Eastern Conference fans are about to see that the L.A. Kings are quietly returning to the ranks of the NHL’s elite teams after a turbulent summer.
Look out, East Coast teams. The Los Angeles Kings are coming for you.
The Kings continued their current win streak on Tuesday night with a come-from-behind 3–2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Coach Darryl Sutter’s troops have now won five in a row and look to build on their run during the meat of their current six-game Eastern Conference road swing. They ran into a hot goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 33 of 34 shots before leaving in the third period with a lower-body injury. Given a break, Sutter’s possession-heavy team persevered in overtime.
During their next five games they will visit Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, and if you believe in the East Coast Bias in the NHL, the Kings will likely attract more media eyeballs than they have all season. After a one-game return home, they’ll hit the road again for a four-game Western Conference swing to finish the calendar year.
All in all, the Kings will play only four of their 14 games in December at home.
It’s a vital stretch for Pacific Division leaders, one that could eradicate any doubts surrounding this team’s ability to dominate its opposition and return to the ranks of the league’s elite.
Entering the season, the storyline surrounding the Kings was if they could rebound after missing the playoffs in 2014-15 and from all the off-ice drama, namely the issues involving the arrests of Mike Richards, Slava Voynov and Jarrett Stoll, that had swallowed any discussion of this team’s potential.
In short? They have.
During their current five-game win streak the Kings have played some of their best hockey of the year. They’re again the possession juggernauts they were long known for being. Through those five games they’ve registered a five-on-five Corsi For % (all stats are Score Adjusted and via War-on-Ice.com) of 62.5%, which leads the league during that stretch by a wide margin. And they’ve scored only 16 goals through those five games, so it’s not as if they’re burying their opponents on the scoreboard. Of course, they never have.
Goalie Jonathan Quick isn’t being mentioned often in the early Vezina Trophy discussion, but this road trip could change that as well. He currently owns the fourth-best High Danger Save Percentage in the league at .893 (at least 500 minutes played) and more eyeballs won’t hurt his chances either.
It was easy to write off the Kings before this season. They didn’t make many changes to their roster besides adding Milan Lucic and they didn’t seem like they had the kind of game-breaking Je ne sais quoi that the Blackhawks, the NHL’s current Dynasty, have shown in the past.
The Kings played 16 of their first 26 games before this current road trip at home, which didn’t help their exposure. But they’ve all but squashed the notion that what happened off the ice during the summer could affect their performance on it. Now, it’s time for fans in the East to get a peek at what anyone who’s visited the Staples Center already knows: The Kings are getting hot much earlier than usual and they’re best regarded as one of the league’s most dangerous rosters right now.
They’ll do better than merely survive this Eastern Conference road trip. The Kings are back in a big way.