Just about ten days ago, I suggested that Los Angeles Kings players competing at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia were trolling Kings fans by playing so well, and specifically with respect to Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, and Dustin Brown–by scoring so many goals after the team had suffered through such a long scoring drought prior to the Olympic break (see LA Kings Competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics: Trolling Kings Fans HARD). I opined that Kings fans could only hope that the team would capitalize on whatever momentum may have been gained from those players, as well as from the rest of the team getting a three-week break to recharge. The Kings have now played three games since the end of the Olympic break, and they may just be on the type of roll for which Kings fans were hoping.
The team had already defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 in overtime just before the break. In the first game after the break, the Kings beat the Colorado Avalanche on the road 6-4 in a high-scoring affair. In the past two games, Jonathan Quick has turned aside 49 of 50 shots, with the Kings defeating the Calgary Flames 2-0 on the road, then coming back home to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1. All three victories were impressive for different reasons–the Avalanche had been 19-7-3 at home, the Flames had previously defeated the Kings TWICE with goals scored in the final 30 seconds of EACH game, and the Kings defeated the Hurricanes on a Saturday afternoon at home–and Kings fans know all too well how poorly this team has historically played in afternoon games, at home, on weekends.
The Kings have gotten contributions from both players who competed at the Olympics, as well as players who did not, during the past three games. Here are the cumulative stats of some of those players after those games:
Competed at the Olympics
Jeff Carter - 1 goal, 1 assist
Drew Doughty - 1 assist, +2 plus/minus rating
Dustin Brown - 1 goals, 3 assists
Jonathan Quick - 2 wins, 49 saves, .980 save percentage
Anze Kopitar - 2 goals, 2 assists
Slava Voynov - 1 assist, +4 plus/minus rating
Didn’t Compete at the Olympics
Justin Williams – 2 goals, 2 assists
Robyn Regehr – 1 goal, 1 assist, +6 plus/minus rating
Mike Richards – 1 goal, 1 assist
Dwight King – 1 goal, 1 assist
Tyler Toffoli – 2 assists
With the trade deadline of March 5th at 12 pm PST approaching fast, the Kings have to decide whether or not this current run will: 1) endure the final 20 games of the regular season, then 2) carry into the postseason. A late-season run certainly worked well for the Kings in the 2011-12 Stanley Cup-winning season, but that run was sparked by the Jeff Carter trade. The safe move, of course, would be to make at least a smaller move to acquire one additional player that can add scoring punch to the second and/or third lines. Some of the more popular names being linked to the Kings in recent weeks: Matt Moulson, Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, and Ales Hemsky. All four of those players are veterans who have had sustained success scoring goals and creating goals for teammates. But all four players would also come with a price-tag that Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi may not want to pay.
While the Kings are currently holding steady in the sixth spot in the Western Conference standings, they’re only one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild. They’re also 10 points behind the San Jose Sharks for the fourth spot–so it may be too late to catch them for home-ice advantage, at this point. The Kings’ main objective can only be to continue to play good hockey and carry that momentum on the road against whatever they’re matched up against in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. After 11 goals scored in three consecutive wins since the Olympic break, the Kings are well on their way to achieving that objective.