The Kings found themselves on the winning side of their season finale Thursday with a 5-3 win against Anaheim. The team delivered another gutsy performance to collect its 47th win and 104 points for the year. Adrian Kempe lit the lamp three times to push his goal total into the 40’s as the first King to do so Since Robitaille in the 93-94 season. There was an increased physicality to the game. Its chippy nature saw the Kings and Ducks engage in several scrums and multiple fights, which is of no surprise given the rivalry. Anaheim closed out what can only be described as a season to forget, having set a new NHL record for worst +/- at a -129 for the year. As for the Kings, they are only continuing to get healthy and prepare for the season following the regular season, the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The match-ups are set, and the LA Kings vs. Edmonton series is one that will gather a lot of attention. With Gabe Vilardi starting to skate and Alex Edler’s return on the horizon, the games will be a lot different from the previous two games we saw late in the season. Kevin Fiala still is not skating with the team, so his return still does not have a timetable as game 1 approaches on Monday the 17th.
As the season concludes, it is important to keep in mind the transformation that the LA Kings went through over the 82 games. The season started with Cal Peterson and Johnathon Quick as net-minders, and at its conclusion, neither one of the two were even on the roster. The job that Todd McLellan did to maintain while getting close to league-worst goaltending was pretty remarkable. It allowed for Pheonix Copley to enter the scene and earn himself a contract extension for his 24-6-3 record he posted to basically save the season. Anze Kopitar once again walked away, leading the LA Kings in points, having done so in 15 of his 17 seasons as a King. Adrian Kempe hitting the 40 goal mark was the model of consistency from the Wing, and the Kings are now preparing for back-to-back playoff appearances. If you’re a Kings fan, once again, a tip of the cap to Rob Blake on another great season.
The Kings are set for a first round rematch with Edmonton for consecutive years and will not be favored against the hot Oilers team. This series features two very evenly matched squads who are very familiar with one another. The Oilers head into the playoffs with health not being much of an issue, and the Kings are getting back to 100% slowly but surely. This is going to be a heavy-hitting series as a rivalry has formed over the last two seasons between the two Pacific division heavyweights. McDavid and company have adapted well to the tight-checking style the Kings play and have shown they can win tight games. Furthermore, LA has shown when healthy, they are capable of beating anybody. The Edmonton and LA series is one most hockey fans should keep their eye on because a seven game series would do both these familiar foes justice.