2020 Stadium Series

Looking at the 2019-20 Los Angeles Kings

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the 2019-20 Los Angeles Kings.

2019-20 Los Angeles Kings

Record: 29-35-6 (64 points in 70 games), seventh in the Pacific Division, second-worst in West
Leading Scorer: Anze Kopitar – 62 points (21 goals and 41 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

Season Overview

After exceeding expectations in 2017-18, the Kings crashed to earth in 2018-19. Jarringly so, to many of us.

If you look at the Kings’ place in the standings alone, you’d probably assume that 2019-20 represents the team settling into the new normal. To some extent, that’s true. In the grand scheme of things, every time the Kings make an overture toward rebuilding, they’re likely being smart.

But unlike a lot of other cellar dwellers, the Kings actually held their own by many measures. The Kings ranked somewhere between respectable to downright impressive in analytics terms. Take, for instance, how solid Los Angeles looks in Charting Hockey’s Shot Shares chart, which uses data from Evolving Hockey:

Not bad for a team that sits second-worst in the Western Conference, right?

Through their Stanley Cup-contending years, the Kings hogged the puck but sometimes struggled to finish. Such a formula worked well during their postseason runs.

This version of the Kings is a weakened form of that, but if you squint, you could see glimpses of those former glories. Not enough to win a meaningful number of games. And, no, certainly not to the point that you’d want to sabotage their rebuild.

Yet it’s amusing that the bounces finally started to go the Kings’ way as 2019-20 came to a halt.

Highlight of the Season

How could it be anything other than rattling off a baffling seven-game winning streak to “end” their season?

Indeed, as 2019-20 ended, the Kings’ winning streak was far and away the longest active streak in the NHL.

The Kings authored a decent larger stretch, too, going 10-2-1 in 13 games from Feb. 12 – March 11.

That home-heavy stretch cemented that, if nothing else, they were pesky at home. The Kings ended up 19-13-2 in Los Angeles this season, versus 10-22-4 on the road.

Upsetting the Avalanche in their 2020 Stadium Series game ranks as a highlight for the 2019-20 Kings, too.

MORE ON THE KINGS:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Avalanche injuries: Grubauer out with lower-body injury; Calvert to miss ‘weeks’

Avalanche
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After being injured in the 2020 Stadium Series game on Saturday, Colorado Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer will not be in the lineup on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning due to a lower-body injury.

Even more concerning for the Avalanche, there is no current timetable for his return.

“I don’t really have a timeline on it,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar on Monday, via NHL.com. “He’s still getting evaluated, he’s still going through some testing or training room or whatnot. I’ll have a better answer probably later in the week. Right now he’s day to day and could miss some time.”

Grubauer is 18-12-4 this season for the Avalanche with a .916 save percentage.

He was injured on Saturday during a collision with teammate Ian Cole.

You can see the play here.

Pavel Francouz, who has been outstanding this season, will take over the main goaltending duties for as long as Grubauer is sidelined.

Hunter Miska will serve as the backup.

Even if Grubauer only misses time this week that could still be as many as four games. The Avalanche’s standing as a playoff team is secure, but they are still in a fight for the top spot in the Central Division as well as home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. It doesn’t seem to be serious enough at this point to force a trade to add some depth, but it’s still an injury worth watching. The Avalanche should still be in good hands with Francouz as their starter in the short-term, but things could get a little complicated when it comes to potential playoff seeding if it is an injury that lingers.

In other Avalanche injury news, forward Matt Calvert is also expected to be sidelined for a couple of weeks with a lower-body injury of his own.

In 50 games this season Calvert has 12 goals and 25 total points. He played 12:47 of the Stadium Series game on Saturday.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Toffoli, Quick lead Kings to upset vs. Avs, who lost Grubauer to injury

Much was made of the teams not being used to the altitude at the 2020 Stadium Series. The 2019-20 Kings haven’t exactly been used to winning, and certainly not building winning streaks, yet that’s what they did on Saturday. Not only did the Avs lose, they also lost Philipp Grubauer to injury.

Tyler Toffoli scored all three of the Kings’ goals to complete the first hat trick during an outdoor game. Jonathan Quick might have been the bigger star, though, as helped the Kings beat the Avalanche 3-1 by making 33 saves.

Here are all three goals:

The Avs weren’t guilty of a poor effort in this one, really, but it was pretty much a disaster. Here’s why.

Avs lose game and Grubauer

Ian Cole bumped his own goalie Philipp Grubauer during an unfortunate sequence for the Avs. At first, it was tough to tell if Grubauer was hurt on the play, or just making a save. While he did get the stop, things clearly weren’t right for Grubauer:

If Grubauer misses time, that’s a substantial issue for the Avs. Much like last season, Grubauer had been heating up lately. The German-born goalie carried a .939 February save percentage (4-2-0 in six games) into Saturday, and his save percentage hadn’t dipped below .910 in any month since December.

On the bright side, Pavel Francouz gets another chance to prove himself.

Francouz quietly put together a strong 13-4-2 record and .925 save percentage in 21 games this season, just 23 contests into his NHL career. While that serves as a small sample size, Francouz put up great numbers at other levels. For all the Avs know, he might represent an almost-as-good (maybe better?) option than Grubauer.

(Goalies: they’re unpredictable.)

