Play Under Review: Shutting It Down
Though they suffered a rash of injuries in late October/early November, the Kings have managed to stay on the winning side of things. They’ve gone 6-1-3 in their last 10 games played, but 10-1-4 in their last 15. The single regulation loss came from some more spectacular underachievement against the Calgary Flames.
On the bright side, the Kings have now won both games they’ve played against the New York Islanders, so maybe tides are slowing turning. Maybe the Kings will try hard during every game from here out. What a world that would be!
A huge part of why the Kings continue to win despite injury and another a patch of goal-scoring troubles is that they’re once again not allowing very many goals. Goaltender Ben Scrivens has maintained the best save percentage in the league — holding at .943 — almost every day since stepping up in Jonathan Quick’s absence. He also has the second-lowest goals against average (1.56). Martin Jones is currently undefeated after his first two NHL starts.
The Kings also lead the league in shutouts right now with five, thanks to combined the efforts from all three goaltenders. They sit atop the Western Conference with two goals against per game, and are tied with Montreal for second-fewest in the NHL.
Holy puck control, Batman, did you know Jake Muzzin was a great possession player? That is, he’s doing it and doing it well right now.
Four of the five top possession players in the NHL are Kings players. Of course the stingy Brown-Kopitar-Williams line is still represented, but now Jake Muzzin has crashed the party. Muzzin leads all NHL defenseman with a 62.6 percent Corsi-for percentage when playing 5v5. He’s third in the NHL after Justin Williams and Loui Eriksson when stacked against all skaters.
In general, the Kings refuse to be outdone in possession most nights. Of their 30 games played, they’ve come away with a CF percentage of 50 percent or less nine times. During the 2012-13 season, only the Phoenix Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings managed to best the Kings in possession more than once.
(Obviously, teams only played within the conference last season, but still — pretty damn good.)
Imagine how unstoppable the Kings would be if they could find a way to put together one more goal per game. It would be indecent. The games would be rated TV-MA.
Hopefully Tyler Toffoli is one of the guys who can help balance the scoring. Toffoli has 7 goals in 16 games, tying him for 5th among rookies so far with almost half as many games played as current leader Tomas Hertl. Toffoli’s also not getting an abundance of ice time.
The good news is he’s likely sticking with the Kings for a while this time. With more minutes and more time spent cleaning up his defensive game, Toffoli could help make the Kings’ depth scoring more consistent.
Someone created in Dr. Kevorkian’s image should mercy murder the Kings’ current power play, but their penalty kill? Thoroughly respectable. Their 5th place penalty kill becomes more impressive after considering that the Kings have been shorthanded 120 times so far this season, ranking them 4th among teams most incapable of staying out of the penalty box.
There are a number of things the Kings could stand to clean up in the next 10 games, but this is another example of how they close it down defensively when necessary. Ideally, this team will start scoring more than one or two goals per game more regularly, but even if they struggle, possession, defense, and goaltending are still likely to keep them competitive.