We’ve learned by now. Games against the Arizona Coyotes are not going to be easy. The Los Angeles Kings knew this, and in a tough battle against a team that’s relished the opportunity to play spoiler, they pulled out a win behind Jeff Carter and some other dudes. My first thought after the game, much like yours, was: “how can I stretch one bad Daft Punk pun into a full article?”
Around the World
When the Kings traded Darcy Kuemper to the desert and sent Scott Wedgewood down to Ontario, they were sending a simple message to Jack Campbell: “We need four good games out of you.” Campbell obliged. With four back-to-backs on the schedule after the trade deadline, coach John Stevens resisted the urge to ride Jonathan Quick and trusted the well-traveled Campbell to thrive in his first real NHL shot, and Campbell’s responded with a 2-0-2 record and a .939 save percentage in those four starts. Weirdly, the two starts we were least worried about (the ones against Arizona) have been his least effective. However, after giving up a classic “The goalie would like to make that save” goal to Kevin Connauton in the first, Campbell was solid, and only a tricky Max Domi backhand got past him.
It was more than an audition, and it might be enough for him to lock down the backup job in 2018-19. What a time to be Jack Campbell.
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
Campbell ended up making 20 saves on 22 shots on goal. Those 22 shots were tied for the third-lowest total LA has conceded all year, and even without Jake Muzzin, the Kings managed to assert themselves in a big way. After being outshot 9-7 in a tightly contested third period, LA started taking control, outshooting Arizona 28-13 in the final 40 minutes. Despite the Coyotes’ recent run of success, they can’t match the high-end talent of LA’s best players. Jeff Carter showed off his talent on the Kings’ first goal, tipping a Derek Forbort shot past Kuemper. It’s probably no coincidence that LA took over after that.
One More Time
Two more times, actually, for Jeff Carter after his first goal. Carter now has five tipped goals on the season after the two he had yesterday, as the second was off a hard pass from Dion Phaneuf. Carter positioned himself in the high slot and no Coyote was there to make his life difficult, so Carter had every opportunity to skillfully deflect it through Kuemper. That one also tied things up, but with LA locking down on the Coyotes after that point, it seemed like a matter of whether the Kings would get one point or two out of this one. Carter made sure it was two.
Every team needs some breaks down the stretch, but LA didn’t use many of them up last night. If anything, it was Arizona who dodged some major bullets down the stretch, as the Kings somehow managed to come away with zero goals after an incredible sequence in which Kuemper’s blocker, the crossbar, and Kuemper’s arm (in order) stoned three chances for Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tyler Toffoli again. That Carter line outperformed their possession numbers, with a 50% Corsi For% not quite summing up the quality of the chances they generated, but that isn’t luck, is it? LA caught some late fortune with a Max Domi high stick, and Anze Kopitar got a little luck of his own as he padded his stats with an empty-netter in the final two seconds.
I’ve got no problem with that, though, especially as it brought Kopitar to a new career-high in goals (35) and gave us juuuuuust a bit more material for our Hart arguments.
I Feel It Coming
The win puts the Kings in as enviable a position as they’ve been in since, I dunno, January? At the season’s midpoint LA had 53 points and was in third place in the West, but five straight regulation losses (two to Anaheim) put them into a playoff battle they have yet to emerge from. This one brings them much closer to where they need to be. A win in Anaheim sans Jake Muzzin — on night two of a back-to-back — is a tall order, but getting two points on Thursday does put more pressure on the Ducks while taking just a bit off the Kings.