Regardless of if somebody celebrates the Kings recently concluded road trip as a 4-1-1 triumph or bemoans it as a disappointing thud that crashed and burned with a two-game losing streak in Minnesota, neither summation really matters much. In 2021, it’s all about looking ahead because each of the 56 games on a team’s schedule are within their division. Thus, for the Kings to still be in a playoff conversation at the end of March, collecting wins is the priority.
When that isn’t possible, picking up a point via an overtime or shootout loss will have to suffice.
“It still sucks that we lost,” Adrian Kempe said, regarding Saturday’s outcome.
After falling behind 0-3, the Kings were able to eventually tie the game and force overtime. However, for the third time this season, they let more points slip away to the Wild and it’s starting to sting a bit.
“We took over right from the second period and had some really good chances,” Kempe said of the Kings comeback in regulation. “All lines played well, we got in on their D, and made it simple. We got to earn back some goals. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get two points, but I think it was a good fight back from the team and we have to take that with us, for sure.”
The week ahead won’t be any easier, though. Up first for the Kings will be a Coyotes team looking for revenge after LA swept a recent two-game series in Arizona. Then, next weekend, the Blues come to town for an ultra-important West Division matchup.
Might be time to pivot re: Kings playoff focus.
Coming into the season, series vs Minnesota was the focus. Now, Wild pushing for more than 4th. And 5 of their next 9 vs AZ. Will separate from pack or come back to Earth.
For LA, start targeting 8gms v Blues. Kings 3-1 thus far.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) March 1, 2021
Fortunately for the Kings, their power play was clicking again on the road trip.
“We wanted to move the puck a lot faster,” noted Kempe. “[Friday] wasn’t good enough and I take a big responsibility for that, as well. [Saturday], we moved it around a lot better and we were able to earn two goals. That was a good thing for us and we have to have that expectation of ourselves every night. We have to keep that going.”
Kempe has taken a larger role on the power play this season and much of it has to do with his impressive zone entry numbers and a noticeable improvement with his shot.
“All the guys around me make such good plays, I’m happy to stand there,” he added. “I’ve tried to get around the net more, shoot a lot more pucks. I got myself a goal again, so that was good for confidence.”
The goal couldn’t have come at a better time either, as coach Todd McLellan had asked for more from Kempe during his postgame scrum following the first game in Minnesota on Friday – remarking, “He’s a guy that we’ve got to get going; I think he’s scored one goal in the last 14 games. He’s such an important player to us, we have to get him back producing so we can take some of the pressure off some of the other guys.”
We asked if that goal on Saturday night was in direct response to what his coach had to say leading into the final game of the road trip.
“In the last couple of games, I haven’t really shot the puck enough,” Kempe said. I tried to be a little bit more around the net. Still, I create a lot of chances, and [Saturday] I was looking to get in and around the net a little more, shoot a lot more pucks, and it was a step in the right direction.”
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