Angels Analysis – Lions & Panthers & McFlurry’s, Oh My!
As Todd McLellan said after the game, last night’s game against the Florida Panthers had a little bit of everything. On and off the ice.
On the ice, we saw the Kings tie the game twice after going ahead, then give up the lead twice after going ahead, and finally win it with just over three minutes left in regulation. We saw what you might call Matthew Tkachuk’s “shenanigans,” with the Kings responding en masse to defend their goaltender in the dying stages, with the game decided after a fight in front, in and somehow up to and all behind the fold. Tkachuk has a hearing with NHL Player Safety today after his stick found its way inside Jonathan Quick’s face mask.
We also saw a critical call in favor of the Kings at the end of the second period, a sequence that turned the game in favor of the home team. The Panthers had a power play goal negated by another interaction between Quick and Tkachuk, as accidental contact was made between Tkachuk’s elbow and Jonathan Quick’s mask, which occurred outside the crease and thus , depending on an official’s interpretation of the rule. As the book states, the call came down to whether the attacking player “made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.”
The determination on the ice was, initially emphatically, that he did not. Florida challenged the play and was unsuccessful after a lengthy review, negating the rest of a power play that probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place with soft attention to Rasmus Kupari. After a stretch of 4-on-4 play, a combination of excellent passing led to the goal. It started with a big outlet pass from Jonathan Quick and worked on the head-up wall game and willingness to take a hit to make a play from Trevor Moore. That led to Anze Kopitar hitting Viktor Arvidsson for a go-ahead goal with a minute to play in the second period. This is, as they say, a 3-2 league (through 40 minutes), and the Kings were on the right side of that scoreline last night.
Off the ice, the Kings pulled off a clever collaboration with Botched, one you’re probably not ready for anymore, with an unmasking of a new-look Bailey The Lion. Not to mention Thousand Oaks native Trevor Moore, who helped ignite the first minute McFlurry of the season, a moment he remembered being on the other side of as a fan years earlier. All on the same night that the Kings skated to another win on home ice against a team expected to compete for the Eastern Conference spot in the Stanley Cup Finals at the end of the season.
The last three home wins have come against Florida, Toronto and Tampa Bay. These three teams, from a betting standpoint, entered the season with the best odds of teams in the Eastern Conference to win a championship. None of the three teams entered Los Angeles in top form, with Tampa Bay going 3-of-6, Toronto 4-of-8 and Florida 4-of-9 entering their games against the Kings. Each team dropped a game after losses at Crypto.com Arena, where the Kings have won three of their last four after a disappointing pair of losses against Vegas and Seattle to start the season.
All of those games have fallen within an aggressive, 14 out of 26 to open the season.
No other team in the NHL has played such an active schedule through the first month of the season. The Kings are tied with San Jose for the league lead in games played, but the Sharks opened a week earlier than the rest of the league by participating in the Global Series against Nashville, with a pair of games in Europe to start the season. St. Louis, who the Kings defeated this week, is already five games behind the Kings and we’re not even a month into the season. While things like the schedule are out of everyone’s control, it has resulted in a nearly month-long streak with a ton of games, sprinkled with league-mandated rest days and very minimal practice time.
“I think it’s 14 games in 26 days, and with eight on the road,” McLellan said. “Everything balances out, but we haven’t had enough training time. There are reasons why teams don’t train. One is four mandatory days that the players have off, based on their CBA agreement, which they deserve, they need time off. Then there’s the journey when we get home at three in the morning, it’s hard to get this group up. We talked to some of them and some went home and still couldn’t sleep. You wake up, your sleep pattern is broken and you get in a car, it was cold the other night, everyone is wide awake and you don’t get into bed until 3:30. So. I try to explain why we haven’t practiced much. Now that said, the schedule is the schedule and we planned for it and tried to improve as much as we can without those skates. We’re adding some things to the skates before the game when we skate.”
The Kings will finally get back to some routine for at least the next few weeks. This week, after today’s day off, it will be back to the more usual routine of alternating practices and games, and it will all come down to here in Los Angeles. Even if the Kings hit the road next week, there should be at least a couple of opportunities to practice if the Kings decide to use that time. Things will even out as we move through the season, but the return to routine is something that should only benefit a team looking to find its way stylistically.
Later today, Insiders, we’ll take a look at what the Kings have been stylistically, even if it’s not exactly what they want to be. They’ve certainly been a higher scoring team and we’ll provide some reactions, reasons and numbers to give us a deeper insight into why that has been and perhaps what’s to come as the season gets underway. Happy Sunday, Insiders!
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