The opponents change, but the same sad sack story continues for the reeling LA Kings. Returning from a road trip to see Colorado and Vancouver snuff out their faint life in a Pacific Division in which any sustained pulse makes one a playoff contender, they’ve refused at virtually every juncture to build on any stepping stones or take advantage of a cushy, Staples Center-heavy schedule. On Saturday, they wasted an opportunity to gain points at home from a divisional opponent that had lost eight straight games and precariously teetered from a flimsy standings perch above. And though there were some advances in structure and movement and tempo, not to mention the silly term of “emotional investment,” they were still spaced out and laissez-faire at the game’s climax, leaving Dion Phaneuf to issue a post route to Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar that was picked off by Elias Pettersson for a sharply released go-ahead goal. Jeff Carter had caught the underside of the crossbar shortly before Pettersson’s marker, if you were looking for a play that has painfully summed up Los Angeles’ season to date.
With what Matt Luff, 21, is doing right now, he should basically be used in every opportunity that builds his game and confidence. It was good to see Willie Desjardins return to the Hagelin-Kempe-Luff combination that had built chemistry and provided offense while on the road. If he continues to work, maybe there’s power play time in his future. Let’s not stop there. Luff should literally work in every situation. There are traffic flow issues around the 10 and 110 freeway interchanges; he should fix those. Maybe NASA is hiring. He shows great promise in building and overseeing our country’s exploration of the cosmos, and I promise to vote for him to construct a modern new fleet of spacecraft. Let’s See More Of Matt Luff.
There’s a lack of skill and playmaking ability in this the lineup, and when they’ve trailed in games – something they’ve done disproportionately this season – they’ve played more stretched-out than is generally comfortable for a traditionally structured and defensive team. The third period Tyler Toffoli turnover to Markus Granlund, similar to the Phaneuf turnover, is the symptom of a number of players not working in concert as compact, up and down-ice units, and served as another early scuff mark in their efforts to work faster and make more plays moving up and down the ice. It did not result in offense; against a team that took the ice yielding nearly 32 shots a game, Los Angeles could only put 22 on Jacob Markstrom, who has allowed at least five goals four times this month.
The Kings worked on their power play on several different days this week, trying to build innate execution through repetition. The power play did score – Drew Doughty’s shot caught nearly as many deflections and caroms as Happy Gilmore’s game-winning putt – but also seemed reliant on wristshots from beyond the tops of the circles without much movement to the right or left. On the other side, Sam Gagner scored on virtually the same tic-tac-toe passing sequence that Nathan MacKinnon scored on seven seconds into a Colorado power play Wednesday night, a move followed by the body language and reactions by units that have been burned at both ends by its recent special teams spiral.
Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI