Not too many hockey games end well when your powerplay puts up a goose egg and your penalty kill can’t stop goals against. Special teams were the story of tonight’s 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
The Kings wasted five powerplay chances, having trouble setting up the play and getting shots on net. Meanwhile, they all but handed the game to the Sabres in the third. Smyth’s holding penalty in the offensive zone led to a Sabres’ 3-2 lead. Johnson and Dwight King kept L.A. shorthanded later in the period until Buffalo put the game away with a Jochen Hecht slap shot less than 5 minutes left to play.
As for Bernier, he didn’t see too many pucks that went past him. For some unexplainable reason, just as they did against San Jose and Columbus, the Kings’ defense and forwards seemed intent on giving the Sabres’ forwards all the time and space they wanted in our defensive zone, with plenty of time to set up a screen in front of Bernier and shooting lanes to their heart’s content. I know we miss Willie Mitchell, but this is getting absurd. It is as if the entire Kings’ defense has forgotten how to play…well, defense especially positioning and coverage down low.
Is it panic time? No. But anytime you lose three in a row, there are a few things not working and when you outshoot, out hit, win the greater of faceoffs and still lose by two goals, it isn’t difficult to point to the defensive side of the puck and, to some extent, the net minder’s inability to make some big saves and find the cause. If I am to be candidly critical, I am not thrilled with some of our coaching decisions but on that issue I choose to bite my tongue as I wait to see if this slide is a short and temporary speed bump on the way to a much better road to come.
Never forget – GO KINGS!