Maybe it was @EricJFTC’s recap from last week (it was Eric’s recap from last week), or maybe it was my weekend in the desert, but I had some time to think about how I wanted this recap to go. Heading into Sunday’s game in Calgary, I was of two minds about the Kings’ chances to make the playoffs.
On one hand - we can call that hand rational thinking - I knew there was no way the Kings were going to make the playoffs. They sat five points out from their nearest opportunity, and they did not look like a team about to flip the proverbial switch.
On the other hand - we can call that hand my irredeemable 2012/2014 self - I thought this team might find something, anything, and begin scoring like they should be scoring. I mean, this couldn’t continue forever, could it?
With that in mind, here were my “Keys Questions to the Game” as the team entered Alberta…I promise the word energy will not appear even once.
Key Question #1: Would the Kings be able to correct their habit of falling behind to start the first period?
Sunday: Nnnnnnnnnope. The Kings would give up the first two goals of the game, and generate only 5 shots to the Flames 8 by the end of the period. Anze Kopitar would bring his mates within one with a late goal in the first, but two quick goals by the Flames to start the second would end all hope of a comeback.
Monday: Double-nnnnnnnnope. While the Kings would come to control play for much of the second and third periods, they were run out of the rink in the first. Connor McDavid was an absolute terror, entering the Kings’ zone at will, making Drew Doughty look pedestrian, and providing primary assists on the Oilers two goals of the period. Jon Rosen provided the quote below after Sunday night’s game in Calgary, and I for one am happy that he has a small part of his Edmonton “Waking Up With The Kings: March 21” already written.
“In another Most Important Game Of The Season, the Kings struggled coming out of the gate and ceded a disproportionate number of high-pace, high-skill, tic-tac-toe efforts to Calgary’s best players in the first period…”
Key Question #2: Would the Kings be able to generate goals at 5 v. 5 hockey?
Sunday: Yes, though not nearly enough. As mentioned, Anze Kopitar scored in the first and Nic Dowd closed the gap to 4-2 in the second, but that was it all night. Most frustrating was the inability of the Kings top-six to generate much of anything at 5 v. 5 all night. Kopitar, Carter, Toffoli, Pearson, Brown, Iginla (and I’ll even throw Kempe in for seven) combined for six shots at 5 v. 5 all night, with Kopitar’s goal being their sole effort in the first. Six shots at 5 v. 5 hockey in a crucial division matchup? Not. Good. Enough.
Monday: I’m going to skip right past the goals part, because the answer is clear. In terms of unblocked 5 v. 5 shots, the Kings were much better, but then that hasn’t really been a problem lately, has it?
Key Question #3: Would the Kings penalty kill continue to buoy the team through a season-long scoring slump?
Sunday: The Kings entered the game third in the league on the penalty kill, and had another excellent night in that regard. Despite struggling at 5 v. 5, the penalty kill was strong, limiting the speedy Flames to two shots on four power play opportunities.
Monday: While Milan Lucic scored the Oiler’s second goal of the game on a power play, the Kings penalty killing was again strong, and certainly not to blame for the loss. The Oilers found six shots on three power play opportunities, but all-in-all the Kings weathered the storm on the PK.
Key Question #4: Is this it for the Kings?
Sunday: Mathematically? No. In reality? Probably.
Monday: Mathematically? No. In reality? I’ll babysit @BobKnob2point0‘s kids if the Kings can pull this off.