4 Weaknesses Los Angeles Kings Must Address During 2013 Season
While the offense and power play clicked in the game, the defense and goaltending—the team's bread and butter—was atrocious.
The story this year has been just the opposite to Saturday's game, and more akin to last year's regular season. The defense and goaltending have carried the team while a star-laden offense continues to struggle.
However, there are other weaknesses that the team needs to address and soon if it wants to stay afloat in a very competitive Western Conference.
Let's just get this one out of the way right away. It seems like the same old story every year now, but the Los Angeles Kings again find themselves in the bottom five of the league in goals per game.
They are 27th in scoring and average just over two goals a game. You can definitely see the consequences of such a low-scoring output when the goaltending isn't quite as good as in years prior and the defense is a little banged up.
For some reason, the Kings can't find consistency from top performers like Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar or Mike Richards.
Is it the approach to the game? Is it the shortened season? Is it the system? It's likely a combination of all of those things, but the Kings have to get it going offensively. If you aren't going to shut teams down quite like last year, you've got to be scoring more.
This is another big one, and a pretty obvious one as well.
The Kings' power play, unsurprisingly, is 27th in the league. The big surprise, though, is the penalty kill, which is now 18th in the league after allowing three PP goals on Saturday.
The Kings went all the way last year with a bottom-five power play, but they had a top-five penalty kill to compensate for it. They weren't scoring much on one end, but they weren't allowing much on the other.
Injuries have hurt the Kings on the penalty kill at least, as veteran d-men Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell are first-pairing penalty killers. Without them out there blocking shots and clearing the play, the team has struggled—especially when it comes to containing high-tempo power-play units.
One or both of the special teams units has to be shored up quickly. The Kings cannot continue to have a power play and penalty kill in the bottom half of the league, particularly when the entire team scheme is predicated on stingy defensive play.
Here's a pretty overlooked part of the game that is having a huge impact on the Kings' offensive zone struggles.
Blocked shots, or rather blocked shots against.
It's been a problem all season. The Kings get a ton of their shots blocked on a regular basis. How bad is it? It was summed up pretty nicely by new Kings Insider Jon Rosen last week:
In the six games thus far in 2013, Kings opponents have combined to block an average of 19.5 shots per game, which would come out to the second highest per-game average in the league, had “Kings opponents” been an independent entity amongst the other NHL teams.
Saturday night wasn't much different, as Anaheim blocked 18 Kings shots. On the one hand, you can applaud the Kings for taking shots, but you can shake your head at them for taking predictable and bad shots.
Ask yourself how many times have you watched a King player put it directly into a defender from the point on the power play. Ask yourself how many times you've watched a King player telegraph shots for a defender to block.
It's huge. The Kings have to find a way, a more creative way, to open up shooting lanes. Right now, the word "predictable" comes to mind when describing the offensive zone play.
So as you can see, shooting—a basic fundamental of the game—is really giving the team a problem. While blocked shots against and missed shots are part of the same fundamental strain of ideas and problems, they both deserve their own slide as a weakness.
Missed shots are a result of two things: frustration and lack of creativity.
The Kings know they aren't scoring much, so the mantra is "put pucks on net." Well, the Kings have been putting pucks towards the net, but not necessarily on net.
The team has put a total of 198 shots on net this season, which is low. It's 28th in the league to be exact, ahead of only Anaheim with 188 and Nashville with 177. Here's the kicker, and the frustrating one: The Kings have missed 110 times, second-highest in the league behind Phoenix.
In comparison to the aforementioned Ducks and Preds, they have missed 75 and 90 shots respectively. Phoenix does miss a lot with 118, but they've taken a league-high 300 shots.
Combined with last slide, the Kings lose on average 35 shots on goal per game due to blocked and missed shots. Need I even say that that's a lot?
The team is frustrated and it is taking bad shots. This comes back to creativity as well. The team isn't exactly lighting the world ablaze by pulling defenders out of position with cross-seam, tape-to-tape passes in the offensive zone.
It often leaves the shooter with a very small window to hit the target amidst bodies of offensive and defensive players alike.
The team has the personnel and talent to be more creative. The hard part is getting the players to do it.
Gretzky was right: you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. In the Kings' case, however, you will likely miss about 50 percent of the shots you take as well.