The Kings had just become that lowest-scoring team in the NHL, and the early results show that they’re determined to keep it that way, as a pair of third period goals when the game was pretty much already out of reach was all the Kings could muster in an ugly 4-2 loss the Minnesota Wild in front of a capacity crowd of 18,118 at Staples Center on Thursday, the Kings’ 13th sellout in 15 games at Staples Center this year and second in a row.
Unfortunately for the Kings fans who paid money to go watch the game on Thursday, the Kings did not give them much bang for their buck. They fell behind early, they couldn’t score until the third period when they were already down 3-0, Jonathan Quick certainly wasn’t at his best, and the way the Kings are scoring right now, they need their goalie to be mistake-free if they want to win.
Quick just recently got a rest on Saturday when Jonathan Bernier started against the Canadiens and he’s only played two consecutive games right now, but he’s also already made 23 starts in 28 games this season. Quick hasn’t looked at his sharpest lately, but is he already tiring out, or has he just hit a rough patch? Either way, it couldn’t hurt to have him have another rest on Saturday when the Kings host the Dallas Stars. He’s certainly earned it.
Quick has stolen several games for the Kings already this year that there’s no way they would have won without him because they couldn’t score, so it would have been nice to see the rest of the team pick him up for once when he’s not on his game. Nope. For the seventh consecutive game, the Kings managed no more than a pair of goals, their new goal quota, apparently, as their league-worst offense’s goals per game average dropped to 2.25.
It wasn’t for a lack of opportunity, however. The Kings peppered rookie goaltender Matt Hackett with 44 shots. However, a lot of those shots were from far out and there was no one in front of the net to provide a redirect, screen, or to get rebounds. The Kings may be getting the shot mentality down that Terry Murray preaches, but they need to work on the net presence. Yes, Ryan Smyth and Michal Handzus are gone, and that hurts, but they still have guys like Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner, and Trent Hunter for net presence, so it shouldn’t be this bad. For the Kings now, it’s not about shot mentality, it’s about finishing mentality, something they are not doing nearly enough of.
Also, the Kings gave up goals in the first two minutes of the first and second periods tonight, and their atrocious starts to games continue. The Kings always look sluggish to start the game and have by far the fewest first period goals in the NHL. Why? Why can’t this team find their game until later in the game? Who do you put that on, the coaching staff for not having them prepared?
Here’s some food for thought. The Kings have struggled to score goals since Terry Murray has been here (at 5-on-5 at least, Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty were at their best in 2009-2010 which made the power-play work which made up for the lack of even strength scoring), and it’s widely-known that he is a defense-first coach with a defensive system. So, there has been a lot of criticism of Murray’s system lately by fans. Well, apparently the Philadelphia Flyers play the same system. Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers, which confuses me, because it’s a defensive system but the Flyers defense ranks 19th in the league, surrendering 2.89 goals against per game. However, the Flyers also are leading the NHL with an average of 3.56 goals per game. So, you can score in this system. But do the Kings have the right players for this system? Do they have enough speed for this system, is that what makes it work for the Flyers? Despite Dean Lombardi’s acquisitions, Terry Murray’s goal of the Kings increasing their scoring, particularly at 5-on-5, has not come to fruition. Has he made the necessary adjustments to this group of players?
Now 28 games into the season, the Kings are 13-11-4, and sit outside of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. It’s not been a fun season so far, and if things don’t start to turn around soon, you wonder what kind of a shake up will be coming. Anyways, the Kings will, once again, try to right the ship when the Dallas Stars pay them a visit on Saturday. Before we get set for that, let’s recap this loss to the Wild…
1st period: It took the Wild just 24 seconds to opening the scoring, and the way things have gone for the Kings lately, there was not a good feel around the team at that moment and fans were getting fed up. Jared Spurgeon took a shot from the point that went wide, but Mikko Koivu picked it up behind the net and beat Quick with a forehand wraparound. Jeff Taffe also got an assist. Quick was cheating to one side of the net, and couldn’t get over to the other side in time to stop Koivu. It was Koivu’s sixth goal of the season. However, the Kings turned it around after that deflating early goal and dominated the rest of the period. Of course, they couldn’t score. Los Angeles outshot Minnesota 13-12 in the opening frame, while the Wild went 0-for-1 on the power-play and the Kings didn’t have one. Jonathan Quick made a nice save on a Pierre-Marc Bouchard breakaway after Alec Martinez turned it over at the Wild blue-line, one of few bright spots on the night for Quick.
