The LA Kings have lost three in a row and falling further out of the playoff picture. Afterward, a frustrated Drew Doughty wasn’t shy with his feelings.
When the LA Kings kicked off their two-game set against the San Jose Sharks last week, there was a palpable feeling that the club had entered their most important juncture of the season, and justifiably so.
With 22 games remaining in the regular season and five points out of a playoff spot at that point, there was no more waiting for the LA Kings. Especially coming off a win against a high-powered Vegas Golden Knights squad, the silver-and-black need to put their best foot — or skate, rather — forward if they hoped for a shot at the postseason, much less a berth.
The LA Kings went on to lose both games against the Sharks, who, as a result, jumped ahead of them in the standings.
Entering this week, however, there was still hope for the LA Kings as they kicked off a two-game series against the Arizona Coyotes who, entering Monday night’s contest, occupied the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division, holding a seven-point lead on their rivals from Southern California.
Any hopes of gaining ground on the Coyotes, however, were quickly dashed as Arizona took a 3-0 lead just 7:28 into the game. The LA Kings ultimately lost 5-2, falling even further behind in the playoff race.
Following the loss, Drew Doughty spoke to the media about the defeat, and the LA Kings’ defenseman did not mince words, beginning with his club’s urgency in the third period.
“I think that’s what’s been lacking for the last five games,” a frustrated Doughty noted. “We haven’t had any intensity, anyone competing– I shouldn’t say that. We’ve had some guys competing every single game, and we’ve had others take games … play good games and take games off. So, I mean, we’re down 4-1 in the third period. I sure hope that we’re playing a little more desperate.”
A case of being too little, too late, has, unfortunately, been a common trend for the LA Kings this season. Some can forgive this, given that the team’s chances of making the playoffs weren’t great, to begin with. Still, to a man, a lackluster effort is unacceptable, and Doughty can definitely attest to that.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that we didn’t play like that in the first or the second, or the last four games,” the 2016 Norris Trophy winner added. “Actually, besides the Vegas win.”
While it still left them two goals behind, the LA Kings were able to get on the board before the first period was through — on a goal from Mr. Doughty himself.
“That’s my responsibility in that position,” the blueliner said. “When you’re down a goal, I try to take it over. I mean, I try to take it over from the puck drop every single game. Doesn’t matter. But when you’re down by goals, you can take way more risks and be up in the play the entire period. So, I mean, that’s what I’m trying to do, but, you know, we need more guys doing that. [You] can’t just have one or two or three guys trying to make a difference in the game. We need everyone making a difference, and that’s the only way you’re gonna win hockey games.”
The veteran defenseman was then asked if his level of frustration should be a call to action to his teammates.
“It should have been a call to action games ago,” a matter-of-fact Doughty responded. “We put ourselves in a good spot, and the last two weeks or so, we’ve absolutely shot ourselves in the foot. Now, we’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of climbing to do, a lot of winning to do.
“I’m so pissed off right now, but I don’t know, I– yeah, we just need to be better. That’s it. And enough of us talking about playing good in the third period. I mean, we’re losing in the game, so we should be getting the third period. It’s about well how we’re playing from the puck drop. It’s the bottom line, and we’re not showing up for that.”
As for what message his team needs for the next game, the 31-year-old was direct.
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“Compete,” Doughty stressed. “Act like you’ve earned your spot in this lineup and on our team and run with it. Don’t sit around hoping you’re going to get more shifts. Take your chance and run with it. You know, I think some guys are just worried about being in the lineup, and I mean, I understand that, but at the same time, we need our second-and third-core guys, as long as our top-core guys can all step up right now. Play as if it’s a playoff series, every single series we play in, and that’s it. I don’t know what else to say.”
Compared to the sound of his frustration, Drew Doughty’s words alone can barely do justice for how he has felt not only about Monday night’s loss but his team’s overall effort over the last couple of weeks. Doughty is at his wit’s end, and frankly, it’s hard to blame him.
While they may be playing better this season than most have anticipated, the LA Kings are nonetheless getting used to delivering disappointing performances. On the one hand, this is part of the growing process. Still, on the other hand, more is expected of a club that has shown that they can play their best hockey against clubs atop the West Division like the aforementioned Golden Knights or the St. Louis Blues — the only team the LA Kings have a winning record against this season.
It wasn’t too long ago when the playoffs were a viable possibility. After the last few games, though, qualifying for the postseason seems more like a pipe dream than anything else for the LA Kings.
While they still do have a shot at making the playoffs, the time for the LA Kings’ turnaround, with 19 games left, is right now. Frankly, there is no one better than a player as decorated as Drew Doughty to light a fire under his team.
We will see if the LA Kings can bounce back next game, which happens at STAPLES Center on Wednesday night against the Arizona Coyotes.