This one stings, I’m not going to lie. In the biggest game of the season – and I do mean “the,” not their – the Los Angeles Kings came up short. They now sit five points back of the St. Louis Blues with fourteen games remaining, and hope is in short supply. How bad is it? It’s realllllllly bad.
How tough it is for LA now? If they finish season 10-4 (92 pts), Blues only have to go 7-6-1 to match/win tiebreaker with 3 v COL and ARI— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) March 14, 2017
But, you say, surely the Blues will collapse? Well, it would take an epic collapse in a stretch of games that is extremely, extremely soft, and it would require the Blues’ Jake Allen to falter in a most unexpected manner. If his recent body of work is any indication, Jake Allen will not be faltering any time soon, or at least until the Kings are eliminated from post-season contention.
Allen was the story tonight, stopping 38 of 39 shots in a game where the Kings probably deserved better. He was poised, played sound positional hockey (with a few bounces), and allowed precious few rebound chances, either off the rush or in-and-around his net. For a guy who was literally left at home during a road trip in January, he has saved the Blues’ season. For as frustrated as we are right now, it’s worth noting that the Kings were 4-1-2 in their last seven, and made up no ground on the Blues. It really is quite a story, and he deserves full credit for his turnaround.
Jake Allen Dec. 8-Jan. 31: 4-10-0, 3.50 GAA, .876 SV%— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) March 14, 2017
Jake Allen since Feb. 2: 9-6-0, 1.96 GAA, .935 SV%#stlblues
If you expected a barn-burner tonight, well, you must be new to Blues/Kings. Given the magnitude of the game both teams leaned on their systems, seeking to move the puck quickly, control play below the half boards, and put pucks on net. In terms of possession and scoring chances, the Kings controlled play yet St. Louis had more of the high-danger chances.
RIP (Rest in Possession) Kings: LAK 68-34 5v5 Corsi, 28-19 scoring chances, STL 12-10 High-danger. LAK 4.45 - STL 3.35 xGF all situations— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) March 14, 2017
Ultimately, mistakes cost the Kings. The Blues got on the board late in the second period, with David Perron knocking in his own rebound after a Alexander Steen centering pass. Paul LaDue was well positioned on the play but broke coverage, allowing Perron space in the slot and a path to the net. It was a rookie mistake, but not worth dwelling on for the promising rookie.
The Blues’ go-ahead goal came in the third and on the power-play, with Jeff Carter off for holding Vladimir Tarasenko. There is a lot to digest on this play – a tough rebound, some loose movement by Quick, a weak clear attempt by Forbort, a valiant block by Kopitar – but it ended with a Magnus Paajarvi goal.
The Kings would draw within one on Dustin Brown’s power-play goal with just under three minutes left in the third, but it would not be enough. The Blues locked things down, Allen played well, and the Kings could not finish or get a fortunate bounce.
So where does this leave us? Things look bleak, but there are rays of light if you squint.
Go Kings Go.