Okay, before we proceed any further, let me give due credit to The Royal Half for that titular play on words.
— The Royal Half (@theroyalhalf) February 13, 2015
Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about Tyler Toffoli, and the impact he is having on a Los Angeles Kings team that might be starting to claw its way back into the playoff picture. Heading into Saturday night’s home tilt against Washington, the Kings had won three games in a row for the first time since November. The resurgent play of the 22-year-old Toffoli has been a major reason why.
Back from Mono
Toffoli missed six games in mid-late January when he came down with mononucleosis, and stayed out of the lineup as a precaution for his swollen spleen. The Kings won just one of the six contests he missed. He came back on January 28 for a home showdown against the Chicago Blackhawks, and tallied a goal and an assist in a scintillating 4-3 victory that looked as though it could ignite the Kings as they looked to rebound from a very disappointing stretch of games.
But Los Angeles would lose its next three games — all on the road — with Toffoli going pointless. Perhaps Toffoli needed a few games back before his consistency would return. Whatever the reason was, it was becoming evident that very often, as Toffoli goes, so do the Kings. That trend only became more pronounced in the Kings’ next stretch of games.
The Kings picked up a big victory on the road when they defeated the high-flying Lightning in Tampa. Toffoli registered a goal in the game to pace LA’s 4-2 win. Two days later, in Columbus, Toffoli lit the lamp once again, this time in a 4-3 Kings victory.
Then, upon returning to Staples Center for a key matchup against division rival Calgary — a team that was on a roll and had beaten the defending champs three times already this season — Toffoli truly broke out. He tallied his first career hat trick and added an assist for good measure in the Kings’ 5-3 victory, in which they out-shot the Flames by a whopping 45-18 margin.
Was it a coincidence that one of the Kings’ best games of the season occurred when Toffoli had his best game of the season? Probably not. Toffoli now leads Los Angeles with 18 goals after catching fire against the Flames (thank you, I’ll see myself out).
Toffoli had a total of six shots on goal against the Flames, contributing to the LA’s impressive total. After that game, head coach Darryl Sutter talked about puck possession and shot volume, areas in which the Kings had a decided edge against Calgary, but have been inconsistent overall.
Toffoli certainly contributed to that volume. And one thing that’s even better than volume is goals, and Toffoli has five of those in his past three games (heading into Saturday evening), all Los Angeles victories. The Kings, however, still sit on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. They will need Toffoli to keep playing at a consistently high level (okay, he doesn’t need to score a hat trick every game, but still) if they want to return to the postseason and defend their crown.