Kings Head Coach Todd McLellan spoke to the media twice yesterday, both before and after yesterday’s win over San Jose.
In both availabilities, he posed the question out loud as to whether yesterday’s game versus the Sharks felt more like the first game of a stretch that includes 11 of 14 here at home with no trips of more than one game, or like the seventh game of a road trip, just happening to be on home ice. In the morning, he said it was something that was being discussed among the staff with how to approach the game. Afterwards, he said that on his way into the game, he felt more of a road game feeling, imagining that the players felt the same way. He didn’t ask me, but I found myself nodding aggressively as he said what he said. I had written it myself in the preceding article. It doesn’t really make sense if you’re not in the travel, but yesterday’s game felt like the most difficult game of a seven-game roadtrip from an energy management perspective.
Typically – almost always (?) – teams returning home from East to West get two days in between games. Teams in that situation typically play an evening game to conclude a trip and fly home immediately after said game. In the case of the Kings, it was around 2:30 AM Pacific, 5:30 AM in the time zone departed from, that they landed in Los Angeles. It’s hard to simply fall asleep right away when you get home and Friday was essentially a wash day, at least for myself, just to reset a bit.. Typically, at least from my experience, teams have that second day to practice and adjust back to routine on the ice. The Kings had to play though and play against a team that was off and home since the Tuesday prior. One day off versus three has felt like a theme this season. Game, travel, off day, game is standard protocol on the road, so in that respect, it’s nothing new. That travel being nearly a six-hour flight, however, is not routine at all. That’s why, to me at least, yesterday felt like a road game being played on home ice and a very difficult road game at that. And that’s why I felt deeply what McLellan was saying.
That’s also why, in my opinion, yesterday was a very difficult game for the Kings to play. It’s why I thought that getting to overtime was a really good point, even if the Kings weren’t all that fluid in how they got there. It’s why finding a way to win on a night when maybe it was closer to a “B” game and not an “A” game, as Jaret Anderson-Dolan said, was important. It wasn’t the cleanest or sharpest effort of the season, but it was a good effort. Despite the flaws, the Kings committed to playing the right way, they were strong in the neutral zone and limited Grade-A chances against. They got what they needed from special teams, with a power-play goal and a penalty kill in overtime, which is always important in games like that. They battled their way to a win and I’m not sure they win that game on their most recent home stand two weeks ago. They deserve some credit for playing the right way, despite the circumstances against them. A pair of shootout wins aren’t the sign of a team that has turned the corner, but maybe it’s following the first direction down the right path, as the Kings won back-to-back games for the first time in more than a month . Consistency is still an issue and you can only see improvements to consistency over a longer stretch of games. In that aspect, we don’t know right now, but 10 of the next 13 games coming in Los Angeles should give us a good sample size to look at as we approach and eventually enter 2023.
If you count that game as a part of the trip, the Kings went 4-2-1 from seven games played. That’s very good. Even if you don’t, it was a 3-2-1 trip for the Kings, which is passable, especially when you consider how those losses went. 5-0 in Toronto, 6-0 in Buffalo and a fast and a loose 6-5 overtime game in Columbus, three games the team was unhappy with but seven points nonetheless. It’s left the team in second in the Pacific Division by points and third by points percentage. The Top 6 teams in the division picked up between 10 and 12 points from their last 10 games, a sign of parity for the moment.
We’ll dive into the schedule a bit deeper tomorrow, but it certainly sets up well moving forward, with manageable travel and a lot of games at home on the docket, including a good chunk within both the division and the conference. Those are four-point games and important games. Anaheim, Calgary and Vegas make up three of the next four on the schedule, some great opportunities to continue to feed the ATM with more points in the bank.
One other note for today, Insiders – The Kings have assigned defenseman Jordan Spence and forward Rasmus Kupari to AHL-Ontario. This is not abnormal for an off day, with the Kings frequently making moves like this in this situation to help manage the salary cap. The moves leave the team with just 18 healthy skaters, so naturally expect some corresponding moves to follow, whether that be a simple reversal or other players coming up from the Reign, who are also off today. Nothing to freak out about here on this fine Sunday, where I am glad to be spending in temperatures above 20 degrees.
Also Also – A bear-y cool promo in Ontario last night with the annual Teddy Bear Toss. Kings prospect Andre Lee was the goalscorer last night to set off the fireworks. Can see the whole thing transpire in whatever the opposite of slow motion is below!
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) December 18, 2022
Kings are on the ice at 11 AM tomorrow, we’ll see what the morning brings. Enjoy the day, Insiders!