3 Takeaways From Kings’ Home Opener Victory

The Los Angeles Kings‘ 2020-21 campaign is officially underway. They kicked off the season with a magnificent performance, beating the Vegas Golden Knights 6-2. The old guard led the way, and with the help of some new additions, they put together a statement performance. They wanted to prove the rebuild is over, and this was a great way to do that. Here are three takeaways from the Kings’ opening-night victory.

Kings Veterans Can Still Play

With the best prospect pool in the league, many fans are focused on the team’s future stars. But Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Drew Doughty all put on a wonderful show and proved they still have plenty of hockey left in them. Kopitar, in particular, was incredible. His three goals and two assists led the team to victory and reminded everyone that he’s still an elite center.

Anze Kopitar Los Angeles Kings
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

We spent a lot of the offseason talking about how newly signed forward Phillip Danault, who we’ll get to later, will take the defensive pressure of Kopitar, which should lead to more offense from the Kings captain. Well, early on, he’s proving that is true. Doughty can’t be forgotten though, he put together a four-point night and led all skaters in ice time with 23:49 minutes. We know he’s looking for a strong season to put his name in contention for Team Canada, and performances like this will do exactly that. He was magnificent on the power play, and the chemistry he formed with young defenseman Mikey Anderson last season seems to have grown stronger.

Related: Kings’ Kopitar Can Have Milestone-Filled 2021-22 Season

Finally, Brown, while he may not wear the “C” on his jersey anymore, he’s still a leader in the locker room. His goal in the first period tied the game, and the Kings never looked back. Many fans, including myself, have argued that he should be replaced on the top line, but with performances like that, he’ll stay there a while longer.

Kings New Additions Making an Early Impact

Not only did the Kings’ veteran stars make an impact on Thursday night, but so did the team’s newest players. All the newly acquired forwards, Danault, Vladimir Tkachev, and Viktor Arvidsson registered points, with Danault scoring his first goal for the team. Defenseman Alex Edler also put together a strong performance, even stopping a four-on-one. It wasn’t just the points that impressed; every player made contributions off the scoresheet.

Phillip Danault Montreal Canadiens
Phillip Danault, Former Montreal Canadien (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Danault was fantastic defensively. Never out of position and constantly breaking up plays, he was instrumental in the Kings keeping the Knights at arm’s length all night. If we’re talking about pure puck skills and vision, I think only Kopitar is better than Tkachev on the roster. He showed why he was so highly coveted coming out of Russia; he’s incredible at creating offense. Arvidsson had a frustrating game in many ways. He was snake-bitten and failed to convert several good scoring chances. Still, he generated a ton of offense, and I’m confident the goals will come. Like I said, Edler was solid and took some heavy minutes off the young defensemen, particularly Tobias Bjornfot.

Kings New System Finding Early Success

The idea that the Kings would move away from their tried and tested defensive trap towards a more aggressive offensive-minded system seemed almost too good to be true before the season. But, based on the season opener, it’s more than empty words. The team was relentless on the forecheck, often suffocating the Knights’ defense, forcing them into turnovers. The team was also very aggressive at the offensive blue line, where they continually stepped up and killed rushes early. There was plenty of activation from the defensemen, something the team has been lacking for several seasons.

The Kings were the hungrier team, winning most puck battles and races. They were not afraid to play gritty against a big, physical Knights team, particularly Brendan Lemieux – who dropped the gloves with Keegan Kolesar early in the game – and Trevor Moore. I was surprised at how physical Moore played. He was consistently landing the opposition on their backsides. I lost count after four. Either throwing hits or delivering a nice reverse hit, Moore mixed it up all game.

Optimism For Kings Fans

Of course, this is just one game, and we can’t get carried away, but the team looked great. They played fast and aggressive offensively without leaving themselves overly exposed defensively. There’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong, but opening up the season with a dominant win over a Cup favorite has to be a good sign. If the team maintains this level of intensity and quality, a return to the postseason will be imminent.

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