Meet us in St. Louis, again?
And it didn’t matter if they were fatigued from a win the previous night against the Washington Capitals. Darcy Kuemper continued to roll, and most other facets of the Kings’ game fell into place in an impressive 4-1 win.
Here’s what we learned:
The puck is finding Tyler Toffoli. He shared the team lead with Anze Kopitar with 13 goals and is on pace for 35 goals. Toffoli joked that “I wouldn’t really count” his empty-net goal Thursday, but his uptick is that of a goal scorer who gets points in bunches.
Toffoli hasn’t suffered much in production since he lost Jeff Carter as his center. His in-close skill is as good as any on the Kings, and if he can complement Adrian Kempe in that department, it would give them a dynamic they haven’t had in recent years.
How does Alex Iafallo not have more points? His nine points in 27 games seems criminal given his vision and creativity. The rookie wisely put the puck on net on a rush, and the resulting rebound was left for Kopitar to pounce on in the first period.
Iafallo’s instincts and style might remind Kings fans of Justin Williams. But the numbers don’t necessarily reflect that. Drew Doughty perhaps explained it best this week how Iafallo is most effective: on a line with Kopitar and Dustin Brown.
“I think Iafallo doesn’t get enough credit for what he does on that line,” Doughty said. “He’s 100% got maybe the best stick I’ve ever seen in my entire life on the forecheck in the neutral zone. His stick on puck is unbelievable. So he creates those turnovers for those guys, and obviously Brownie likes forechecking, too, and I think Kopi kind of missed that in the past.”
St. Louis was unorganized. As good as the Kings played, this didn’t look like the Blues team from Oct. 30. Their defensive pairs didn’t click, and communication seemed to be an issue. Even Norris Trophy-candidate Alex Pietrangelo made a glaring giveaway in the opening minutes and was forced into a hooking penalty on Brown.
Blues coach Mike Yeo also made a curious move when he pulled goalie Carter Hutton after two periods, to change it up, but also because he didn’t like Hutton’s game.
Overall, this is likely a spell that good teams like the Blues usually get through. It just wasn’t representative of the tighter defensive game they had a month ago.
Follow Curtis Zupke on Twitter @curtiszupke