The Los Angeles Kings are getting an itch

 – Gudstory

The Los Angeles Kings are getting an itch – Gudstory

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It’s rarely a good sign when a. Head The coach is asked If his job was in jeopardy, and the coach didn’t have much of a problem asking that question. That’s where the Los Angeles Kings, along with coach Todd McClellan, find themselves after losing or tying 12 of 14 games last night to the Buffalo Sabres (2-7-5 in this stretch).

Wednesday night’s loss was especially troubling, considering the Sabers have been mostly woeful this season, whatever their level of firepower. The only way a good team will lose to the Sabers is if the team can’t maintain control over Buffalo’s young cadre of scorers. After taking a 3-1 lead, did the Kings fail to manage even that modest task.

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The Kings made a series of stupid defensive mistakes that tend to get a coach questioned about what he would say he’s doing here. Unreasonably high turnover rate in the offensive zone? Checks. Submissively giving up the blue line and allowing too much space at the top of the circles? Checks. Unexplained defensive zone turnover from the longest-serving man? Checks. And let’s do a turnover in the neutral zone to complete the set.

All of this has been a trend in the past month for Los Angeles. For the season as a whole, the Kings were one of the best defensive teams in the league (5th best xGA/60). But since December 28, they are 23rd in this category.

The main reason for this was the Kings duo of Drew Doughty and Mickey Anderson. Doughty was the author of that Clouzot-like move from behind his own line on Wednesday night that led to Alex Tuch’s match-winner, and that has generally been his attacking style of late. Phillip Danault hasn’t been his usual defensive dynamo at the position either.

But as with most good teams — and the Kings are still good — that have slumped, there may be something structural going on, but the bigger explanation is much more surface level. For example, Cam Talbot hasn’t been able to stop any balloon heading towards him lately. Yes, he’s facing more rubber than he did earlier in the season, but there’s no way to explain the .879 save percentage that Talbot will hit in January.

The other superficial reason is almost always luck, and the Kings can’t afford a bucket right now. No team over the last month has performed worse than the Kings’ 4.9 percent, and that’s a percentage that won’t continue. Last night, the Kings suffered one of Devon Levy’s few NHL-plus performances, and there’s not much they can do about it. The Kings’ chance creation rate has dropped slightly (3.0 xG/60 for the season and 2.81 last month), but not enough to worry that it has all gone wrong.

Perhaps what adds even more pressure to McClellan and the team as a whole is that they play in a division that has the biggest upset in the league (Vancouver) and another team that is putting up one of the most dominant streaks in history (Edmonton), as well as the defending champions (Vegas). Before the season, the Kings may have thought they could capitalize on some of the malaise experienced by the defending champion and goofy Oilers to win the division and make the path through the playoffs easier. No one saw the Canucks coming. Now the Kings are out of the top three in the Pacific, and could be staring at a first-round date with the Canucks, Avs, or Jets, making a third straight first-round exit a much bigger horizon. This is not what kings seek.

The Kings could hit the panic button and fire McClellan, in an attempt to reverse the bounce to the moon that the Oilers got. But if they look at what actually happened with Edmonton, nothing about their style of play has changed much. Their coaching change coincided with some competent guarding, at least, to combine with the dominant, even-strength play that was already occurring.

The Kings have more issues to solve, as they weren’t as dominant last month at 5-on-5, but it doesn’t seem to be getting past them. They had done so for the previous season and a half. Talbot won’t be this bad forever, and even if he was, there wouldn’t be much any coach would do about a sub-.900 save percentage. Moving to a two- or third-man who can carry the puck out of the zone himself and stand at the blue line wouldn’t hurt either.

As a Los Angeles celebrity once said: “There’s nothing bad here, my friend.”

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