At times it looked like the seniors against the freshmen. The Kings were angry, hungry and ready to pounce on the depleted Vancouver Canucks.
The outcome was predictable, a 3-0 win at Staples Center on Monday that put the Kings back into a playoff spot at third place in the Pacific Division. The Kings did what they should have done against a team vying for a high draft pick in June, but it was the way they won that was notable.
Here’s what we learned:
Moving Adrian Kempe back to center was a smart move
Kempe has tried get back into a groove ever since Jeff Carter’s return bumped him to third line wing. His ice time had dipped and he’s still on a 16-game scoring drought.
Monday was a healthy sign. Back with former linemates Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson on his wings, Kempe had two assists and was a force on the forecheck. Kempe, Pearson and Toffoli also formed the second power play unit with Alec Martinez and Dion Phaneuf.
The Kings needed Kempe to get going, and this is one way to spark it. Technically still a rookie, Kempe has 33 points, the most by a Kings rookie since Anze Kopitar’s 61 in 2006-07.
Kings did the little things
In the first period, Dustin Brown stole the puck to keep it in the Kings’ end. Alex Iafallo induced a hooking penalty on Ben Hutton. In the second period, Alec Martinez lunged to get the puck up to Drew Doughty to start the rush on Kopitar’s goal. Kempe won the puck in the corner to get it to Jake Muzzin on Toffoli’s goal.
The Kings learned their lesson from their Jan. 23 loss to Vancouver. The Canucks try to force the Kings into their rush game, but the Kings didn’t stray from their plan this time.
“It was a much better effort without the puck, for sure,” Kings coach John Stevens said.
Tuesday’s starting goalie is anyone’s guess
Back-to-back games usually deem that Jonathan Quick is rested for one of them, but his shutout makes it more enticing to see if the Kings will start him against the Arizona Coyotes.
The numbers are in Quick’s favor. He recorded his fifth shutout against Vancouver, his second-most against one team. The first? Arizona (6).
Jack Campbell is waiting in the wings to give Quick a rest, which will have to happen sometime because of the condensed schedule. But the Kings need to hoard points, and Quick gives them the best chance to do so.
Stevens doesn’t reveal his starting goalie, so we’ll have to invoke former Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who would always say, “Wait for the song,” in reference to the national anthem, when asked about his lineup.