Considering the outlook just four days ago, consider things good.
We last touched on the Kings before Wednesday’s affair in Calgary, tabbing them to need at least eight of the possible 12 points available in their final six contests. Well, after a grueling three puck-drops in four nights, the Kings have been able to credit five of six possible points to their name. At the moment, this leads them to third in the Western Conference, as they’ve taken the throne of the Pacific Division.
The offense has restructured itself in the past three games, even with the loss of Jeff Carter – dark horse Brad Richardson filling in quite well with two goals tonight in Minnesota. The Kings have scored 10 goals in the past three games, but have still continued to struggle on the powerplay. Coming into tonight, they had executed on just two of their previous 30 man-advantage opportunities. They cut themselves a bit of slack in Minnesota, Dustin Brown potting a loose rebound from a Mike Richards powerplay shot.
Some may argue the Kings would have come away with two points tonight had Jonathan Quick been in net, especially considering his shootout resume over Bernier’s. With tonight being the second of back-to-back games, Darryl Sutter fit in some time for Jonathan Bernier in the most plausible opportunity possible before the regular season’s end. Quick, who will most likely start the final three games of the campaign, was due for rest, and Bernier was due for live-play.
And as for those final three games:
Monday VS Edmonton Oilers
Thursday VS San Jose Sharks
Saturday @ San Jose Sharks
It’s a rematch with the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, who the Kings saw Friday night, handling them quite easily in a 4-1 victory. The Oilers, however, are a scary opponent right now, even if they are 14th in the Western Conference, 29th in the NHL. They have absolutely nothing to play for, which alleviates pressure – something that can buckle teams in a playoff race this close.
The Kings haven’t found gleaming success against Edmonton this season, heading into their final matchup with a 1-1-1 record.
The Kings’ offensive output is something surely to be praised as of late, but much of it stems from the blue-line. Alec Martinez has been a pleasant surprise recently, chipping in with three goals in his previous eight games. It hasn’t been just Martinez, as the defense has been contributing in a balanced effect.
Seven points have come off the blades of defensemen in the past three, Willie Mitchell (1G, 1A), Drew Doughty (1G, 1A), Matt Greene (2A), and Alec Martinez (1G). Along with allowing the season-low in shots Friday night (14), the defensive department has done quite well for themselves, and for the team. Just five regulation goals have been surrendered by the Kings in the past four contests.
As for the forwards, the loss of Jeff Carter is a heavy hit to take right now, the Kings momentarily losing their key trade-deadline acquisition. To fill his role came Brad Richardson, who was all over the ice tonight, involved in both ends, taking the night’s spotlight with two goals, just his fourth and fifth of the season.
Carter will be evaluated Monday in Los Angeles for an MRI. X-Rays initially saw no damage that posed any signs of a bone break, Monday’s further examination should tell a better story. Obviously, Jeff Carter should be counted out of the Kings lineup for Monday, giving Brad Richardson a chance to build on his magnificent performance tonight in Minnesota.
Richardson came out of nowhere last April
The Kings haven’t been able to qualify for the NHL playoffs in three consecutive seasons since their run from 1999-2002, the beginning of the Staples Center era. They’re due for another trifecta.
Do they make history with three straight runs?
.Only the final three will tell.