10:15 PM CDT, June 1, 2013
CHICAGO — Need another reminder that last spring was then and this is now and there's no sense comparing the Kings' romp to the Stanley Cup a year ago and the rocky journey they're traveling as they defend their title?
Another feeble offensive performance Saturday in another road loss reinforced how remarkably different their path continues to be. Their 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the opener of the Western Conference finals dropped them to 1-6 on the road, a dramatic contrast to the stunning 10-1 road record they compiled last spring. They have been held to one goal in six of those away games, the lone exception being a 3-2 victory at St. Louis in Game 5 of the first round.
"This year is a new year. You've got to get over what happened last year and we've got to figure out a way to get some offense going here," defenseman Matt Greene said.
The Kings' paltry road scoring is part of a larger offensive struggle, certainly. Including their latest loss at the United Center, the Kings have scored 27 goals in 14 playoff games and have been held to one goal seven times. The only time they scored once and prevailed was in Game 3 of their first-round series against St. Louis, a 30-save performance by goaltender Jonathan Quick.
"It does surprise, considering what we did last year," center Colin Fraser said of the team's road struggle. "I don't really know what the answer is, but we've definitely got to be better, for sure, and it shouldn't matter where we're playing."
Without home advantage against the top-seeded Blackhawks, it's an unavoidable and urgent truth the Kings will have to get their act together on the road. Soon.
Such as Sunday night, when the odd scheduling of this series — dictated partly by the Rolling Stones' concert tour — gives them a quick shot at reversing this perilous pattern.
"Eventually we're going to have to win a road game or two. Scoring one goal again on the road, that's something we've got to push through," center Jarret Stoll said Saturday after his first game since he suffered a concussion in the opener of the Kings' second-round series against San Jose.
"Our offense has to be better. Myself, everybody included. We've got to get more chances, more shots, more toward their goaltender. We didn't make him work as hard as we wanted to tonight."
The only goal Corey Crawford gave up resulted from his own puckhandling mistake and a good play by a forechecking Justin Williams. The Kings took only two shots in the first period and 22 overall, rarely applying sustained pressure or pinning the Blackhawks in their own zone for long.
"We've just got to get a little bit more greedy and get into the scoring areas more frequently and definitely take more shots," said center Anze Kopitar, who was credited with one shot on goal.
Kopitar, likely hampered by an injury and a shadow of the dominant, two-way forward he has been, has scored one goal in his last 10 playoff games and two this spring. Jeff Carter, the Kings' most potent pure sniper, has one goal in his last six games. Mike Richards, who appeared dazed after taking a late and possibly illegal hit to the chin from Chicago's Dave Bolland late in the third period, has scored once in seven games. Defenseman Drew Doughty has no goals and one assist in his last six games.
Coach Darryl Sutter again resorted to juggling his lines in hopes of creating some offensive sparks. It didn't work. Some of his top guys, he said, were "having trouble keeping up…. Shifts fell off primarily from the top end of our lineup."
Not a good omen for a sudden offensive turnaround.
But Stoll said he and his teammates welcomed the chance to get another crack at it Sunday.
"It doesn't matter what the score was in the playoffs. You win, you lose, you've got to refocus," he said. "We've got no time. It's great. We can get right back at it and play. We're all excited about that. Redeem ourselves and be ready to play and be a lot better."
Scoring more than one goal would be a start.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times