You know, it’s awfully hard to look at this game in a positive light.
It’s awfully hard to say that the Kings got a point, that the point got them back in a playoff spot (the extra point would have put them first in the Pacific), that they got three out of four points on this road trip on back-to-back nights, that they got five points in the last three games (in four nights), that they’re 3-0-2 under Darryl Sutter, that they’re 4-0-2 in their last six games, that they’re 5-1-2 in their last eight games, that they’re 5-2-2 since firing Terry Murray, that the Kings went 133:30 without giving up a goal, that the defensive play and penalty kill remain terrific, that the loss was to an Eastern Conference team so their two points don’t matter, and that they were playing on back-to-back nights in different cities and were likely tired.
Because while all of that is true, the negatives stood out much more, especially because many are becoming trends. The Kings just are not scoring, especially their top players, the power-play is so, so, so much beyond pathetic, their league-worst goals per game average got even lower, their excellent defensive play and goaltending are being wasted by the unbelievably underachieving offense, for the second time in less than a year the Kings lost despite a shutout by Jonathan Bernier, and they were shut out for the fourth time this season, as well as held to under three regulation goals for the 31st time in 38 games this season, not to mention for the 16th time in their last 17 games.
The biggest story from today, and I’m sure most will agree, was the power-play. Just… Wow. And I thought last year’s power-play was bad. This power-play is redefining the word “bad.” If not for their strong start to the season with the power-play, they could very well have the 30th-ranked power-play in the league, which would be fitting, because it’s where they’re ranked in overall offense. Not to worry, though. If this keeps up, they should be 30th with the man-advantage before you know it. You know, when you get a two-man advantage for 1:53, and no one expects you to score, and you don’t, and you don’t even look good with a lengthy 5-on-3, I think you have a problem with the power-play, and the Kings certainly do.
Assistant coach Jamie Kompon, who apparently runs the offense and power-play, has taken heavy criticism from fans for the Kings’ offensive and power-play woes, even dating back to last year. My take on it is that I’m honestly not sure how much blame to put on him. There’s no way he can be drawing up some of these awful plays that the Kings are trying out there. But, much like Terry Murray was held accountable for the team and was fired, will Kompon be held accountable and be fired? Darryl Sutter didn’t close the door on making changes to the coaching staff after the holidays when he was hired, so it could be possible. Whether Kompon goes or not, Dean Lombardi clearly needs to acquire some more offense. It’s been almost half the season, it’s pretty clear that this is an awful offensive team, and it’s pretty clear that if this team doesn’t reach their goals this season, it will be because of the offense, so I expect Lombardi to address the offense sometime in the near future.
Finally, Jonathan Bernier was terrific tonight. Coming into tonight, he’d given up just two goals in three straight starts, but had lost the last two. Tonight, he didn’t give up a single goal in regulation. And they still didn’t win. The same thing happened to him last year, when he had a shutout in Minnesota, but lost in a shootout. The Kings are terrible offensively, but they’re even worse when Bernier’s in goal (which is hard to believe), and they really need to fix that, the poor guy deserves better. However, he surely made a wonderful first impression on his new coach, so hopefully he gets back in a game sometime soon. Oh yes, and this is where I disagree that Jonathan Quick is the team MVP. Quick’s been outstanding this year, but if he gets hurt (knock on wood), I’m perfectly fine with Bernier taking the reigns. We all saw what happened to this team when Mike Richards was out…
Well, that sucked. However, it’s time to take the point that Bernier got them and turn the page. The Kings have a huge six-game homestand coming up here, starting on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. Other than the Canucks, every team that the Kings will play in this homestand is currently not in a playoff spot. The Kings must take advantage of this homestand, as opposed to what they did with the homestand that they had at this time last season. Before we get set for the Canucks, let’s recap this loss in Winnipeg…
1st period: The Kings outshot the Jets 13-9 in a scoreless opening frame, and went 0-for-1 on the power-play, while the Jets didn’t have one. The Kings didn’t generate many quality scoring chances, while the Jets had a couple, but Bernier bailed the Kings out. The Kings power-play in this period was the only one on the night that looked decent. The highlight of the period for the Kings was a nice Jonathan Bernier save on a Blake Wheeler breakaway.
