Play Under Review: Kings Need More Than 10 Games to Dominate
Coming out on the other side of a 10-game start with a 6-4-0 record isn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened for the Kings, but not going 7-3-0 stings more when that additional loss means the Flames’ gain. The Kings essentially beat themselves by taking six penalties and giving up three power play goals. That game is a good example of how the team’s improving in some areas but also how quickly that work implodes when they get in their own way.
Why score a goal when you can still lead them team in points without them? Anze Kopitar has yet to see a shot go in, but he’s still leading the Kings in total points once again. With eight so far this season, he’s even got the edge on leading goal-scorer Jeff Carter.
It’s pretty passé by Kopitar’s standards, but Carter scored the most goals in the Western Conference last season and came in fourth in the entire NHL. He’s already putting more pucks in the net than anyone else on the Kings, but it shouldn’t really come as a surprise, because Carter’s also taking the most shots. His 46 shots on goal are 15 more than the next-highest Kings player — 31 SOG from Justin Williams. Carter’s Corsi numbers are much higher than anyone else’s, too. He’s taken 82 shots in 10 games. Drew Doughty comes in second with 57.
During the 2012-13 season, Kings games rarely went to overtime. Early in the 2013-14 season, they’ve already played extra minutes on four different nights and three were decided by shootouts. The Kings have won in every OT situation so far, but it means their number of regulation or overtime wins is at three. Congratulations, they’re on pace to never have the tiebreaker in the standings.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Kings are winning more than losing, but they’re not winning by much. Not every game has been a 2-1 Mark Spector narcoleptic episode, but with the exception of one brutal loss to Tampa Bay and one impressive win against Dallas, it’s still all about which team scores that extra goal.
Since the Kings aren’t scoring many goals, more than half the team are on the losing end of the plus/minus spectrum right now. Not Matt Greene, though. Matt Greene is somehow a +4. Apparently when he’s on the ice, favorable things are a little more likely to happen. He leads defensemen in shots blocked (26) and hits (33) and is tied with Slava Voynov in goals scored. Seriously!
WOOOO, BOY, DID THIS GET WRECKED QUICK. Against the Wild and the Jets, the PP helped keep some life in the Kings’ game. During their road trip it became so useless that Fox Sports West should’ve just played 87 more Bud Light commercials through it. Luckily, the penalty kill was among the tops in the league — you know, until the Calgary Flames happened, and then every guy on the Kings made a date with the penalty box. On the one hand, they’ve managed to score a couple shorthanded goals, too. On the other hand, THREE POWER-PLAY GOALS FOR THE FLAMES.
Partly because the special teams have gotten so much work, Willie Mitchell’s racking up ice time. The Kings were worried about how his knee might hold up after a year of recovery, but he’s keeping pace. Only Drew Doughty’s seeing more ice time on average. Mitchell’s absorbing more hits than he’s dishing out right now, but he’s also second in blocked shots (24). A solid opening showing for a guy who spent a year away from hockey and injured.
Everybody loves to talk about how the Kings are a big-bodied, physical and defensive team. That’s still true, but they’ve also become a puck possession team. They’ve jumped from 10th (2011), to second (2012) and then to first (2013) in possession in recent years. The Brown-Kopitar-Williams line crushed every other line in the Western Conference in puck possession during the shortened season. Though they’ve struggled some to start, the Kings are currently just behind Chicago and Boston in possession overall. When playing 5v5, the Kings are fourth in the NHL and getting stronger, besting opponents 613 to 517 in shot attempts. If the Kings can keep from shooting themselves in the feet by stockpiling penalties, they have a shot being number one again.
The eyeball test shows that the Kings have some messes to clean up, but believe it or not, they’re doing better than they were this time last season. After 10 games, the Kings had already lost to the Predators twice (including a 3-0 shutout), the Avalanche (who sucked), and allowed the Ducks to score three power play goals in a 7-4 loss. In game 10, they lost to Detroit by giving up the game-winner with 4.5 seconds left in the 3rd period.
Sound familiar? Yeeeeaahhh.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL, HERE LA COMES.