The season is still young, but the stakes are high in several big NHL markets with even bigger expectations.
Exhibit A: The Los Angeles Kings, who have stumbled out of the gate with just two wins and plenty of questions to be answered through eight games so far.
“Tough situation here for Los Angeles. They lose at home to the New York Islanders the other night, they lose at home to Buffalo today, 5-1. Twenty-minute players’ closed-door meeting after the game,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said during Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada. “John Stevens, asked post-game where the team’s fight back is, said, ‘it’s missing, it’s missing.'”
After opening the 2018-19 season with an overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Kings doubled up on the struggling Red Wings, kept things tight against the Jets and then shut out the Canadiens. But they’ve been a different team ever since, allowing at least four goals in each of the four games that followed and answering with just five goals across a dozen periods. Most of that time was spent without starting netminder Jonathan Quick, who was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury but was back in the crease against the Islanders and Sabres.
Of course, the Kings aren’t the only team dealing with early-season heat.
“I can’t recall, six games into a regular season, in terms of how much talk there is and attention there is to some coaching staffs,” said Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, also naming the St. Louis Blues (2-3-2 after defeating the Maple Leafs Saturday night), the Philadelphia Flyers (4-4) and Edmonton Oilers (3-2 heading into Saturday’s game against Nashville) as teams being “closely watched by their ownership group.”
“They want results, now,” Kypreos said. “The barometer in the past has always been American Thanksgiving for teams to make drastic changes. The sense is now… it’s a lot earlier.”