It’s too early for a post-mortem when the “mortem” state hasn’t yet been reached, and with 14 games remaining, including three against the Oilers, the Kings still have an opportunity to make things interesting in their quest for a playoff berth. But while their postseason chances rely heavily on a team in front of them collapsing, no team at this point has shown any real indications of doing so. St. Louis and Nashville have found direction late in the season, Calgary has won 10 games in a row, and in approaching the twilight of the 2016-17 regular season, Los Angeles hasn’t shown a great deal more than the ability to tread water. The goal when Jonathan Quick went down was to remain in the mix of teams battling for a playoff spot, and admirably, the Kings were able to do so when those with flimsier constitutions would’ve folded. But while Quick lost for the first time in regulation this season, this team just hasn’t been able to shift to that more advanced gear and go on a season-sustaining run that places them on equal footing with the teams that have begun to establish a horse length of distance in the battle for a playoff spot. These developments are not good: only once since November has L.A. won more than two consecutive games, they have scored either zero or one goal in 22 of 68, and they are 5-7-0 in their last 12 at home.
So much of Monday’s game followed the same dreary 2016-17 script, and has been stated in so many different ways this season, that’s not to say the team played poorly or didn’t deserve a better result. After a more conservative first period in which Jake Allen extended his right pad and used his skate to deny Adrian Kempe’s backhanded bid in one of Los Angeles’ Grade-A opportunities, the teams settled into more of a chess match until the Kings took control of the pace and direction of play in commandeering the second period. As such, their momentum was on the rise courtesy of several high-energy offensive zone shifts midway through the period. L.A. was ahead by seven shots on goal when David Perron opened the scoring, and for the 40th time in 68 games, the Kings were forced to fight from behind. This is a team that is not getting its money’s worth this season from players who are paid to supply offense, and with league parity at a premium and a salary cap unforgiving to teams with soured contracts, Monday’s game was yet another in which the team poured shots towards the net but couldn’t capitalize efficiently enough on screens, tips, rebounds, deflections and grease. 86 shot attempts are impressive, but how many attempts represented quality opportunities or second chance efforts from close range? Jake Allen was very good, but a lot of goalies have been very good this season against a Los Angeles team that ranks 28th in the league in all-situational shooting percentage.
Realistically, this is a team that’s going to have to win 10 of its remaining 14 games and bank on some assistance elsewhere around the league if it is to buck the probabilities and earn a playoff berth the tough way. There are certainly winnable games at home, beginning tonight with a young and hungry Arizona team that has maintained a .500 points percentage since January 21. There can be no emotional decay in concluding the oddly-placed back-to-back home set, because if Los Angeles loses either tonight’s game, or Thursday’s game against Buffalo, their postseason chances will be on life support.