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The Los Angeles Kings’ five-game win streak came to an end last night, falling 2-1 to the Washington Capitals.
Coming off an excellent 4-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens over the weekend, the Kings essentially just picked up where they left off, with a great start to the game. Los Angeles was the better team early in the opening frame and Arthur Kaliyev put the Kings ahead midway through the period, after getting to a bounce off the end boards. Anthony Mantha did tie it for the Capitals on a 2-on-1 shortly after off a great pass from Connor McMichael, but Los Angeles continued to press with some great chances afterwards. While they couldn’t re-take the lead, the Kings still owned a lot of the period.
Los Angeles didn’t come out quite as strong in the second frame and relied on Cam Talbot a bit, but had some great chances from Adrian Kempe and Pierre-Luc Dubois as the period went on. However, they ended up falling behind late in the frame, off a goal from McMichael. However, the Kings were all over Washington in the third period, and it looked like Anze Kopitar had tied the game midway through the frame, only for it to be called back on an offside challenge. Los Angeles had some excellent chances around the net from there and ended up outshooting the Capitals by a huge 15-3 margin, but came up short for a 2-1 loss.
For the Kings, it was the kind of game where they did pretty much everything they could and just came up short. They outshot Washington 38-15 and severely outchanced them, but just didn’t get the bounces. Other than the actual score itself, there wasn’t much to be upset about with the performance.
Even factoring in the loss, over the last six games, the Kings have still outscored their opponents by a 21-7 margin. So now at the quarter-mark of the season, it’s a good opportunity to take a look at what’s working for the Kings on route to their 13-4-3 record through 20 games.
First, while the Kings may have struggled to score against the Capitals, we know it’s not a larger issue, based on both the chances they generated and the recent success. The team’s offense has been firing on all cylinders, and the Kings still rank second in the NHL in goals per game.
Quinton Byfield has exploded for 16 points in 20 games, continuing to look more like the potential superstar the Kings were hoping they’d selected second overall in 2020. The first line as a whole has been excellent, with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe combining for 18 goals already, and both players hovering around point-per-game numbers.
Moving Kevin Fiala to the Danault/Moore line has worked well too, and Moore specifically is well on his way to having the best season of his career. Meanwhile, Carl Grundstrom continues to provide depth scoring, and Arthur Kaliyev is producing at a better rate each year.
It can be easy to forget the team is still missing a very good top-six winger in Viktor Arvidsson, and Blake Lizotte has now also missed time. Plus, Pierre-Luc Dubois has yet to find real consistency in his game, showing the team has the firepower to blow out opponents even when Dubois isn’t on his game.
Defensively, the team remains one of the most solid teams in the league, allowing the second-fewest shots per game in the NHL. While the top-four group has been worlds better since the addition of Vladislav Gavrikov last trade deadline, the bottom pairing of Andreas Englund and Jordan Spence has also worked really well.
Cam Talbot has proved everyone wrong, continuing what’s been an excellent start to the season. With a .928 save percentage and 2.02 goals against average across 15 games, Talbot is one of only three goalies in the NHL with save percentage above .925 with at least 10 games played. Meanwhile, Pheonix Copley, who’s maybe been the team’s biggest under-performer early on, rebounded in his last game for a shutout against Montreal.
Special teams is another part of the success: the penalty kill has allowed only a single goal over their last 10 games, and ranks first in the NHL.
It’s hard to pick out any major issues with the team right now, with pretty much any possible concerns being resolved early on. Quinton Byfield’s development may not have been coming along quite as well as expected through his first couple years, but he’s looked excellent so far. Los Angeles’ bottom pairing seemed like it could’ve faced challenges with inexperience, but Englund and Spence have both been good. Then lastly, goaltending was the largest concern heading into the year, and it’s been one of the team’s strengths so far.
Especially over the last couple weeks, the Kings have often looked dominant, on route to the best points percentage in the Western Conference. The team is showing up every night with consistent efforts, and rarely have had an off game. The Kings look more complete and more dangerous than ever post-rebuild, and now, they're emerging as a frontrunner in the West.
Los Angeles will be back in action on Sunday, when they host the Colorado Avalanche.
OTHER ARTICLES FROM NOVEMBER
- Kings dominate in 4-1 win over Leafs
- Kings get past Senators to stay undefeated on the road
- Kings keep rolling with 5-0 win over Flyers
- 4 players who are exceeding expectations with the Kings early on
- Kings stay perfect on the road, extend streak with win over Golden Knights
- Kings' winning streak ends in overtime loss to Penguins
- Kings still looking to solve home-ice struggles
- Kings earn important home win vs. Panthers, Pierre-Luc Dubois injured
- Kings end homestand with win over Blues
- Kings beat Ducks, extend win streak to four games