LA Kings: Three takeaways from the Kings’ 4-1 loss to Arizona
Quinton Byfield’s injury leaves a sour taste after the LA Kings dropped their second straight preseason game.
The final score of the LA Kings‘ 4-1 loss to the Coyotes on Tuesday ended up taking a back seat thanks to Quinton Byfield leaving the game early in the third period. In a battle for body position, he went into the boards awkwardly, favoring his left leg as he left the ice.
Here was the Byfield injury. Let's hope for the best. pic.twitter.com/sarrXHF4CX
— Hockey Royalty (@Hockey_Royalty) October 6, 2021
In what appeared to be a very Opening Night feel of a lineup, Byfield had perhaps his best game of training camp up until his injury. He saw some time on the second powerplay unit and created many chances in the offensive zone, including setting up Austin Wagner for a great chance that hit the post. The former Sudbury Wolves star hit a post of his own in the first period too.
Unfortunately, we’ll hold our breath until we hear more about the injury.
Quinton Byfield was seen leaving Staples Center on crutches.#GoKingsGo
— Russell Morgan (@NHLRussell) October 6, 2021
Now, on to the game.
The Kings yet again dominated the possession side of the game at 5-on-5 (courtesy of Natural Stat Trick):
- CF%: 66.27%
- xG%: 52.55%
As has been the case all camp, this was driven by the Iafallo – Danault – Kempe line, which owned a 10-1 shot-attempt advantage at 5-on-5 (94.74% CF%).
* Carter Hutton (38 saves)
**Gabe Vilardi (PPG)
***Mikey Anderson (Led all Kings with 5v5 ice-time, 70% CF%)
1. Gabe Vilardi shooting the puck is a welcome sight
Vilardi again centered Vladimir Tkachev and Lias Andersson. The trio had a strong night, but Vilardi had an extra gear to him that is something the Kings are hoping to see on a much more consistent basis in 2021-22.
He opened the scoring on the power play with a laser wrist shot from the right circle:
Flick of the wrist for Vilardi and a KINGS GOOOOOOAAAALLLL🚨#GoKingsGo I @LAKings pic.twitter.com/emURtZzVIA
— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) October 6, 2021
But it wasn’t just the goal – Vilardi was excellent through the neutral zone and instrumental in creating offense:
Vilardi with the slick hands through Coyotes' defenders, draws the penalty #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/IYrFlmIZzU
— Hockey Royalty (@Hockey_Royalty) October 6, 2021
And for good measure, he sprinkled in a cheeky shootout goal:
Vilardi shootout goal: https://t.co/QXupBoxDRa#LAKings #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/kkvlAtRKOf
— Eric (@kingsgifs2) October 6, 2021
There’s no question he was very noticeable tonight:
Gabe Vilardi has been fun to watch tonight.
— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) October 6, 2021
Gabe Vilardi has been the best player for either team and I don’t think it’s close #GoKingsGo
— Austin Stanovich (@AStanovich68) October 6, 2021
Now – we have to be fair as well. His line was strong (64% 5v5 CF%). However, individually, Vilardi was a negative in the shot attempts at 5-on-5 (47.37%). His two-way game will be something worth keeping an eye on throughout the season, but for now, we’re going to highlight how effective he was going forward, given the Kings’ offensive deficiencies. For the Kings to be successful, they need to improve their offense, and much of that could come from a more consistent. Vilardi.
2. Power Play had plenty of opportunities
The Kings got a lot of practice with the man advantage against the Coyotes in the first two periods with four opportunities. Given the roster appeared to be very NHL-ready, we got perhaps our first taste of what the Kings’ powerplay could look like.
The top unit had Dustin Brown, the low man in the 1-3-1 formation, with Drew Doughty at the point. Both Anze Kopitar and Vladimir Tkachev spent time on either circle, with Viktor Arvidsson as the trigger man. It’s very exciting to see Tkachev getting the look on this top unit, and his passing ability is as good as it gets.
It certainly appears that the Kings want the puck on Tkachev’s stick a lot on the power play, which could also open up Kopitar to be more of a shooter than he has been on the power play.
Unit two had a couple of different looks. In the first period, there was the 1-3-1 with Philip Danault down low and Sean Walker as the point man. The middle three were Iafallo – Vilardi – Kempe. In the second period, Byfield got the look on the second unit. Danault was the one to come off, and Iafallo took his place down low.
We’ll see how the second unit ultimately shakes out, but the puck movement on the top unit was pretty good overall. Getting everyone in sync on the power play can take some time, especially when you’re mixing in a couple of new faces, but it looked good early here.
3. Second D Pair
Much has been made of the Kings’ decision to place Kale Clague on waivers, ultimately being assigned to Ontario Reign camp. I believe that LD2 could be up for grabs, but that couldn’t be further from the case so far.
Tobias Bjornfot and Matt Roy were arguably LA’s best defensive pair this game (courtesy of Natural Stat Trick):
- CF%: 70.83%
- xGF%: 57.2%
And it wasn’t just this game; the pair has been excellent in each preseason game so far (courtesy of Natural Stat Trick):
- CF%: 58.7%
- xGF% 54.96%
With the usual caveat that much can still change, this pairing has been together virtually all camp. The duo certainly appears locked and loaded for Opening Night.
The full box score is here.
The Kings will be in Anaheim tonight at 7 pm in their next preseason game against the Ducks.