That’s right, the Kings pulled it off again. Although as has been a bit of a theme, once again they decided to make it tense up until the very end. After jumping out to a big 4-1 lead after two periods, they (and Quick in particular) let the lead slip away, before Handzus put the Stars away with a big goal in OT.
A couple story lines to follow in this game. First, Jonathan Quick let the game slip out of his grasp in the third period with some sloppy keeping. By my count there were at least two of those that he realistically should have stopped. The fact that the team managed to pull through for him is good news. Unlike many fans and commentators, I tend to believe that this is the way hockey is played. Sometimes the offense will sputter and we’ll need Quick to steal some games. Othertimes Quick will have an off game and the team in front of him will need to compensate. This game was an example of the latter. The important thing now is that he bounce back from this sub-par game and show that he’s the kind of #1 keeper that the Kings can depend on throughout the rest of this season. For now, we’ll see.
Another important storyline is the play of Simmonds. After Williams suffered an injury in the morning skate and was pulled from this game, Simmonds jumped in to fill the role alongside Kopitar and Smyth. He played brilliantly. He managed to score a goal and add an assist, and had an all-around excellent game. There’s no question that this game was one of the best of his young career. Now, is he taking his game to another level? Or does he just look better because he’s playing with two of the top offensive threats on the team? Probably both. But regardless, Simmonds demonstrated that he’s got some real offensive potential to go with his high-energy, gritty game. It was a very pleasing reveal for Kings fans no doubt.
Finally, Kopitar. Wow. That’s really all that can be said about this stud at this point. Kopitar is tied for the league lead in points with Alex Ovechkin. Is that absurd pace going to be maintained all season? I doubt it, but it’s an incredible start to be sure. It’s worth noting that Kopitar is also two years younger than Ovechkin, and is locked up through the 2015-2016 season. If his progression continues at anywhere close to this astronomical rate, he’s going to be an insane steal by that time. Frankly, at only approximately 6.8M per season, he’s at a decent price even right now. He threw down a hat-trick in this game, and looked poised to put another couple in the net. It’s clear that Smyth’s presence on his line has helped him, but Kopitar has also matured since last year and appears to be playing stronger on the puck, and overall with more confidence. This can only be good for Kings fans.
In the end, a 5-4 OT victory is two points, and Kings fans know all too well how tough it can be to get two points when they need it. I think Quick will bounce back, and if the offense can retain this pace, we’re in good shape.
Next Up: Phoenix Coyotes