The Los Angeles Kings have now extended their winning streak to five and are officially the hottest team in hockey. Their commanding 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday feels like a real statement win for a team that struggled early in the season. Here are three takeaways from the victory.
Danault and His Line Dominate
Watching Phillip Danault and his line dominate possession and chances has been a frequent occurrence for Kings fans this season. Recently, they’ve added scoring goals to the mix and they look phenomenal right now. Danault in particular was incredible in this game, scoring two goals and an assist. He was dominant in every facet. He finished the game 9-5 in the faceoff circle, posted a 90.8% expected goals percentage, a 67.9% Corsi rating, and a 77.3% Fenwick rating.
He led the game in each category except for Corsi rating. This was a complete, 200-foot display by Danault, and games like this are why the Kings gave him a big 6-year, $33 million contract during the summer. He also posted these numbers while playing mostly against either the Auston Matthews or John Tavares lines.
His linemates were great as well, with Alex Iafallo grabbing two assists and forcing the turnover that led to Danault’s second goal. He continues his own hot streak, with points in six straight games and nine total points in that span. He looks to have taken the next step in his game this season and is playing like a bonafide top-six forward.
With Adrian Kempe being moved up to the top line, Andreas Athanasiou was placed on the second line for this game. He took his chance with both hands and earned a goal and an assist in this game. His goal was a magnificent individual effort, kicking the puck between his leg before beating Jake Muzzin wide, throwing the puck under his stick, and burying the puck short side on Jack Campbell.
He is a notoriously streaky scorer, but if he continues this play, he’ll give head coach Todd McLellan something to think about when Viktor Arvidsson returns from COVID protocol. In my opinion, if Athanasiou maintains his current level of play, the best option is to drop Dustin Brown off the top line for Arvidsson. That would make the top-six:
|Adrian Kempe||Anze Kopitar||Viktor Arvidsson|
|Alex Iafallo||Phillip Danault||Andreas Athanasiou|
I think this gives the team great balance and improves an already deadly top-six. His speed was a constant problem for the Leafs and he adds a new element to the second line.
Quick Stellar in Net
Danault was magnificent in this game, but possibly just as good was Jonathan Quick. This was supposed to be the season that Cal Petersen took the starting job from Quick, but he is not going down without a fight. Quick has been the better goalie this season, and he was magnificent again Monday night. He finished the game with 3.09 goals saved above expected, 32 saves, a .971 save percentage, and six saves on six high-danger shots against. He played a huge role in this game as the Kings had to survive a few Leaf onslaughts throughout.
It seems like Quick is dialing back the clock a bit this season, looking more like the two-time Vezina Trophy nominee he used to be. An improved team certainly helps, but I think the competition from Petersen has played a huge role as well. Ask anyone in the Kings organization, and they’ll tell you Quick is one of the most competitive guys out there, and not starting opening night for the first time in 13 years has clearly lit a fire in him. This competition in net is a good thing for the team, as it has clearly improved Quick and should improve Petersen. The season is still young, but this looks like Quick’s net once again.
Power Play Still Struggling
There was plenty of positives about this game, but an undeniable negative was the Kings’ power play. They’ve struggled since the injury to Drew Doughty and still have not found the working formula. They registered just two shots on three power plays and had no dangerous chances with the man advantage. At times, specifically during the third power play, they couldn’t even enter the offensive zone. They still have at least six weeks until Doughty returns and need to find a way to get their power play going.
Kings Remain Red Hot
After a very slow start for the Kings, they’ve now hit their stride and look like the team fans thought they would be. Their goaltending has improved and they’re getting goals from outside the top line right now. With key players such as Doughty, Arvidsson, Lias Andersson, and Quinton Byfield all set to return at some point, this team still has room to improve. While it’s too early to discuss playoffs right now, the Kings are beginning to look like a threat in the Pacific Division.
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.