EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The water bottles were lined up on the bench and the ice was fresh at the Los Angeles Kings practice facility, but the players never put on their skates Friday. Later, a manager came out to pack up the bottles, and the lights were turned off.
The scene summed up the past three days for the Kings: a flicker of light for the Stanley Cup Playoffs that was extinguished Thursday when a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames made Los Angeles the first defending Cup champion to miss the postseason since the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006-07.
“Obviously it’s disappointing,” Kings center Jarret Stoll said. “There’s a lot of words to describe this season but, yeah, I think it’s maybe too fresh right now. It’s a weird, weird feeling. It’s a feeling we don’t like. We don’t want to relive this. You have a feeling of winning, and then you have a feeling of this. It’s pretty disappointing.”
Here are five reasons the Kings missed the playoffs:
1. Road problems
Los Angeles began the season 1-4-4 away from Staples Center and never got much better, finishing 15-18-8 on the road. It was a problem that was difficult to understand considering the Kings have been a good road team in the playoffs the past three seasons.
Forward Anze Kopitar was representative of the Kings' home-road split. At Staples Center, he had 10 goals, 39 points and a plus-8 rating through 40 games; on the road, he had six goals, 25 points and a minus-10 rating.
2. Overtime/shootout woes
Getting the extra point in games that went past regulation was an extremely difficult task for the Kings, who were 1-7 in overtime and 2-8 in shootouts. They scored five times in 35 shootout attempts.
The Kings went 6-9 in shootouts before winning the Cup in 2012, but it was a moot point once they snuck in the postseason that year. This season, it’s largely why they didn’t sneak in.
3. Key players missing
Defense - LAK
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 22
SOG: 102 | +/-: 8
The Kings, who did not retain veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell
in the offseason, tried to fill holes on defense. Alec Martinez
missed 25 games because of injury and Robyn Regehr
missed 15 games. Andrej Sekera
was an ideal addition at the NHL Trade Deadline but didn’t play after a lower-body injury March 30. Slava Voynov
played six games before being suspended by the NHL after being charged with felony domestic violence.
Jamie McBain and Brayden McNabb helped fill out the rotation, but the Kings did not have enough depth to compensate adequately.
The loss of forward Tanner Pearson to a leg injury Jan. 10 contributed to a lack of offense. Pearson was prone to dry spells but his speed and instincts were missed. Los Angeles scored 16 goals in 14 losses from Feb. 3 to April 7.
4. Overuse of Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick
The lack of defensive depth forced coach Darryl Sutter to ride Doughty, whose 29:02 average ice time is his career-high by 2:38. He played 30 or more minutes 29 times, and Sutter admitted the workload was too much for the 25-year-old. The sight of Doughty singlehandedly trying to take on the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, in the second game of a back-to-back, was a microcosm of the defense.
Quick played 71 games, the most since he played 72 in 2009-10. Sutter had no choice but to stick with Quick, who had six shutouts but could only do so much.
The Kings’ 2.42 goals-against average is seventh in the NHL but a significant drop from the League -best 2.05 they had last season.
Sutter frequently referenced the Kings being tired or lacking energy, and it’s easy to surmise that’s related to the 64 playoff games they played during the previous three seasons, and the participation of several players in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Los Angeles was in good shape after an eight-game winning streak in February but went 2-3-1 in its next six games.
The Kings were able to have lackluster regular seasons in the past, but it finally caught up to them, especially in the tight Western Conference.
“It’s a battle down right to the end, and we just weren’t consistent enough throughout the course of the season,” Stoll said. “We were chasing that wild card, chasing the eighth spot, chasing third in our division. It just felt like we were chasing it all year, and we couldn’t finish it off.”