LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 14: Head coach Todd McLellan of the Los Angeles Kings reacts on the bench after a goal from Kirill Kaprizov #97 of the Minnesota Wild, for a 4-3 overtime loss in the season opening game at Staples Center on January 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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They may not have anything to play for as far as playoff aspirations go but the LA Kings nonetheless have plenty to prove in regards to who will, for all intents and purposes, pass the audition to return next season. If their performance on Wednesday night was any indication, though, the audition process, if you will, for next season is wide open with very few players immune. Head coach Todd McLellan was visibly frustrated with his team’s play on Wednesday and it showed.
Speaking to the media following Wednesday’s game — a 6-0 defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche — the Kings head coach was dejected, to say the least.
“We need a group of guys that actually care about finishing the season, individual pride, and it’s not too much to ask a group for work for 60 minutes,” a matter-of-fact McLellan said. “We might not have the skill, we may not have the quality of [the] team that our opponents had tonight and the same group tomorrow night, but we have a lot more in us than we showed, so it’s quite disappointing.”
While a couple of early penalties against them could have been debated, the Kings nonetheless had the advantage of having one of the best penalty-killing units in the entire league this season. Still, while ‘apathetic’ may be an unfair adjective, the silver-and-black nonetheless had a difficult time keeping up with the Avs, who still have something to play for in the form of a Presidents’ Trophy win.
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As far as pinpointing what went wrong for the Kings on Wednesday, the Kings head coach couldn’t give a concise response when asked by Carrlyn Bathe of Bally Sports West.
“The first period, the second period, the third period, execution, a little more consideration for teammates when it comes to effort,” McLellan noted. “I could go on and on, Carrlyn. You could write a book about it, so I’m wasting my time here.”
The 2020-21 season was a transitional one for the LA Kings. They weren’t quite ready to make the jump to becoming a playoff team, and that was to be expected. With that being said, however, the number of chances squandered this season to catch a St. Louis Blues team who couldn’t seem to garner any points for a fair stretch early on, for instance, was discouraging to witness. The finite amount of full 60-minute efforts were another red flag for the club this season as was the lack of consistency from some of the players.
These were all expected growing pains for a team in the Kings’ position but they were nonetheless frustrating for fans who wanted to see their team put their best foot — or skate — forward in spite of not being a playoff-ready team. Todd McLellan’s frustrations following Wednesday’s defeat were certainly justified, as a result. The Kings, after all, did suffer their worst loss of the season. Heck, en route to the defeat, the Kings didn’t register their first shot until the 18:40 mark of the first period. The Avs, at that juncture, already had a 2-0 lead.
With all of this in mind, I’d be remiss without giving credit to the Avalanche for a solid victory. In particular, J.T. Compher earned the first hat-trick of his career, giving him 10 on the season.
There is still one more game on Thursday to close out the season. As for who’s starting in goal, McLellan confirmed that it will be Troy Grosenick, giving Cal Petersen a rest after surrendering all six goals on Wednesday.
It will be interesting to see how the Kings respond in their season finale in a quest to finish the season — and, possibly for some players, their tenures with the club — on a positive note.
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