The Los Angeles Kings have broken their five-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators. It was a strong performance, made more difficult by a late five-minute major. It was also an important win, as the Kings didn’t want to fall into another six-game losing streak. We’ll see if they go on a big win streak now, just as they did after snapping their last losing streak. Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s game.
Fourth Line Scores but Lemieux Lacks Discipline
The Kings’ fourth line has been playing great of late, and they continued that against the Senators. Arthur Kaliyev grabbed a goal in this game, cashing in on a fantastic pass from Alex Edler in front. You could see the relief on Kaliyev’s face after the goal, his first point since Nov. 5, a power-play tally against the New Jersey Devils. It was a great all-around effort from him. He blocked a shot to start the play, and failing to turn the block into a breakaway, he curled and passed the puck to Mikey Anderson at the point, then drove the net to tap in Edler’s pass. It was a great 200-foot play for someone whose defensive game has been questioned. Despite Kaliyev’s goal, it was Brendan Lemieux who made the headlines from this game and for all the wrong reasons.
Late in the third period, Lemieux engaged with Brady Tkachuk, and both players went to the ice. During the scrum, Lemieux allegedly bit Tkachuk. After seeing the damage to Tkachuk’s hand and discussing among themselves, the refs gave Lemieux a five-minute match penalty for the bite. It’s disgraceful if Lemieux did bite Tkachuk, and I’m sure he’ll hear from the department of player safety. Tkachuk was very upset when it happened and held nothing back in his post-game interview when asked about it.
It’s easy to see why he was so upset, and soon after the interview, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler confirmed the comments about players around the league, including teammates, not liking Lemieux.
These comments might be more than just angry ramblings, and there might be some truth to what Tkachuk is saying. The whole situation is a shame, as Lemieux has been playing by far his best hockey as a King and has been a huge part of the team’s successful fourth line. If he is suspended, and if the comments about him being disliked in the locker room are true, it should be a matter of time before it all comes crashing down.
Grundstrom Moved to the Top Line
In more positive news, Carl Grundstrom had a solid game and earned himself a spot on the first line. Head coach Todd McLellan reunited the Adrian Kempe-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown line for this game but quickly abandoned it after it was clearly not working. Brown was swapped for Grundstrom during the second period, and it paid off. He picked up two goals, one at 5v5, and the line finished with 53.3% expected goals for and 50% Corsi and Fenwick for.
Moving forward, I’d be a little bit surprised if Grundstrom stays on the top line long-term. However, Brown should not be on that line, and this feels like a nail in the coffin for him as a top-line player. After being demoted to the third line recently, he was given a chance to move back up when Andreas Athanasiou was placed on the COVID protocol list, but he lasted barely half a game. There’s still a spot for Brown on the team. It’s just nowhere near the top line or the top six in general.
Power Play Scores Again
What a difference one player can make. The Kings’ power play has been worlds better since Sean Durzi was introduced to the lineup Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they looked better again on Saturday. Viktor Arvidsson grabbed his second power-play goal in as many games, and hopefully, he can string together a little scoring streak here, as he has struggled to find goals early in his Kings career. He’s always been a streaky scorer, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the goals flowed for a while.
An improved power play is crucial for the Kings, especially in tight games when scoring with the man advantage can be the difference between winning and losing. With Drew Doughty likely to return on Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, Durzi can drop down to the second unit and give the team more depth.
Petersen Strong in Net
It hasn’t been the best season for Cal Petersen, losing the starting job to Jonathan Quick in what was supposed to be his breakout season. After struggling in his last start against the Carolina Hurricanes, he bounced back with a solid performance against the Senators. He was playing okay for most of the game but shut the door when it mattered during the Senators’ late, five-minute power play.
I will say, the Senators’ second goal was weak and shouldn’t have beaten Petersen, but he was very good outside of that. Despite that, he still finished with 2.2 goals saved above expected, 30 saves, and a .938 save percentage. Hopefully, this game gets Petersen back on track and the Kings can have a deadly one-two punch in net this season.
Freeway Faceoff up Next
This was a good win for the Kings, but beating the worst team in the league shouldn’t be overly celebrated. It’s great to break a losing streak, but the real test comes next Tuesday in the first Freeway Faceoff of the season. The Ducks are off to a surprisingly good start, and this will be a difficult game. I imagine Quick will be in net, and Doughty should be back for an extra boost. The Kings will need to be better than they were tonight on Tuesday and might be without Lemieux, but they still have all the tools to come out on top.
Latest News & Highlights
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.