What we learned from the Kings’ 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday:
1. When the Kings’ big, mobile forwards go to the net, they’re hard to stop.
The Kings scored two of their three goals from around the net: Trevor Lewis was in front and battling for the puck on their second goal, moving it from his skate to his stick to get it past Cam Ward, and Tanner Pearson batted the puck out of midair from deep on the right side after a shot by Mike Richards had struck Ward in the shoulder.
“We had a hard time handling their size and strength on the walls,” Carolina Coach Bill Peters said. “They wore us out in the D-zone. They were a heavy team in the offensive zone and we spent too much time in there [Thursday] night.”
2. Their defensemen have found ways to become catalysts offensively, a big boost.
Against Florida on Tuesday, each of the Kings’ six defensemen recorded at least one point. On Thursday, only Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin made it onto the score sheet with assists, but in each case they made smart, crucial plays.
They’re no slouches defensively either. Matt Greene played a season-high 23 minutes and 16 seconds on Thursday and was credited with two shots, one hit and two blocked shots. Doughty played “only” 25:10, nearly six minutes fewer than he had played against Florida, and seven minutes fewer than he played against the Ducks in the Kings’ previous game. Coach Darryl Sutter had said he was forced to use Doughty more than he’d like, because of the suspension to Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez’s finger injury. Doughty on Thursday got his lightest load since the fourth game of the season, when he played 22:39.
3. The Kings still have a deep well of the resilience that was their backbone last season.
Just look at their defense. They lost Voynov to a suspension after their sixth game this season, had to wait until their seventh game for Muzzin to recover from an injury and make his season debut, have been without Martinez the last three games, and played three games without an injured Robyn Regehr. And still they’re third in the tough Pacific division and are tied for the third-most points in the Western Conference with 26.
The team that faced seven elimination games during last spring’s Stanley Cup playoff run isn’t easily intimidated. There will be slumps and scoring droughts and winning streaks along the way, and the Kings’ decision not to buy out Mike Richards when they had the chance is still open for debate. But despite a series of obstacles, the Kings remain in good shape for another long run this spring.