The Kings versus Keith Kinkaid is a bad proposition. The Kings versus Keith Kinkaid in a day game? Forget about it.
They already had a poor record against the New Jersey Devils goalie, plus a recent run of home afternoon clunkers. All of that converged Saturday in a 3-0 loss that surprised few, given the aforementioned factors.
The Kings are still on firm footing with their playoff chances but this wasn’t the performance they sought at Game 72, with an upcoming four-game trip set to begin Monday.
Here’s what we learned:
The traffic wasn’t there. As good as Kinkaid was in recording his second shutout against the Kings, in three career starts against them, the Kings didn’t have the usual bodies in front to distract him.
It’s a common refrain after shutouts and it was probably true here. Players like Dustin Brown and Tanner Pearson earn their paychecks by making life hard on goalies, and there wasn’t enough of that Saturday. Kinkaid did make 38 saves.
“He played well,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “He’s played well against us. We weren’t surprised he played because his record [against us] is very good. I just don’t think we did enough to make his job more difficult. I think we were at the net but not taking his eyes away enough, and I thought we stopped shooting the puck as the game wore on.”
Drew Doughty is going through a rough patch. He was minus-3 and it was noticeable. Doughty’s pass was stolen by Michael Grabner on Grabner’s shorthanded goal, and his no-look pass to Jeff Carter was broken up as New Jersey went the other way for its third goal.
Maybe it’s the day games. Doughty took a game-tilting unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 3 and was minus-4 against the St. Louis Blues on March 10, all matinee home games. He was also minus-2 in a Jan.15 loss to the San Jose Sharks, also a home afternoon matchup.
Doughty usually rebounds with a vengeance after poor performances, though, so this trip will be interesting for a defenseman who was on the radar for Norris Trophy consideration earlier this season.
It’s all noisy on the Western Conference front. Saturday was the Kings’ final game against the Eastern Conference. They’ve mostly feasted on the East, with a 21-10-1 record, but it gets crucial from here on out.
The four-game trip features games against teams with playoff designs with the Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche. The finale at the Edmonton Oilers isn’t a gimme-game, either.
The favorable part for the Kings is they won’t have to leave Southern California for the last six games of the regular season. But they can’t afford a big stumble on this last journey away from home.