There are lots of things to work out in the Los Angeles Kings’ game right now. There were still nits to pick when the team was winning 4-0, in Montreal, but now that the team has dropped three consecutive home games in regulation, the challenges are more pronounced. They’re still leading the division, so nobody’s running around with their hair on fire, but it took a cartoonishly bad second period for things to unravel in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Vancouver. The game was actually somewhat of a microcosm of the season to date: race out like the four horsemen of the apocalypse to an early 2-0 lead, maintain the lead even though the play got sloppy in the second half of the first period, and ultimately fall level after the sloppy play caught up with the team once again. Essentially, the Kings weren’t too intent on forechecking, and as a result they were forechecked on, leading to a number of forced and unforced errors in puck management that were more glaring than in recent games. They’re still giving up too many scoring chances while creating too few of their own at even strength, and games in which Jonathan Quick isn’t a ninja, until this is corrected they’ll suffer some similar, narrow defeats to Tuesday’s. Los Angeles has been a very good third period team for the majority of their recent seasons, but it’s not a shock when Vancouver, which had been outscored 9-1 on its road trip, circles the wagons and wills together a spirited effort to fight back in a close game that helped them make something of their California swing.
With Jeff Carter out for an extended period, the Kings are a bit too top-heavy of a team at the moment. Regardless of where he slots, Marian Gaborik’s return within the coming weeks will have the potential to add structure to the forward groups, and Jussi Jokinen may have the potential to provide more fitting minutes in the bottom six than Michael Cammalleri, but at the moment they’re a bit too reliant on the top two lines. Anze Kopitar has points in a career-high nine games, and Dustin Brown is experiencing a renaissance to his right – and they were quite good territorially on Tuesday – but should that well temporarily go dry for a few games, who else is capable of two-way play that’s essential for effective third line minutes?
Does fighting galvanize a team? Players say it does, and I believe the players. And not only “the players,” but “the Canucks,” and specifically, in reference to Derek Dorsett’s fight with Andy Andreoff off the faceoff that followed Tanner Pearson’s goal in the first minute. “Oh, my God. It just got all the guys going. He knows the right time for it, when to step up,” Sven Baertschi told Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre. It’s a divisional game, the visitors are clearly upset after zero road trip points and an ugly goal differential, and it’s not a stretch to think that there was a potential for the temperature to rise at some point with Dorsett and Andreoff on the ice. And Andy is a tough, tough player – likely physically tougher than anyone sitting behind a computer and reading or writing this at this very moment – who also motivated his teammates. But was this the right time in the game to fight? I understand the knowledge going into a game that Dorsett is on the opposing bench and there’s a role you have to play to get yourself and your team going, but why provide the opposition any opportunity to generate their own momentum? Los Angeles ultimately potted a power play goal to double their lead shortly after their fight and at one point led 2-0 in the score, 5-0 in scoring chances and 2-0 in power plays before Vancouver registered their first shot, but, hey, the Canucks were praising Dorsett’s rugged ability to step in at a time on a road trip when their backs were against a wall and momentum was only artificially available. In the end, the Kings were willing to help supply some of it.
-Lead photo via Aaron Poole/NHLI