The Los Angeles Kings (8-4-0) have started out the 2015-16 season on a high note, and currently sit at the top of the Pacific Division standings despite an 0-3-0 start. In their most recent outing, back-up netminder Jhonas Enroth led the Kings to a 3-0 victory over the Blues in St. Louis.
The Kings entered last year's campaign after winning two Stanley Cup championships in the previous three years, and were expected to make another run in the playoffs. But the team struggled throughout the season, and ultimately were eliminated from playoff contention, which snapped a five-season postseason streak.
GM Dean Lombardi has been the architect behind the last two Stanley Cup-winning Kings team, and was recently named GM of Team USA for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. This past summer, he was responsible for the acquisition of Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins in a blockbuster deal prior to free agency.
Other notable off-season happenings included signing forwards Tyler Toffoli and Andy Andreoff (RFA), veteran defenseman Christian Enrhoff and netminder Enroth (both UFA).
With both the offense and defense bolstered during the offseason, head coach Darryl Sutter, who has been behind the Kings’ bench since December 2011, is looking to take his team deep into the postseason once again.
The Jackets are 21-26-4 all-time against the Kings, and are 0-2-1 since a 5-3 win at home on Jan. 21, 2014. The two teams will meet one more time this season when the Kings come to Columbus on Dec. 8.
The last time these two teams faced off was on Feb. 9 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, where the Jackets eventually fell to the Kings.
Both of the Blue Jackets' timely goals were answered within 90 seconds each time by the Kings, making any momentum for the home team short-lived and forcing the Jackets to play a lot of catch-up hockey.
Jack Skille put the Jackets on the board first just 1:40 into the game when he banked a centering pass of the skate of Kings defenseman Jamie McBain and behind Jonathan Quick. But that lead lasted only 32 seconds, because Jeff Carter fed Dwight King with a perfect pass for a tying goal at 2:12.
The Kings held a one-goal margin into the second period thanks to a Toffoli goal at 8:01 of the first period. Scott Hartnell, playing in his 1,000th career game, tied things up early in the second period after a pinpoint pass from line mate Ryan Johansen.
But, again, the Jackets were unable to maintain and advance. Within 78 seconds of Hartnell’s goal, Carter gave the Kings a 3-2 lead with 4:26 left in the second, and the Blue Jackets were unable to rally in the third.
Dustin Brown scored on a rebound at 1:49 in the third period, giving the Kings a two-goal lead.
Jackets goalie Curtis McElhinney, who did his part making 40 saves, was on the bench for an extra attacker when David Savard brought the home team within a goal with 1:53 to go, but the Kings held on and skated off with two points in a 4-3 win.
Jonathan Quick is often regarded as one of the best netminders in the NHL, and there are plenty of reasons why: elite athleticism, competitiveness and the mentality to never give up on a puck.
In 10 games played with the Kings so far this season, he’s won six times with a .918 save percentage. The 29-year-old recorded his first shutout of the season on Oct. 23 against the Carolina Hurricanes, which was the 38th of his career.
Quick was selected by the Kings in the third round (72nd overall) of the 2005 NHL Draft, and is in the midst of his ninth NHL season (all spent with the Kings).
His NHL career totals include 218 wins and 143 losses in 417 games with .915 save percentage. Quick’s NHL career playoff totals include 45 wins and 31 losses in 76 games played for a .923 save percentage.
Quick’s trophy case includes a silver medal with the U.S. at the 2010 Winter Olympics, two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings (2012, 2014) and a Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.