The Los Angeles Kings had their win streak snapped Saturday night, falling 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets in overtime. A silver lining to this game is that they have still picked up points in eight straight games. The team hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Oct. 28, another 3-2 loss against the Jets. Saturday’s game followed a similar pattern to the first Jets game, with the Kings heading into the third period up a goal after heavily outplaying the Jets in the second period. Unfortunately, in both games, the Kings couldn’t hold on to the victory. Here are three takeaways from the Kings’ overtime loss.
Secondary Scoring Arrives for the Kings
The biggest issue the Kings faced during their early season losing streak was a lack of secondary scoring. Outside of their top six, more specifically Anze Kopitar’s line, they were getting almost no production 5v5. This has changed recently and Saturday’s game was proof of this. Both Kings’ goals came from the bottom six, with Carl Grundstrom and Brendan Lemieux picking up the goals.
Grundstrom has played well since being moved onto the third line with Rasmus Kupari and Trevor Moore, and he continued that play tonight. He’s added size and power onto that line, while also adding a shooting threat Moore and Kupari don’t carry. Grundstrom’s been a goalscorer at every level prior to making the NHL, and although we haven’t seen it translate at the highest level yet, there are still promising signs. His goal in this game was fantastic, blowing the puck by former Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck short side. If he can find some of the finishing touch he’s provided in the American Hockey League (AHL) throughout his career, it would be a huge boost for the team’s bottom six. He’s playing good hockey right now and it will be interesting to see what happens with him when players return from injury soon.
Lemieux grabbed his second goal of the road trip Saturday, cashing in on a rebound created off a nice play from Blake Lizotte in the second period. I was very critical of Lemieux before the season started, as I felt he didn’t bring enough impact outside of his agitation skills. I’m happy to admit he’s proven me very wrong so far this season. His two goals are his only two points, but he’s been far from a liability 5v5 and, in fact, I think he’s played some very solid hockey this season. Still a grinding, depth forward, I think he’s played his role fantastically for a Kings team that desperately needs some sandpaper in the lineup. Chipping in with a few goals is just gravy on top from him, and I think he’s been an important part of the team’s winning streak. Like Grundstrom, I’ll be interested to see what happens with him when players return from injury.
Kings Power play Continues to Struggle
Even with the Kings playing great hockey during these last eight games, the power play has struggled throughout the point streak. Outside of a one-game explosion against the Montreal Canadiens, they’ve been very poor. You can track the team’s power-play struggles back to Drew Doughty’s injury a few weeks ago, as the team has looked lost without their all-start defensemen on the man advantage.
In this game, it wasn’t just the lack of goals with the man advantage that hurt them, but also allowing a short-handed goal. The Jets’ game-tying goal in the third period came a man down, as the Kings struggled to generate anything on the power play. If they want to remain a winning team, the Kings will have to figure something out with the man advantage, as an inability to convert these chances will start leading to more losses.
The Winning Streak is Over
After seven straight wins the Kings have finally lost a game. This streak was a breath of fresh air, as it followed a bleak six-game losing streak. But it’s time to see how mentally strong this team is, as they’ll be tested with a tough game against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday. With Viktor Arvidsson, Gabe Vilardi, and Lias Andersson all likely available, it will be interesting to see how much coach Todd McLellan decides to change his lineup in this game. Arvidsson is the only player I think is a lock to draw back into the lineup, with Andersson and Vilardi likely having to wait for more game time.
I recently talked about Vilardi’s future with the team, and considering how well they are playing, it’s hard to find a spot for him in the lineup. If the team continues to play well without him, it could have huge ramifications for his future in the organization. Of course, the team could struggle over the next few weeks, and he could be given another big opportunity, but only time will tell what’s next for the former 11th overall pick. I imagine Arthur Kaliyev will be the first casualty of players returning, as I imagine Arvidsson replaces him on the roster. But this raises the question of, what do you do with the lines? I would like to see Arvidsson replace Dustin Brown on the top line, with Brown moving down to the third line and Moore or Grundstrom moving down to the fourth, but I doubt that’s realistic.
If that isn’t an option, then it’s likely Adrian Kempe or Andreas Athanasiou who drops down to the third line. Both players are hot right now, but the second line did massively struggle against the Jets, being out-possessed, out-chanced, and out-scored. If Brown remains on that top line, I think we should see the top six return to what it was before Arvidsson entered COVID-protocol. Regardless, coach McLellan will have some tough choices to make this week, as he tries to keep this team’s stellar play going.
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.