Several abbreviated thoughts from Sunday’s 4-1 loss at the New York Rangers:
–Nothing new we hadn’t seen before. Good purpose; mistake-prone. Good chances; no finish. Dialed-in goaltending; ugly goal. Ample problems, not as many answers. To spring a leak so early in the game, especially after setting an early tone with a heavy forecheck that pinned the Rangers back and denied them any early sniffs, represent the regular challenges they face even when determined to salvage the very end of a road trip. Before a routine dump-in quickly became a five-alarm fire, they’d allowed one shot from 48 feet. At the other end, Dustin Brown mixed it up in front of Igor Shesterkin 35 seconds in, and Tyler Toffoli had already recorded a pretty good look from the slot off an Alex Iafallo feed. And then they trailed, 1-0. Jonathan Quick was outstanding the rest of the way, though, and there’s no sense at all in pinning a loss on a goalie when a third period goal ended a 143:38 shutout streak in a 4-1 loss. And while the Kings pulled up their stirrups and followed their goal with several good shifts, the Rangers scored on their only real chance over the ensuing six or seven-minute stretch.
–From Water is Wet, Inc.: The Kings are so badly hurting for secondary scoring and skill. Anze Kopitar is good for a goal in one out of every three games or so, but Adrian Kempe, Blake Lizotte and Austin Wagner’s 2019-20 on-ice shooting percentages all rank among the nine lowest percentages of those recorded by the 136 forwards with at least 35 games played in a single season in an L.A. jersey since 2009-10. We can talk all about their jam, their expected goals-for, their speed, their ability to play in the offensive zone and create scoring chances without yielding much, but they’re just not scoring. Wagner, Lizotte and Michael Amadio haven’t scored since the fall – we are less than six weeks from the start of spring – while Kempe hasn’t scored or finished with a plus rating in a game since his faceoff goal in the final moments of the win at Vegas last month. The power play had largely been effective over that time, but when it goes 0-fer, as it did on this trip, you get the scoreless stretches depicted above. One development to follow this week: Though he mixed up the rest of the lineup, Todd McLellan went back to the Moore-Lizotte-Wagner combination and was repaid with good pace, lots of darting and slashing and offensive zone time and a third period goal.
–Still having that Drew Doughty discussion. He’s better than he’s showing; these issues are mental. That should be of no solace to a team that pays him handsomely and expects more. But there seemed to be a representative moment in the third period when Joakim Ryan and Doughty were back as New York sent a single forechecker into the zone. Ryan’s D-to-D off the end boards wasn’t great, but nothing Doughty hasn’t been able to brush off and easily distribute up-ice. But his angles changed, and his first pass was into Anze Kopitar’s skates, intercepted, and dumped back into the Los Angeles end. After a regroup, his outlet was out of the reach of Alex Iafallo and whistled for an icing and a defensive zone draw as he swatted his stick on the ice in frustration. Doughty knows how to issue an outlet pass. These are the types of mental fatigue mistakes that are compounded during a 1-9-1 stretch and symptoms of five months of work without reward. But it’s the second straight year he’s yet to get the most out of his game, and there just aren’t many indicators that a late-season renaissance is around the corner.
–Just for historical minutiae, this was the 11th four-game road trip in club history in which they lost all four in regulation and the first since December 28, 2013 through January 2, 2014 (NSH/CHI/DAL/STL). They’ve also gone 0-5-0 six times, though not since 1995-96. They’ve gone 5-0-0 once, from January 23-31, 2010 (DET/TOR/CBJ/BOS/NJ), winning the Boston game in a shootout, and 4-0-0 three times, all in the last decade.