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Recap: Kings cruise to NYE victory over Flyers

If the Los Angeles Kings ended 2019 much in the way they would like to proceed into the new year, then we’ve got a pretty fun 2020 in store.

In perhaps one of the most fun periods of hockey the Kings have played all season, the Kings jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period, with goals by Kyle Clifford, Alex Iafallo, Tyler Toffoli, and Adrian Kempe. Iafallo and Toffoli both scored on the power play; Kempe scored shorthanded.

Starting Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott was pulled after the first period, where he gave up four goals on 15 shots. He was replaced by Carter Hart, who has struggled on the road this season, but who stood tall this time around, stopping 13 of 14 that he faced.

The Kings added a fifth goal in the third period, with Martin Frk scoring his third goal in three games with the Kings. Frk’s goal came on the power play; the Kings scored on all three power plays that they received.

Earlier in the season, when the Kings racked up a big lead like this, they often found themselves struggling to close things out. And while the outcome of this game never truly felt in doubt, the struggle was there in this game too as the Flyers tried valiantly to make it interesting, scoring three times over the course of the second and third periods, and outshooting the Kings 11-4 in the third. But the home team hung on for a year-ending victory.

It’s a sign of good things to come that the team is finally putting all of the pieces together: an understanding of Todd McLellan’s system, buy-in from the players on the ice, shuffling pieces around until everyone is in their right spots. (Adrian Kempe, for example, is a winger and should always have been a winger.)

Patience is the name of the game — hockey teams overreacting to success (or failure) is a sure route to disaster — but you can see in games like this one glimmers of the team we could be watching actually contend in the near future.

Since the 2010-11 season, the Kings have now played in six New Years Eve games and hold an overall record of 5-1:

  • December 31, 2019: vs. Philadelphia, 5-3 win
  • December 31, 2018: @ Colorado, 3-2 win
  • December 31, 2016: vs. San Jose, 3-2 win
  • December 31, 2015: @ Calgary, 4-1 win
  • December 31, 2013: @ Dallas, 3-2 loss
  • December 31, 2011: vs. Vancouver, 4-1 win/

While this game bucked what’s overall been a very odd pattern of 3-2 or 4-1 games, we won’t complain too much. Since the 2010-11 season, Anze Kopitar now leads the Kings in NYE points with six (two goals, four assists). Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, and our dear departed Tanner Pearson — he’s not dead, he’s just in Vancouver — have four points each in NYE games.

From all of us here at Jewels from the Crown to all of you, thanks for an excellent 2019, and here’s to a fun, interesting, hopefully not league-worst 2020.

Talking Points