As Todd McLellan put it after the game, last night’s game against the Florida Panthers carried a little bit of everything. On and off the ice.
On the ice, we saw the Kings tie the game twice after trailing, then relinquish the lead twice after pulling ahead, before finally winning it with just over three minutes to play in regulation. We saw what you might call “antics” from Matthew Tkachuk, with the Kings responding in mass to defend their goaltender in the dying stages, with the game decided after a scramble in front of, inside of and somehow even behind the crease. Tkachuk has a hearing with NHL Player Safety today after his stick found the way inside the facemask of Jonathan Quick.
We also saw a critical call go in favor of the Kings late in the second period, a sequence that changed the game in favor of the hosts. The Panthers had a power-play goal negated by another interaction between Quick and Tkachuk, as incidental contact was made between Tkachuk’s elbow and Jonathan Quick’s mask, occurring outside of the crease and therefore dependent on an official’s interpretation of the rule. As the book states, the call came down to whether or not 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 following a lengthy review, negating the rest of a power play that probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place with a soft holding call on Rasmus Kupari. After a stretch of 4-on-4 play, a combination of excellent led passes to the goal. It started with a great outlet pass from Jonathan Quick and worked into heads-up wall play and a willingness to take a hit to make a play from Trevor Moore. That sprung Anze Kopitar to hit Viktor Arvidsson for a momentum-swinging goal inside a minute to play in the second period. It is, as they say, a 3-2 (through 40 minutes) league, and the Kings were on the right side of that scoreline last night.
Off the ice, the Kings ran a clever collaboration with Botched – one that you’re all probably ready to no longer hear about – with an unmasking of a new looking Bailey The Lion. Not to mention Thousand Oaks Native Trevor Moore helping to ignite the first McFlurry Minute of the season, a moment he recalled being on the other side of as a fan years earlier. All on the same night as the Kings skated to another victory on home ice over a team expected to compete for the Eastern Conference’s place in the Stanley Cup Final at the end of the season.
The last three wins at home ice have come over Florida, Toronto and Tampa Bay. Those three teams, from a betting perspective, 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 having won 3 of 6, Toronto with 4 of 8 and Florida with 4 from 9 coming into their games against the Kings. Each team dipped a game lower following defeats at Crypto.com Arena, where the Kings have won three of their last four following a disappointing pair of defeats against Vegas and Seattle to begin the season.
All of those games have fallen within an aggressive, 14-in-26 to open the season.
No other team in the NHL has played such an active schedule in 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 participating in the Global Series against Nashville, with a pair of games in Europe to begin the season. st. Louis, which the Kings defeated this week, is already five games played behind the Kings and we’re not even a month into the season. Though things such as the schedule are outside of everyone’s control, it’s resulted in a run of nearly a month with a ton of games, sprinkled with league-mandated off days around it and very minimal practice time.
“I think it’s 14 games in 26 days, and with eight on the road,” McLellan said. “It all evens out, but we have not had enough practice time. There are reasons why teams don’t practice. 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 travel when we get home at three o’clock in the morning, it’s difficult to get that group up. We talked to some of them and some of them went home and still couldn’t sleep. You wake up, your sleep pattern is broken and you jumped in a car, it was cold the other night, everybody’s wide awake and you’re not getting to bed until 3:30. So. I’m trying to explain why we haven’t practiced a lot. Now, with that being said, the schedule is the schedule and we planned for that and try and get better as much as we can without this skates. We’re adding a few things to pre-game skates when we do skate.”
The Kings will finally return to a bit of routine over at least the next couple of weeks. This week, following today’s off day, will see a return to the more-regular routine of practices and games alternating, with everything coming here in Los Angeles. Even as the Kings hit the road next week, there should be at least a couple of opportunities to practice if the Kings should choose to utilize that time. Things will even out as we move along in the season, but a return to routine is something that should only benefit a team looking at finding it’s way stylistically.
Later on today, Insiders, we’ll take a look at what the Kings have been stylistically, even if not exactly what they want to be. It’s been a higher-scoring team without a doubt and we’ll bring a few reactions, reasons and numbers that dive into why it’s been that way and perhaps what’s to come as the season settles in. Happy Sunday, Insiders!