After struggling to solve Thatcher Demko on Saturday, the Los Angeles Kings offense caught fire Monday, putting eight past the Calgary Flames.
The Kings' top line has been dominant recently and continued that trend on Monday.
They combined for seven points, including two primary assists from Quinton Byfield.
His game has improved immensely since moving to the top line and he appears to have taken the next step offensively as well. Even if the goals aren't quite there yet.
"I think so, I think the goals will come, hopefully," Byfield said. "But, I'm happy just being out there, just trying to be a difference maker out there each time. If it's with my body, just passing, just trying to get it to those guys. You know, Juice, he's a scorer, he can shoot. And you just get him the puck and you saw what he did out there, he just picks the corner."
Kempe grabbed his 33rd and 34th goal of the season on Monday. He's one away from tying his career-high set last season and has rounded out his complete game as well. When he's hot, it's as simple as just getting him the puck.
"Basically, yeah," said Byfield on it feeling like Kempe will score on every chance right now. "When he's coming through the neutral zone with a lot of speed, I'm just trying to get it to him. He just beats everyone and when he shoots on net, I think it's going in every time."
On word that continues to pop up when discussing Byfield's improvements over the last few months is "confidence." He's clearly a more confident player right now and the faith from the coaching staff to trust him with top line minutes has played a big part in that increased confidence.
"Yeah, it's really good, it feels good honestly," said Byfield on getting top line minutes for an extended stretch of games. "I think it took me a little bit to find my game. And now I'm really comfortable being out there and I'm not scared to make plays. Try a lot of different things, and like I said, just comfortable and confident. The trust goes a long way."
This Kings team is flying right now, they've earned points in ten straight games, winning in eight of those ten. They're playing with a cohesion and control you rarely see from teams.
"I'm not to sure," said Byfield when asked if he's every played on a team with this much cohesion. "I think teams I've played on, junior hockey and minor hockey, there probably wasn't too much of that. It's just kind of run and gun, everyone is everywhere. But here we have a lot of structure, I think everyone knows where everyone is, a lot of chemistry with all the lines. And everyone just seems to know what to do, be in the right spots, a lot of communication. I think everyone wants to make the games easy for each other."
There's no one on the Kings hotter than Carl Grundstrom right now.
He's scored a goal in each of his last three games and grabbed two on Monday night.
He has a history of performing late in the season. He elevated his play in the playoffs last year and is doing it again now down the stretch.
"Playoff style hockey" just seems to suit Grundstrom.
"I like to play these type of games," said Grundstrom. "I like to play in playoffs too, the tougher games when it matters most. I feel like it fits my game pretty good."
The fourth line — which has played great recently — saw a small change Monday with Zack MacEwen replacing Arthur Kaliyev. But they didn't miss a beat. Regardless of who is on the wing opposite of Grundstrom that line is clicking.
"Yeah, I think both of them (Kaliyev and MacEwen) are good players," said Grundstrom. "It's easy to play with both of them so, it's easy to switch it up too."
Along with Grundstrom, Rasmus Kupari has found his game recently. He's started playing a more direct game down the stretch, something that compliments Grundstrom's style.
"Yeah, I think so," said Grundstrom on if Kupari's game compliments his. "He's been playing really well, we've just got to keep going."
During morning skate Todd McLellan mentioned that the Flames would be in "must-win" mode given their fight to climb into a playoff spot. And highlighted the Kings' need to match that intensity Monday.
It's safe to say they did.
"I think tonight we were able to do that, definitely," said McLellan. "I think it was Jim Hiller who said just before the game it just felt a little bit different than it did the other night. That doesn’t mean the opponent the other night was any different, but just our team was maybe a little more focused, so that’s a good thing."
It seems like every game now McLellan is complimenting the fourth line postgame. They've made themselves an important part of this team and they've made it difficult for McLellan not to increase their ice time.
"I want them to push for ice time, night in and night out, they played very well and they have," said McLellan. "It doesn’t matter if Arthur’s in there, JAD’s in there, Mac, whoever it might be, you’re still only given 60 minutes a nigh and they got a lot of good minutes tonight, they were rewarded for their hard work. It’s their job to make our decisions difficult, not easy, and they’re doing that right now."
McLellan's talked a lot this season about how much Kupari's improved defensively this season, but recently, Kupari's found some more offense.
"Jimmy Hiller's done a lot of work with him (Kupari)," said McLellan. "One-on-one encouraging, sometimes stiff encouragement, and we're seeing more of that show up in his game. He's got outstanding legs, if he uses his legs and keeps it simple, he's got a pretty good shot. When he's playing with that pace and that tempo and not over stickhandling and turning back he's a handful to handle. So, he's done that lately."
A clear area of improvement for Kupari lately is his willingness to use not just his speed, but his size too. He's been dropping the shoulder and driving to the net a lot more and creating offense off those plays.
"That's part of his game too and the role he's playing," said McLellan. "He's become a good penalty killer, there's more physicality in his game, important that you have more to your game, especially on the fourth line, than just a one-trick pony. And Kup's developing that."
Gabe Vilardi took a bad fall into the boards and had to leave the game. And his health is still a question mark.
"No I don't," said McLellan when asked if he had an update on Vilardi. "Obviously went into the boards hard, was getting looked at."