to the net and saw it go off Gibson’s leg. From there, it was available for Kaliyev to put in the net on a short rebound. It was less a shot than a scoop, but he was where he needed to be, and it was one game, one goal. Kaliyev was born in Uzbekistan, but has been in the US most of his life, and he played Junior hockey in Hamilton of the OHL before coming to the Kings as a very early second-round draft pick (33rdoverall) in 2019. He tallied eight points in seven games at this year’s World Junior Championship, played around Christmas-New Year’s time in the Edmonton bubble.

After the game, he said, “You never forget one of those moments. A lot of nerves at the start of the game . . .  but I picked up my first goal.” He added later, “Every shift went better as the game went on.”

“I thought there might be a rebound there, and it popped out to me,” he said of the play where he tallied the goal after describing the play  where Doughty took the puck down the wall and threw it to Amadio in front of the net.

The second period ended with the Kings seriously deficient in shots and perhaps as a result, still trailing 2-1. Accumulated shots as the buzzer went were 33-13 in favor of the visiting Ducks.

The third period saw the Kings fail on an early power play, and the Ducks’ Hampus Lindholm jump right into the play out of the box and nearly score. The Kings followed up that failure by  taking a  penalty, in the  form of a two-many-players call, with about three gone in P3.

The Ducks’ Henrique, coming off a game when he was a scratch, hit the post in the best chance of the PP for the Ducks, but nothing more eventuated, and the game wound towards midway still at 2-1 in favor of Anaheim.

The Kings pressed a little bit as the third wound on, but they didn’t have any dangerous chances, and the shots in the frame were 10-10. This despite the obvious goalie pull at about a  minute and a half by the Kings.

Perhaps fittingly, the game ended with one of the early combatants, DesLauriers, scoring into the empty LA let with 46 seconds to go. The shots in the end grossly favored the Ducks, with the clock ending at 43-21 in Anaheim’s favor.

Cal Petersen in the LA net saved forty shots, a career high, but he still took the loss. “They did a good job sustaining zone pressure, won a lot of battles on the boards,” he said of the Ducks. “They made it really difficult in front of the net for us, but again, I think that this was one of those that we thought we could win, but we ended up losing.”

Coach McLellan of the Kings said after, “They were better than us in every aspect of the game.” Pretty short and to the point. He later added a list of the problems, naming “twenty players” and saying the Kings were weaker in every  aspect—faceoffs, forecheck, offensive zone time, and so forth.

He said further that the Kings can’t use Covid or injury as excuses, though four of his experienced players were down for those two reasons. “Get over it. Show up and play” was his answer. He would add close to the end of his comments, “Tonight was nowhere near where we’re supposed to be.”

Was the game meaningful?  Sure, in the sense that you never know what might happen this year. No, if you believe that neither of these teams are going to snag the fourth place from the West in the playoffs, because the top three are crowned and the fourth is Minnesota. But have you checked out the IR list of Colorado lately? Baaaaad news, and they could fall out of it within a week or two, so in that sense, a seven-team West still remains wide open, including for these teams, who put on an entertaining contest.

 

Notes

Brian Kennedy is a member of  the  Professional Hockey Writers Association and a credentialed NHL media member. For the duration of the pandemic, he is reporting from his SoCal home using NHL media materials.