The LA Kings are off to a red hot start this season as they faced the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, who beat them recently as one of only their 2 losses so far this year. The Kings were out for revenge and built a 5-0 lead before hanging on to win 5-3 to up their home record to 5-0-1. Despite losing star player Jeff Carter with a tendon injury a couple weeks back, the team has over-achieved so far with everyone stepping up big. Veterans Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown are leading the team in points coming back from sub-par seasons last year. The team has matched its best start ever with a 10-2-1 start.
They have had tremendous balance from other forwards while the defense and goaltending has been great. Even the young players and rookies have been solid including Adrian Kempe, who already has a hat trick this season.
Some of the newcomers are Michael Amadio (who scored his first goal of his career) and said “it was undescribeble on my first goal and a great pass by Pearson. We knew we had to be good coming off the road trip. We had to just stay calm and did a good job. I grew up watching the Leafs being from Canada so that was a good feeling and relief”.
Other youngsters include Andy Andreoff, Alex Iafallo, Brooks Laich and Nic Dowd. Returning key forwards are Tyler Toffoli (2 goals), Tanner Pearson (3 assists) and Trevor Lewis (goal).
The defense is led by Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Derek Forbort. The Kings signed free agent Michael Cammalleri and he has provided leadership along with socring his 3rd goal of the season and assisting on another in the win.
New coach John Stevens has turned the team to a big early success after missing the playoffs last year before Daryl Sutter was fired at the end of the season. “We got our power play going and putting pucks in the net and create some offense. There were times we played on our heals. Amadio has played well and scored lots from where he played in Juniors. He is very optimistic around the net.” Our record has been pretty good so we have to keep it up and focus on checking.” I asked coach Stevens about the difference in the loss in Toronto and the turnaround from last season. He said, “In Toronto, we did not check well enough. In the first period tonight, we sat back but you have to learn even though we are winning. We have had different part of the lineups contribute but the top guys have picked it up this year”.
Kempe added, “We played hard and got off to a fast start. We knew they were a skilled team so we had to be on our game. It is great that everybody can produce and all 4 lines are great.” I asked what is the team’s approach with Carter out and he said “everyone has picked up the slack and done a great job.”
The Leafs also started strong this season under coach Mike Babcock and second year star Austin Matthews (who leads the team with 10 goals) as he scored on his first of two penalty shots. Babcock said, “We should be ready. We got in early and ate so we should be fresh.” referring to the back to back game.
More at www.nhl.com/kings.