On Saturday, the Los Angeles Kings fell 5-4 to the Carolina Hurricanes to make it three straight losses following their seven-game winning streak. This was a high-flying, back and forth game. The Hurricanes took the lead on five separate occasions, never pulling more than a goal away from the Kings. Despite the loss, the Kings played a solid game, and against a weaker team, they would’ve likely would have come away victorious. Here are four takeaways from the loss.
Kings First & Fourth Lines Shine
Of the Kings’ four goals, the first and fourth lines each came away with two tallies, although one was technically a short-handed goal for Adrian Kempe. The new-look first line of Kempe, Anze Kopitar and Viktor Arvidsson seems like an instant success, as this line carried the play most of the team they were on the ice. Kempe and Arvidsson’s speed complement Kopitar perfectly, and their line was able to create a ton of chances. Kempe was especially good in this game, finishing with two goals, and you could argue he should’ve had more. He continues to run hot after starting the season slowly. He had just one point in his first six games but has posted 10 points in his last 11 games. With more performances like this, he’ll cement himself on that top line.
The Kings’ fourth line has quietly been one of the team’s best in recent games, and they were rewarded with goals tonight. Brendan Lemieux grabbed a goal and an assist in this game for his first multi-point game of the season. His improvement this season has been amazing to watch. Last season he seemed like a liability for the team who did little outside of taking unnecessary penalties. This season he’s proven to be an effective fourth-line forward who is chipping in with points. His assist for Blake Lizotte’s goal was a great show of strength to set up his centerman, and his goal was a typical fourth-liners goal, banging home a rebound in front. He seems like a lock on the fourth line right now, as does Lizotte, whose motor never stopped this game. These two are forming a nice line with Arthur Kaliyev for the team’s bottom-six.
Middle of the Lineup Struggling
The second and third lines struggled in this game. With both lines getting outscored, out-possessed, and out-chanced. The new-look third line struggled with Dustin Brown, and the second line failed to find the magic they had when Andreas Athanasiou was first introduced. One game against an excellent Hurricanes team shouldn’t cause coach Todd McLellan to hit the panic button, but the success of these lines is something he needs to keep an eye on.
Kings Power Play Struggles Again
The Kings’ power play massively struggling doesn’t even feel surprising anymore. They have been terrible since Drew Doughty was injured last month and have been unable to find any consistency. Their puck movement did look better in this game, but it led to zero goals. An improved power play could flip these one-goal games for the Kings, and they need to find a way to start producing with the man advantage.
There is a good chance Sean Durzi plays in Sunday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, so hopefully, he gets a chance on the team’s power play. Sitting tied for second place in points in the American Hockey League at the time of his call-up, Durzi has provided points, specifically goals, from the point at every level he’s played in. The Kings will need him to bring that element if he wants to earn a spot in the lineup.
Goaltending Was the Difference
A big reason why the Kings were able to break out of their early-season slump was massively improved goaltending, specifically from Jonathan Quick. Cal Petersen has looked better in recent starts, but he regressed heavily in this game. With five goals against, a .750 save percentage, and nearly three goals against above expected, he struggled mightily. At the other end, Frederik Andersen wasn’t at his best, but with a .907 save percentage and 0.37 goals saved above expected, he made the saves he needed to.
Quick has already earned the number one job in the eyes of most people, and I think this game put any remaining questions to bed. Petersen is struggling right now and should be the clear backup behind Quick. The team has stuck fairly true to having the goalies switch off games, regardless of opponent, but I think that should end for a while. Quick is playing much better and should be in net against the team’s toughest opponents. This isn’t the end for Petersen, as he can easily break out of this slump and return to playing better hockey. But for now, Quick should be the man in net.
Kings Need a Bounce Back Against the Coyotes
The Kings will have the chance to immediately bounce back with a win today. They face the Coyotes and will be looking to stop their mini-losing streak at three. If they play as they did against the Hurricanes Saturday, I don’t think there’s any question they’ll beat a poor Coyotes team.
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.