That’s math that even I can do. The last three games for the Los Angeles Kings have all featured at least one goal against them that was just plain bad luck. In the two games before last night, they ended up being the difference in games that were decided by a single goal. However, if the Kings could score, then they’d be able to overcome some of these bad bounces.
I hate to sound like a broken record when talking about the offense, but the Kings right now are not even kind of coming close to generating the tiniest bit of offense, and it’s a major problem, and it’s a not a new problem. The reality is, it’s the only thing holding this team back from taking that next step and becoming the Stanley Cup contender that many expected them to be.
So, it begs the question: Why can’t the Kings score? The Kings are averaging 2.17 goals per game this season, which ties them with the Minnesota Wild for 27th in the NHL. The Kings have failed to score more than two regulation goals in 10 of their 12 games this season. The Kings have been shutout in each of their last two home games, the first time that’s ever happened since the Kings moved to Staples Center. Why? The Kings have six players on their team who have scored 30 or more goals at least once in an NHL season. Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson are supposed to be two of the best young offensive defensemen in the game. So far, Anze Kopitar’s really been the only player on the Kings to live up to offensive expectations, and I think he summed up the frustration of him and the team yesterday when the usually calm, even-keeled Kopitar broke his stick on the crossbar after the Oilers’ third goal, after the puck appeared to have bounced off his skate and gone out to Corey Potter who put it in. He can’t do it all by himself. You can also say that Jack Johnson has also had a great start, but he has cooled off big time lately; he has not recorded a point in his last five games and is a minus-3 over that span.
Let’s go through the team and see how everyone is doing. Mike Richards has been great, he’s made the power play better all by himself and may be the best passer the Kings have had since Wayne Gretzky. And although he has 10 points so far this season, he’s only scored two goals in 12 games. Simon Gagne hasn’t scored since the home opener, although to be fair he’s missed two games since then, but still. Dustin Brown has three goals and six assists. Not bad, but one of them was an empty-netter. Justin Williams has three goals and five assists in 12 games. Also not bad, but two of those goals came in one game, and he’s only recorded one point in his last five games and is a minus-4 over that stretch. Then, of course, Dustin Penner (Colten Teubert wasn’t very impressive yesterday, by the way) has only one point so far all season and just doesn’t look he can keep up out there.
So without the big guns producing a lot, the Kings have needed some secondary scoring, but they haven’t been getting much of that either. Jarret Stoll has just one goal and two assists on the year, although he’s now the third line centre and is in more of a defensive role. Brad Richardson has just one point on the year. Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford, two young players who stepped up big time in the playoffs and I thought may have been their coming out party, have been in a fourth line role for most of the year so they haven’t gotten much of a chance to produce offensively (although Lewis got a glorious chance yesterday on a shorthanded breakaway but missed the net). Ethan Moreau and Trent Hunter haven’t provided any offense, although neither of them were really expected to and Hunter’s often been a healthy scratch so far. Kevin Westgarth’s not going to score. At least I hope he doesn’t, or the world might explode. It’s not like the offense needs Colin Fraser to be healthy to get jump-started.
On defense, Drew Doughty, although he’s only played in seven games, only has two assists and is a minus-3 and seems to be trying to do too much out there. Jack Johnson has cooled off after his hot start, as mentioned earlier. Alec Martinez doesn’t have a single point, is a minus-five, and was even a healthy scratch earlier in the year. You’re not going to get much offense from Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene. Davis Drewiske doesn’t provide any either, and barely even plays. Hey, who was that defenseman who scored two goals against Dallas anyways? I wonder if the Kings could use him right now…
One of few offensive bright spots has been Scott Parse scoring twice in his last four games. His recent production combined with Penner’s lack of production since he got here has seen Parse recently take over Penner’s spot on the second line and seeing Penner moved down to the third line.
So this is what we’re reduced to. Scott Parse in the top-six. Just kidding Scottie, I love you. Well, as long as you start staying out of the box (which you did yesterday!) and you keep scoring (which you didn’t do yesterday…), I do. What should the Kings do to improve the offense? I don’t really see room to go out and acquire someone that would help. Do you bring up Andrei Loktionov and Slava Voynov and hope that their offensive skills and creativity helps the Kings’ offense out? There’s no doubt in my mind that both of them are NHL players, but the reason they’re in Manchester is because there’s no room for them here right now, so where they would play and whether that’s a role where they will get a chance to produce is a bit of a problem. But back to my original question: Why can’t the Kings score? It can’t be the roster that management has put together, on paper this team should be an offensive juggernaut. Is it the defensive system implemented by coaches that is holding the offense back? Or is it on the players? Is the effort not there? Are they reading their own press clippings too much? Please, let me know what you think, leave your comments, I’m very interested to hear from you guys because I’m as stumped as anyone.