The Avalanche lost a chance to move into a lead in the Central, and thus the Western Conference. Instead, they fell in regulation, and slipped to third in a tightly packed top of division:

1. Blues: 74 points in 58 games played (32-16-10)
2. Stars: 73 in 58 GP (34-19-5)
3. Avs: 72 in 57 GP (33-18-6).

Ouch. If Avalanche (or Stars … or Blues) fans want an opportunity to grumble about the playoff setup now, that seems fair. (As of this writing, no Pacific Division team is in 70-point range.)

Either way, the Avalanche will be leaving Falcon Stadium grumbling on Saturday.

Kings, Quick showing potential as spoilers

For much of this season, the Kings have been better than their record indicated. That doesn’t mean they’re a juggernaut in waiting, but it attaches a flashing sign to their potential as spoilers.

Los Angeles made that potential more obvious during the past two games. First, they dealt a painful blow to the Flames, beating them 5-3. Now they’ve managed a rare winning streak by following that up with Saturday’s win. Beating two playoff-positioned teams, including a potential contender in Colorado, makes it that much more impressive.

This had to be an especially big relief for Quick. The two-time Stanley Cup winner got his first win since Dec. 31. It’s been a disastrous couple of seasons for the veteran, but a turnaround could improve the timeline of the Kings’ rebuild.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Hurricanes to host their first outdoor game for 2021 Stadium Series

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Are you ready to watch a bunch of jerks … outdoors? The Carolina Hurricanes will host their first outdoor game during the 2021 Stadium Series on Feb. 20, 2021. The venue will be Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., home of the NC State Wolfpack’s football team.

The league has not yet announced the Hurricanes’ opponent for that game. Who do you think would be a good fit?

That Hurricanes-hosted game will serve as the 12th installment of the Stadium Series, and 32nd NHL regular-season outdoor game overall.

Carter-Finley Stadium hosted its first college football game in 1966. Will Halpern of Stadium Journey shared in-depth details about the venue, including this incredible bit about NC State’s mascots:

” … the Wolfpack have a cheerleading squad, as well as not one but two mascots, Mr. and Mrs. Wuff, who are actually married and have been for nearly four decades – the mascots were wed by Wake Forest University’s own Demon Deacon back in 1981 at halftime of a basketball game at Reynolds Coliseum.”

2021 Stadium Series Wuffs
Pictured: The Wuffs (Photo by Michael Berg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Before reading that, I was merely going to demand the presence of Philip Rivers at the 2021 Stadium Series. Now I demand not just Rivers, but also Mr. and Mrs. Wuff. (I guess Rivers is optional, really.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: 2020 NHL Stadium Series – Avalanche vs. Kings

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Saturday’s Stadium Series matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings from Falcon Stadium at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This is the third and final outdoor game of the 2019-20 NHL season. This season’s outdoor slate started with the Jets’ 2-1 (OT) win over the Flames in the Heritage Classic at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 26. The Stars topped the Predators 4-2 in the Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day. Saturday’s game will mark the 30th NHL regular-season outdoor game overall.

The Avalanche have made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and came into this campaign as a contender in the Western Conference. After losing in Game 7 of the second round to SJ last season, the Avs are hoping they can take another step forward as they appear on their way to a third playoff appearance in 4 seasons under Jared Bednar. Colorado’s star-studded top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen have led one of the top offenses in the NHL this season, but will it be enough to reach the Western Conference Final for the first time since the 2001-02 season?

The Kings have struggled in their first season under Todd McLellan. After finishing with the fewest points in the Western Conference last season, Los Angeles sits in the same spot at this point in the 2019-20 season. Still led by Anze Kopitar and other veterans that helped LA to its first two Stanley Cup titles last decade, the Kings are in a rebuild as they hope to see signs of improvement from their younger players in the home stretch of the season.

This is the second NHL outdoor game at a U.S. Service Academy. In March 2018, the Capitals defeated the Maple Leafs 5-2 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, MD. Three current Avs were part of that game: Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer on Washington and Nazem Kadri on Toronto.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 8 P.M. ET – NBC]

What: Los Angeles Kings vs. Colorado Avalanche
Where: Falcon Stadium at the U.S. Air Force Academy
When: Saturday, Feb. 15, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: You can watch the Kings-Avalanche stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

KINGS
Alex Iafallo – Anze Kopitar – Tyler Toffoli
Adrian KempeJeff CarterMartin Frk
Trevor MooreBlake LizotteDustin Brown
Austin Wagner – Mike Amadio – Trevor Lewis

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty
Alec MartinezSean Walker
Kurtis MacDermidMatt Roy

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

AVALANCHE
Andre Burakovsky – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog – J.T. CompherJoonas Donskoi
Matt CalvertPierre-Edouard BellemareValeri Nichushkin
Matt NietoTyson JostVladislav Kamenev

Ryan GravesCale Makar
Samuel GirardErik Johnson
Ian ColeNikita Zadorov

Starting goalie: Philipp Grubauer

MORE STADIUM SERIES:
Improved depth makes Avalanche Stanley Cup contender
L.A. Kings approach key stages of rebuild
Luc Robitaille Q&A

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, and Brian Boucher will call the matchup. On-site studio coverage at Air Force Academy will feature Kathryn Tappen hosting alongside analyst Patrick Sharp and reporter Rutledge Wood.