Grading the Positional Units for the Los Angeles Kings Through 3 Weeks
The Los Angeles Kings have been a team of streaks so far this season. They've strung together a six-game winning streak, but unfortunately also a four-game losing skid.
They ended it on Tuesday night with a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars.
At 7-4-2, the Kings now sit fourth in a very competitive Pacific Division. It's an interesting time to examine the offense, defense and goaltenders, as a few key players have missed significant time early on.
Who is underperforming? Who is meeting expectations?
Find out as grades are assigned to the Kings' forwards, defensemen and goaltenders.
No surprise here: The Kings are having trouble scoring. They rank 25th in the NHL with 2.31 goals per game. The big issue is the lack of secondary scoring. That number would be significantly worse if not for That '70s Line.
Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have combined to score 18 of the team's 30 goals. That's 60 percent of the offense.
Sure, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik have missed time, but that's no excuse for Justin Williams, Dwight King and Dustin Brown to have four combined goals in 13 games.
On top of that, all four lines need to play better defensively. L.A. has proven it can win games in the regular season with below-average scoring, but the forwards must do the little things to help maintain possession.
Winning faceoffs, being physical on the forecheck, generating turnovers in the neutral zone and backchecking every shift are all crucial.
Expect the forwards to improve, particularly those not on That '70s Line. If the other three lines don't start to produce consistently, the losses will continue to pile up.
The Kings defense has been good but not great thus far. L.A. is giving up the fourth-most shots in the league at 33.5 per game and the defense has often been bailed out by solid netminding.
Similarly to the forwards, the defense has been without two key players in Slava Voynov and Jake Muzzin. While Voynov remains out indefinitely, Muzzin has returned but struggled in his seven appearances.
Muzzin is averaging over 22 minutes in ice time but is the only L.A. defender with a minus rating at minus-four. Doughty has been strong defensively but is still without a goal.
Here is what Darryl Sutter told reporters about the blueliners on Monday:
We’re good with Robin-Marty or Muzzin-Drew right now. I think that Robyn-Marty weren’t as sharp as they should’ve been last night. [There were] those two rush goals against that, I mean, you can’t give them up. But I’m good either way. I mean, Muzz is still feeling his way back in. Drew’s, I think, finding his game a little bit more than he was early. And Marty’s done a good job moving over.
Trust Sutter. The defense will look a lot better with Muzzin and Doughty stepping up in the coming games.
The Kings are getting what they expected out of their goaltenders. Elite netminding is at the heart of the Kings' success in recent years and will need to continue to be this season.
Jonathan Quick has started 11 games and Martin Jones two. That's a trend that will continue barring an injury, as Quick is capable of playing more than 65 games. If he does require time off, Jones has shown in the past year that he is capable of stepping in for a week or two.
Here's a look at their numbers:
- Quick: 6-3-2, 2.03 goals-against average, .942 save percentage, two shutouts.
- Jones: 1-1-0, 1.73 goals-against average, .929 save percentage, no shutouts.
While Quick hasn't been able to steal a game in the last four, his performance has been good based on the number of shots he's faced. With That '70s Line going cold in recent games, Quick is looking like the MVP through the first 12 games of the Kings' season.