A traditional recap wouldn’t do justice to Tuesday’s game, as simply recapping the matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes couldn’t quite sum up the state of exasperation, indignation, and ____ation enveloping the fanbase. And when this drop in playoff chances occurs...
All you can really do is ask some questions. Here are the questions I asked myself other than “WHY?!” on Tuesday night, and now that LA got back in the win column against the Buffalo Sabres, we’ll see whether we got satisfying answers.
Here we go...
“Isn’t it a shame that Tyler Toffoli broke his goal drought for nothing?”
TUESDAY: Well, not nothing, but you get the point. Toffoli scored twice after eight games without a goal, and the underlying signs were encouraging too. His six shots on goal were tied for a season high. Five of those shots came from below the circles. He and Tanner Pearson were on the ice for more shot attempts than any other forward. And there was the fact that Toffoli did it all after his Twitter got hacked, a blow that would surely weaken a lesser player. He was great.
THURSDAY: No goals this time, but once again, Toffoli’s trio (with Pearson and Jeff Carter) created more chances and were on the ice for more shot attempts than anyone else. Thursday, it was primarily because they got most of the offensive zone starts, and Toffoli only had one shot on goal, but the line still has it.
“Adrian Kempe was good too! Should the Kings have brought him up earlier?”
TUESDAY: In hindsight, yeah, totally. Kempe’s scoring totals in the AHL certainly didn’t point to him being as good as he’s been in the last two games, so I’m willing to forgive a bit. The fourth line had a rough game, and if the argument is that Kempe should have replaced one of them sooner, I’m here for that.
THURSDAY: I guess Kempe doesn’t plan on slowing down, literally or figuratively. Adrian didn’t get on the scoresheet in either of the last two games, but last night he picked up a big insurance goal for the Kings after Buffalo had managed to turn the pressure in LA’s direction.
“What about Anze?”
What about him?
“Well, when’s he going to take over?”
TUESDAY: Gotta be honest, I don’t think he will. Kopitar spent the last two games with Jarome Iginla and Dustin Brown, and with the more “explosive” players still hanging out on other lines, it’s tough to really take over. Kopitar got two assists, but one was on the power play, and the other was when Toffoli had shifted in for Iginla.
THURSDAY: Iginla scored the first goal! And this time, there’s a marginal bright side to the line’s team-worst possession numbers: Kopitar started just two of his 17 shifts in the offensive zone. Nine started on defense, while eight started in the neutral zone, and Iginla’s goal came after a d-zone draw.
“Should we be worried about the defensemen? LaDue and Muzzin were on for a goal again.”
TUESDAY: Right you are, and in thirteen games Paul LaDue now has a worse on-ice save percentage than even Jake Muzzin. Over the last few games, Muzzin and LaDue have not carried the good underlying numbers which were their saving grace previously. So when they give up a goal it’s easier to blame them. Are you blaming a d-man for this though?
(And yet: Drew Doughty and Derek Forbort ranked lower than Muzzin for the first time in ages in our postgame poll.)
THURSDAY: Everyone rebounded, and though Buffalo hit a post with Muzzin and LaDue on, Muzzin also broke up a crucial Sabres 2-on-1. Gotta point out the good if you’re gonna point out the bad, and it’s about time Muzzin’s pair was on for a dangerous chance that didn’t go in.
“OK, thanks, but it’s silly to still be talking about the defense. Why didn’t the Kings offer up more to land a better scoring threat for Kopitar’s wing at the deadline?”
Probably because you’re still mad about the Andrej Sekera trade.
“Hey, I defended that trade!”
Right, but you’re still mad about it.
TUESDAY: Anyway, not every rental trade can have the impact of Carter or Marian Gaborik. And let’s be honest, no player that LA could’ve picked up reasonably would have had that type of impact. Thomas Vanek? I guess, but if LA had topped Florida’s offer and traded a second-round pick and LA hadn’t won the Cup, you just KNOW Lombardi would have been reamed for yet again trading futures for a shot at the Cup.
THURSDAY: Yeah, still the same answer. Three goals in seven games is a nice return from Iginla, though.
Also, that wasn’t a question. I thought you were just asking questions.
“Fine. Is this it for the Kings?”
Oh, I wasn’t expecting that.
TUESDAY: Mathematically, no, not even close. LA might not sweep Edmonton in regulation down the stretch, but the Oilers have shown vulnerability, and the Blues have only played one contest in the last month where they won both the possession battle and the game. Catching either is just a matter of LA hitting a hot streak.
Realistically? Teams just don’t make up five-point deficits like they used to, and the schedule doesn’t favor LA anymore. But the ultimate outcome of LA’s season is still a question that even I can’t answer.
THURSDAY: Same answer, which is, not much of an answer. Sunday in Calgary should be a nice barometer though.