There are many different squads that have shown up within the LA Kings‘ season so far.
Just two weeks ago, they won four straight games to sweep an impressive homestand.
They have now lost four of five games since.
How can the Kings have such large rises and falls pass so quickly? Glaring issues such as goaltending and defense have times where they directly lose games, but also have moments where the problems look like they’ve been rectified.
The different versions of the team shows through on long stretches, game-to-game, period-to-period, or even minutes apart from each other. The Kings’ current 11-9-2 record is not good enough. They’ve played the most games in the NHL at 22 and still sit at just 24 points, a pace that is worse than their 99 point finish last year that barely got them into the postseason.
Big changes might need to come soon. Coach Todd McLellan began this trend by moving Kevin Fiala back up to the top line Tuesday. It proved successful, as Fiala scored 35 seconds in and the top line combined for six points throughout the game. However, only two of those points came after the first period, where the Kings were outscored 5-1 over the final two stanzas.
Moving Fiala up to the top line also meant demoting the team-leading goal scorer Gabriel Vilardi back to the third line, where he spent just 13:41 on the ice. Los Angeles just can’t seem to find a fully efficient plan of attack, as breaking up the “nice” second line also doesn’t pose a great option.
Next on the list of issues is the goaltending. Outside of periodic flashes of dominance, Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen have not been a good enough duo for Los Angeles. Petersen was in the crease for the loss Tuesday against New York, allowing four goals on 24 shots. He made the save of the year in the third period, leading to a Kings goal to tie, and then under a minute later allowed one of the worst goals of the year to fall back behind.
Petersen’s great save was impressive, but didn’t help as much as the following goal hurt the Kings’ chances of winning. “Sometimes it’s the one that you need, rather than all the ones you made, that makes a difference in the game and we needed that one,” said coach McLellan.
Lastly, the defense has not been adequate. Kings players are being exposed out of position far too often in the defensive zone. This has led to wide open opportunities in the slot for opponents that is simply not acceptable while the goaltending has also been struggling. The 1-3-1 defense the Kings have been running is not working, and adjustments need to be made.
Whether it means Rob Blake expending some of the team’s prospect capital on a trade, or Todd McLellan finding himself on the hot seat in the coming weeks, big changes may be coming for Los Angeles. This was supposed to be a breakout season for the young squad, and that has not manifested so far more than a quarter of the way through the year.