The LA Kings found themselves in familiar territory, dominating a game statistically but failing to walk away with a win. Despite outshooting the Dallas Stars 45 to 23, the Kings faltered under pressure in the third period.
The loss pales in significance to one big moment in the second period that could change the entire trajectory of the team this season. Here’s some takeaways from the overtime loss.
1. Drew Doughty’s injury is a massive issue for LA Kings
Late in the second period, Stars defenseman Jani Hakanpaa made contact with Drew Doughty in a play that, while maybe not intended to be malicious, still wound up with the players making leg-on-leg contact. Doughty stayed down in pain for some time before he was helped off the ice.
— Eric (@kingsgifs2) October 23, 2021
It’s probably impossible to overstate Doughty’s importance to the LA Kings’ defense. Whether you’re a Doughty fan or a frequent critic, it’s easy to see the impact that he has on this team, even just in terms of minutes played. He’s been relatively durable throughout his career, historically missing very few games due to injury.
While nothing specific has been announced yet about Doughty’s status, the likelihood of him missing potentially significant time is high. Removing Doughty and his career average 26 minutes of ice time from the lineup pushes the remaining defenders into roles they’re not particularly suited for. With a game in St. Louis on Saturday night, the Kings have very little time to figure out a new look for their back end.
2. Gabe Vilardi growing in confidence
Secondary scoring has always been a concern for the Kings. Even just a few games into this season, onlookers are wondering who’s going to score past the top six. The younger players on the team need to step up, and they know it. Gabe Vilardi, who had a strong preseason, has been somewhat ineffective so far, clearly missing the chemistry he’d developed with the now-injured Lias Andersson.
Vilardi finally notched his first point of the season in the game on the power play, off of a fantastic pass from Arthur Kaliyev. (In case you haven’t noticed: Kaliyev isn’t just a one-trick-scoring pony; his vision for passing is fantastic.)
— LA Kings (@LAKings) October 23, 2021
Vilardi was clearly pumped up after his goal. When everything’s going well for Vilardi, when he’s playing with confidence, he tends to find the back of the net. With the team’s continual need for secondary scoring, a confident Vilardi could be huge for the LA Kings.
3. Lack of discipline in an emotional game for LA Kings has a big cost
The hit that took Doughty out of the game is probably the clearest turning point in this game. The Kings only scored once on the five-minute major and were unable to sustain significant pressure on the Stars.
Still, though, the LA Kings entered the third period with a one-goal lead. But the parade to the penalty box from Sean Walker and Matt Roy put the Kings at the disadvantage, allowing the Stars to gain momentum. The goal from Miro Heiskanen felt inevitable given the way the ice began to tilt in the Stars favor. The LA Kings’ penalty killing to date hasn’t been strong enough to have confidence in the team enduring the Stars’ pressure.
The best way to avenge the loss of Doughty would have been on the score sheet, but instead the Kings allowed frustration to take over, ultimately costing them the game.
The LA Kings take the ice again against St. Louis tonight at 5:00 pm PT. We’ll get to see how they reshape their blue line in the likely absence of Drew Doughty.