So this is what the official end looks like.
The ironic part about the Los Angeles Kings getting mathematically eliminated with a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Monday is that they largely held their own for the first half of the game against a team that projects to be playing well into the spring.
Maybe it was also fitting that the Kings produced no shots in the first 16 minutes of the third period and only two for the final 20 minutes. Their 16th loss in 18 games showed they will have to take their lumps in the name of aiming for next season. How they get to the end of this season will say a lot about them, though.
Here’s what we learned:
Brendan Leipsic put his fingerprints on the game. Dustin Brown and Sean Walker scored, but Leipsic assisted on Walker’s goal and drew a penalty that produced Brown’s goal. Leipsic was in on several scrums, especially at the end of the second period when he took umbrage at an apparent trip.
If the Kings aren’t going to win games down the stretch, they should at least be a tough team to play against and stick up for each other. Leipsic seemed to understand that, and his teammates took the cue.
“We’re only human,” Leipsic said. “Sometimes it’s tough to bring that physical emotion, that battle. But I thought the start there was good energy in the building. Guys had good energy. They’re playing hard. That’s a good playoff team over there. They’re a playoff team, so it’s easy for us to get up for it.”
Matt Roy is learning on the go. Roy drew a tripping penalty on Patrik Laine, but he was also on the ice for Winnipeg’s first goal. Such are the ups and downs for a rookie defenseman like Roy, who has become a regular.
He skates well and has tools that allowed him to play in all situations at lower levels, but of course the learning curve is steeper in the NHL, especially against contending teams. Roy has been a minus player in each of the last three games but that’s partly symbolic of the Kings, who have allowed at least three goals in 16 of their last 18 games and gone 2-12-4 in that stretch. But perhaps Roy will be better for it in the longer run.
Breaking out the puck better should be a top priority. If there’s a common thread in these dog days, it’s turnovers by the Kings as they try to transition up the ice. Alex Iafallo committed a giveaway in the first period, as did Derek Forbort in the second period.
Missed connections are often the hallmark of a losing team, so it’s not a surprise that this is an issue. The Kings have admitted to poor practice habits this season — even some of their pregame warmups have looked disjointed — and they have made it a point to work better. They have 10 more games to work on it.