Welcome to the Western Conference wild card race, Kings. Buckle in and keep your helmets on at all times.
Heading into their big showdown in Los Angeles on Saturday, all the talk centered around the series of trades between the Kings and Flyers that shaped the organizations recent history. The game was supposed to be all about Jeff Carter and Mike Richards showing Philadelphia what they've been missing since general manager Paul Holmgren shipped them out of town to shake up his locker room in 2011.
Instead of focusing on how those two propelled Los Angeles recently, the game quickly became a bitter example of how far the Kings have fallen during the recent stretch. The Kings' inability to score has led to eight losses in the last ten games, culminating in a 2-0 shutout loss to Steve Mason and the Flyers on Saturday.
Once the wardens of the Pacific Division, the Kings find themselves clinging to the final divisional seed by two points. They've fallen back into the dogfight that is the Western Conference wild card hunt with only a limited number of games to get their scoring problems sorted out. It's an unenviable position. But that's why the Kings got Carter and Richards, right? Time for them to prove they can help drag their team out of this scoring rut and back into contention.
All the NHL Scores
Lightning 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)
Flyers 2, Kings 0
Maple Leafs 6, Senators 3
Flames 4, Wild 3 (OT)
Sharks 2, Blackhawks 1 (SO)
On Saturday we asked you five burning questions about the day's games. These are your cool, soothing answers.
1. Will the mass reunion in Los Angeles live up to the hype?
Not quite. When we previewed the matchup we failed to consider the Kings' current scoring drought. Los Angeles continued to struggle to find offense, despite out-shooting the Flyers 35-13. Wayne Simmonds scored the first goal of the game, which happened to be the 100th of his career.
2. Can Shea Weber continue his Norris-worthy run?
Weber had a rather nondescript evening. He didn't factor into the scoring and didn't register any hits as the Blues neutralized the Predators' physicality all night. Weber's first penalty in the first period resulted in a power play goal for Jaden Schwartz, and Nashville spent the rest of the night playing catch-up.
3. Will injuries finally catch up to the Lightning?
Considering goalie Ben Bishop started in net just days after suffering what looked like a concussion, the Lightning seemed to escape serious injury woes this week. Bishop sparkled, stopping 22-of-23 shots on net to lead the Lightning to an overtime win. The resiliency of the Lightning this season is nothing short of remarkable.
4. Is the goaltending saga in Toronto over?
It certainly seems that way. Jonathan Bernier got the nod over James Reimer again on Saturday. He didn't have to be perfect, considering Phil Kessel's hat trick provided plenty of goal support. But Bernier was solid when called upon, earning his 20th win of the season in the process.
5. Which Western conference juggernaut breaks their slump?
As you might expect, the matchup between two elite, yet struggling, teams resulted in a hard-fought and low-scoring affair. It took two periods for anyone to find the back of the net despite some exciting back-and-forth hockey. So, naturally, it ended in a shootout. They didn't win, but Chicago has to be pleased with their effort on Saturday. Both teams looked much more impressive than they had all week.
The one play or moment from Saturday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
Brendan Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety faces an interesting question on Monday. How do you discipline a player for a play that wasn't even considered a penalty during the game? Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri's boarding on Ottawa Senators defenseman Cody Ceci went uncalled on the ice but drew attention across social media. The league usually frowns upon those kinds of plays, but will the NHL retroactively punish Kadri?
Stat of the Night (Phil Kessel edition!)
Make it nine goals and 21 points in the last 12 games for Phil Kessel. Now tied for fifth in the NHL with 59 points.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 2, 2014
Most points, last two seasons: Crosby 131, P. Kane 115, Ovechkin/St. Louis 113, Kessel/Getzlaf 112, Tavares 111.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 2, 2014
Post to Post
- Let's talk about the problem with plus/minus.
- Ryan Callahan will either be a Ranger or shipped out of town by 3 p.m. this Friday.
- The Leafs are looking to trade Nikolai Kulemin.
- Matt Moulson's injury could hurt his trade value.
- Finally, this. Whatever it is.