From The Puck Stops Here : Kings Lead The West

Kings are getting more and more non-Kings site blogosphere attention:

I don’t think anyone would have predicted that the Los Angeles Kings would be first in the West Conference in mid-December, but they are.  The Kings have a 22-14 record (with three overtime loss points) to give them 47 points.  Skeptics are quick to note that Los Angeles leads the NHL in games played and some western teams (San Jose and Chicago) have better winning percentages in fewer games played.

Concur. See my Standings in Points Blown.

Whether or not you think Los Angeles can maintain top spot in the West, it is clear that they are a much better team than predicted.

They have a good young core of players that is emerging to stardom together.  At forward, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov and Jarret Stoll have significant talent and are leading the team offensively.  Ryan Smyth was a significant contributor as well, before he fell to injury (he may be back soon).  Justin Williams and Wayne Simmonds have also been significant contributors.  This is a deep group of offensive players and many have the potential that they will likely keep improving.

On defence, the story is Drew Doughty.  The second year man has been the NHL’s most improved player this season.  He has become one of the best defencemen in hockey.  Jack Johnson, Sean O’Donnell and Rob Scuderi are providing depth along with waiver claimant Randy Jones (who has 12 points in his 18 games as a King).

The Kings potential weakness looked like it may be goaltending this season.  Last year, their goaltending was unsettled.  Jonathan Quick emerged at their starter, but he lacked an NHL track record.  Quick has been given the starting job this year.  He has started all but three games.  Quick has 20 wins (which ties him for the league lead with Martin Brodeur), but he does not have great underlying numbers.  He has a .904 saves percentage and a 2.60 GAA.  This is a huge improvement from backup Eric Ersberg’s .837 saves percentage and 4.10 GAA, but they are not good numbers.

For the most part, the Kings are winning despite their goaltending.  Their core has become good enough that they haven’t needed a goalie to steal games for them.

It may look that way from afar, but there have in fact been several games stolen by Quick. My gut says three or four.

A significant reason for that is Drew Doughty’s emergence.  He has significantly improved the Kings team defence.  The Kings have the fourth best shots against in the league with 27.4 per game.

As they stand right now, Los Angeles is a good team.  As long as their core continues to play well, they will have a good record.  They are unlikely to become a top level team as long as they do not have top goaltending.  I doubt they will stay at the top of the West Conference all season, but they should be a playoff team.  They need better goaltending to take the next step forward.

via KuklasKorner : The Puck Stops Here : Kings Lead The West.

 

  5 comments for “From The Puck Stops Here : Kings Lead The West

  1. BakoCAkingsCondorsGuy
    December 16, 2009 at 11:00 AM

    Quispie:

    I think there is a statistical abnormality in the Kings’ records in one goal games, the last two years. All the one goal losses last year contrast with the one goal wins this year.

    Yes, there is significant improvement in this team, with the passing of one season for these generally young players. But, I wonder if the statistical extremes will even out next season.

    Any way to analyze this statistically? I know that Bill James does it routinely for baseball seasons, his analysis isolating certain teams as flashes-in-the-pan. I don’t think this improvement is purely a statistical aberration. I think the Kings are simply a better team in 2009-2010 than in 2008-2009.

    Can you help prove me right?

  2. quisp
    December 16, 2009 at 11:25 AM

    That’s a great point, especially as it relates to shoot-outs. The outcomes of shoot-outs have been shown to be essentially random, with little to no correlation between the (generalized) skill of the shooter or goalie and the outcome. Obviously, the outcome is NOT random, so I guess we should say it’s “as if” it’s random. In the future, teams will get better at managing/coaching the shoot-out, and players may even be recruited specifically for their shoot-out skills (since after all shoot outs can make or break a bubble team, in terms of playoffs). but for now, it’s basically a coin-toss.

    Since that’s the case, we can expect a regression to the mean. i.e. last year’s losses and this year’s wins will prove not to be the norm, as over time the Kings will regress to 50:50 in shoot-outs.

    However, in so far as the outcome is not purely random, all of the usual intangibles come into play. And that’s where team maturity, confidence, etc., become a huge factor. And there’s little doubt that the team is more confident this year than any since 2001-ish.

  3. James
    December 16, 2009 at 1:27 PM

    Interesting. Yet I get the sense that those bloggers aren’t actually watching any games but are checking standings and stats instead. That’s not a diss, but in the past anyone would be right 99% of the time simply by stating “they need better goaltending” or “the Kings are winning despite their goaltending”. That was true at the start of this season but as you pointed out, Quisp, the rise up the standings over the past few weeks has been in large part due to J. Quick stealing games for them.

    If those guys were really paying attention, they would instead be saying “the Kings now have a bona-fide NHL goaltender who can keep them in, or steal , games when needed.” That is the real reason why they’re at the top right now.

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