The Kings returned home early Wednesday in better shape than when they left for back-to-back games with Minnesota and Calgary. Because despite consecutive overtime losses, they actually pulled closer to a wild-card playoff berth and added a top goaltender along the way by trading for Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop.
There were some negatives, of course. Calgary, with a six-point lead, may be all but out of reach in the playoff race. But that will allow the Kings to concentrate on the slumping St. Louis Blues, who are just a point ahead in the wild-card standings.
With that as a backdrop, here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Flames:
1. Who needs wins?
Well, obviously, the Kings do. But for the time being, they’re doing just fine without them, having gained two points in two games despite losing both in overtime.
“Anytime you can get two points in two road games, it’s usually the way it works,” said Bishop who had a solid night, making 28 saves, in his Kings debut. “You want to get as many points as you do road games and we got two in two.”
The Kings owe part of their success in the playoff race to the Blues, who are on a season-worst four-game losing streak and weakened themselves further this week when they traded top defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.
The Kings, meanwhile, would appear to be getting stronger. With Bishop joining Jonathan Quick, the Kings have arguably the NHL’s best 1-2 tandem in goal. And on Thursday they begin a 14-day, seven-game homestand, their longest of the season.
“We went on the road, played two back-to-backs, we got points, and now we’ve got to go home and try and take care of business there for a while,” Coach Darryl Sutter said.
2. The Kings’ overtime mojo has faded
The team went into its brief two-game, two-day, two-country road trip with a league-best 22-4 record in overtime since the 3-on-3 format was adopted before last season. Then they lost twice, each time on the first shot in the extra period.
“Three-on-three is kind of a crapshoot,” said Bishop, who was beaten on a breakaway goal by Calgary’s TJ Brodie 1:47 into overtime. “We’ll just kind of go home and regroup.”
3. Two games into the Bishop era, Dean Lombardi’s trade is working just as he said it would
When the Kings’ president and general manager dealt for a goalie instead of a winger last Sunday, a lot of people were left scratching their heads. But Lombardi’s theory was the Kings needed a chance to win every night and having a Vezina-caliber goaltender on the ice each night gave the team the best chance at achieving that.
Bishop proved as good as advertised Tuesday, with several of his 28 saves coming on tough chances. They also came on the heels of a poor performance by Quick, who was making his second start in three games, further underscoring Lombardi’s belief that a rotation in goal will keep his goalies fresh by giving them at least one day off between starts.
“The schedule demands it. It’s not just our club,” Sutter said. “If you look around the league this year, you’re seeing more of a tandem situation. They’re getting really good starts and a lot of wins out of two guys, not just one guy.”