Doubts have been erased, at least for now.
Doubts about Tyler Toffoli, who has not scored since November 17 (11 games ago). Fans wonder whether he still has the touch that scored 31 goals last season after the departure of Milan Lucic, and whether he is a ripe candidate for a trade to shake up a stagnant team. But last night, he scored two goals, one off a partial breakaway and a nifty stickhandling move against Danny DeKeyser:
Cupcake slide from side-to-side makes it 3-1 LA Kings. pic.twitter.com/95opr1Yqbf— #LAKings (@LAKings) December 16, 2016
Doubts about Jeff Zatkoff, whose woeful .890 save percentage is compromising his hopes of establishing himself in the NHL, and hampering his attempt to prove that he is NHL material despite a strong showing in last year’s playoffs. His struggles have forced Peter Budaj to take on a herculean workload, causing Budaj to lose his edge in Buffalo. But last night, Zatkoff stopped 17 of 18 shots to stop the bleeding of doubt for now, although 18 shots is also the result of committed defense.
Doubts about Nic Dowd, who some analytics have shown why he was scratched the last two games. Dowd buried a rebound top-shelf to give the Kings what would be the game-winning goal. That rebound came off a shot purposely off of goalie Jimmy Howard’s pad from….
Doubts about Dustin Brown, enough said. Last night the former captain scored two assists to be rewarded for his grinding offensive effort. After pushing the puck forward as part of the cycle, his shot off of Howard to give Dowd the rebound was shrewd hockey.
And finally, doubts about this nine-game road trip in general. Make no mistake, this trek will be the difference between making and missing the playoffs, as both the division and conference races are tight. It’s heartwarming to see slumping players finally contribute. It’s heartwarming to see the Kings right the ship with their road play.
And it’s a grand relief that we won’t have to travel to Buffalo ever again this season. That winless streak at Buffalo since 2003 is now reaching epic proportions. Here’s my shameless attempt at creating my own media-driven Buffalo curse. (An homage to my college friend who wrote his thesis on how the Red Sox playoff curse was media-driven.) What should we nickname this curse?