Are the Kings in for a Stanley Cup Hangover After Opening-Night Rout vs. Sharks?

Steve Macfarlane@@MacfarlaneHKYFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2014

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You can ask all kinds of questions following the Los Angeles Kings' 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on opening night of NHL action Wednesday.

The most common might be, "How long is this Stanley Cup hangover going to last?"

It's a fair question and a familiar situation. When the Kings won their last Stanley Cup in 2012, they began the following campaign with a nearly identical lineup to the one that earned them the title.

They started their defense at home, hopes as high as the banner they raised to the rafters.

Then the Chicago Blackhawks spoiled their celebration. The Kings limped away with a 5-2 loss. They'd go on to drop their first three games of the season, lose seven of their first 10 and sit tied for last in the Western Conference standings at that point.

Things changed quickly. They went on to win 11 of their next 14 to climb to the third-highest point total in the West a month later. They were close to a return to the Cup Final, losing out to the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08: Tommy Wingels #57 of the San Jose Sharks scores a goal past goalie Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings in the second period of their NHL season opener at Staples Center on October 8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Despite an even more awful start to the 2014-15 season, you should expect a similar long-term outcome for the Kings.

On Wednesday night they looked sloppy, slow, tired and nothing like a defending Stanley Cup champion. They took bad penalties, made worse decisions and deserved to be shut out.

But other questions you might ask yourself before writing them off in a bid to repeat include:

  1. Is this just the Kings being the regular-season Kings?
  2. Are the Sharks back to being the regular-season Sharks?

Following a soul-crushing opening-round loss to the Kings last spring when the Sharks—always impressive in the regular season—coughed up a 3-0 series lead and choked their way to four straight losses to their state rival, the boys from San Jose were looking forward to crashing the party at the Staples Center Wednesday night.

NHL.com's Dan Rosen provided a comment from Marc-Edouard Vlasic that sums up that notion:

Vlasic said yesterday and again today that he loves this because the Sharks get to ruin the Kings party. When did he become a quote machine?

— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) October 9, 2014

The fallout from the Sharks' implosion included captain Joe Thornton being stripped of his captaincy—now sporting one of four alternating A's along with fellow former Sharks captain Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Vlasic.

If the NHL was looking for a perfect postseason rematch to help kick off the new season, it landed on a good one with the Kings and Sharks.

And it was no coincidence, as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman commented, per The Fourth Period Magazine's Dennis Bernstein:

Bettman on Sharks as opening night oppponent for Kings "scheduling is not a democracy"

— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) October 9, 2014

The Sharks got their revenge, with two goals by Tommy Wingelswhy not give him the fifth "A"?and solo markers from Marleau and youngster Matt Nieto. Wingels shared his thoughts, per Bernstein:

Sharks @tommywingels "for us this was absolutely a bigger game than a normal opener. We were relaxed during the ceremony"

— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) October 9, 2014

But history has shown it's a long NHL season—even the lockout-shortened ones.

The Kings will almost certainly bounce back from whatever emotional lull they may battle in the coming days or weeks. They're that deep and talented a team. They've been to the conference final in three straight seasons and taken two league titles.

Sure, that's a lot of hockey. It may take a while to get their game back to where they left off last spring. But that's not unusual for the Kings. Their time comes late in the season and into the playoffs, where they have yet to earn home-ice advantage for the opening round in their impressive three seasons of chasing the Cup, as hockey analyst Mike Brophy noted:

LA Kings well on their way to finishing 7th and then winning 3rd Stanley Cup in 4 years. #dontsweatit

— Mike Brophy (@HockeyBroph) October 9, 2014

There's no reason to believe that can’t happen again. Like any hangover, it just takes a little time to get over.

All stats via NHL.com and shrpsports.com.

Steve Macfarlane has covered the NHL for more than a decade, including seven seasons following the Flames for the Calgary Sun. Follow him on Twitter @macfarlaneHKY.

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