Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings squirts water on his face

Trying to Become a Good Team

Down the Freeway went the Kings on Friday night to  play the Anaheim Ducks. The  Kings came in riding a  three-game win streak, the  Ducks with two wins against Divisional opponents. Each would use their old hand pro goalie—John Gibson and Jonathan Quick.This  would be the second meeting of the year. The prior one, in November, had the Ducks win it 5-4 in a shootout.

The Ducks were getting scoring from their depth guys, and a rejuvenated Adam Henrique had 3-1-4 points in the last three games and would play a  feisty game in  front of the net on a line with  Trevor Zegras.

The Kings had some feisty players of their own, including Brendan Lemieux, whose line was seen mixing it up with the much tougher Ducks’ fourth trio (Deslauriers, Grant, and Carrick). And they didn’t stop. After a poke on Jonathan Quick in the second period, DeLo and Lemieux kept jawing and talking, and kept talking and jawing, for a while—long enough to get to the benches and have time to stand around discussing potential future fisticuffs.

The game, meanwhile, had been opened 1-0 for LA in the first period. The goal came from Carl Grundstrom, but it  was set up  by a lovely play by Quinton Byfield, who went to the wall and fought off  a check before delivering a pinpoint pass to the front of the net. It was his first assist of the year, to go with one goal. Grundstrom had been scratched for eight games, but he and Byfield have had success before. Putting these guys together got the third line going, clearly.

The LA team went up by two when Kopitar made a pass out from behind the net to Kempe, who potted his team-leading 24thgoal of the  year on a one-knee one-timer. At the time, Kopitar led the team in points with 48 on 14 goals.

The second period saw Kopitar gain another goal, on the power play, with Zegras in the box for goaltender interference. This made it 3-0. It was their second goaiie interference penalty. Part of the earlier mentioned fluff-up with  Lemieux was due to aggressive play  by the Ducks in Quick’s crease. The goalie spent a considerable time making his case to the referees that he was being treated unkindly. Zegras, though he was waving off the penalty as he looked at it on the scoreboard while sitting on the penalty box bench, was in the wrong, as he cruised too close to Quick and then fell directly over him.

Kempe wasn’t done. He had his fourth multi-goal game when he scored on a long wrist shot after skating along the blue line with the puck in the Ducks’ zone. The player closest to him might have screened, but it was not the most dangerous-looking shot. More of a flick while skating to the top of the right circle. Shortly after, during the TV timeout, the Ducks switched to goalie Anthony Stolarz.

The third period saw the Ducks come  alive, mostly controlling the  puck for at least the first half. Troy Terry  got his 27th  goal of the season to make it 4-1 for LA early in  the going by powering down the slot while  threading himself between defenders. He  rifled a wrister to beat Quick, so no shutout. Reportedly, Ryan Getzlaf had had words for the team between the second and third frames.

Ducks’ defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said after, “We played great in the third period. We played our game. I’m sure a little bit of that is them holding back, and sitting on their lead, but at the same time, it’s a message to us to be consistent. I think that’s the hardest thing to do in this league is to play consistently, as individuals and as a team, but the good teams do it, and that’s what we’re trying to become.”

The Ducks couldn’t build  on  that goal, and ended the night in the same 4-1 hole. The win vaulted the Kings into second place in the Pacific, ahead of Las Vegas.

So what was the significance of the win, and how much does one read into it?

You can go with the head-to-head argument, saying that the better team was clearly LA and that this portends well for their playoff hopes. The opposite of that, of course, is to say that the  Ducks haven’t quite solidified their game yet. They slumped a month ago, and put together two wins as noted, but it has to be longer, sustained pressure to outpace other hungry teams.

 

Notes

Coach McLellan of the Kings was out with Covid protocol issues.  Trent Yawney got the recorded win.

The win by Quick was  his  350th. He’ll soon play  his 700thgame. After the game, Anze Kopitar  commented, “I don’t think I have  to say too much [about this excellence]. We’re all used to what Quickie does. Sometimes we get complacent with it because he’s so good back there. He’s a huge part of this  team, has been, and will  be  going forward.”

The Kings now play the Isles and Boston at home to end February, then head on the road to begin March.

The Ducks next take on the Islanders Sunday as they continue their homestand. They don’t play away from home next until March 8th.