After those two Stanley Cups in the span of three years about a decade ago, the Los Angeles Kings have failed to advance past the first round of the postseason and have only gotten there twice. Now, they're once again tied atop the Western Conference points-wise and the Pacific Division with the Golden Knights as the NHL playoff race really starts to heat up.
Vegas does have two games in hand on LA, which made Tuesday's 6-5 shootout win over the Jets all the more critical. If you think the race out West in the NBA is nuts — which it is — check in on the National Freaking Hockey League for a second if you haven't done so of late:
Every single playoff seed is far from decided. The parity across all these clubs is truly remarkable. All of them have compelling narratives, too, but for the purposes of this blog, it's worth focusing on the Kings for a minute given their recent history of struggles.
Kopitar has already scored his most goals in a season since the 2017-18 campaign when he had 35. Many of LA's forwards have stepped up to chip in on a balanced scoring effort led by Adrian Kempe's 28 goals. It was Kempe who had the only shootout goal in the Kings' victory in Winnipeg.
And while it was a rough night overall for Copley, the LA netminder once again was nails in a key spot as he's often improbably been. Prior to this season, Copley got his first taste of NHL action in 2015 and appeared in a grand total of 31 games before this season. His GAA (2.74) and save percentage (.899) aren't spectacular, yet Copley is 18-4-2 as a starter. He's split time mostly with franchise legend Jonathan Quick, who…well…he's 11-13-4 with a 3.50 GAA. The 37-year-old vet is having a brutal go of it.
IN RELATED NEWS (LOL)…they appear to have upgraded from Quick as their 1b goalie on the depth chart by throwing a lifeline to Joonas Korpisalo (.913 SV% in 28 games this season) amid the Blue Jackets' tank job:
Damn man. This whole situation…I know Quick is on a steep decline at the minute but to kick him out the door like that to the NHL's DFL club in Columbus? AND he's taking the team flight back amid what should be a triumphant celebration?
Some might say "Oh to be a fly on the wall…" here. Intriguing but pretty sure I'd pass. That's too awkward. Right!?
Anyway, to focus on the positives here and bring this thing home, the Kings generally save themselves with excellent situational hockey (second on the power play at 25.6%) and tend to jump out to quick leads on opponents. They rank fourth in first-period goals (62) and fourth in second-period goals with 80. However, they have a -5 goal differential for the season, so the fact they’re this high up in the West is a testament to their collective fortitude.
Way sexier teams like the Oilers, Avalanche and the emerging Kraken are liable to be bigger draws in terms of fun narratives. We shouldn’t overlook this scrappy Kings bunch. Captain Kopitar is out of his mind right now — and Copley played well enough to make the front office believers. So much so that they made the cold, calculated call to move off Quick in favor of a superior alternative.
What’s with the NBA and NHL right now anyway? When was the last time BOTH Kings teams were good??
Here's some Prime 2012 Playoff Quick to play you off. His line that postseason? 16-4 record, 1.41 GAA, .946 SV%, three shutouts.