A concerning situation has become urgent for the Kings, who have six games remaining in the regular season, three at home and three on the road. A few takeaways from a decidedly difficult 4-1 loss Monday to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.
Singing the Central Division blues
The Kings arrived in Minnesota in a playoff spot on Friday, but by the time they departed Chicago on Monday night they were on the outside again after back-to-back losses to the Wild and the Blackhawks.
They are three points behind third-place Calgary in the Pacific Division and are now concentrating on the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, currently held by the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets, like the Kings, have six games remaining; they lead the Kings by two points. The Jets play the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
The Kings, for the record, hold the ROW tiebreaker against the Jets, 35-32. ROW is wins in regulation, plus overtime victories.
Unable to take advantage of a (supposedly) weary team, again
While the Kings already were in Chicago on Sunday night, the Blackhawks were playing at Winnipeg. They beat the Jets and then traveled home to Chicago, not an overly long journey, though they still had to go through the extra step of customs and returned around 1 a.m. Monday.
Instead, the Kings looked like it was they who had played on Sunday, giving up 40 shots, including 29 through the first two periods, against Chicago. Minnesota also had a game the night before it played the Kings (against the Flames) but did not have to travel.
Naturally, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter downplayed the back-to-back factor.
“Back-to-backs don’t affect teams anymore,” he said. “Back-to-backs, I would say, looking at us, finishing off the five [road] games is harder.”
Scoring woes surfacing at worst possible time
For all the criticism levied against the Kings’ fourth line -- and yes, much of it was deserved on Monday -- the shortcomings go a lot deeper.
In two critical games the Kings scored a grand total of two goals.
Sutter made reference to some of the scoring woes before the Minnesota game in his typically colorful manner: “We still have a lot of guys who haven't scored a goal since Jesus was a baby.”
A few examples: Defenseman Drew Doughty hasn’t scored since Feb. 7 and captain Dustin Brown’s last goal was Feb. 18. Brown, who has one point in the last 12 games, had good looks against the Blackhawks.
“I had a couple, right by the side,” Brown said. “I just couldn’t find the puck.”