It was the best of teams, it was the worst of teams. It was the age of finesse, it was the age of clumsiness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness. It was the October of hope, it was the November of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us. We were all going direct to the playoffs, we were all going direct to the lottery.
Since I probably lost most of you after the first few sentences of my Dickens knock off… (too high brow for a hockey blog?) Let’s take a look at what you probably already imagine this is all about. The Los Angeles Kings have been a bizarre team of extremes this season. At times (such as the first month of the season, they’ve looked like one of the best teams in the league – a potent and balanced scoring attack, coupled with stellar goaltending and excellent defensive play. At other times they’ve looked like a team that doesn’t even deserve to make the playoffs – anemic offensive output, leaky goaltending and shady defensive play. So which team are we really looking at?
If you ask me, this is largely about the fact that the team relies so heavily on its younger players. The younger players who are the most prone to playing a streaky form of hockey, and players who are less likely to be able to jerk themselves out of a skid once they get into one. Take a look at the breakdown month by month:
October - 8 wins, 3 losses
November - 5 wins, 7 losses
December - 9 wins, 4 losses (and one OT loss)
January - 0 wins, 2 losses
Not only are those bizarre flip-flop style records befitting a national-level politician, but keep in mind that they include some impressive (and tragic) streaks. In November the team lost 7 of 8 games, before winning 9 of 12 in December. Seriously?
This kind of schizophrenic play isn’t confined to the team as a whole. As you might imagine, the players they’ve been relying on have appeared quite streaky in their own right. In late October, Kopitar scored 4 points in 7 games. Not terribly impressive, especially for a guy who just before that streak had 5 points in 4 games, and netted 10 points in the 6 games following. Of course it’s not fair to point out Kopitar himself, the fact that the Stoll, Williams, Smyth line has been playing streaky this season hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Their hot play at the start of the season has cooled dramatically, Williams had an 11 game point streak early in the season, and has now put up 1 goal and 1 assist in the past 5 games.
It is probably unfair to claim that teams shouldn’t go on streaks, or that players aren’t going to run hot and cold during different points of the season, but as a Kings fan, it seems quite clear that their streaky play has been incredibly frustrating. Which team is going to come out to play tomorrow? Well for the sake of the Kings it’ll be the talented, successful team that we’ve seen in fits and spurts this season. It’s been written before, but this is an important homestand for the Kings, and they’re going to want to claim as many points as possible in January, so they don’t need to scratch and claw for the last few points in April. They sit in 8th place for the moment, but only 2 points out of 4th place in the conference. Another solid win streak could help launch them into control of their own destiny.
Why do you think this team has lost its mojo? Anything they should be doing to get some more consistency?