Through seven games so far, the Kings have played far from the level it had been during the Stanley Cup run. There is too much talent for this club to be where it is now. I understand all of the accolades; the team is still hung over, they are not 100% with weary legs playing until mid-June, they have a target on their back and everyone's gunning for them...etc, etc!
Perhaps the team is still enjoying its championship rings and being wined and dined all over Los Angeles, but now it is time to get back to work.
I look at the Blackhawks, zipping around everybody on the ice, making it look easy, same with the Sharks and even the Montreal Canadiens, who really are not a very good team. Even the arch-rival Anaheim Ducks, who are notorious slow starters are off to a high-flying 5-1-1 start. I still wonder how many players for the 'Hawks, Sharks, even Ducks played overseas during the lockout...I can think of several players from those teams who had been playing overseas...does that mean something?
While several marquee players (excluding Sidney Crosby who actually stayed behind to help work on a resolution) bolted immediately to Europe, the Kings were still enjoying their time with Lord's Stanley Cup on the beaches of LA. Besides Jonathan Bernier, who is desperate for playing time and quickly packed his bags for Germany, only captain Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Alec Martinez decided to lace them up for professional level action waiting for a new CBA to be signed. Role players like Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and defenseman got in about 30 or so games for Manchester before the new year.
My question is, what were players like Dustin Penner, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams doing during all that time? These guys I have just mentioned have done barely nothing for the Kings so far in these first seven games. Even Brown and Kopitar have been fairly silent thus far.
Taking a look at the players I have mentioned and their stats through the Kings' first seven games:
Dustin Brown (3 goals, 1 assist, -6)
Anze Kopitar (2 goals, 2 assists, -1)
Dustin Penner (0 goals, 0 assists, -2)
Mike Richards (0 goals, 3 assists, -6)
Jeff Carter (3 goals, 0 assists, -1)
Drew Doughty (0 goals, 3 assists, -5)
Justin Williams (1 goal, 1 assist, even)
Judging from these numbers, these guys simply are not doing enough. Some guys aren't doing anything. I was happy to see the Kings bring everyone back, even Dustin "Pancakes" Penner. However, at this point there really is no reason to award ice time to someone who hasn't contributed a thing since the playoffs. God bless him for being in the right spot at the right time scoring that goal against Phoenix to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals for just the second time in history, but now it is time to get serious again.
Now, excluding Penner, let's take a look at the Kings' main guns, or the guys who are actually paid millions to score. Between Brown, Kopitar, Richards, Carter, Doughty and Williams, there is a grand total of 9 goals, 10 assists and a whopping minus 18. A minus 18! That stat is probably the most surprising to me. Kings fans know the team always struggles to score, but being a collected minus 18 among your go-to guys is completely unacceptable!
Did anyone else mention the strong power play, which has registered 4 goals in 37 tries, including several 5-on-3 advantages! Pathetic!
On top of the lack of offensive contribution from the main guys, once again I am more upset over Darryl Sutter's refusal to play Jonathan Bernier. This is hurting the Kings on several fronts. Jonathan Quick clearly looked like a goalie who needed a rest on Saturday. Bernier fared no better, but cannot blame him for being rusty, sitting on the bench when he should have at least gotten a start or two in before Saturday's action. I was shocked that Bernier was not in goal against the Nashville Predators, who are actually familiar with facing Bernier when taking on the Kings over the years. Do not forget the fact that Bernier has also played very well against the Preds in his short career.
Moreover, how in the world are the Kings going to be able to garner anything from any NHL organization if Sutter simply refuses to give him any time to prove his worth. This is probably the worst part of the Kings getting off to a poor start. I am just waiting for the night when Quick really does get hurt, or aggravates his back, and then the Kings will have nobody to rely upon after Bernier. And if Bernier struggles, then who is next in line now that the Kings traded away Jeff Zatkoff? Zatkoff's value had been increasing steadily in Manchester until the Kings sent him to Pittsburgh who already have Fleury, Vokoun, and Thiessen on the depth chart. He probably should have been the backup goalie going into this season. Fans may think that the Kings' goaltending is the least of its worries, but think again, especially if Sutter continues to believe that Quick is indestructible.
Enough of the boring Kings, who once again are putting me to sleep late at night in the Midwest, time to focus on the Maple Leafs tonight. After playing a strong game against Boston, and coming up just short on the losing end of a 1-0 decision (despite a good goal disallowed after Chris Kelly knocked his own goalie down, not a Toronto player!) the Leafs welcome the Hurricanes to town. Simple plan tonight; shut down the Staals, find a way to beat Cam Ward, earn two points.
Will tonight be the night Phil Kessel finally lights the lamp? I say yes, twice!
Enjoy the games!