The Los Angeles Kings wrapped up their road trip yesterday with a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It has been a weird road trip with a loss that felt uncharacteristic of the Kings' defense against Ottawa, a game in which they seemed to steal the luck of their opponents in Montreal, and it has ultimately culminated in the worst loss of the Kings' season thus far.
In a blowout game where your team loses five goals to none, you usually assume there is more to the story than the scoreboard. In this case, there certainly was. It almost felt like two different games. The first two periods saw the Kings mostly control play and greatly outchance their opponents. Their third period featured the Kings being victimized three times in four minutes to close out the period, adding onto an early third period tally.
There is certainly a lot of oddness under the surface. The line featuring Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, and Michael Grabner was responsible for four out of the Leafs' five goals yet lost the possession battle to every matchup except the Kings' bottom pairing. Meanwhile, the line featuring rookie Byron Froese pretty much destroyed every matchup they took on, especially LA's third pair of Michael Mersch, Trevor Lewis and Dustin Brown matched against them. They only had one goal, including Froese's first NHL goal.
TOR-LA: Did Lewis, Mersch, and Brown ever leave their own end vs Froese, Boyes, and Matthias? pic.twitter.com/nYQJ9enXjb— Muneeb Alam (@muneebalamcu) December 20, 2015
The top line of Milan Lucic, Anze Kopitar, and Marian Gaborik also had conflicting narratives surrounding it. Gaborik had eight shots in the game, as well as eight individual scoring chances. That line totaled 12 scoring chances and were a big part of LA racking up fifteen scoring chances in the first period alone. Despite all of this, they were on the ice for four even strength goals against, including a costly turnover by Milan Lucic. Meanwhile the Lewis line was the worst on the ice and only had one goal against to besmirch their name.
Overall, it was definitely a narrative we're used to as Kings fans. LA heavily outchances and out attempts their opponent only to run into a hot goalie. Eventually the other team gets their own run of chances only to find that fate is much kinder to them. It's a road trip that LA probably still feels good about in the scheme of things, especially given their division standings. While Lucic may undeservedly lose his spot on the first line, it's certainly worth hoping that Nick Shore gets his third line center spot back. He's likely a good part of the reason that Jordan Nolan had a good showing in the game.