The Los Angeles Kings fell to the Connor McDavids -- I mean Edmonton Oilers 3-1, a (nearly) matching score for a matching performance from the night before.
It wasn't a great road game by any stretch of the imagination, but at least the Kings managed not to give up a goal in the first period. Then again, they also managed not to score on Cam Talbot until the middle of the third period before promptly giving up the game-winning goal to Eric Gryba.
Who? Yeah, IDK. I literally forgot he was still in the league.
Anyway. That was his first goal of the season and almost the first in a year. The last time he scored was February 2016. So naturally it would be he who gets the game winner (first of his career, of course) with literally no one marking him.
This could be a game where you chalk up to bad luck and ah well, they tried and they'll get 'em next time. Nah man.
Scoring chances in the 2nd (& total): LA 3 (8), EDM 9 (15).— Bo Hamby (@hamby_bo) December 30, 2016
SOG: LA 18, EDM 22. #LAKings down 1-0 after 40 minutes.
More often than not, the Kings were caught standing around, with their thumbs in their pockets wondering what to do next. On more than one occasion, they were doing a lot of puck watching instead of defending only to be bailed by the excellence of Peter Budaj, who was stellar in back-to-back games. While the Slovak seemed to have some struggles for a brief stretch, he is once again silencing his critics and keeping this team afloat in the playoff race.
This was a hellish nightmare of a road trip where they didn't pick up some crucial points and make any positive movement in the standings (actually, they lost ground to Calgary and Dallas). The good news is that there's no time to dwell on the ugliness of picking up 8 points in 9 games as they'll be back home in time for a New Year's Eve tilt against the red hot but slightly unlucky division rival San Jose Sharks. (Does anyone else feel like every team they've been playing lately is "red hot" or at least on a winning streak? I mean, sans Vancouver.) San Jose has been excellent all season long backstopped by great performances from Martin Jones. (Please, hold your crying until the end of the post. Thank you.) Their offense looks like their defense - in that their numbers match and not in a good way since you always want to score more goals than you give up. However, they've been slowly creeping back to "average" luck and winning lots of games thanks to some fantastic rookies - don't worry, you'll get to hear all the completely awful puns on Saturday.
As for Los Angeles, well... There's not much positive in this game except for Budaj, as per usual. And Jeff Carter. Ever since he called the team out following their meltdown in Buffalo, he's been terrific and all over the place. However, as teams are wont to do, the scouting report is out and the Pacific foes in the last two games did a good job of marking him and taking away space and time for him to score. That should leave Anze Kopitar to pick up the heavy lifting offensively, but the Kings are still searching for the anti-dote to whatever it is that bit him. He's had so many good looks over the last nine games, surely something has to go in sooner or later. Sooner would be preferable..
Home has been somewhat of a comforting environment for the boys in black and silver. Let's see if they can kick off the New Year and their home-heavy January schedule on the right foot. Or at least with two points in hand.
And not to end on a completely dour note, here's some hope for the future: The Kings have played only 36 games. That's one more than San Jose, but at least one less than most of the opponents ahead of them in the standings. Despite pacing for somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 points of less, there's still plenty of time for them to right to the ship. It won't be easy, but 60 points in 46 games should get them into the playoffs.
If Columbus and Minnesota can go on extended, double-digit winning streaks, why can't LA? It's not like those teams are infinitely more talented or have unlocked some sort of secret beyond good fortune. A little less standing around, cycling on the outside and looking lost combined with a little more speed and aggression around the front of the net, there's no reason to think the Kings can't or won't make the playoffs.