Kings: Contention Points for the Start of the Season

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 19: Los Angeles Kings Left Wing Adrian Kempe (9) and Colorado Avalanche Center Nathan MacKinnon (29) watch play during a National Hockey League game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Kings will face the Colorado Avalanche to start their season. The Kings have lost their last eight of ten against the Avalanche with better success the previous season, going 2-1-0. The Kings consider themselves in the discussion of contention going into this season. With a unique preseason, a suspension, and a tight cap situation, the Kings will need to get off to a good start. Here are some keys to getting past the onslaught of the season’s first couple weeks and getting themselves into good shape down the road.

The Penalty Kill

The penalty kill has acted as the Kings’ kryptonite for the past few seasons. This preseason, the Kings renewed their approach to a diamond formation, hoping to limit the number of one-time plays that have burned them in the past with abundance. In the first two games, particularly with the Colorado Avalanche to start, the PK unit will be faced with Cale Makar, Nathan Mackinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Ryan Johansen. The changes have not been able to assimilate for the entirety of the preseason, and the PK has yet to click.

The penalty kill had trouble against the Vegas Golden Knights, but it’s evident top-of-the-perimeter pressure of the diamond PK has been noticeable. If the Kings can find some rhythm against a high-powered Colorado powerplay, they can put themselves into a groove early instead of digging a hole into which they failed to climb out in recent years.

Goaltending

The Kings’ clear-cut weakness for this season will be their goaltending. It can also be the story of the Kings’ success this year. The two goalies need to just marginally outperform the goaltending the Kings received in the second half of last year to ascend the throne, so to speak.

Before last season, Pheonix Copley was a career AHL goalie who stepped in to provide league-average goaltending to a deep-forward team. This is not to water down his performance last year, for his play garnished my vote for saving the season. Without the high .800 save percentage the Kings battled last season through for the first quarter mark and more, an argument could be made that they possibly win the division. Copley is back, and the hope is that he could either return to what he provided last year or improve upon what he offered last year.

David Rittich who was initially signed as a free agent to possibly push one of the two goalies, was waived as of 10/10. Rittich joins notable waived goalies Alex Stalock and Martin Jones.

The most reliable option is resting in the hands of Cam Talbot. He was an off-and-on injured player the previous two seasons, who is past 35, and had a rough showing against Vegas in the final game of the preseason. He is the most senior and established goalie of the three.

If playing a calm game and making timely saves, each player can secure a steady start to the season. Looking at the roster and the early returns from the preseason, the offense will be there. The saves need to come when called upon.

Power Play

The powerplay was an excellent weapon for the Kings last year. They finished fourth in the league but hovered at the second-best mark late into the season. The same names will reinforce the first unit, except for Gabriel Vilardi. The Kings decided to replace the only right-handed forward with another, Viktor Arvidsson, an excellent passer on the powerplay, who has already connected to Kempe nicely in the preseason.

Unfortunately, Rob Blake informed media today that Arvidsson is potentially unavailable tomorrow due to a lower body injury. To step into his role, will be Pierre Luc Dubois, likely to sit in front of the goalie. Outside of Doughty, it’s all lefties.

The second unit is without Arvidsson and Dubois but will retain Phillip Danault, Trevor Moore, Quinton Byfield, and Arthur Kaliyev from last year. The new faces have been Pierre Luc Dubois and Jordan Spence, who the latter, will quarterback the unit. Upon his return, Arthur Kaliyev will undoubtedly return to be a menace off to the right circle for a devastating one-time option where he has cashed in for most of his goals thus far. Spence himself was excellent last year on a tremendous Ontario power play.

However, Spence and Kaliyev have been sent down to the Reign for cap reasons, not only stalling the suspension of Kaliyev but leaving the second powerplay quarterback position open. It will be Roy to step in to keep the righty balance, filling the void. He has previously stepped in to fill a void for a right-handed point shot threat.

The first unit will continue to hum even with the insertion of Dubois, who has been highly productive in his career as a PP1 staple; that is one clear precedent, but the second unit is in flux and will be essential to maintain the pressure that the first unit will thrive on while employing the elite level of talent on the ice.

The Dubois Line

The Dubois and Fiala connection has been one of the best storylines for the Kings during the preseason. The two have connected multiple times for opening goals and lead goals. However, the line is a double-edged sword, with apparent defensive deficiencies. Fiala is not a defensive stalwart; Dubois plays a sound 2way game but is deficient on draws. Kaliyev, who is usually on the line, will miss the first two games via suspension. Alex Laferriere, who may act as a reincarnated version of Alex Iafallo, could serve as a stopgap on that line and has the opportunity to continue to turn heads within the organization.

Dubois and Fiala also garnish a ton of drawing penalties ability. However, each has a checkered past of taking untimely and unnecessary penalties.

Well, they’re not easily cleaned up because, in some cases, we’ve tried to do it for a year and a half, so obviously it’s not easy. I think there is an opportunity to correct some things but at the end of the day, there’s probably really one way that we can correct it and that’s welding somebody to the bench and we may get to that eventually.

Todd McLellan, post-game October 7th

As mentioned earlier, the PK has been the darkest spot on the Kings resume the last few seasons. The best way to kill a penalty is to avoid taking the penalty.

Suppose the two can maintain their high level of play, avoiding unnecessary penalties. In that case, they can propel the team into excellent standing within their division as the two seem poised to connect regularly on the scoresheet. Few teams have the luxury to throw out a Dubois and Fiala against lesser competition.

Conclusion

The Kings are poised to do more damage than last year, going all in on a marquee name and riding a tight cap situation. By following these keys with some level of consistency, they will put themselves in an excellent position to determine the next move to propel themselves in what looks to be a more competitive division than last year.

Connor Doyle

US Navy Veteran and UCLA Class of 2024. Background in International Development Studies. Los Angeles born and raised. Following hockey for over a decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jake Debrusk on the Move to Edmonton?

Jake Debrusk’s future with the Boston Bruins is uncertain following their elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Florida Panthers in Round 2 last week. The left-winger has been with the Bruins for 7 seasons and was a standout player, leading the team with 5 goals and 6 assists (11 points) in this year’s […]

Read More

2024 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Berkly Catton

The Scouting Report Berkly Catton originates from Saskatoon, Canada, where his outstanding achievements culminated in Catton being chosen as the first overall pick in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft by the Spokane Chiefs. He began his rookie season with the Chiefs at the age of 16 in the 2022-2023 season, and delivered a remarkable performance, […]

Read More
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Opinion: Why Winning The Cup Is a Reality for the Blueshirts

The New York Rangers have been in this position before. The team won the Presidents’ Trophy, the Metropolitan Division (in previous years it was the Atlantic Division and Patrick Division), and a few playoff rounds. It ended in heartbreak in 1992 when the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Rangers in six in the second round and […]

Read More