Kings’ season on the line in Game 5 at Edmonton

Through peaks and valleys, the Kings have repeated the same maxim: “Check for chances.”

But last they checked, they were all but out of chances, facing elimination Wednesday in Edmonton. There, the Oilers could continue their countdown after having ejected the Kings in seven, six and now potentially five games across three consecutive seasons.

Their adjustments in this first-round series have been mostly futile, with Edmonton requiring all of two minutes to counter their recalibrations of a penalty kill that has turned into the plumpest pumpkin of the playoffs. It has negated fewer than 50% of the Oilers’ power plays for a second straight postseason. The Kings’ ad nauseam discussions of an aggressive forecheck have been belied by their insistence on a passive 1-3-1 alignment – when the Oilers haven’t rushed up the ice too quickly to set it up – even when in desperate need of a goal.

Their desire was especially dire Sunday, when they defended plenty, allowing just one goal and none five-on-five to the Oilers’ explosive offense, but couldn’t come up with a single score of their own.

“We played as well as we did in a long, long time. What do we do, we just go and play that game again,” Kings interim coach Jim Hiller said Monday. “We’ve got a game that can beat them going back into Edmonton, and that was it.”

Yet the Oilers, who had scored 17 goals in the previous three games and ranked fourth in scoring during the regular season, seemed unlikely to reproduce their 13-shot effort, their lowest total in franchise history for a playoff game.

And like the Kings’ penalty kill faltering – its underlying numbers foretold regression at various points in the season – such an offensive drought was also foreseeable.

As late as Dec. 8, the Kings had been the highest-scoring offense in the NHL on a per-game basis. Yet from Dec. 8 to the conclusion of the season April 18, they scored the seventh-fewest goals per game in the league.

That was, in part, because the Kings have frequently refused to play young talent. They eschewed the American Hockey League’s top per-game producer on defense (lottery pick Brandt Clarke) and leading goal-scorer on a per-game basis (right-handed-shooting Samuel Fagemo) in favor of enforcer Andreas Englund and penalty-kill specialist Trevor Lewis, both of whom have played in all 86 games.

So, too, has Pierre-Luc Dubois, who has not put so much as a shot on net in the past two games. Certainly he did not during his lackluster six-on-five shift, which helped condemn the Kings to a loss and possible elimination Sunday, much as his apathy over the course of the season metamorphosed a touted addition into a loathed encumbrance.

That’s all despite the fact that former No. 5 overall pick Alex Turcotte and Canada’s golden goal-scorer, Akil Thomas, both thrived in limited viewings, with Thomas scoring three goals in his cup of coffee despite meager ice time and Turcotte earning a promotion to the top line at one point. Perhaps the most perplexing onlooker Sunday was Quinton Byfield, who led the Kings in scoring against Edmonton during the regular season and playoffs alike but was left to take in the game’s final push from the bench.

The Kings did make one adjustment, albeit a game too late, inserting David Rittich in place of struggling No. 1 goalie Cam Talbot.

Even Rittich’s contributions were undervalued, at least in one instance, by the Kings. He was requested by another news outlet for a postgame interview, to which the team responded he had “not been a factor” in its stated rationale for denying the routine request.

That was news to the rest of the world, since Rittich was named one of the three stars of a game in which he gave the Kings an opportunity to win by allowing just one goal, a magnificently engineered combination of force and precision from Evan Bouchard.

As their season softens, melts and evaporates, the Kings have inched ever closer to a third straight first-round loss, banging headlong into the same Edmontonian wall that concussed them in each of the past two seasons.

Related Articles

Los Angeles Kings |

Alexander: ‘Frustrated’ Kings are on the edge of the playoff cliff

Los Angeles Kings |

Kings shut out by Stuart Skinner, Oilers in Game 4

Los Angeles Kings |

Kings’ Trevor Moore and Edmonton’s Zach Hyman came a long way from Toronto

Los Angeles Kings |

Kings seek another rebound against Edmonton in Game 4

Los Angeles Kings |

Alexander: Kings face only a one-game deficit, but it feels larger

Per Kings blogger Zach Dooley on Tuesday, the Kings had not made any lineup changes (the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson tweeted tweaks to Edmonton’s bottom six).

If the Kings continue to be owned on special teams and fall to the same team in the same round for a third straight year, the next adjustments might be made above ice level.

Game 5: Kings at Edmonton (Oilers lead 3-1)

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Rogers Place, Edmonton, Alberta


(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *