The Los Angeles Kings goaltending situation has been a disaster. Father time has caught up to Jonathan Quick and the heir apparent Cal Petersen was sent to the AHL two weeks ago. Things looked bleak.
Then, from the depths of the AHL, a phoenix rose. Pheonix Copley, that is.
Last offseason the Kings signed Copley as a replacement for Garret Sparks. An AHL goalie with NHL experience who the team could call up in an emergency.
Outside of one season in Washington, where he got 24 starts, Copley has been a career AHLer, with just 31 NHL appearances at 30 years old. No one expected him to compete for a starting job this season. But he's seizing the opportunity.
Copley joined the team after their brutal 9-8 loss to the Seattle Kraken but backed up Jonathan Quick for the first two games. He then opened up the King's road trip with a start in Ottawa.
Against the Senators, he posted a .939 save percentage and 0.95 goals saved above expected. This broke a three-game streak of Kings goalies posting under a .900 save percentage and was an ideal start for Copley.
He didn't stand on his head or steal the game for the Kings, but he provided solid goaltending and didn't lose them a game. Exactly what the Kings need right now.
The Kings got a similar performance from Copley in his second start against the Montreal Canadiens. With a .909 save percentage and 0.43 goals saved above expected. Again, he was solid and gave the team a good chance to win.
Then the Buffalo Sabres game came. Copley stopped all 15 shots he faced in the first two periods, but the floodgates opened in the third. He allowed six goals on 16 shots and things appeared to be crashing back down to earth for Copley. Of course, Copley's play wasn't the biggest problem against Buffalo. It was one of the worse periods of hockey the Kings have played this season and he got no help.
Still, as has been the issue with the Kings all season, an .806 save percentage and -3.45 goals saved above expected just aren't good enough.
This left Todd McLellan with a difficult decision heading into the Boston Bruins game on Thursday. Quick had allowed 11 goals in his last two games and hasn't had above a .900 save percentage in five games. And the bubble had popped on Copley.
Up to this point, the plan was pretty clear. Give Quick the more "difficult" matchups and Copley the "easier" ones. McLellan broke away from this and stuck with Copley.
That gamble paid off in a big way, as Copley produced his best start of the season. With a .943 save percentage, 1.16 goals saved above expected and five saves in the shootout, Copley played a key role in the Kings upsetting the Bruins. He matched the goalie across from him and produced big, timely saves. Something the Kings have been desperately missing.
Giving Copley the start in Boston indicates he's jumped Quick on the depth chart and McLellan will have a chance to prove that against San Jose Saturday.
Copley coming up and taking the number-one spot would not only be huge for the Kings but a great story too. A 30-year-old career AHLer swooping in to save the Kings' goalie situation. It's still too early to make a definitive judgment but the early signs are promising.
The beauty for him, he doesn't have to be a Vezina-caliber goalie. He just has to provide solid, average to above-average goaltending on a regular basis. He doesn't need to steal games for the Kings, so long as he's not losing them games. Something Quick and Petersen have done too many times this season.
The Kings have earned at least a point in all but one game their goalie has posted above a .900 save percentage. If Copley can do that regularly, the Kings are in good shape.
Copley isn't the long-term answer in net. The Kings still need to find that, assuming Petersen's AHL stint doesn't fix him. But they need to ride Copley while he's hot.