LA Kings prove they are not a playoff team in flat effort against Coyotes

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

Trailing the Coyotes by five points in the West Division, a head-to-head matchup was the perfect opportunity for the LA Kings to gain ground in the standings.

In what essentially boiled down to a must-win game with 12 games to go, the LA Kings put up one of their worst efforts of the season against the Coyotes.

“The first half of the game was not good on our part,” Anze Kopitar noted via the postgame Zoom call, following the Kings 4-0 loss. “We can’t expect to win games when we play half a period. We didn’t do a good job from the start, and we couldn’t catch up.”

The Kings got off to a fast-ish start, registering four shots on goal within the first four minutes of the contest, but then went the rest of the period with just two shots on Coyotes netminder Darcy Kuemper. After the first four minutes, Arizona controlled the puck for the majority of the first period, taking a 1-0 lead on John Hayden‘s first goal of the season at the 12:47 mark.

On this particular play, Trevor Moore made a rare mistake, converging on Derick Brassard behind the net, though Tobias Bjornfot was there. Anyway, that left Hayden to skate all alone in front of Cal Petersen, burying it stick side.

Of note, Petersen made back-to-back starts for the first time this season.

And what has felt like a repeated occurrence, the LA Kings weren’t ready for the second period, as the Coyotes added to their lead just 36 seconds in, with Lawson Crouse deflecting a shot from the point past Petersen. In the third period, Drew Doughty took an interference penalty at the 16:26 mark, with Jakob Chychrun blasting one past Petersen from the point, making it a 3-0 game.

And Phil Kessel put the nail in the coffin, tallying his eighth goal in his last 16 games, giving Arizona a 4-0 lead.

The Kings’ best chances of this game came on partial breakaways from Adrian Kempe and Andreas Athanasiou in the first and second periods, respectively. Trevor Moore also tried to clean up a puck in front of the net, jamming away with the puck under Kuemper’s pads.

“We didn’t have it as a team, physically,” Todd McLellan said following the game. “Emotionally, we didn’t have it. Certainly, the way Arizona played and checked didn’t help.”

While the Kings haven’t been formally eliminated from playoff contention, this game sure feels like their fate is sealed. In a game of this magnitude, the Kings looked like they’d rather be anywhere else.

And now, with 11 games remaining, the Kings are seven points back of the Coyotes for the fourth and final playoff spot. If there’s any hope left, the next four games for the Kings come against the Ducks while the Coyotes face the Sharks and Golden Knights. Of course, they would also need the Blues to struggle the rest of the way.

Next. Kings hoping new-look second line stays hot. dark

But based on what we’ve seen all season long, the LA Kings just don’t have the talent or the experience to answer the bell. It’s time to look at a few of the kids and get a head start on the offseason.