A few flickers of hope, only to be blown out by the massive issues that have raged out of control.
Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets could have been a microcosm of the Kings’ season. They were good at times, but not good enough. Close, but not close enough. Overall, they were simply beat by a better, hungrier team.
They fell to 0-2-1 on this trip and seemed resigned to such performances, while still owning up to the underachievement.
Here’s what we learned:
The Buffalo game took a bite out of them. It’s never an excuse, but it was a considerable task to ramp it back up emotionally for the Kings after they were one shot away from pulling out a win Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Kings grabbed a 1-0 lead but couldn’t sustain the pressure and drive that Columbus sent at them.
“Coming in here, it’s a tough building to play in,” Anze Kopitar said. “They’re homers. They play very hard at home, very physical, and it’s definitely not easy, and with the turnaround from Buffalo – we had some guys playing 30 minutes and the high 20s – it’s tough. But again, those are all just excuses that we can use. But we all know, that’s not what we’re about.”
This was a Jonathan Quick game, through and through. Quick was amped up from the start and at one point grabbed the leg of Lukas Sedlak when Sedlak dared invade his crease space. Quick also committed a gaffe when he errantly sent the puck toward his net when he went to retrieve it behind the goal.
He was beaten cleanly by Josh Anderson on the type of score that gives ammunition to Quick’s critics. But Quick also kept the game manageable in the third period and prevented an Artemi Panarin hat trick with a glove save.
Ultimately, Quick was not the problem.
“They were creating way too much,” coach Willie Desjardins said of Columbus. “Quickie was great in net. He made a number of great saves for us and gave us a chance to stay in it, and we didn’t do it.”
The kids are not all right. Desjardins called out his younger players for not matching the intensity of the Blue Jackets, a high-scoring team that can also play a heavier, physical style. Columbus also gives up much in their own end, and the Kings couldn’t expose that.
Matt Luff, Austin Wagner, Nikita Scherbak and Sean Walker can be fun to watch but they have a combined 79 games of NHL experience. That’s not always going to help counter a more seasoned opponent determined to get its mojo back at home.