A handshake instead of another
A season ended with a beautiful but brief tease and a first-round playoff exit.
What had the makings of another epic rally against a familiar foe ended Friday with the
If they are honest, they shouldn't be fooled by having spotted the Sharks a 3-0 lead Friday and then pulling even in the second period, setting pulses racing and restoring fans' shaken faith at a raucous Staples Center.
They were not good enough to beat a team that has a dubious playoff history, a team that on Friday seemed to remember its postseason missteps before regrouping in the third period to pull away on a goal by Joonas Donskoi — who wasn't with the Sharks when they squandered a 3-0 series lead over the Kings in 2014 — and a goal by
“I definitely think we didn't play our best hockey when we needed to, starting when we clinched a playoff spot,” said Kings left wing
"So it's definitely disappointing how hard we worked in the season to clinch a spot as fast as we could, that we didn't make the most of it."
They played well in spurts Friday, but not for long enough. And that was a recurring theme for the season: Nothing they did was quite good enough to return them to the ranks of the
The 16-point lead they built over the Ducks atop the
The Kings' Cup triumphs in 2012 and 2014, sandwiched around a loss in the 2013 West final to eventual champion Chicago, seem even more impressive in retrospect. If it's tough to reach the top, it's much tougher to stay there. Missing the playoffs last spring and this season's early exit emphasize how difficult it is to sustain success in a salary-cap era and keep players motivated and healthy.
This team pieced its defense together but never developed the depth of the two Cup teams. General Manager
It's no coincidence the Kings and the
There are no easy answers. But now the Kings have plenty of time to figure it out over a longer summer than they expected to have. "Your whole focus going into the season is to make the playoffs as quick as you can, and we did that and we did it in pretty good fashion," said Coach Darryl Sutter, whose contract will soon expire. "Then another thing was to get to 100 points and then start again. We just weren't able to get that."