The Los Angeles Kings have now extended their winning streak to four games with their 3-2 overtime victory on Friday against the New Jersey Devils. This was another solid performance by a team that is starting to pick up momentum after their slow start. It was a low-event game for two periods before it was blown wide open in the third period with three goals. Here are four takeaways from this game.
Kings Still Searching for Arvidsson Replacement
Since forward Viktor Arvidsson entered COVID-19 protocol on Sunday just before the game against the Buffalo Sabres, they’ve been searching for a way to replace him on their top line. The organization thought Lias Andersson would be the answer, but an injury sustained against the St. Louis Blues ensured that wouldn’t work. They decided to give prospect Arthur Kaliyev another shot on the top line after he struggled to impress against the Sabres, but he didn’t last long, as he was replaced by Adrian Kempe halfway through the second period.
The experiment with Kempe seemed to work well, as the 25-year-old grabbed an important goal with just two seconds remaining in the second period. He was a positive impact on this line, helping them out-possess and out-shoot their opponents, something he excels at. His inconsistency was on full display though, as his lazy drop pass played a huge role in the Devil’s first goal. Still, I think the first line with Kempe worked well and I hope they stick with it until Arvidsson returns.
Kempe-Danault-Iafallo Stay Hot
They might have been split up in this game, but the trio of Kempe, Alex Iafallo, and Phillip Danault remained hot in this game, with each player grabbing a point. That gives Iafallo a five-game point streak, with seven points in those five games. Kempe has points in three straight and five points in five games, and Danault now has four points in five games. These three have been a huge reason why the Kings have now won four in a row, and will need to maintain their stellar play if the team has any hope of a postseason return.
Andreas Athanasiou replaced Kempe on the second line after the latter was promoted midway through the game and he performed well in his first game back. It was all about Iafallo and Danault in the end, though, as the two combined for the overtime game-winner. Iafallo grabbed his fifth goal of the season — he is taking coach Todd McLellan’s comments that he can score 30 goals in a season seriously. He looks to be a significantly more confident player this season, especially in his shooting, and we’re finally seeing production from him.
Danault was instrumental in the team’s game-winning goal, stripping the puck from Ty Smith before teeing up Iafallo in front. He was also incredible in the faceoff circle again this game, going 18-5 in the dot. It has been a joy to watch these three recently as they’ve stepped up their play over the last five games.
Kaliyev Scores Despite Struggling
As I mentioned, Kaliyev struggled on the top line again during this game, being replaced midway through the second period. This was the right decision, as he’s still struggling to have an impact 5v5 but, as he did against the Blues, he grabbed a goal despite his struggles. This wasn’t a goal where he picked the corner or overpowered the goalie, but it was the kind of goal that separates him from other players on the roster. He’s able to create a goal out of nothing and find ways to score, something the team doesn’t have in their lineup currently. He’s a natural goal scorer and proved that once again against the Devils.
I still think he’ll be sent down to the American Hockey League when Gabe Vilardi and Arvidsson are reactivated off COVID-19 protocol, as he still needs to work on his 5v5 impact. But, for now, he’s earning his spot in the lineup with his ability to score. His skating and defensive work still needs improvement, but he’s a huge boost to the team’s power play that has seriously struggled since Drew Doughty’s injury.
Kings are Scored on 6v5 Again
On Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues, the Kings conceded a 6v5 goal with just seven seconds left in the game. While it wasn’t quite as dramatic in this game, the Kings once again were scored on while the opponents had their goalie pulled after Pavel Zacha grabbed the 6v5 goal with 23 seconds remaining. Two goals scored while down a man late in a game isn’t the worst thing ever, but it is something the team needs to get a hold on, as blowing leads late will eventually punish them. It’s also a bit comical considering their lack of success at 6v5, having not scored with the net empty since before COVID-19 shut the league down in 2020.
A Successful Homestand
The Kings went 4-1 during their five-game homestand, a much-needed winning streak after going winless on their first road trip. They will hit the road again, heading up North to play four games in Canada. They need to find a way to win games on the road and, hopefully, the return of a few key players will help them.
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.