Kings Continue Dominance of Blues
Finally, a nice easy win for the Kings at Staples Monday night. It also came against a very solid Blues team still looking to avenge its back-to-back first round ousting at the hands of the black and white.
LA seemed to be playing much more relaxed than Saturday night, but in a good way. They let the game come to them and finally took advantage of a couple early scoring opportunities.
Jarret Stoll's ice breaker came off a nice feed from Justin Williams, a shot which glanced off the body of St. Louis defender Barret Jackman on it's way past Jaroslav Halak.
Tyler Toffoli also got into the act in a big way by pouncing on a pair of loose pucks in the slot to score the all important second and third goals for the Kings, while Ben Scrivens and company were able to hold down the fort as the Blues finally began their late push.
Toffoli shows why he needs to be in the Kings lineup every night. Tonight, he displayed what the Kings need to have each night to win games, and that is get to the net and look for pucks to fire back in. There have been way too many missed opportunities lately, and guys like Dustin Brown have seemed to have forgotten how to score. Or at least, have lost some of the hunger in front of the net. It sure has been a while since Brown lit the lamp. His last goal came against Tampa on November 19 in a 5-2 rout. With just four goals thus far, the Kings are going to need a bit more from its captain who usually ends up somewhere between 24-33 goals a season.
Anze Kopitar on the other hand, is still in my opinion one of the best two-way players in the game. However, as the team's number one line center, seven goals is just not enough.
Mike Richards also continues to chip in with some assists now and then. One of the better passers in the league has been coughing up the puck with some very lazy, errant passes and messing up several odd man rushes as a result. Monday against St. Louis, Richards carelessly gave the puck away three times on the man advantage and also turned the puck over at the blue line leading to perhaps the only scoring chance for the Blues in the first period. The Kings should expect a little bit better play from a player like that.
Sorry to pick on #10, but with a few breakaways in the past two games, not recording a shot on goal on either of those breaks is just weak. But credit him for making the play to begin with. Please shoot the puck!
Matt Frattin also had a solid game in his return to the lineup. The 25-year old speedster who came over from Toronto in the Jonathan Bernier deal, was all over the ice early causing some havoc in the St. Louis end. Frattin has also become a better two-way player for the Kings, something quite contrary to his tenure in Toronto. See what good coaching and a sound structures system does to a young player. I still would love to see him score a bit more.
Yet, the 21-year old Toffoli gave the Kings a shot of energy after another grueling home loss thanks to a late mistake on Saturday night. This is the type of energy that this team simply needs if it is going to win as many games as possible throughout this season. As usual, the Kings are having all sorts of trouble scoring goals, and getting some offensive firepower from a dynamic 21-year old forward is exactly what an already experienced and battle-tested lineup needs. If guys like Brown, Kopitar and Richards are not going to lit the lamp a little more often, then Mr. Sutter has no choice but to keep Toffoli in the lineup every night.
Monday's win saw a good lineup, with a good mix of players on the ice against another solid, two-way team. Things just seem better without Daniel Carcillo on the ice.
Failing to grab a single point out of a possible four against a team like the Calgary Flames is unacceptable for a team hopeful to return to the Cup Finals. Then again, the Kings have shown once again that when it faces a top notch, quality opponent, it rises to the occasion.
So far, the Kings have done quite well against the class of the West. In two games against the Vancouver Canucks, LA has come away with 5-1 and 3-2 OT victories. In two games against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings have earned a 4-3 OT come-from-behind win and also fought hard in a 2-2 tie, eventually leading to an 8-round shootout defeat. Monday was the first time facing St. Louis, another Cup hopeful, and the Kings responded with I would say a 55 minute dominance of play and almost complete control in a 3-2 win.
Soon, the Kings will be facing Chicago twice on the road and will also see the Ducks rather quickly Tuesday night in Anaheim. At least playing those playoff quality teams, the Kings are ready to go.
Lastly, when will Martin Jones finally see some playing time? Perhaps Tuesday he will get his first call of duty in an always festive environment. Why not? Otherwise next week, the Kings will have a back-to-back in Montreal Tuesday and Toronto on Wednesday. I would assume that Scrivens would get the start against his former mates, but then again, the Canadiens are playing much better hockey than the Leafs at the moment. That could be a tough call for Sutter to make. I would start Jones tomorrow and see if the 23-year old has what it takes.