When you looked through pre-season predictions for the NHL’s 2021-22 season, you saw a number of analysts thinking highly of the Los Angeles Kings – highly enough to envision them earning a playoff berth for the first time in four years. And although the Kings still have a long way to go this season (and after a stumble-start out of the gate), they’re currently the league’s hottest team, with six consecutive wins in as many games, and the chance to do serious damage by the end of the month.
Without question, the Kings wouldn’t be where they are today without the resurgence in goal by veteran Jonathan Quick. L.A. wouldn’t admit it right now, but they projected Cal Petersen would be their starter far more often than not this year, and thought Quick slowly would fade off into the franchise’s history books. But Quick has rebounded from that slow start to post a .924 save percentage and 2.26 goals-against average in seven games played. Petersen hasn’t been as good as Quick (.907 SP, 2.82 GAA in six GP), which is why Quick’s numbers mean so much. Without strong play from both – they each are on three-game individual win streaks – the Kings would be at or near the bottom of the Pacific. Instead, they’re mid-pack, and if San Jose and Anaheim each regress from their hot starts as many believe they will, the Kings will be in prime position to take their spot in the standings.
In addition to great play from their goalies, the Kings will need contributions on offense, and everyone from captain Anze Kopitar (who leads the team with seven goals and 15 points in 13 GP) to first-year King Phillip Danault (five assists and eight points in 13 GP) to bottom-six forwards Trevor Moore (one goal, one point in 13 GP) and Carl Grundström (two goals and three points in eight GP), the entire team needs to generate goals, because the high-end offense in L.A.’s top two forward groups isn’t as deep or as skilled as many of their opponents’. It has to be points-by-committee for this franchise at the moment.
The Kings finish out their current Canadian road swing with games against Ottawa Friday and Winnipeg Saturday, and after that, they get an extended stay at home, with seven straight games back in their building. Not all will be cakewalks – they’ll square off against Washington, Carolina, Calgary and Toronto in that stretch, with easier tests against Arizona, Ottawa and Anaheim – but they’ll need to capitalize on them to remain on pace for a playoff spot.
Los Angeles also will need some better luck on the injury front. As it stands, they’re without the services of D-men Drew Doughty (sidelined approximately through the end of the calendar year due to a knee injury) and Sean Walker (gone for the rest of the season with an ACL and MCL tear in his right knee). And winger Andreas Athanasiou (only three GP thus far) and off-season acquisition Viktor Arvidsson (three assists in eight GP, but currently sidelined since the end of October) also will give the Kings a boost whenever they’re fully healthy.
Some of the Kings’ issues will need addressing as the season goes on, but by the time the NHL trade deadline rolls around, CapFriendly.Com projects them to have approximately $10.54 million in cap space. That’s more than enough to add a talented defenseman or a skilled forward with some term beyond this one on his contract.
Kings GM Rob Blake has been patient over the past four seasons, but he does not have lifetime tenure in his current role. Sooner than later, team ownership needs to see improvement and playoff tickets for sale. But in the heat of the moment right now, there are enough good things happening for Blake and Kings fans to feel confident better days are soon at hand.