So in the meantime, the Kings played yesterday, and it was awfully ugly as they dropped their third straight game and fourth in their last five, falling to 6-4-2 on the year after starting 5-1-1. As mentioned earlier, they were shutout at home for the second consecutive time for the first time since moving to Staples Center, falling 3-0 to the Edmonton Oilers, the same score that they lost by against the New Jersey Devils last week in their most recent home game before last night. It was an ugly game, but two goals weren’t the Kings’ fault at all, the first one was a bad bounce, the type of bounce we’ve seen go against the Kings a lot lately, and the second goal should have been disallowed for goaltender interference on Jonathan Quick — and Quick was as angry with the refs as I’ve seen him in a long time after the goal — but the ref didn’t see it.
Before we put this stinker behind us and hope for better results tomorrow night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are tied for first place in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs of all teams (need a reminder that it’s too early in the season to pay attention to the standings? There you go), let’s quickly recap this one against Edmonton last night…
1st period: The opening frame was ugly, as the Kings were outshot 10-3 by the Oilers, taking as many shots as they took penalties. The Oilers would, however, end up going 0-for-2 on the power play (the third power play carried over into the second period), while the Kings did not have a power play. The highlight of the period was an amazing save by Jonathan Quick on Ryan Jones after he took a pass from Ryan Smyth on a 2-on-1. As mentioned earlier, Trevor Lewis had a shorthanded breakaway on one of the Edmonton power plays, but his shot missed the net.
2nd period: The game stayed scoreless until 11:26 into the frame, when, guess who, Ryan Smyth, threw it out in front from behind the goal line, and the puck hit Alec Martinez’s stick and deflected off the mask of Jonathan Quick and into the net, for Smyth’s sixth goal of the season as he is off to his traditional early-season tear. By the way, I didn’t see it, but apparently Kings fans gave Smyth a nice reception at the start of the game, but booed him the rest of the night whenever he touched the puck. Ryan Jones and Tom Gilbert picked up assists. So there was the first bad luck goal on the night, and the second would come at the 17:38 mark, when Lennart Petrell picked up a rebound and put a backhand by Quick (Jay Onrait put it well on SportsCentre this morning when doing the highlights: “Lennart Petrell… Who?”). Although it shouldn’t have counted, it did, and the 27-year old Finn got his first career NHL goal, so congratulations to him. The goal shouldn’t have counted because Quick was clearly interfered with by Anton Lander in the crease, and he really let the ref have it after the goal, but it counted, and Lander and Ben Eager picked up assists on the second lucky goal of the game for Edmonton as they took a 2-0 lead, the lead they would take to the dressing room at the intermission. Each team went 0-for-1 on the power play, while the Kings outshot the Oilers 7-6 in the frame, so naturally they got outscored 2-0.
3rd period: The Kings were going to need a quick, dramatic change in their play in the third if they were going to come back, but pretty much all hope of that was dashed at the 1:06 mark of the third when Corey Potter picked up a loose puck in front of the net and put it past Quick for his second goal of the season. Sam Gagner picked up the assist. Each team went 0-for-1 on the power play in the frame, while the Kings went 0-for-2 on the power play overall on the night and the Oilers went 0-for-4. The Oilers outshot the Kings 11-9 in the period, and 27-19 on the night. At the 6:48 mark, a scrum ensued after an Ethan Moreau cross check from behind near the boards on Colten Teubert. Moreau received a two-minute minor for cross checking, and Ben Eager and Kyle Clifford got into a scrum that resulted in off-setting roughing minors, and the Oilers ended up with a 5-on-4 power play. Moreau, the former Oilers captain, is not expected to receive supplemental discipline.
So now the Kings search for answers, specifically on the offensive side of things, against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, who even though they’re missing the best player in the world in Sidney Crosby and another great player in Jordan Staal, are tied for the best record in the NHL, so the Kings have their hands full once again. This team’s going to be pretty scary once they get healthy… Jonathan Quick will make his fifth straight start, and 11th start in 13 games this season. Don’t expect him to play so much as the season wares on, however. Quick has given up three goals in each of his last four starts, and Terry Murray says that Jonathan Bernier will either start Monday in San Jose or Tuesday when the Kings host the Nashville Predators, likely depending on how Quick fares tomorrow. Stay tuned for a game preview for the Pittsburgh game coming sometime tomorrow before the puck drops at Staples Center at 10:30 PM ET/7:30 PM PT.