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Kings Game 79 Plus/Minuses: Terrible Start & Copley Solid in Relief

Here are the pluses/minuses from Thursday’s game.



In a game that was crucial in deciding the final Pacific Division standings, the Los Angeles Kings fell apart and were dismantled by the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2.

You would be forgiven for giving the entire game a minus score for the Kings, but there were some positives to speak about. 

Here are the pluses/minuses from Thursday's game.

– The First Period

The first period of this game was terrible for the Kings. 

It started well, with Anze Kopitar getting them on the board 2:33 in, but the goal was called back for offside and everything went downhill from there.

Just 21 seconds later, Phil Kessel buried a wrap around to put the Knights up 1-0 and the rout was on.

Just over three minutes later the Kings were quickly down 3-0 and looked completely stunned with no answers. 

Things went from bad to worse when Zack MacEwen boarded Ben Hutton, earning himself a five minute penalty. Nicolas Hague took an instigator penalty in his response to the hit, giving the Kings some relief. But the eventual three minute power play was enough for Vegas to do some damage. 

Nicolas Roy put them up 4-0 just over halfway through the period and the Kings looked hopeless. 

It was a sloppy, disjointed period from the Kings and they appeared to have no hope of competing after going down 4-0. 

They got a bit of control after MacEwen's penalty expired, but the damage had been done.

They dug themselves into a hole they couldn't climb out of and the game was all but over after 20 minutes.

+ Pheonix Copley

It was a rare off night for Joonas Korpisalo, who was pulled after allowing five goals on ten shots and -3.13 goals saved above expected.

Leaving Pheonix Copley to come in as relief. And Copley performed. 

That fifth goal on Korpisalo was Vegas' last of the night. As Copley set the tone early with a big save on a Kessel breakaway. 

He was beat in the third by an Alex Pietrangelo one-timer, but the goal was called back because of an offside, preserving Copley's "shutout."

He finished with 22 saves and 1.95 goals saved above expected. 

Copley's elevated his play since the acquisition of Korpisalo at the deadline. And while I'd still guess that Korpisalo starts game one, Copley is giving Todd McLellan something to think about as he continues to provide quality goaltending. 

If McLellan continues the goalie rotation Saturday, Copley will have a chance to make a serious case for himself as the game one starter with another strong performance.

– Zack MacEwen

Given how much McLellan limits MacEwen's ice time, I'm shocked he's still getting into games over Jaret Anderson-Dolan and MacEwen didn't do much to earn that spot on Thurdsay.

While Kessel's opening goal wasn't all his fault, there were breakdowns all over the ice, he did have a chance to get the puck out and failed to.

He is in the lineup for his physical edge and he tried to bring that with the team struggling, but ended up doing more harm than good with his five minute major. 

I get the idea behind playing MacEwen down the stretch. The Kings aren't a team with much size or snarl and he can bring that, but he just hasn't worked out in most games.

If the game is close, McLellan doesn't trust MacEwen and he plays under five minutes in the game. And if it isn't a tight game, having the physical presence doesn't mean as much.

If the Kings get fully healthy down the stretch, I'd expect MacEwen to sit regardless. But why McLellan insists on playing him over Anderson-Dolan is a headscratcher.

+ Tobias Bjornfot

Tobias Bjornfot played in his second straight game since his emergency recall and stood out again.

He was solid against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday and carried that play over into Tuesday.

I was surprised how dismissive McLellan was of Bjornfot's game Tuesday, but it appears that was McLellan keeping his cards close to his chest in the media.

When the Kings shuffled their forward lines against Vegas, they also did some shuffling on the backend, swapping Bjornfot and Vladislav Gavrikov. Giving Bjornfot significant minutes next to Drew Doughty.

Bjornfot has some experience next to Doughty and even got some high praise from the former Norris Trophy winner during his first preseason with the team. 

The pairing posted solid analytics and allowed Bjornfot to more than double his time on ice from Tuesday's game. 

With more than 100 NHL games under his belt, Bjornfot's spent most of this season in the AHL regaining confidence and tightening up his game. And it appears that time in the AHL is paying off. 

He hasn't missed a beat in the last two games and if he can take on an elevated role, that will be massive down the stretch in Mikey Anderson's absence. 

If he Bjornfot continues this solid play, he should be starting game one even if the blue line is 100% healthy. 

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