Before the Kings traded Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick to the Blue Jackets back in February, they were the lowest goal-scoring team in the league. They needed a proven scorer, and they also needed someone who could provide depth.
Enter Jeff Carter, apparently now the jewel in the crown.
Despite Carter’s impressive regular season numbers — he led the Flyers in goals his last three seasons with the team and has had four 25-plus goal seasons in the NHL — his playoff performance has always been questioned.
In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, Carter made a pretty strong argument on his own behalf with a natural hat trick against Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes. It was his tenth multi-point game of the season and his second of the playoffs.
Oh, and it was also his third hat trick of the year.
Contrary to popular belief, the Los Angeles Kings didn’t acquire Carter because he threw a temper tantrum and wouldn’t stop wailing until Columbus traded him. They acquired him because he can score goals. He’s proved that season after season since hitting his stride five years ago.
The Kings’ front office wasn’t delusional. There were no presumptions that Carter was going to put the team on his back and carry them out of 30th place in goals scored. But there were hopes that he would return to form and be the player he was before the trade that sent him to Columbus completely jarred him.
In his 16 regular-season games with the Kings, Carter totaled nine points. He currently has seven in this year’s playoffs.
Carter is a notoriously streaky goal-scorer. His goals tend to come in bunches. So a hat trick in one game doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to start any kind of streak. But, then again, it doesn’t mean that he won’t — and the possibility may grow stronger, given his prior postseason experience with the Flyers, which included a pair of conference finals and one Stanley Cup Finals.
Injuries have plagued Carter over the last few seasons, including leg/foot issues in his final two campaigns in Philadelphia. For some reason, that causes people to think that he’s a terrible hockey player — at the very least, one who wilts when the pressure’s on — when his numbers (when healthy) have proven otherwise.
But when he’s on, he’s on, and he’s a threat.
Jeff Carter on an offensive tear spells bad news for the Coyotes, who are already down two games to none in the Conference Finals. And, if it’s a continuous thing, it spells bad news for whatever Eastern Conference team ends up facing the Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals.