Brendan Lemieux returned to the lineup on Saturday in grand fashion, scoring the game-winning goal to give the LA Kings a hard-earned win.
While he may have been an unlikely factor entering this season, Brendan Lemieux has really helped jolt the LA Kings offense so far in 2021-22. However, on Nov. 27, the left-winger’s momentum came to a halt when he was ejected for biting the hand of Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk. The incident led to a major penalty, game misconduct, and a five-game suspension.
The news of the suspension, while expected, did not do the Kings any favours, who lost their first two games without Lemieux. The Kings, however, did pick up decisive wins in Edmonton and this past Thursday against Dallas, paving the way for 25-year-old to return to the lineup on Saturday.
And on Saturday, Lemieux did not disappoint as he scored what stood as the game-winning goal to help the Kings earn their second-straight victory and, in the process, put an end to the Minnesota Wild‘s eight-game winning streak.
Following the victory, Lemieux spoke to the media about being back in action.
“It was great. I cared more about winning,” admitted the left-winger. “That’s what we were able to do [on Saturday]. It’s a really good hockey team over there and they play similar to the way we do, and it felt like we were playing against ourselves at times tonight and it was awesome to be able to come out on top.”
Before his suspension, Lemieux garnered success on the Kings’ fourth line alongside Arthur Kaliyev and Blake Lizotte. On Saturday, however, he was paired with Trevor Moore and Carl Grundstrom. The change did not affect No. 48’s play in the least.
“It felt great,” Lemieux beamed. “Mooresy has played with a lot of different partners this year and tonight, he was kind of thrown in the middle and he did a great job. And then, Grundy’s been extremely effective like he’s been all year, and he was just making good plays. There are some things we could definitely clean up in the neutral zone, and maybe even in our D-zone, but I thought we were able to contribute and we had some good shifts in the third that I thought built some momentum for us. So, that’s kind of what we were there trying to do.”
In the aftermath of the aforementioned biting incident with Brady Tkachuk, the latter spouted off to the media, calling Lemieux “a bad guy and a bad teammate” and that “nobody ever wants to play with him.” However, whether it was his intention or not, Lemieux contradicted those sentiments following his team’s win on Saturday.
“I don’t think it says really anything,” a modest Lemieux opined. “As much as I’d maybe like to as an individual, this is a good hockey team and I’ve been fortunate to be on the right end of things. It could go the other way with some really good players. Sometimes, the best player on the team comes back into the lineup and the team will lose three in a row. I think each game is its own game. It’s just when you have that game [and] when you’re in that game, you’ve got to find a way to contribute to the team’s success. I’ve just been doing my best to do that and I think our group’s been playing really well and Quickie’s been outstanding– obviously, [Alex Edler] going down early tonight is a big loss for us, but yeah, our team’s stepped up and I’ve just been on the right end of it.”
The aforementioned Tkachuk was one of only a few who failed to mince words when speaking about Lemieux just a couple of weeks ago. After all, fans and pundits alike were calling for the Kings enforcer to be suspended for longer than five games or, worse, banned from hockey altogether. Nevertheless, Brendan Lemieux’s impact on the Kings has been as clear as day for anyone who’s been following the silver-and-black this season.
His 10:50 of average ice time may not suggest that he’s among the most valuable players on the Kings roster but his five goals in 15 games, his plus-6 rating, and his 40 hits all do, furthermore marking a further juxtaposition from Mr. Tkachuk’s “bad teammate” rhetoric. Heck, Lemieux even held his emotions in check following his goal when he got water sprayed on him from the Wild bench.
They certainly held their own without him but the LA Kings are, frankly, a better team with Brendan Lemieux in the lineup, even if the second-generation NHLer is too modest to admit it. And if he is, Lemieux can at least take solace knowing that he has a whole plethora of supporters to extinguish that false modesty.