There seems to be a bottomless well of statement losses by the Kings this season.
The newest installment was a 5-1 shellacking by the Toronto Maple Leafs that once again drew into question the team’s defense, offense, urgency and all the other things that have defined a season that is quickly circling the drain.
Here’s what we learned:
The defense took a step back. In a game that placed an emphasis on defense because of a fast-skating Toronto team and L.A.’s decimated goalie depth chart, the Kings gave the Maple Leafs six power plays and flat-out lost puck battles at even strength.
Only so much could be asked of Peter Budaj, beaten twice on the power play, and Cal Petersen, thrown into his first NHL game against a team that averaged 3.41 goals a game.
“They can’t hang their heads,” Kyle Clifford said of Budaj and Petersen. “It’s on players. It’s on the D. It’s on the forwards. Buds is a veteran guy in this league. He’s come in here before and done a great job, and we didn’t make it easy on him tonight. Cal’s a young guy, and I thought he made some great saves out there.”
Petersen handled himself well. The 24-year-old became the 13th goalie in Kings history to make his debut in a relief appearance. Coach Willie Desjardins said it was good to get Petersen in the game “so he sees it, so he’s ready for the next time.”
Petersen showed the calmness he’s known for, and it helped that he’s been in similar situations as the backstop for a struggling Ontario Reign.
“You have to treat it like any other game,” Petersen said. “You can’t let the moment really dictate how you do. I just kind of focused on the things I needed to do, and I was confident in my ability and I figured I’d just stay in there and try and make some saves.”
Marco Sturm to the rescue? Sturm is widely seen as an NHL coaching candidate, and he’ll bring some ideas to the table as assistant coach after he coached the German national team.
“I think there’s just a few points,” Sturm said. “We’ve just got to do things a little bit quicker. That’s something that my focus was on in the past year or so and I think that’s something, we all agreed as coaches already, that’s something we have to do here.”
Sturm, 40, isn’t far removed from his playing career. He knows players well, and one of the first things he noticed was how the Kings carry themselves.
“Obviously when things are not going well, you can see it on the body language, on the weight on the legs, right?” he said. “I think we’ve all been through it. But I think, the only thing to get out of this, we’ve got to do it as a group.”