The Los Angeles Kings grabbed a well-deserved shootout win over the red-hot Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night in a game that was dangerously close to slipping away. They dominated large portions of this game and should have won in regulation, but you can never be too upset with a victory. Here are three takeaways from the win.
Canucks Fourth Line Stellar Again
A recent highlight for the Kings has been the magnificent play of their fourth line. The Brendan Lemieux-Blake Lizotte-Arthur Kaliyev line has been one of head coach Todd McLellan’s favorites recently, and it’s easy to see why. He leaned on them heavily against Vancouver; their line ranked second in ice time of any forward line and scored the team’s only regulation goal after some great forechecking from Lizotte led to a point shot that Lemieux tipped home.
It was Lemieux’s sixth goal, as he continues to string together his best offensive season to date. Lizotte and Kaliyev were fantastic as well, despite not grabbing any points. Many thought Lizotte would be an extra forward or possibly even waived before the season, but he has more than earned his spot on the fourth line. Kaliyev has shocked everyone and made huge strides in his defensive game, posting some of the best defensive metrics on the team. This line is invaluable for the team right now.
Kings Lack of Goals Still a Big Problem
When was the last time that scoring goals wasn’t a problem for the Kings? This is yet another season when the team’s inability to score consistently has held them back. Despite heavily outplaying the Canucks and creating plenty of chances, LA only scored once in this game. It’s a big reason they’re outside of the playoff picture and have been so inconsistent this season. Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo have been their only relatively consistent goal scorers, and they alone cannot provide enough offense for their team to win. Someone needs to step up, or management needs to make a move to increase their offense, or else this issue will continue to haunt them.
Speaking of moves, a game like this makes you wonder why players like Martin Frk or Vladimir Tkachev haven’t gotten a look recently. They could inject a missing element, Frk with his shot and Tkachev with his playmaking. The team needs more offense, and the answer might be a short drive to Ontario.
Turcotte Line Underused
I try to avoid criticizing coaching decisions in my takeaway pieces, but (essentially) benching the Carl Grundstrom-Alex Turcotte-Rasmus Kupari line in the third period was baffling. They were great through two periods, posting fantastic numbers, and it’s not a coincidence that the Kings lost their hold on this game after that line was benched. They finished the game with an 85.1% expected goals percentage (XGoals%), a 66.7% Corsi for percentage (CF%), and a 70% Fenwick for percentage (FF%). Compare that to the Phillip Danault line, which played over two minutes more and posted a 40.8% XGoals%, a 52.2% CF%, and a 50% FF%.
Now, I understand that these numbers alone don’t prove that the Turcotte line should have played more, but I can’t imagine anyone would argue that the Turcotte line wasn’t better. I understand trusting the more experienced players in a tight game, but at a certain point, it has to matter how well they are playing. A lot of the criticism hurled at McLellan is unfair, but his utilization of young players this season has been questionable, and this was a particularly confusing decision.
Is this worth getting up in arms over? No, but it was very frustrating and worth keeping an eye on. Quinton Byfield was activated off the COVID list and sent back down to Ontario, presumably for a conditioning stint, so he should be back with the team soon. When that happens, several young players will need a spot on the Kings’ roster, and we’ll have to see how McLellan manages them. If it were up to me, the Turcotte-Byfield-Kupari/Kaliyev line would be playing, but that seems very unlikely.
Kings Back to Winning Ways
After a terrible performance against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, it was great to see the Kings bounce back with a win Wednesday. While the lack of offense was a problem, the Kings dominated this game.
The Kings are back in action on Saturday, taking on the Philadelphia Flyers. If the Kings play like they did on Wednesday and can find their finishing touch, it could be a big win over a mediocre Flyers team. There are also a few left-shot defensemen the Kings should be scouting in this game.
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.