Los Angeles Kings: Problems Start In Front Of Their Net, Not In It

LOS ANGELES — On Thanksgiving Day 2010 in the United States, the Los Angeles Kings are thankful that they played so well early in the season that their current slump—losing five of their last six games—has not moved them to the lower echelon of the National Hockey League’s Western Conference standings.

Their latest debacle, an embarrassing 4-1 blowout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on November 24, was a game in which the Kings were totally dominated by the Habs. Their embarrassing performance shined a bright light on how the Kings have lost their focus, especially when it comes to their defensive assignments.

As I wrote in my latest story for The Hockey Writers (see Los Angeles Kings: Fixing The Defense Must Be The Top Priority), the problem is not the Kings’ pathetic power play, or their goaltending.

More specifically, no one should be blaming backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier, not one bit.

If you peruse the message boards of the various web sites where Kings fans congregate to banter about their team, you will generally find a considerable number berating Bernier for his play, many calling for his proverbial head. Some state rather emphatically that he is not an NHL-caliber goaltender, while others believe that the Kings should ship him back to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League (the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate), or just trade him for a bag of used pucks.

These comments are misguided, to say the least. In fact, the problem is not between the pipes. Rather, the fault lies at the feet of the skaters in front of them.

Indeed, anyone who has watched the Kings’ last six games must have noticed that they have consistently blown coverages, leaving opposing players wide open in front of the net, in the slot…all over the prime scoring areas.

Opposing teams...

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