The (Kings’) Kids Are All Right

by | Mar 8, 2024

The (Kings’) Kids Are All Right

by | Mar 8, 2024

Los  Angeles, CA–The LA Kings are hurting, which is to say, they have some key players on IR. Primary amongst those were day-to-day Adrian Kempe and Mikey Anderson on Thursday night, with Ottawa having made their way up the freeway from a game in Anaheim the night before.

The hurt comes in the lack of offense. LA has scored just 189 goals going into Thursday, a total that puts them in the bottom third of the NHL in that category. Kempe has 19 of them. Respectable, if not up to his pace of a goal every two games set last year. But to lose ten percent of your scoring is not to be taken lightly. Is more offense coming in the form of a trade?

Not to be counted upon. LA has Kevin Fiala, who was supposed to fill the role of goal scorer. They have PL Dubois, ditto re the role. And now, they have a fully emerged Quinton Byfield, who produces almost every night. That doesn’t always have to be goals and assists, but tenacity at hunting down pucks, smash-em-up board play, cruising all over the ice confidence.

And timing. Thursday night, the Sens nearly put a puck in, a wonky wobbler off a pass from Claude Giroux to Tim Stützle. Goaltender Cam Talbot, the entire net empty, came across from right to left with his glove outstretched and snagged it, being careful as he did so not to violate the invisible goal line mid-way high in the net. Fantastic.

On the ensuing play, Byfield grabbed a puck and headed up ice with it, fighting off four or five stick checks to tip it up and over goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who was on one knee. It was a lovely goal, but more important, it was a timely one. Now, all together, the crowd was fired up. The building was not full, thanks to a series of flash rainstorms that had come up through the afternoon. (You think they can’t drive in snow where you live? People out here go crazy in a rainstorm.) But for the moment, they were of one voice, and it was almost like Byfield had timed his goal on purpose.

That a goal for Ottawa followed right on and destroyed the moment wasn’t his fault. After the game, Coach Jim Hiller commented on his young star’s timing: “He’s just a young player, and he wasn’t scoring those types of goals in the last couple of seasons. People got frustrated with him. I didn’t see that at all. A guy who’s got tremendous physical ability, working on his game; he’s going to get better… we’re going to see more of that.”

Another young player stepped up to keep the Kings afloat in the form of defenseman Jacob Moverare getting his first career goal. It wasn’t pretty—it hit a leg or stick and went up over the goalie, but at the time it was headed toward being the game winner, a 3-2 score. Ottawa tied the game up late, though, and forced overtime.

Still, it was a thrill for the young defenseman, with now 32 games of experience, to get his first goal. “I honestly thought that Lizzo [Blake Lizotte] tipped it at first, but they said I scored. It was huge to get the boys the lead, so it was really nice.”

“They’re a great group here, on this team, so all the guys are awesome, so it’s really  nice to get that reception [their happiness for him] from all of them,” Moverare summarized.

Earlier, Lizotte, who played in his 300th NHL game this night, was as effusive in his enthusiasm as the goal-scorer was, saying, “If you ask anyone in this room, he’s one of the best people in the LA Kings organization. . . . I think everyone was even more happy  than he was to see him score that goal.”

The Kings were playing with eleven forwards and seven D, and the lines were all over the place, with a preference for the top nine and then the top six, as Hiller explained: “We were having a hard time as a team getting our legs under us, and getting some rhythm. . . . We got down to our nine guys. You’ll notice that Ottawa tonight, they played their top two lines a lot, probably  more than we’ve seen another team do, so we’re trying to mix and match a bit. . . .  In the end, someone’s a casualty.”

That person, who didn’t play in the third period, was Arthur Kaliyev. He’s been on the outs in LA for a while. Is he someone who could move, or might as well do so, for all the time he’s getting on the LA bench, literally.

Notably, a few players toiled along with Kopitar and Byfield on the top line, namely Fiala and Lizotte, but also Alex Turcotte, who for whatever reason became a bystander for the late second period into and through the third. Byfield had nearly 23 minutes and Fiala nearly 20. Kaliyev trailed the team with just about five minutes on the ice.

The Kings ended up  winning in OT on a hard-work goal by Fiala, his 20th of the year.

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