The Kings took a 4-1 victory from the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday at Staples Center, their first win after a couple of clunkers to start their Stanley Cup defense. Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, aka That 70s Line, each had a goal and an assist. Anze Kopitar scored his first goal of the season and Martin Jones made 29 saves.
Here are three things about the game, which was a step in the right direction:
First, That 70s Line is carrying the Kings so far, having accounted for all but one of the team’s six goals to start the season. That’s good and bad. It’s good because you have to figure Kopitar and Marian Gaborik will begin to produce more, especially once the third member of the line is solidified. Or as close to it as it gets with Darryl Sutter as coach of the Kings. Kopitar and Gaborik started out with Dustin Brown, but Sutter switched Justin Williams onto their line for Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes and kept Williams there for Sunday’s game against Winnipeg.
Second, Kopitar pulled no punches when asked about his line’s lack of production. Said Kopitar: “It can be better. Definitely a step in the right direction. I think we were moving the puck better. We had some zone time and we were creating some chances. But there is definitely room for improvement and we’re going to work on it.”
Third, Jones continues to amaze as Jonathan Quick’s backup. Nothing seems to faze him, not that the Jets represented an especially difficult challenge. Said Toffoli of Jones: “That guy’s a machine. That guy does it all. He’s such a great goalie.”
Will the Kings be healthy enough to lead the playoff race?
Goalie Jonathan Quick and forward Kyle Clifford underwent wrist surgeries and Jarret Stoll had hip surgery during the offseason, signs of the toll a grueling regular season and an extended playoff run can exact on professional athletes. All three are sound and will begin the regular season on schedule. Injuries are always a concern, particularly for a team that relies on its physical play to win games. The Kings appear to have the depth to withstand various routine bumps and bruises in the season.
Luck plays a great role in a team’s success. Good teams avoid injuries, or at the very least they manage to use their depth to patch together a lineup that’s good enough to keep winning. There’s not a big drop-off. Bad teams get injured and there aren’t enough quality players to fill the void. The Kings appear to have plenty of depth, both on their roster in Los Angeles and at their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H. Any questions about the organization’s depth should have been answered by the likes of Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli during the playoffs last season.
Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter had to say about Tyler Toffoli, who had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 shootout victory Thursday over the Ducks: “He had a tough camp last year, so the difference in demeanor would be that this year he’s playing well two games in, and last year he struggled. We get along good. He’s a good boy.”
Jordan Nolan, Dwight King and Tyler Toffoli scored in regulation play and King supplied the winner in the shootout as the Kings defeated the Ducks 4-3 on Thursday at Staples Center. Toffoli assisted on King’s second-period goal and Martin Jones had 25 saves. Here are three takeaways from the Kings’ win:
First, Toffoli could be poised for a breakout season for the Kings. We’ve seen flashes of offensive brilliance from him from time to time, never more than during the playoffs while skating with Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson. He scored a superb goal Thursday against the Ducks and set up King for the goal that tied the score at 2 in the second period. The pass was the better play than the shot, so he slipped a cross-ice pass to King, who beat Ducks goalie John Gibson. Here’s a link to the video highlights: http://kings.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=731825&navid=DL|LAK|home
Second, Ryan Kesler is going to be a major pain in the butt for everyone in the NHL now that he’s with the Ducks, a team that learned it must be better up the middle after losing to the Kings in the second round of the playoffs last spring. He’s strong on the puck, makes a pest of himself around the net and when placed in the right spot he could be a difference-maker against the Kings’ formidable centers, including Anze Kopitar.
Third, has everybody had enough of the preseason yet? Let’s get going, shall we?
Here’s some of what Kings coach Darryl Sutter had to say after a split-squad loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday in Glendale, Ariz.: “You are still wanting to see more of your young players who you want to give opportunities to in an exhibition game, as I said before. When you play two in one day there are a lot of guys that normally would not get a game at all, so now they get an opportunity.”
Here’s more: “Looking at Jeff (Carter), Tanner (Pearson) and Tyler (Toffoli) as a unit not as Jeff Carter. And we are trying to get some lines together and seeing if it can work together. Yeah, I think that line is really good. They were good all night.”
Here’s what Jeff Carter had to say about playing with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli after their line propelled the Kings to a 4-3 victory Saturday night in Game 3 and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series: “It’s been great. Obviously, they have a lot of chemistry playing together in Manchester (of the AHL). They’re working hard and they’re having fun. They use their speed and skill to create opportunities. Kind of dragging me along with them, so it’s been good.”
Pearson: “I think everyone is stepping up all at once and knowing the job we have to get done. Tonight, we succeeded in that again. … We’re definitely rolling pretty good, but we can’t take our foot off the gas pedal. We’ve got to keep on going, each and every game. We’re capitalizing on our chances and it’s working out.”
Toffoli: “I’m having fun. This is incredible. Obviously, as a young guy, you dream of being in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the past three games have been probably my best three games of the playoffs.”
The Kings recalled forwards Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey from their American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H., on Wednesday. They also returned to the practice rink in El Segundo to resume workouts. They were without six of their Olympians, however. Anze Kopitar and Slovenia and Slava Voynov and Russia were eliminated in the quarterfinals Wednesday in Sochi. Canada’s Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter will face the U.S.’s Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown in the semifinals Friday. The Olympic break continues until Feb. 26 for the Kings, who return to action with a visit to Denver to play Colorado.
The Kings re-assigned goaltender Martin Jones and forward Tyler Toffoli to their American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H., for the Olympic break. The team also recalled goalie J.F. Berube. Jones won his first eight NHL starts and is 8-4-0 overall with a 1.71 goals-against average for the Kings. Toffoli has 19 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 38 games for the Kings. Berube has a 19-13-2 record and a 2.43 goals-against average for Manchester.
The Kings tweaked their roster Wednesday by recalling forward Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Jeff Schultz from their American Hockey League affiliate at Manchester, N.H. They also re-assigned forwards Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey to Manchester. Toffoli has 17 points, including nine goals, in 33 games with the Kings so far this season. Schultz has played 41 games with Manchester, recording seven points (one goal, six assists). Pearson has one goal in eight games with the Kings. Vey has five assists in 15 games so far with the Kings.
Sometimes the headline tells the whole story, sometimes it doesn’t. This is one time when it does. Tyler Toffoli wasn’t producing, so the Kings sent the 21-year-old forward to their minor-league affiliate at Manchester, N.H. Toffoli had 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 33 games for the Kings this season. But he also has an 11-game drought without a goal and he scored only once in his last 16 contests. He was the face of the Kings’ recent scoring woes. They haven’t had a goal from a third- or fourth-line player in about a month. They have scored only one goal in each of their last two games, a win over Vancouver and a loss to Detroit.