Inauspicious January Leads to Season-High Skepticism for Kings
For the Los Angeles Kings and their fans, it was easy to look back on November and December and feel good about the short-term future. Looking back on January, however, was a different story.
After spending the last few weeks before Christmas proving to the rest of the league just how valuable they were without their star goaltender, the Los Angeles Kings started to slide as 2013 came to a close. A new calendar year unfortunately didn't exactly turn things around as the silver-and-black finished the first month of 2014 with a dismal 5-8-3 record. Worse, the Kings just couldn't score.
While it has been a recurring theme for the Kings in seasons past, Los Angeles's offensive futility is especially worrisome this time around. Then again, maybe it just feels that way because we're going through it as we speak. Nevertheless, the Kings' overall performance in January has been, for lack of a better term, a dud. Speaking of goals, the Kings scored a grand total of 24 this past month while getting shut in three of those games, which regrettably includes the long-anticipated Dodger Stadium game against the hated Anaheim Ducks who, success-wise, find themselves on the other side of the spectrum this season - much to the chagrin of every Kings fan in Los Angeles and beyond.
When the Kings lost on January 2 in St. Louis by a 5-0 score, it was their fifth-straight loss. Suffice to say, most in the Kingdom were worried. But the next game, the Kings beat Vancouver by a 3-1 score and fans believed their team was out of their scoring funk and would return to their winning ways. But while the Kings did stay afloat over their next few outings, a controversial end in Detroit on the 18th spelled the beginning of a slide for the Kings who, after losing said game in a shootout, would lose their next four and six of their next seven to close out January.
Looking back on the month, both Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter led the way in goals. Unfortunately, few others answered the bell offensively. Using the outdoor game as an example, the Kings fired 20 first-period shots on Anaheim's Jonas Hiller - but weren't able to score a single goal. Firing between 15 and 20 shots to open, and even to finish, the game is the norm for the Kings. But while I've put a positive spin on things in weeks past claiming that since the effort is there, it was only a matter of time before the Kings scored a goal. Sadly, as time went on, said notion became harder and harder to believe. The shots were there but the quality of those shots were questionable at best.
Captain Dustin Brown has been nothing short of nonexistent lo these last few weeks, Matt Frattin (who I believed would excel with the Kings) hasn't done anything productive although, in fairness, he does put forth a blue-collar effort in some outings. Some. While Jonathan Quick hasn't been spectacular, it is certainly tough to fault any goaltender, regardless of his skill set, when the usually-reliable defensive unit in front of him isn't playing up to their standard. Some games, the Los Angeles defense has been great. Again, some.
Unfortunately, Matt Greene has had a rough year with injuries, Jake Muzzin still doesn't look all that comfortable out there on most nights and the defensive-minded Willie Mitchell has seemed to have age catch up with him as he just doesn't look as effective as he has been in years past. Then again, the effects of a knee injury that caused him to sit out the entire 2012-13 campaign could still be playing a factor for the veteran. Conversely, Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr have both been effective while Slava Voynov, while not great, is nonetheless playing well on the back end.
This month, we saw some losing skids, the trading of a netminder in Ben Scrivens and an outdoor game that everyone in attendance was proud to be a part of. Unfortunately, the game itself was, more or less, a must-miss.
Amidst all the talk of making a trade and possibly even firing some, if not all, of the coaching staff, the Los Angeles Kings enter a very abbreviated February with the Olympic break on the horizon. With everything that has gone on with the Kings in recent weeks, said Olympic hiatus could not come any sooner.
Speaking of January has left the Kingdom feeling gloomy. Let's hope by the conclusion of February that the Los Angeles Kings will be spoken of in a much brighter light.