The Top 5 New Year's Resolutions for the Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings sit one point outside of the playoffs as the year 2015 begins. L.A. has had an up-and-down season to this point, with some star players underperforming and others dealing with nagging injuries.
There is no panic and the team can clearly compete with the best in the NHL. This, of course, isn't a new position for the Kings as they won the Stanley Cup with an eighth-place finish in the Western Conference in 2011-12 and with a fifth-place finish last season.
The Kings do have a number of areas where they can improve in the second half of the 2014-15 campaign. With that in mind, here are the Kings' five New Year's Resolutions.
Be Better on the Penalty Kill
The Kings started off the 2014-15 season with a weak power play, especially considering their offensive personnel. It's improved and is now operating at 20.6 percent to rank eighth in the NHL. The penalty kill is sitting at 81.0 percent, not bad but not great as it ranks just 15th in the league.
The Kings should be able to get closer to 85 percent considering how stellar both their netminders have been for most of the season. They need to do a better job blocking shots and putting pressure on the points. Too many chances are coming on rebounds off shots from the outside.
On a positive note the Kings do have the second most shorthanded goals in the league with five.
More Success for Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar was awfully quiet this fall. With points a rarity and his faceoff numbers down, the Kings' top line was struggling to control the puck and produce offensively.
As of the last seven games, all of that has changed. Kopitar is one of the hottest players in the NHL, with two goals and 11 assists for 13 points in his last seven appearances. In that span he's won at least 57 percent of his draws four times and less than 50 percent in just one game.
The Kings don't need him to put up points at this ridiculous pace to have success, but a point per game is certainly reasonable. They are in a logjam in the Pacific Division with the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks. Consistent strong performances from Kopitar and the top line can separate the Kings from that group.
Win More Faceoffs
For most teams winning over 51 percent of their draws would be a positive. However, for an L.A. team that has dominated in puck possession in recent years that's not good enough.
L.A. has won over 52 percent of its draws in the past couple of years and that played a major role in helping the team control the puck and therefore the tempo of the game. Aside from Jeff Carter, who is winning more than 57 percent of his faceoffs, the centers have been average-at-best by their personal standards.
Jarret Stoll is at 51.3 percent, Kopitar is at 51.2 percent and Mike Richards is at 47.2 percent. More faceoff wins, especially in the defensive zone should make a big difference in the Kings' puck-possession numbers.
Get Dustin Brown More Involved
Physically, Dustin Brown is playing at a similar level as he has in the past, with 103 hits and 18 blocked shots. However, offensively he needs to be more involved in creating quality scoring chances.
His 94 shots ranks third on the team, so quantity isn't an issue. Brown is getting the puck to the net, but he isn't racking up many points.
The captain has six goals and six assists for 12 points in 38 games. He needs to find a way to cash in on opportunities around the crease and set up his teammates on the power play with quick passes. He does have two points in his past four games, possibly a good sign of things to come.
Win on the Road
The teams ahead of the Kings in the standings all have superior records on the road. In fact, they're above .500 while the Kings sit at 4-8-6 on the season. Their home record is an impressive 14-4-2.
This resolution won't truly kick in until after January as the Kings will play eight times at home and travel away from L.A. for just three games all month. In February they will play five times at home and seven times on the road.
The key games will be two road contests against each in-state rival, San Jose and Anaheim and a couple trips north to Vancouver. L.A. needs to get on the right side of .500 on the road if they want to have a shot at climbing to second in the division in the next two months.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.