Struggles Mount, Pressure Increases for Kings

Photo courtesy of sportsnet.ca

It would have been foolish to assume that the Kings wouldn’t hit a speed bump or two over the course of their road-trip. The second game of their trip, following a relatively easy win against lowly Columbus on Tuesday night, saw the defending champs stroll into Nashville looking for another victory to add to their win total. They didn’t get it.

Despite outshooting the opposition by more than sixteen, the Kings’ offense struggled mightily to register a single goal before bowing out with a final score of 0-3. Predators’ goaltender Pekka Rinne recorded his first shutout of the season in the effort. On the other side of the ice, Jonathan Quick stopped only eleven of the fourteen he faced. A power play which had shown life in the few previous contests was nowhere to be seen as Los Angeles finished the contest 0-4 on the man advantage. It remains, by nearly every account, an especially dismal sixty minutes for the Kings, whose hopes for early season dominance are nearly on life support.

So what’s next for this squad? Most pressing, perhaps, is a Sunday afternoon tilt against the Detroit Red Wings. What state the team is in however may be a different story. After the loss Thursday night, Justin Williams stated, among other things, that his team “just didn’t deserve it.” Captain Dustin Brown may was quite dour in his postgame comments, going so far as to possibly question his own team’s work ethic. “We have to get to another level as a group,” said Brown, “it starts with individual preparation.”

This all seems a far cry from the unprecedented run the Kings’ undertook last spring en route to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup victory. And well, it is. A shortened, 48-game regular season leaves little to no room for error and with a multitude of games in so few days, success isn’t exactly guaranteed. Regardless of the fact you might be returning almost every starter from last year’s roster.

Perhaps that is the most disappointing thing about the struggles so far and middling 3-4-2 record: the team. The lack of production from bona fide stars is staggering. (With the possible exception of Quick, who could really have three consecutive winless seasons and could still stand on the merits of last year’s award-winning efforts) Through nine games, Mike Richards has one goal and thirty penalty minutes, more than twice the amount than anyone else on the active roster. He’s also sports a less-than-stellar -6 rating. Williams only has one tally as well. Same goes for the only King to receive a new contract last summer, Jarret Stoll, whose $3+ million annual cap hit has netted one point on the season to date.

There have been multiple games in which Drew Doughty was the best Kings’ player in the game. He leads the team in ice time and is fourth in shots attempted. Regardless, a -8 rating is nothing to write home about.

Head coach Darryl Sutter has his work cut out for him now and might be forced to take a few drastic measures as opposed to simply shaking off his team’s early season misfortunes. In what can only hurt, two of the hottest teams in the league just happen to share a spot in the Pacific division. Both San Jose and Anaheim have catapulted their way into a tie for first place, leaving last year’s runaway winners in the dust—7 points in the dust to be exact. It’s too early to say that Sunday’s game is a must-win, after all, this isn’t the NFL or anything, but it cannot be taken lightly by a team that desperately needs a victory to remain in the hunt and find some solid footing before the season’s stretch run.

Will the squad snap out of their funk? Of course. But it’s a matter of when. And when this team decides to get in gear it may just be too late.