Jake Muzzin has been around long enough to know what happens when a season goes this far south this early.
He wasn’t with the Kings during the last days of the Terry Murray era, but he was for the rise and fall under Darryl Sutter. In trying to dissect how a former championship team finds itself at the bottom of the NHL standings, Muzzin was passionate at what has gone on and what it could portend.
“I don’t think we’re playing to our ability,” Muzzin said. “I think we’re a much better team than what our record shows. It’s time we start getting [ticked] off, or something’s going to happen.”
The Kings have played as if they’re trying to expedite that process. It’s not just that they’ve been outscored 37-14 in their past eight games, or that their minus-20 goal differential is the worst in the NHL. It’s that they’ve lacked sync, forecheck and defense in what looked like two steps backward Thursday.
Among the wreckage of the statistics is that they’ve been scored on in 24 straight periods. And this has come with more-than-adequate goaltending from Jack Campbell. It’s a staggering reversal for a team that won the Jennings Trophy last season for fewest goals allowed.
“It’s six guys determined to keep the puck out of the net,” Muzzin said. “I don’t think we’re playing hard enough in having that desperation and alertness … I don’t know. We’ve got to work better for each other, talk more. It goes on. But I do think it comes down to preparing yourself to play the right way. And when you’re prepared to play the right way, you do those things instinctually.”
That preparation has come into question, too, considering the Kings have been outscored, 11-1, in the first period in the past eight games and allowed the game’s first goal in each of those contests.
“It’s urgency. It’s preparation,” Nate Thompson said. “It’s all those [facets] that we’ve talked about to start a game haven’t been there, and they have to be.”
Coach John Stevens is as studious as it gets but he said preparation is difficult to gauge. Sometimes, he sees his team ready but they fall flat and vice versa. There’s no ambiguity at 3-8-1.
“Quite honest, we got to play a lot faster, and that starts with your checking,” Stevens said. “The puck gets put into our zone, we should be in people’s way. We check faster, we play faster. Bottom line.”
The current bottom line might force Stevens out if this continues. The last time the Kings had fewer wins through 12 games was their 2-6-4 start in the 1983-84 season.
“I don’t think we have much time to be frustrated,” Thompson said. “The season’s starting to be not the beginning anymore, and we have to start making up ground, so there’s no time to be frustrated. No one’s going to feel sorry for us.”
Jeff Carter all but said the Kings are passing too much and getting too cute offensively, namely on the power play. They couldn’t score during 95 seconds of a two-man advantage against the Philadelphia Flyers, who turned around and scored following a kill by their 30th-ranked unit.
“It’s a fine line on the power play between trying to do too much, and doing the easy thing,” Carter said. “Usually the easy thing works. So, we’ve got to get working on it.”
UP NEXT VS. COLUMBUS
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network).