The Los Angeles Kings dropped their sixth straight game on Thursday, seeing their record fall to 1-5-1. It’s been a disappointing start to a season that had so much optimism before it began. There were some positives to take from this game, though mainly from the middle of the lineup and Rasmus Kupari. We also got to see the first full game without Drew Doughty and Sean Walker. Here are three takeaways from the Kings’ loss against the Winnipeg Jets.
Kupari Impressive Again
After the loss to the St. Louis Blues on Monday, I mentioned how impressed I was with Kupari. He was an offensive force for the Kings and was the best player on the ice on every shift. He picked up a goal midway through the first period, scoring on a breakaway with a silky finish. He also improved in the faceoff circle, a point of struggle in the last game, winning 66.7% of his draws. He was driving hard to the net, which Ontario Reign head coach John Wroblewski preached to Kupari last year in the American Hockey League.
Kupari played at his best against the Jets, using his incredible speed and stickhandling to drive the offense for his line. There are some players who the puck finds; Kupari finds the puck. Whenever he’s on the ice, you can be sure he’s going to be near the puck and looking to make a play. He loves having it on his stick, and we saw that against the Jets. More performances like that, and he’ll be on the Kings roster for most of the season, maybe even in a top-six role soon.
Kings Get Much-Needed Secondary Scoring
The theme of nearly every Kings loss this season has been their lack of secondary scoring. Heading into the game, only two players outside of the top line had more than one point. The script flipped in this game. The middle-six put on a great display, with Adrian Kempe and Kupari grabbing their first goals of the season.
It’s only fair I give Kupari’s linemates credit for their performance as well. Arthur Kaliyev and Trevor Moore had a solid game. Kaliyev is starting to find his footing, making much quicker decisions than in his first few games, and it was that quick thinking that sent Kupari on a breakaway for his goal. He was also unlucky, ringing the iron after beating Jets goalie Eric Comrie on the backhand. His play is improving, and I’d expect the goals to follow soon. Moore was his usual self, consistent with his effort, forechecking, and penalty killing.
In many ways, the Kempe- Phillip Danault-Alex Iafallo line put together a familiar performance. They were dominant on the forecheck, impenetrable on defense, and full of energy. But the key difference in this game was their goal. The one thing they’ve been missing this season is the ability to convert on the high number of chances they’ve created. Kempe fired the puck past Comrie after an incredible sequence of forechecking from Danault. This was a positive sign for a line that has played great this season, despite very little to show for it. If they can find their scoring touch, it will be a huge boost for the team.
Life Without Doughty & Walker
The Kings will have to get used to life without Doughty and Walker on the backend, but Thursday’s game proved this is much easier said than done. Outside of Tobias Bjornfot and Mikey Anderson, who were great paired together, the defensemen struggled through most of this contest. The increased ice time for Matt Roy and Alex Edler has had a negative impact on their game, and the team needs reinforcements badly.
Fortunately, it appears the organization is aware of the issue and is making calls. Pierre Lebrun recently reported on Insider Trading that the Kings are looking for, at least, a depth defenseman to bolster their blue line. Maybe Kale Clague can alleviate some of the pressure this weekend, although banking on a player who didn’t make the team out of camp usually isn’t the best bet. I won’t be surprised if management makes a move in the next few weeks.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.