Shortly after beating the Blackhawks 5-2 on Tuesday, numerous Kings players and coaches huddled around a TV outside the United Center visitors’ locker room, watching a pivotal late game between the Golden Knights and Canucks.
That’s what the playoff race entails: a feeling that every game, every night, is crucial, because it just might be. That’s a feeling the Hawks wish was coursing through their own hearts and brains right now.
Instead, they’re mindlessly trudging through the most irrelevant, hopeless final month of a season the organization has endured in many years.
“That was a desperate hockey team that needs the points, and we got outworked at times,” Hawks interim coach Derek King said.
The Kings entered the day having lost three straight, slipping down onto the playoff bubble with the Knights bearing down. Kings coach Todd McLellan, hoping to save his rebuilt team’s pleasantly surprising season, demonstrated the urgency with his pregame comments.
“We’ve given up 26 goals in our last seven games,” McLellan said. “If we’re going to get where we all want to go, that can’t continue. It has to change. It has to go back to where it is.
“[It] may sound strange, because we’ve been chasing offense for years in our organization…but right now, we need trusting players to play situations the way they know how.”
The Kings did just that, sucking the already tepid life out of the Hawks with an impenetrable first 15 minutes that earned them a 2-0 lead and 13-1 shots-on-goal advantage.
The Hawks’ only moment of brief hope, sparked after Taylor Raddysh cut the deficit in half during the second period, was squashed by an answering Kings goal 33 seconds later.
“Mentally, we’re drained,” King said. “Physically, the bodies are drained, too. You throw on a losing streak like that, that doesn’t help either. … Trust me, there are some miserable guys in there. They know where we’re at. It’s just going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of competing to try to get out of this.”
Regula riding high
Alec Regula’s incredible goal Saturday with the Rockford IceHogs was almost as remarkable because of who he is –a 6-4, 218-pound defenseman — as because of how he did it.
The 21-year-old held off a Tucson forward while cutting horizontally across the neutral zone, then turned on the burners, sliced through the caught-off-guard defense and beat the goaltender with a trailing lofted backhand shot.
“I saw an opening and just made a move and went in,” Regula said Tuesday. “I was lucky to get it to go in there, [but] I have that kind of offense in my game.”
The former Red Wings draft pick has enjoyed a solid season with 25 points in 40 games for Rockford, which has gone 10-2-1 in their last 13 games. He was rewarded for the highlight-reel playwith an NHL call-up Monday.
“I feel I have that [NHL] ability,” he said. “It’s about having that confidence and believing in myself. I don’t think I’m going to be trying to make moves like that right off the bat, but [I’m working on] holding onto the puck a little bit longer, skating, getting a little bit more comfortable and believing in myself. I think there is a time where I’ll be able to make plays like that in the NHL.”