The pendulum swung back in the Kings’ direction.
The streakiest team in the NHL has been involved in three consecutive shutouts, on one end or the other. Saturday’s game fell in their favor, and it was never in question.
A 6-0 win against the Arizona Coyotes was the response they needed following a 5-0 loss to the Nashville Predators, which followed a 3-0 defeat of the Dallas Stars.
Too much probably shouldn’t be read into a win against the league’s worst team, but the Kings steadied themselves for a few days off.
Here’s what we learned:
Kuemper’s play won’t alter the goalie workload
His second straight shutout ran his shutout streak to 170 minutes, 30 seconds. He is 8-1-4 and earned points in 12 of his 13 decisions. Most, if not all coaches would ride the hot hand. Kings coach John Stevens has said he has a number in mind for how much his two goalies will play, but he defused talk of altering that, given Kuemper’s play.
“We don’t have a script,” Stevens said. “The funny thing about a goalie is there’s only two of them. So when one guy plays and one guy doesn’t play, then it seems to be amplified, because it’s like a quarterback, right? ‘Well, how come he’s playing?’ There’s positions on your team and I think our goalies have both played well for most of the year. Darcy’s seeing the puck right now. The puck’s hitting him. He’s probably played as good as he’s ever played, and he’s really come in and played sound for us. With a couple days in between [games], you don’t often get that. But there’s no question we’re going to need both our goalies to win hockey games as we move along here.”
Alex Iafallo was key
He exemplified the Kings getting back to their forecheck game. Iafallo and linemates Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli gave the Coyotes issues with pressure, and the second line of Tanner Pearson, Adrian Kempe and Dustin Brown followed suit.
Iafallo benefited from being sat recently and has since had much better play along the wall. His offense is on the uptick: Three of his five goals have been scored in the last seven games.
Arizona was as bad as advertised
The schedule happened to play out that the Kings’ badly needed bounce-back game fell against a Coyotes team that was already the doormat of the league.
The Coyotes did have an oddly good record against the Kings, who snapped a four-game losing streak against them and five-game losing streak at home.
But Saturday saw Arizona reduced to what it’s been for a while. Rookie Clayton Keller’s production has dropped off a cliff, and it is barely more than a one-line team with an elite defenseman in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. It’s just a matter of whether the Coyotes will trade some of their assets at the trade deadline to build for the future.
Said Arizona coach Rick Tocchet, “It’s probably right up there with one of the worst games for us. L.A., you could tell they wanted to win this hockey game.”