Soft goals and inconsistency — Kings’ goaltending woes threaten to derail the season

Kings goaltender Pheonix Copley watches play throughout a 4-0 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday night time. The Kings have struggled to discover consistency in internet this season. (Juan Ocampo / NHLI by way of Getty Images)

The Kings have a goaltending drawback.

Pheonix Copley saved their season by successful 12 of 14 selections following his Dec. 1 promotion from the American Hockey League, placing up numbers that had been about common for an NHL goalie however seemed like valuable gems to the Kings, who had stayed afloat whereas Cal Petersen flailed his approach to a demotion and Jonathan Quick confirmed indicators of age and persistent shakiness.

The total group performed higher in entrance of Copley than it had performed in entrance of Quick, most likely subconsciously, and their diligence decreased the hazard of the photographs Copley had to face. Copley was by no means going to be the long-term reply in internet, however his teammates rallied round the profession minor-leaguer who got here out of nowhere to supplant two-time Stanley Cup champion Quick and gave them respectable goaltending once they wanted it most.

That glad bubble burst on Thursday. Copley gave up a flurry of sentimental goals and was changed by Quick in the second interval of a 4-0 loss to the Dallas Stars in the Kings’ last dwelling sport earlier than a six-game journey that begins Saturday in Nashville.

Copley yielded 4 goals on 17 photographs, the final aim — a wraparound by former Junior King Jason Robertson of Arcadia scored at 7:27 of the second interval — being sufficient to persuade coach Todd McLellan to yank him. Quick stopped all seven photographs he confronted. But that included solely two photographs in the third interval whereas Dallas, which had blown a three-goal lead at San Jose on Wednesday, made certain latest historical past would not repeat itself.

McLellan had thought-about switching goalies after the Stars scored thrice in the first interval, however he wished Copley to get extra ice time in the goalie’s first sport in eight days, which was additionally the group’s first sport after a four-day break. That fourth aim, celebrated exuberantly by Robertson’s prolonged household in a set excessive above the ice, was the breaking level for the Kings, who had been shut out for the third time this season and the first time at Arena. They will not play at dwelling once more till Feb. 11 as a result of they have to vacate the enviornment for the Grammys and then have the NHL All-Star break and per week off.

They’re nonetheless third in the Pacific division and solely two factors behind chief Seattle. But they’re additionally just one level forward of Edmonton, which holds the first West wild-card spot. And the Kings’ aim differential dropped to minus-seven, which might come into play to break a tie in the standings and decide who makes the playoffs, or who results in which playoff place.

“Do we now have a goaltending drawback?” McLellan mentioned, repeating a reporter’s query. “We have goaltending moments however we now have [defense] moments and ahead moments that do not go our approach.

“Pheonix clearly has performed nicely for us these days. It wasn’t his finest night time. Maybe his poorest that he is had with us.”

Dallas Stars center Wyatt Johnston backhands a shot against Kings goaltender Pheonix Copley.

Dallas Stars middle Wyatt Johnston backhands a shot in opposition to Kings goaltender Pheonix Copley throughout the first interval Thursday. (Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

Copley, to his credit score, acknowledged his shortcomings. Rust from inactivity, he mentioned, wasn’t to blame. “Just a tricky effort by me. I assume it’s at all times slightly robust, however that is no excuse,” he mentioned.

His teammates did not assist a lot, making an array of small errors that added up. “We self-inflicted our personal distress early in the sport and tried to discover our sport as the sport wore on,” McLellan mentioned.

They misplaced battles. Didn’t win essential faceoffs. Didn’t get the puck deep, which led to Tyler Seguin’s aim from above the proper circle at 6:54 of the first interval. Seguin went high shelf for an unassisted aim at 17:20, and Esa Lindell discovered the upper-left nook at 18:44 to silence the crowd and give the Stars a 3-0 lead.

“Maybe issues weren’t clicking in addition to they’ve been, however the effort was there,” Copley mentioned. “It was simply the execution.”

The Kings, who took 34 photographs at Dallas goalie Scott Wedgewood, didn’t persistently match the Stars’ depth. “It was only a bounce right here and there that we would have liked. And we did not fairly earn it tonight, too,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar mentioned. “We undoubtedly have to play higher so as to win video games.”

Seeking silver linings, McLellan mentioned he thought-about Quick’s aid effort some comfort. “Quickie performed nicely. He did not get loads of motion however he was in the sport, he made some good puckhandling touches, and some stops proper off the bat on the penalty kill,” McLellan mentioned. “If there is a constructive, he received some good minutes in and can be ok with himself.”

The Kings’ upcoming six-game, 12-day journey is oddly structured, with video games at Nashville, Chicago and Philadelphia in the first 4 days. They’ll have two days off earlier than enjoying back-to-back video games at Florida on Jan. 27 and at Tampa on Jan. 28, and they will end at Carolina on Jan. 31. That would require some cautious scheduling of their goalies.

“Common sense is that we won’t run one man there. We know that,” McLellan mentioned. “So, they’re each going to get to play in these conditions. And then after that we’ll have extra time. We get relaxation. We get apply. We’ll see the place the group is at.”

They will not go far if they do not clear up their goaltending drawback.

This story initially appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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