It’s rare to see the Los Angeles Kings discussed on these pages; there are a few reasons for that, but mostly it’s because I just don’t like them, and you didn’t come here for unbiased opinion so that’s OK. In 2014 when the Kings won the Stanley Cup for the second time; most people watching were rooting for Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. That’s just the way it is with the Kings; easy to hate and easier to ignore.
Unfortunately, we can’t ignore the Kings this season. The team that fell into irrelevance after winning the cup is now dominating the Pacific Division. After Tuesday night’s OT Freeway Faceoff win against the Anaheim Ducks, the team is now 11-2-2 and five points clear of the Vegas Golden Knights at the top of the Pacific. Only St. Louis, who’ve played an extra game, have more points in the Western conference.
After Darryl Sutter was dismissed in April, former interim head coach John Stevens was given the big job and so far is earning his pay. Stevens’ line combinations are paying dividends for the team. The top line of Alex Iafallo, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown has combined for 16 of the team’s 52 goals, while the second and third lines are also producing. The Kings’ defensive combinations are performing at an alright level too. With just 34 goals conceded; LA’s blueline is the tightest in the NHL, although they’re allowing a worse-than-average 32.5 shots per game on goal.
One goalie who’s an early contender for the Vezina trophy is Jonathan Quick. One of 14 NHL goalies with a point to his name. I wouldn’t go and put him down for your #HiSticking picks though. Quick’s SV% of .937 is the second highest in the league for goalies who’ve played more than 10 games. His 2.06 GAA is second lowest by the same measure. Only Chicago’s Corey Crawford has Quick beat on these metrics.
Ignoring Crawford, Quick has nailed his black and silver colours to the mast and is on fire. Is it fair to say he’s carrying the team? Partly, the tiny number of goals conceded is mostly credit to Quick making some outstanding saves. The special teams also deserve a mention; while the Kings do give away amount of power plays, the team has the best penalty kill percentage in the league (92.6%). Of the 54 times the Kings have found themselves shorthanded, they’ve only allowed 4 goals.
How long the Kings can continue to hold this level of performance is hard to say. The team plays Tampa Bay tonight, and has tough games against the San Jose Sharks, an oddly resurgent Vancouver Canucks and the Vegas Golden Knights on the horizon. Oddly, the Kings find it difficult to find their feet in games. Most goals, by a pretty big margin, are given up in the first period of games. If Stevens and his other coaches can find a way to tidy this up then the Kings’ current roster has ability to be a real contender again.
Are the Kings relevant again? Vote in our poll below!
— The 4th Line Podcast (@4thLinePodcast) November 9, 2017