Four goals in four games. The Kings have gone from 1st in the Conference to last in their Division almost over night. The brutal truth of it is that the Kings have just not played well enough to maintain any sort of success over the long haul. Perhaps the only bright side to this early season is that the incredibly strong start, which remains the only reason the Kings are not painfully outside of the playoff picture already. Sitting at the bottom of the Pacific Division isn’t exactly where they were hoping to be, but going 1-7 over the past eight games, with even that win requiring a shootout is not a good stretch.
So what’s going wrong? It’s a collection of things to be sure, including some terribly defensive lapses, and failure of the Power Play to convert in critical moments. The latter issue can be expanded even further to a complete failure of the offense to do… well… anything. In the last four games, the Kings have scored four goals. That’s one goal per game (I’m quite good at math). It makes virtually no difference how good Jonathan Quick and Bernier are or are not playing, with that kind of anemic offense, they’re going nowhere fast.
Let’s break it down and look at the 3 pluses and 3 minuses thus far this season:
Plus: Jonathan Quick – 1.92 GAA is good enough for 3rd in the league. He’s stopping most of the pucks he could be expected to stop, and keeping the Kings in games long after they should have been destroyed. At least until he is forced to face yet another odd-numbered attack stemming from a defensive breakdown…
Minus: Drew Doughty – His defense hasn’t been mind-numbingly awful. At least not as bad as Jack Johnson’s has been. But he’s taken some terribly penalties, including the one that lead to the game-winning goal for Anaheim last night. To top it off, his offense has been basically absent. No question teams are keying in on him more than in the past, but he’s going to have to step it up. On pace for 4 goals this season is just not good enough.
Plus: Strong Start – Looking for a big positive at this point can be challenging, but the 12-3 start to the season has kept the Kings right in the hunt for the playoffs. Currently sitting at #11 in the Western Conference, the Kings would be far out of the race if not for their red-hot start. As it is, they’re only 3 points out of 2nd place in the Conference.
Minus: Absolute Collapse – If the start was a plus, the last eight games have been a serious minus. If the team is still in the race after going 1-7, it’s frightening, and a little sad to think where they might be if they were even playing mediocre hockey over the past eight games. It’s a minus the likes of which most Kings fans were hoping they had put behind them entering this season.
Plus: The West Side Story – At least that’s what I’m calling the line of Williams, Stoll and Smyth with their impressive start to the season. Even in games where there are just no goals, the line seems like they continue to generate realistic opportunities and chances. Williams is on pace for nearly 80 points this season, an impressive total, and one he’ll probably fall short of, but in the first part of the season they’re a strong “plus.”
Minus: Power Play – It’s not so much the Kings Power Play is bad. Though it is, at 15.2% they’re sitting at #20 in the NHL. Not a good place to be if they want to challenge for the Cup. Perhaps more importantly, they can’t seem to score in key moments. The sense of urgency is lacking, and when the Kings are faced with an opportunity to get back into a game, or tie it up, the Power Play repeatedly comes up empty. It’s a terribly streak, and one they’ll need to snap out of if they want to get back on top.
Did I miss anything? Who are your pluses and minuses of the season so far?