Monday, December 16, 2013

Weekend wrap: Burke returns, the Kings, the Canucks, and everyone's suspended

A look at three of the biggest stories from the NHL weekend and how they’ll play into the coming days.

It’s Good to be Kings

The Kings came into the weekend as one of the hottest teams in the league, riding a five-game win streak and outscoring their opponents 12-1 over their last three.

On Saturday afternoon, they toyed with the Senators on their way to a 5-2 win, opening the scoring at the 21-second mark and chasing Craig Anderson before the game was five minutes old on their way to a 3-0 first-period lead. The Senators closed to within one before the Kings added a pair of late goals to ice the win.

“We just keep winning. There’s a bunch of things going right right now, and we’ve just got to make sure we stay on top of it,” said Jarret Stoll after the game. “Even on this road trip we knew we were maybe getting away with some plays and some situations where they didn’t score, and we ended up finding ways to win games.”

This is normally the part where I’d touch on all the things the Kings have been doing well, but we have to post this on Monday morning and I’m not sure that gives me enough time to cover everything. So instead, let’s cherry-pick a few highlights. A good place to start would probably be, well, their good starts. Saturday’s game marked the 18th consecutive contest in which the Kings did not allow a first-period goal.

And then there’s the goaltending. The ink had barely dried on all the stories about backup Ben Scrivens being this year’s breakout star when along came backup backup Martin Jones to assume the title. He went 5-0-0 with a 0.99 goals-against average and .967 save percentage in the first five games of his career, and he has moved into a platoon with Scrivens for the starter’s job. Oh, and L.A. should be getting former All-Star and Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick sometime in the new year.

And while that level of goaltending is almost certainly unsustainably high, the Kings are currently shooting just 5.7 percent at even-strength close, which is probably unsustainably low. They’re also one of the league’s best possession teams. I’d get into some of the other advanced stats indicators but that would involve math and I don’t want to anger Darryl Sutter, so let’s just say they’re almost all positive. This team is good.

“We just have that confidence,” Drew Doughty said. “We have that swagger that we had a couple of years ago, and we’re having the time of our lives right now.” That would be “a couple of years ago” as in the time they cruised to a Stanley Cup, by the way.

So how do you beat these guys? Being the Blackhawks seems to help, at least based on Sunday night’s 3-1 Chicago win. The Blackhawks apparently missed the memo about the Kings not giving up goals in the first period, as they poured three past Scrivens en route to a thoroughly dominating win.

The Kings now head back to L.A. for a four-game homestand that will take them to the Christmas break.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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