The LA Kings faced off against their crosstown rival for the last time this season and the last time against a goaltending legend, period. What are the three takeaways from the game?
As the season winds down and their playoff hopes dashed, the LA Kings find themselves looking toward next season. Before that happens, however, they still had one more game to play against their hated rival, the Anaheim Ducks. The Kings and Ducks have become quite familiar with each other as of late, having played three straight games with this being the fourth in a row.
Although postseason play will have to wait for at least one more season, these final eight games can still have an effect on what happens next season for the Kings. After Friday night’s game, LA Kings coach Todd McLellan was asked by Zach Dooley from LA Kings Insider about Lias Andersson, who had played a solid game and scored a goal. His response was not just for Andersson, but for the team as a whole.
As I told players in between the second and third, we have a management team, a coaching staff and even players are evaluating each other right now. It does matter at this time of the year because decisions will be made based on the season as a whole, but also what you do in these moments. Some are pushing for more and others are giving it away.
The coach’s message apparently fell on deaf ears Saturday night, as the Kings were completely outplayed by the Ducks. When the horn sounded at the Honda Center to end the third period, the team from Anaheim took home a 6-2 victory. With the win, the Ducks also evened the four-game series at two wins apiece. Here are the takeaways from the finale.
1. Goodbye to a legend
People sometimes forget just how good Ryan Miller was.
For a five-year stretch from 2005 -2010, Miller was one of, if not the, best goaltenders in the game. He won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie in 2010 and he led the Buffalo Sabres to the Eastern Conference finals in 2006 and 2007. Miller was a star in international play as well, backstopping Team USA to the Silver Medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Ryan Miller recently announced that this would be his last season and as such, Saturday night would be the last time he would play the LA Kings. He would give the Kings something to remember him by, stopping 23 of 25 shots he faced in the 6-2 victory. Miller will retire as the all-time wins leader by a U.S.-born goaltender.
2. The offense and defense disappoint
This was a game to forget for the LA Kings.
The offense, simply put, struggled for large swaths of the game. The Kings generated only 13 shots on goal through the first two periods — although while they came alive with 12 shots on goal and two goals in the third, it was too little, too late. The Ducks only yielded one power-play chance, which the Kings did not convert. On a bright note, Brendan Lemieux scored his first goal as a King, and Tobias Bjornfot scored his first-ever NHL goal.
If the offense struggled, the defense looked lost. Sure, the Ducks were playing inspired hockey for Miller, but the Kings defense had no answer for the Anaheim pressure. Turnovers and blown coverages demonized the silver-and-black for the entire game and they were never able to get on track. At least the penalty kill unit stymied the lone Anaheim power-play chance.
3. The Andersson-Vilardi-Moore line is showing chemistry
It won’t show on the scoresheet as the trio had no points and each was a minus player tonight, but this line looked comfortable together once again. Trevor Moore has actually been a pleasant surprise all season and Lias Andersson is pushing hard to stay with the Kings from this point forward. But, Gabe Vilardi is looking rejuvenated since this line was put together. He suddenly looks more assertive, his passing has been spectacular, and he is even shooting the puck more with three shots on goal tonight.
The LA Kings finish the season series versus the Anaheim Ducks with a record of 4-3-1. Next, they travel to Arizona for two games against the Coyotes on Monday and Wednesday night.