The 2016-17 season has been rough for the Los Angeles Kings. For the Kings, the season is only nine games old and Los Angeles find themselves sitting in sixth place in the Pacific Division, and outside of the Western Conference’s last playoff picture.
Luckily for Los Angeles, the NHL season is a marathon and not a sprint. They are nine games into the 82-game season and have plenty of time to right the ship and get back into the postseason. But before we take a look at what November and beyond has in store for the Kings, let’s look at the rocky month of October.
1. A Quick Injury Problem
It took just one period. Just 20 minutes for the Kings to be thrown their first major curve ball of the 2016-17 season. That curve ball came in the form of an injury to Jonathan Quick. After the opening period of the season, it was backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff in net for the Kings and not Quick for the remainder of their game against the San Jose Sharks.
It was later announced that Quick had injured his groin late in the first period and would not return. It took several days, but after Quick consulted several different professionals and weighed his different options it was announced Quick would not be undergoing surgery and would miss three to four months because of the groin injury.
Then, before the Kings had time to digest losing Quick for a large portion of the season, Zatkoff was being helped off the ice with, you guessed it, a groin injury. Just as fast as Zatkoff was thrust into the starting role for Los Angeles, he was thrust onto the injured reserve list and the Kings were out, not one, but two goalies.
Now the Kings are down to Peter Budaj and Jack Campbell who were both recalled from the team’s AHL affiliate in Ontario.
Since the plague of injuries to the Kings’ crease, Budaj has gone 4-2-0 and has a 1.99 goals against average in seven games . The 34-year-old has weathered several storms in his short time as the number on goalie and will have to survive plenty more while Quick is on the mend.
The injury problems have not stopped in the crease. Before the season started, the Kings lost Marian Gaborik due to an injury suffered during the World Cup of Hockey. Now nine games into the season, they have lost both goalies, Andy Andreoff, Teddy Purcell and Brayden McNabb. It’s a rough time in Los Angeles.
2. Offensive Shortage
Stop me if you have heard this before, the Kings have been struggling when it comes to putting the puck in the back of the net. Nine games into the season, Los Angeles has lit the lamp only 19 times. The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, the leaders in goals for at the time of this writing, have deposited the puck into the net 35 times in ten and nine games respectively. There’s a bit of a gap there.
In the final two games of October, back-to-back road games against the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, the Kings were shutout on both nights and outscored 4-0. The zeros are nothing new for several players. Trevor Lewis, Derek Forbort and Andy Andreoff have suited up for all nine games and yet to grab a single point this season.
Tanner Pearson, who missed the first two games of the season due to a suspension that carried over from the preseason, has been a bright spot. In seven games, the 24-year-old leads the team in goals with four and has six points.
Budaj has kept the Kings in the majority of the games he has played in, but it is hard to win a game where the team in front of you doesn’t score a goal. Much like Budaj’s 24-save, one-goal against performance against the Blues, an excellent performance down the drain because the Kings were shutout 1-0.
3. Overtime Heroes
After starting the season 0-3-0, the Kings were able to rattle off four consecutive wins and get back above .500. However, they did not take the easy route when grabbing those four ‘W’s.
Los Angeles needed extra time in all four of those wins, and all four of their October wins for that matter. Overtime wins against the Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators coupled with a shootout win against the Vancouver Canucks salvaged a scary October.
Fortunately, they were able to pull out four wins in the month of October and salvage a difficult month. What’s the saying, it only gets better from here? In Los Angeles, things can’t get much worse than the month of October so that saying may very well be true.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.