The Los Angeles Kings returned home after a long trip across the North American continent, keeping pace with the Vegas Golden Knights at the top of the Pacific Division. Even though the team lost three of the five games, there was much to discuss, including Anze Kopitar’s four-goal game and the trade of franchise icon Jonathan Quick.
Despite all the stories that made headlines recently, the Kings must keep moving forward and take care of business since the division title is within grasp. Moreover, the team opened up a three-game homestand against non-playoff teams and edged out the Montreal Canadians 3-2 to kick things off.
Let’s discuss a few takeaways from last night’s win over an Eastern Conference rival.
Pheonix Copley bumps up save percentage numbers, despite an easy night
The Kings’ management has gone all-in on Pheonix Copley as their primary goalie for the present and the future, despite a subpar .899 save percentage (SV%). Even though they made a trade for Joonas Korpisalo as an insurance policy, the pair will now shoulder the workload for the team, who is currently in an intense battle for playoff positioning.
As mentioned, Copley has struggled to keep his numbers above the league standard of .900 SV%; however, he finished the night against the Canadiens with 19 saves on 21 shots for a. 905 SV%, his best numbers in the last five games. Although he could shoulder some blame for the first goal, allowing the puck to slide through his legs, he was not at fault for Denis Gurianov’s beautiful slapshot late in the third.
Now that he no longer plays in the shadow of Quick, the win over Montreal should serve as a confidence booster as the team heads into the stretch run. Even though he appeared shaky in the first and third periods since those were the only times the Canadiens mounted any pressure, he went shotless for almost 15 minutes of the second.
Ultimately, the team focused on upgrading their defense corp at the trade deadline, looking to clean up their game on their end of the ice. Furthermore, these acquisitions should help Copley improve his numbers when the games matter most.
Anze Kopitar is exceptionally dangerous right. now
The Kings’ captain Anze Kopitar has 25 goals, reaching the 20-goal mark for the 12th time in his career, producing his best numbers since the 2017-18 season when he tallied 35. Moreover, he’s scored five goals in the last two games, accounting for 55% of the team’s offense.
Everyone in hockey knows the Kings’ game plan revolves around Kopitar, so it is no surprise to see him carrying his team to a potential division title. After a mild January, with 14 points in 13 games, he’s exploded for 15 points in his last nine games, helping the team to a 6-2-1 record over the same stretch.
Although he blocked a shot in the dying seconds, there has been no update about his status for Saturday’s clash with the St. Louis Blues. Nevertheless, if the captain misses a few games, he can still reach 70 points, a mark he has yet to hit in five seasons.
Gabriel Vilardi becomes the latest Kings player to reach 20 goals
In 2021-22 the Kings only employed three 20-goal scorers, Adrian Kempe, Phillip Danault, and Viktor Arvidsson. Thanks to a lamplighter in the third period, which gave the Kings their first lead, Gabriel Vilardi became the fourth player from this year’s team to reach the plateau.
Even though there is still time for Arvidsson (18) and Danault (15) to become the fifth and sixth members of the 20-goal club, this year’s success story is Vilardi. During his previous 89 games, Vilardi had a total of 18 career goals, surpassing those numbers in just 53 games in 2022-23.
Surprisingly, the Kings employ a 20-goal scorer on their top three lines, and Vilardi’s success this season is just one of the reasons why the Kings remain one of the top contenders in the Western Conference.
Who’s next for the Los Angeles Kings?
The Kings continue their three-game homestand on Saturday night against the slumping St. Louis Blues, who have only won four games since the All-Star break. The opening faceoff is at 7:00 pm.