Last night, the Los Angeles Kings and their superhuman goaltender, Jonathan Quick, earned their sixth consecutive win by shutting out the number one team in the league, the St. Louis Blues. The game was scoreless until the shootout, as you would expect in a battle between the league’s top two defensive teams. Newly acquired forward, Jeff Carter, had the game winner after going 5-hole on all star goalie Brian Elliott, who earned his team a point by making 37 saves. The Kings victory made a big statement, proving what I’ve known along, that this team can go up against the best of them and come out on top.
Looking back a couple of months ago, the Kings were badly struggling to score goals, getting frequently shutout or held to just 1 or 2 goals per game. Since the Jack Johnson/Jeff Carter trade right before the deadline, the Kings have looked like a completely different team. It’s amazing how the acquisition of one player, granted it is Jeff Carter, can provide a perfect balance to the offensive attack. Since February 25th, the team has scored 42 goals in their last 12 games, for an average of 3.5 goals per game. This makes them the top-scoring team in the Western Conference as of late. The only team in the league to average more goals is Pittsburgh, and they of course have three of the best goal scorers in Crosby, Malkin, and Neal.
The win last night put the Kings at the top of the division and into third place in the Western Conference, for now at least. Phoenix, San Jose, and Dallas are all still very much in the mix to take the Pacific Division, so these last couple of weeks will be incredibly important. With the way the Kings are playing, however, they are looking like the team to beat. Anze Kopitar has 65 points and is playing quite possibly the best hockey of his entire career, Jonathan Quick is….well, Jonathan Quick, and each and every line is contributing on the score sheet. The Mike Richards/Jeff Carter chemistry is not only adorable, but extremely effective. Dustin Penner has had two huge goals in his last three games. The two rookie call-ups, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan have combined for 14 points in under 20 games played, and last but not least, the 4th line is at times the most effective group of guys on the ice. I’d say this is a pretty well-balanced team and if the Kings can keep rolling and solidify a playoff spot, I genuinely feel bad for the team that will have to face them in the first (and hopefully second, third, etc.) round.
Bottom line, this team is playing desperation hockey, and it is working out brilliantly. The remaining 8 games however, will not be easy. The Kings will face the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Boston Bruins on Saturday, before embarking on their final road trip of the season where they will play the Canucks, Flames, Oilers, and Wild. All very beatable in my opinion. They will round out the season with two back to back games against the Sharks and then before we know it playoffs will be here and I’ll be camped outside Staples Center for a month, drinking Navy Grogs, and verbally abusing every opposing fan in my path. I could not be more thrilled. Word to the wise, if you aren’t already a Kings fan, now is the perfect time to hop on the bandwagon. There is PLENTY of room!
And now I will leave you with a look at this RIDICULOUS save by Jonathan Quick last night: