While many on the outside considered the team’s nine consecutive road games to be a make-or-break part of the schedule, a much more important stretch was the recent seven-game home stand, which the team concluded with a disappointing 3-4-0 record. Unable to solidify their footing in the standings as they evolved from a team that had played the fewest percentage of home games in the conference to a team that has now played more games at home than on the road, the unstable schedule that had seen wild swings of consecutive home and road games now places them away from Staples Center for nine of the next 10. With a glut of games against Eastern Conference opponents on the upcoming docket, they’re also unable to control their own immediate destiny and will not face a team above them in the Western Conference standings until they visit Anaheim one month from today. Their next game against a team they’re in the heat of a battle for a playoff spot with doesn’t come until their visit to Calgary on February 28. SportsClubStats.com is still relatively bullish on the team and projects a 70.2% chance that they’ll make the playoffs – that percentage took a 7.4% hit last night – but there’s still nothing that really suggests that this Kings team is anything more or less than a decent, middle-class NHL club this season.
The teal jerseys were the indicator that the Sharks were the Kings’ opponent on Wednesday, but given the wide open, chance-trading style of play, if it was the Dallas Stars in San Jose jerseys, I would’ve been fooled. The glut of odd-man rushes that both sides combined for represented the number of rushes one would see in a full week of Kings games; that players such as Micheal Haley, Tommy Wingels, Ryan Carpenter and Mikkel Boedker were involved in the majority of them was somewhat bizarre and a representation of the lack of detail in the uncharacteristically sloppy play. Los Angeles generally played with a strong purpose despite the mistakes, which was a representation of The Max Power Way – the wrong way, but faster! – in a game in which both fourth lines played well and created chances, but San Jose’s fourth line was able to transfer chances into goals. Tyler Toffoli’s absence was acutely felt last night, with four unsuccessful power plays yielding only one shot on goal and two scoring chances in an impotent demonstration.
Darryl Sutter asked for more from his top players last night, and it’s pretty clear what he was insinuating. Said Sutter: “When it’s that close going into the third period, you need your top guys to step up and make a difference in the third.” Also: “You need your big guys to score. I think other than Jeff there hasn’t been a whole lot of that.” Also: “I think when you’re playing lots of games, you’re playing four lines, but it’s sort of like you need those top guys to make a difference.” Also: “I bet I’ve already pulled the goalie more times ever than I have ever, so that means you’re one goal down. It means that you need your top guys to make a difference there.” Related: Anze Kopitar did not attempt one shot over 17:57 of ice time. Number of games in which they’ve failed to register a shot on goal this season: Jake Muzzin – 2. Drew Doughty – 6. Trevor Lewis – 7. Dustin Brown – 6. Tanner Pearson – 6. Jeff Carter – 3. Anze Kopitar – 8. Perhaps the stomach bug disrupted any momentum that could have been accrued from his three-assist performance against Winnipeg, but there was not enough of a positive influence on the team’s ability to create offense as Kopitar was unable to register a scoring chance in the one-goal loss.