What we learned from the Kings’ 4-3 loss to Nashville in a six-round shootout Tuesday:
The Kings don’t do well in long shootouts against Nashville
As center Anze Kopitar recalled, they lost an eight-round shootout to Nashville on Jan. 31, 2013. The Predators’ goaltender that night, as on Tuesday, was Pekka Rinne. Jonathan Quick was the Kings’ goalie in that eight-round tiebreaker; Martin Jones was their goalie on Tuesday.
“Jonesy gave us a chance and we just couldn’t score,” Kopitar said Tuesday.
Jones, incidentally, won a nine-round shootout in his NHL debut last Dec. 3. The opponent that time was the Ducks. So maybe he likes long shootouts.
Winning on the road is still a problem for the Kings
Yes, the Kings are a solid 10-2-1 at home, but they’ve got to improve on a road record that’s so far merely 1-4-4. Their last road game in November -- on Wednesday in St. Paul, Minn. -- is the finale of this trip, but in December they’ll play eight of 14 games away from home.
Defenseman Jamie McBain, who was signed by the Kings on Nov. 11, said he didn’t expect the team to have so little success on the road.
“Yeah, it’s surprising, just the way the team is built, four lines of guys that keep coming at you each and every game,” he said. “And to see that record is definitely surprising. And being a new guy here, it’s one of those things where I don’t think guys can quite put the finger on it yet. We’re building each and every day.”
He also said the team's performance in Tuesday’s loss was close to a complete road effort.
“Our penalty kill was great, our goaltending was great, we did some really good things,” he said. “Again, on the power play, when we get those chances, we’ve got to bear down and, if nothing else, generate momentum coming out of those.”
Drew Doughty really is tireless
He set a season high by playing 33 minutes and 40 seconds against the Predators on Tuesday, erasing the season high he had established three days earlier by playing 33:07 at Dallas. Although he said his average of one minute per shift at Dallas was too high, he actually played longer shifts on Tuesday, averaging 1:01. He has played at least 30 minutes in six of his last seven games and eight of his last 10.
This is how much he’s playing: His average ice time of 29:10 is merely three seconds behind NHL leader Ryan Suter of Minnesota, whose smooth skating and ability to read the game have always enabled him to play mind-boggling amounts of minutes.
Doughty was outstanding on Tuesday, with an end-to-end goal that Kopitar called “a special play,” and strong penalty-killing work. He played six minutes while the Kings were shorthanded and had 4:14 of power-play time, both team-leading totals.
How long can this go on? General Manager Dean Lombardi said Tuesday morning he wasn’t inclined to immediately use the cap space the Kings gained when suspended defenseman Slava Voynov was placed on long-term injured status. And with Alec Martinez apparently likely to return on Saturday, Doughty’s burden should soon be lighter.
But as long as Coach Darryl Sutter believes that he has a better chance to win by playing Doughty 30 minutes or more per game, that’s what will continue to happen. Kings fans have to hope Doughty stays fit and doesn’t collapse in utter exhaustion one night.