2nd period: The Wild wasted no time crushing the momentum that the Kings had built after finishing the opening frame well. Kyle Brodziak took a shot from the boards that ended up being loose in front and Darroll Powe knocked it in out of a scramble in front with Quick out of position at the 1:25 mark. Powe’s sixth was assisted by Nick Johnson and Kyle Brodziak. The Kings then wasted 3:38 of a power-play after Brodziak was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding Anze Kopitar. Kopitar was down for a while but was able to play on the power-play (they only got 3:38 of a power-play because the Wild had 1:22 of a power-play left when Brodziak took the penalty). The Kings managed only one shot on the power-play, and there’s the shot mentality, or lack thereof, that Terry Murray is talking about. The Kings may have had 44 shots on goal, but in prime situations like this, they’re too cute and pass it around too much, and it costs them. On a delayed Kings penalty, Marco Scandella made it 3-0 wild at the 16:02 mark with his third goal of the season. Dustin Brown was covering Scandella, but left his man to go flatten Dany Heatley into the boards. Mission accomplished. Except Heatley got a pass off to Scandella before who shot it by Quick’s blocker. Matt Cullen also got an assist. Fortunately for the Kings, there had already been two teams earlier in the night who had come back from down 3-0 to win. However, the Vancouver Canucks and New Jersey Devils aren’t the lowest-scoring team in the NHL. The Kings outshot the Wild 13-7 in the frame, but, of course, had nothing to show for it. The Wild went 0-for-3 on the power-play in the frame, while the Kings went 0-for-1, failing on the major power-play. Dustin Brown drew Cody Almond into taking a high-sticking penalty at the 19:41 mark, ending a Wild power-play and setting up 4-on-4 play to end the second period and to start the third period, before the Kings got 1:19 of a power-play shortly into the third.
3rd period: Dustin Penner, one of few bright spots for the Kings lately, got his second goal and third point in three games since returning from injury just 3:59 into the third, when he put home the rebound in the slot from a Jack Johnson shot. Penner’s second goal of the season was also assisted by Anze Kopitar. It was the first NHL goal Matt Hackett had ever allowed. Too bad everyone can’t get hot at the same time, huh? Cody Almond then scored his first goal of the season at the 11:42 mark, when he skated in on Slava Voynov and took a wrist shot from the high slot. Quick got a piece of it, but it trickled in. It was a very weak goal by Quick. Nick Johnson and Darroll Powe picked up the assists. At the 16:32 mark, Trent Hunter knocked in a loose puck out of a scramble in front, for his first goal of the season, first as a King, and 100th regular season goal of his NHL career (as well as first that wasn’t with the Islanders). Kyle Clifford and Jack Johnson picked up the assists. It was a rough first game back for Alec Martinez, as he made a brutal turnover early in the frame that, luckily, Pierre-Marc Bouchard rang off the post. Martinez may have made more passes to Bouchard than to his teammates on Thursday. The Kings went 0-for-1 on the power-play and 0-for-2 on the night, while the Wild didn’t have one and went 0-for-4 on the night. The Kings outshot the Wild 18-5 in the third period and 44-24 on the night, as well as outhitting the Wild 46-22 on the night (but the Wild blocked 21 shots to the Kings’ nine).
So, after another tough loss, the third in a row for the Kings, they’ll look to get on track when they host the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Stay tuned for a game preview coming sometime before the puck drops at Staples Center at 10:30 PM ET/7:30 PM PT, as the Kings look to turn things around at home (just 8-8-1 at home on the season) in what’s been another waste of a home stand before they head out on the road.