2nd period: LA outshot Winnipeg 12-8 in another scoreless period. At the 7:35 mark, Jack Johnson ran over Tim Stapleton in front of the Kings net with a clean hit, but Evander Kane went after him anyways (like what usually happens in this league), and took a pair of roughing penalties (one was served by Eric Fehr), while Johnson got one, although he shouldn’t have gotten any, but that’s how this league works. You can also take stupid penalties all you want against the Kings, because they aren’t going to score, and this power-play was no different. Shortly after failing on that power-play, the Kings ended up with 1:53 of a two-man advantage, but as we all knew would happen, they didn’t score, and didn’t generate many prime scoring chances. The constant perimeter passing needs to stop, they need to attack the net. Anyways, the Kings went 0-for-3 on the power-play in the period, while the Jets went 0-for-1. Dustin Penner redirected a shot that, of course, hit the post near the end of the period.
3rd period: The Kings got into some early penalty trouble, ending up with 45 seconds of a 5-on-3 disadvantage at the 5:00 mark, but killed it off. Bernier was their best penalty killer, and his work included a brilliant diving point-blank glove save on Andrew Ladd to his left. The Kings got a late power-play, and had a chance to make all of their other power-play struggles on the night irrelevant, but once again, they failed. Winnipeg outshot Los Angeles 8-6 in the third period, but the Kings held a 31-25 shot-advantage in regulation. The Kings went 0-for-1 with the man-advantage in the third and were 0-for-5 in regulation, while the Jets were 0-for-2 in the frame and 0-for-3 in regulation.
Overtime: At the 1:09 mark, Evander Kane picked the puck out of a scrum in front of Bernier and beat him for the overtime-winner, and his 18th goal of the season. Ron Hainsey and Blake Wheeler picked up the assists. The play that led to the goal resulted in some horrible defensive play by the Kings. The mishaps by Jack Johnson and Dustin Penner? Not terribly surprising. The mishap by Mike Richards? Much more surprising. There were no penalties in overtime, meaning the Kings finished the night 0-for-5 with the man-advantage and the Jets finished 0-for-3. The shots were 2-0 in favour of the Jets in overtime, but 31-27 for the Kings on the night.
It wasn’t the return to Winnipeg that the Kings were hoping for, but the atmosphere that the fans created in Winnipeg was awesome. However, I wasn’t so sure about the whole “Pick one really good player on the other team and boo him” tradition they’ve already started, apparently. At first I wondered if they were jealous of all the money Drew Doughty makes, then I thought that maybe they were mad because the Kings took Doughty with the second-overall pick in the 2008 draft and the Thrashers only got Zach Bogosian with the third-overall pick, but nope, apparently that’s what they do. If anything, that’s a compliment to Doughty. Also, they were chanting “BERRRRNIER” for a good part of the night, and I’m not sure if you should be razzing a goalie that you’re team’s never scored on. Neither act particularly bothered me, to be honest, but that’s just my opinion.
Well, the dad magic ran out, and now it’s time for the players’ fathers to go home, after ending the road trip in a fashion that they probably didn’t want it to end in. I joked on Twitter during the game (follow me @Jack_Weber_) that even the fathers should boo the Kings power-play. However, Alain Bernier should be one proud dad after watching what his son did tonight. The Kings will go home themselves and hope that the offense finally starts to click during this homestand. Stay tuned for a game preview for Saturday’s New Year’s Eve game against the Canucks coming sometime before the puck drops at Staples Center at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT.
NOTE: I believe I heard a stat the other day that the Kings have the worst shooting percentage of any team in the last 10 years or so. So, as Dustin Brown alluded to earlier in the day, no, Terry Murray, it’s not all about a shot mentality, it’s about a scoring mentality.