Just a month or so ago, the Los Angeles Kings were one of the best teams in the NHL.
The team was getting timely goal-scoring, playing well defensively, getting great goaltending, and looking like a Cup contender. In all, the Kings looked like one of the toughest teams to beat.
It is amazing how quickly things can change because everything that was going right for the Kings a month or so ago is now going wrong. That might be putting it mildly.
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The Kings have won just two of their last 14 games. After being one of the best teams in the Pacific Division, Western Conference, and the league, the Kings are currently fourth in their division, seventh in their conference, and 14th in the league with a record of 22-14-9 for 53 points.
While the team is currently in a wild card spot and just two points behind the third-place Edmonton Oilers in their division, there is a lot to be alarmed about this hockey club. For starters, they are struggling to put the puck in the net.
The Kings are currently 17th in the league in goals scored, with 143 goals in 45 games (3.18 goals per game). This has been particularly worrisome in January.
In January, the Kings have scored just 28 goals in 12 games. When you are scoring two goals or less in every game, chances are that you are not putting yourself in a position to win a lot of hockey games, which has been the case for the Kings over their last 14 games.
Another problem that the Kings are having has to do with their goaltending. At the beginning of the season, All-Star Cam Talbot was doing everything and more for this team.
Talbot’s 36 statistics reflect what he did over the first two months or so of the season. He is currently 14-12-0-5 with a 2.52 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage, and two shutouts.
With that said, he has not played well as of late. Just look at what he has done below:
- January 13th: Stopped 22 of 27 shots in a loss to the Detroit Red Wings
- January 16th: Stopped 23 of 25 shots in a loss to the Dallas Stars
- January 24th: Stopped 32 of 37 shots in a loss to the Buffalo Sabres
Not only has the goaltending been suspect, but the Kings’ defense has also been an issue. Over the past few weeks, they have been careless with the puck, have not helped clear rebounds in front of their goaltender, and have been caught out of position.
That was not the case a month ago. The team’s overall defensive play is still near the top of the league (currently second) in goals allowed because of how good they were in October, November, and a part of December.
Frustration is also starting to seep in. One player on the Kings that expressed that is veteran defenseman Drew Doughty.
In speaking to Eric Stephens of The Athletic after his team’s 5-3 loss to the Sabres on Wednesday night, January 24th, Doughty explained how the team does not seem to be focused on the right things.
“I think we’ve got guys in this room that are too worried about themselves and worried about their points and worried about stuff like that,” Drew Doughty said as he began a call-out session with reporters. “We’ve got a 3-1 lead tonight, and guys start thinking it’s a cookie night. And we stopped playing the way we know how to play. Have an awful second period and aren’t much better in the third.
“It’s about the team. It’s not about yourself. And a lot of guys on this team need to realize that.”
Team captain Anze Kopitar shares the same sentiments that his teammate Doughty does. Kopitar told Stephens that the team is too focused on trying to score goals rather than being focused on playing a complete game, something that made them successful earlier in the season.
“We’re worried about scoring goals too much and not buying into the stuff that made us successful the first 30, 35 games of the year,” he continued. “And it’s frustrating. We’re going to have to correct it, and we’re going to have to correct it in a hurry.”
Lastly, you cannot talk about the Kings and not point out just how disappointing Pierre-Luc Dubois has been for them. The Kings acquired Dubois, 25, from the Winnipeg Jets in the offseason and then signed him to an eight-year deal worth $8,500,000 AAV and all he has done is produce 20 points on 10 goals and 10 assists.
Per Russell Morgan of Hockey Royalty, Kings head coach Todd McLellan said that Dubois needs to kick it into gear right now because enough is enough.
“At the end of the day, whether PL gets four minutes or gets 24 minutes, he has to be a difference-maker,” the bench boss said after Monday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks, per Hockey Royalty’s Russell Morgan. “And with or without the puck, we’ve gone through this long enough. It’s time.”
Speaking of going through something long enough, it is time for the Kings to get back on track in a hurry because if they do not, it could end up costing them a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup come April.