Just three games into their 2015-16 campaign and the Los Angeles Kings might already be in trouble.
The Kings have scored just two goals in their first three contests. In nine periods they’ve only found the back of the net twice. While it is still early, make no mistake about it–all 82 games count. Need proof of it? Look at the teams in recent years that have missed the postseason by just two points. It is early, but very soon “early” will fade away and LA heads into October 14′ action already several points back of the Pacific Division lead.
Get 10 or more points back and suddenly the No. 1 seed is a stretch.
Through their first three games, only five different players have found the score sheet for the Kings and no one on the roster has registered more than a point. Compare that the Vancouver Canucks, who didn’t exactly excite a lot of pundits in the preseason. Through four games, 16 different players have registered at least a point for them and forward Jannik Hansen leads the team with four points.
Even the Arizona Coyotes–who have had their scoring troubles in recent times well documented–have had 10 players hit the scoresheet through two games and have two players sharing the team lead in scoring (Martin Hanzal and Tobias Rieder with three points apiece).
And now as the Kings look around their dressing room and search for answers, Anze Kopitar will need to stand up and take the lead in that search.
Does it all rest on Kopitar’s shoulders? No. There are plenty of players that need to find their game, but the star forward would be the right person to right the ship and lead his team out of their October scoring slump.
Kopitar, who has averaged close to a point-per-game in his 685 regular season NHL games, has not registered a point yet this season. This is a Kings roster whose complexion has changed a bit from their championship seasons, but the Slovenian native is still there and will need to quickly find his offensive game if his LA team has any hopes of getting back to the postseason after just missing out last Spring.
“We’re just not doing the things we need to do to get the chances and the shots that are quality chances,” said Kopitar when talking about his team’s 0-for-13 power play to Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles News Group after Tuesday night’s 3-0 home loss to Vancouver. “Whether that’s not coming in with possession, whether that’s not coming in the way we should, I just think we’re playing too soft to get the pucks back.”
Playing soft is very different than the “heavy game” that has become part of the Kings’ calling card in recent seasons and Kopitar in some ways has embodied that type of play, using his large physical presence to win the small battles on the ice, and of course, score.
Over the course of the long NHL season just about every team goes through skids and scoring droughts, it’s part of the game and this current scoring drought could end in another game or two and things will normalize once again for the Kings.
But there always seems to be a little bit of extra concern when a team stumbles out of the gates the way LA has and Kopitar would be the ideal player to step up and lead his team out of their offensive doldrums–before it’s too late.