It´s very close for the Los Angeles Kings to have a season to forget right behind them. They have two games left to play as they are assured of the last place in the Western Conference. However, there are some hopes of moving forward for the Kings. One of the bright spots of their season has been an unexpected emergence of Jack Campbell, their backup goaltender. It´s quite sure he will have a roster spot when the next season commences for Los Angeles.
Unexpected Emergence of Jack Campbell
This has been a very challenging season for the Kings. They made the playoffs last year and seemingly got better with the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk in the summer. But nothing has worked out well for them as they have struggled offensively. They are the second-worst offence in the NHL with only 195 goals scored. The worst team in that regard is the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks host the Kings at Honda Center on Friday night.
Nevertheless, defensively it hasn’t been such a disappointment for the Kings. Actually, you would find 10 defences worse than the Kings. One of the main reasons for that partial success is their goaltending, but not the performance level from Jonathan Quick. It has been all rather about the emergence of Jack Campbell for the Kings.
The 27-year-old netminder has played in just seven NHL games prior to this season. One of those games came with the Dallas Stars, who drafted him in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft as the 11th overall choice. He was involved in 30 games so far during the present season and he should get one more start. Although he is only 10-13-1, Campbell has 2.23 goals against average per game and .930 of save percentage. Those are some quality numbers.
Late Run of Good Form
The message to many Kings players during the final two months has been very clean: play to impress and gain ground for the upcoming season. Jack Campbell fully understands that and made the most of his opportunity in the goal crease. At the end of February, the American-born goaltender played a very solid game for the Kings as they nearly took down the Tampa Bay Lightning. On that night, he made 31 saves on 34 shots on goal at Amelie Arena in the shootout loss.
One month later after that solid performance in goal, Campbell stopped all of the 42 shots he faced versus the Calgary Flames on the road. He made some brilliant saves as the Kings won 3-0 on the home-ice of the best team in the Western Conference. In his next start, he faced another desperate team at Staples Center in the Chicago Blackhawks. He backstopped the Kings´ win with 33 saves on 35 shots.
On this past Tuesday night, the Kings went to play the Arizona Coyotes on the road in a back-to-back situation. The Coyotes needed to win that game desperately and failed to achieve that. The Kings beat them 3-1. In that game, Campbell made 49 saves on 50 shots in yet another shiny outing. He has had two shutouts during this campaign, one was in Calgary as mentioned higher, but the first one came against the Montreal Canadiens earlier this season. Back then he made 40 saves to record his first career clean sheet in the NHL.
Campbell Challenges Veteran Quick
As good as Jack Campbell has been for the Kings, the same cannot be said about their veteran goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick has appeared in 45 games during the current season. The 33-year-old goaltender has 3.41 goals against average per game and .887 of save percentage. Quick is one of the reasons why the Kings have had such a subpar year compared to the previous one.
During the past season, Quick had 2.40 goals-against average and .921 of save percentage in 64 games. Jonathan Quick has been worse than .900 in save percentage just once in his career. It happened in his very first season 12 years ago, when he played just three games with the Kings.
During the past couple of months, Jack Campbell has emerged to be more reliable for the Kings than Jonathan Quick. Campbell has at least gained a ton of attention from the Kings management. Even though there has been some trade chatter surrounding Quick during the current season, his trade seems unlikely at least for now.
Jack Campbell Earned His Spot In Los Angeles
Jack Campbell is signed through the 2019-2020 season with $675,000 of the salary cap hit. The Kings are certainly willing to keep him for the next season. Quick is signed until the 2022-2023 season with $5,800,000 of the salary cap hit. The veteran goaltender has won two Stanley Cups with the Kings, but it seems like his age has caught him up. Whether he will be able to bounce back next season remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, Campbell has been one of the few brights spots for the Los Angeles Kings during a very disappointing campaign. Promoting Campbell to number one position for the upcoming year sounds like a bit too much. But the Kings should be at least be happy that no matter how the situation around Quick pans out, Campbell will be there ready to play and continue with strong performances.
Campbell, originally drafted as the 11th overall in the first round, has become more of a draft bust and a hockey journeyman ever since his draft. After many years, he finally seems to show the qualities that led to his high draft spot. As they say, better later than never. And certainly just in time for the Kings.