All in all, 2013 was a pretty good year for the LA Kings as they made it all the way back to the Western Conference Finals following an up and down season before succumbing to the powerful Blackhawks. The year didn’t end so well as a mediocre performance in Dallas on New Year’s Eve following a shutout in Chicago the night before, left them with their first four-game losing streak of the season. So far, 2014 isn’t off to a great start as the Kings keep spiraling downward.
In a chance versus team whose number they’ve had for the past couple years, especially in the playoffs, the Kings came up empty. It was also a chance to snap their losing streak and at least come home with two extremely valuable points to salvage something from an awful road trip, but as is Kings style, they were unable to take advantage of the multiple opportunities presented to them. Normally, Kings and Blues is a very hard hitting, low-event hockey affair. Thursday night’s game was the complete opposite.
As a team whose discipline has been trending in the wrong direction, all of the Kings should have made a New Year’s resolution to stay out of the penalty box. The game wasn’t even two minutes old before defenseman Matt Greene whiffed on the puck and gave the Blues a four minute power play. The first two and a half minutes of the double minor were excellent. The Kings were stellar in keeping the Blues to the perimeter and held them without a shot on goal. One crazy bounce off the backboards and a fortunate bounce gave Brenden Morrow a golden opportunity to put the puck in net. He didn’t miss. It was also the Blues’ first shot on goal of the evening. That pretty much set up the rest of the game for the Blues. Through the rest of the period, the Kings owned the puck and did everything right except score. The Corsi was around 75% for the Kings and 25% for the Blues. Down 1-0, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before the Kings would score.
The second period did not start out much better than the first with Jeff Carter heading to the box for tripping. They almost had a shorthanded chance on the PK, but unfortunately Stoll shot it wide (hey, Kings fans, at least it wasn’t high and wide as usual!) This seemed to give the Kings momentum as they heavily outshot their opponent. There was some back and forth action, but the most dangerous plays seemed to be in favor of the Kings, again, seeming to give the impression that Kings would get one back at any moment. No such luck. Then, just over half through the period, Dwight King went off to the box for tripping. Remember what I said about the New Year’s resolution for better discipline? Yeah, well I’m sure you can guess what happened next. US Olympian TJ Oshie doubled the Blues’ lead and Martin Jones was done for the night. Ben Scrivens came in and things did not improve. Minutes later, Oshie put it past the glove side of a partially screened Scrivens. The Kings got three power plays (one of which was 5v3) within the final five minutes, but nothing happened. They may have given up a chance or two shorthanded as well.
After two periods, the Kings were outshooting the Blues 2-1 (I guess to be expected with such a score affected game) and had 17 scoring chances to the Blues’ 10. Even with nearly 10 minutes of power play time, the Kings could not find the back of the net while the Blues went 2/4 on theirs. To say the Kings’ special teams were not working in their favor is a great understatement.
To add insult to injury, the Blues scored two more goals in the first five minutes in the third period while the Kings couldn’t even figure out a way to get on the board in spite of numerous chances and a late power play to ruin Brian Elliott’s shutout.
It was not only a moral victory for the Blues but it was a big two points the Kings desperately needed to avoid falling out of playoff contention. They’re not there YET but, oh boy, they sure want to make things interesting with some do or die games later this season. Meanwhile, the Kings need to go sit in a corner and cry in shame at not being able to beat league average goaltender Brian Elliott (yes, I am insulting the goalie who just shutout the Kings. He’s still league average and still not very good in general. But props to him for beating a slumping Kings team. Woo. Congrats on your moral victory, guys!). The Blues have several key players out with injury and their bottom six is decent-ish. So not being able to beat a broken Blues is cause for shame and humiliation.
This Fenwick chart above, from ExtraSkater shows the unblocked shot attempt by the Kings. It was close for about 10 minutes before the Kings pressed down and were shooting on net from anywhere they could.
|St. Louis Blues||60.0||5||0||42||70||37.5%||34||46||42.5%||26||30||46.4%|
|Los Angeles Kings||60.0||0||5||70||42||62.5%||46||34||57.5%||30||26||53.6%|
As you can tell, the Kings virtually owned the puck tonight. The Fenwick is much closer than Corsi because many of the Kings’ shots were blocked. The Blues had four players (Magnus Pajaarvi, Vladamir Tarasenko, Patrik Berglund, and Barret Jackman) with a Corsi For percent of 50% of greater. Conversely, none of the Kings finished below 50% in CF% and had four players (Justin Williams, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown and Jarret Stoll) finish at exactly 50%. Basically, the Kings pretty much owned the puck and only lent it to the Blues long enough for them to score.
This isn’t the absolute worst possible time for a major losing streak but it’s probably not the best time for it, either. The Kings return to LA to kick off a five game homestand in which they will see the Canucks twice (Vancouver bookends this homestand) and square off against the surging Minnesota Wild, streaking Boston Bruins and the streaky Detroit Red Wings (who usually manage to find success at Staples Center). Taking at least eight out of 10 points would be pretty ideal (most ideal would be 10/10 but that seems extremely unlikely given this team). It doesn’t get easier as they will play 14 games in the next 28 days, including two sets of back-to-backs and a trip to the East Coast.
So what’s wrong with the Kings? Is it the goaltending? The defense? The offense? The coaching? The system? Do they all need to see a sports therapist (is it all in their heads)? All of the above? None of the above? Stay tuned, that’ll be another post as this one has gotten kind of long.