LA Kings: Why Wild series is more than just two losses

LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Wrapping up the two-game series with the Minnesota Wild — and one that surely sparked Groundhog Day references — the LA Kings lost both games the same way. Blown two-goal leads in the third period leading to eventual overtime losses, Todd McLellan’s group came away with only two points.

When training camp initially opened, LA Kings captain Anze Kopitar foreshadowed the impact of losing two games in this fashion would have on the standings.

”Division games were always huge, and there’s even more emphasis this season,” said Kopitar. “Lose a game in a shootout or in OT, and that point is huge. It’s gonna be tight for a long, long time.”

The LA Kings arguably should have come away from that two-game set with four points and atop the West Division. As it stands, Los Angeles is a point out of the cellar, entering Monday. But because it’s still early in the season, they are two points out of first place.

The LA Kings didn’t get out to the fast start they had hoped

The keyword there is ‘early,’ but the national media has largely picked the Avalanche, Blues, and Golden Knights to finish in some order of West Division’s top three. That leaves a final playoff spot for the Sharks, Ducks, Wild, and Kings.

Based on how Los Angeles finished the 19-20 season, there was a sense of optimism heading into the shortened 2021 season. And through the first two periods of both games, the feeling was supported. But for whatever reason, the Kings blew the lead in the final period.

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”You got to learn how to how to play with the lead, you got to learn how to play in a tight game, play from behind,” Mikey Anderson said after Saturday’s game. “We’ll also look at what happened the last couple games here giving up too many third period goals, but definitely lean on some of the older guys and try and get better and not have it happen again.”

Anderson and the Kings defense has been put through the wringer thus far, killing off a perfect 11-for-11 penalties. Anderson had two terrific defensive plays on Saturday, giving up his body to block a would-be shot on goal and lifting the stick of a Wild attacker to prevent a shot attempt on a two-on-one rush. Olli Maatta and Drew Doughty garner all the headlines, but the duo of Matt Roy and Anderson has been as steady as they come.

“I think the two of us kind of complement each other well, he’s a very smart player,” Anderson said of Roy. “I like to think both of us are our thinkers out there. We think the game pretty similar. We’ve been able to communicate well, which has helped us have some success so far together, so hopefully, we can keep that going. Even coming in getting called up last year, he was my partner. He’s a guy that showed me everything, day by day, how we’re going at the rink. He’s teaching me to keep it simple, make plays quick, and then he’s been good for me so far.”

Conversely, the LA Kings power play has had difficulty getting anything going — converting 1-for-9 through two games. The Kings had their fair share of penalties, but the Wild were far from perfect, giving LA 14 minutes of power play time. Saturday night, in particular, Minnesota was applying great pressure along the blue line, making it challenging for the Kings to get set up. Most of the man advantages went with few shots coming from the slot or closer.

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Source: Hockeyviz /

The LA Kings have 54 games to get their ducks in a row. Opening the year against the Wild was supposed to be a favorable matchup for the home team. Drew Doughty and the Kings will face the Stanley Cup favorite Colorado Avalanche and 2019 Stanley Cup champion, St. Louis Blues. Those two teams matched up on Friday night, with the Avalanche converting on 5-of-7 power plays on the way to an 8-0 victory.

LA Kings head coach Todd McLellan was visibly upset with his squad

“I’m disappointed right now, just like the rest of the group,” McLellan said after Saturday night’s game. “That’s two games in a row that played out almost identical in a lot of different ways. There’s no reason why we should let either of them get away on us, but they obviously did. There are things that we need to work on. I’m still not happy with the penalties that we’re taking — some of them were just awful decisions, too many men on the ice, different situations that are completely preventable.”

“So is it because we haven’t played for a while? Possibly, but I think that would be using it as an excuse. I didn’t think we were ready to play tonight, and that’s not a good sign for us at all, especially early in the season. Their first goal, we went over that faceoff probably ten minutes before we went out. And the very first one in our end they score off of, so quite disappointed a lot of guys tonight, but we’ll work on it, we’ll get ready for the next one.”

Next. McLellan didn’t think team was ready to play on Saturday. dark

The two losses against the Wild can be demoralizing for a team like the LA Kings, who had hoped to build off the momentum at the end of last season. There was a lot of puck-watching in front of Jonathan Quick, as Minnesota continuously crashed the net.

McLellan and the Kings had an off-day on Sunday, and they’ll have to right the wrongs in practice on Monday and the morning skate on Tuesday before Tuesday night’s series opener with the Colorado Avalanche. The Kings cannot give the Avalanche five or six opportunities with a man advantage. They [Avalanche] have too much firepower everywhere on the roster.