Goals to Goals: Where the Kings meet with a higher scoring start
“We will be who we will be.”
A cryptic sound, isn’t it?
This was from Todd McLellan after last night’s game when he was asked, again, about the high-scoring nature of a Kings win. The margin last night was 5-4, the same we saw in a win against Detroit earlier this season, with neither coming close to the 7-6 score we saw in Minnesota. The Kings have played by far the highest scoring hockey of any team in the NHL this season. With a total of 102 goals, no team has seen more goals scored in their games this season than the Kings. There is a bit of a caveat, as the Kings are tied for the league lead in games played, but still, LA is one of four teams averaging at least 3.4 goals against per match
“I said in the summer, I actually said in Edmonton after Game 7, that we have to work ahead of us and every year is different,” McLellan added. “Are we going to be a high-event team every night? We better keep scoring five. If we’re going to be a high-event team and not put four or five on the board, then we’re going to have to fix some things.”
The Kings have maintained throughout that, despite a strong start to the season, it’s not necessarily the way they play, but the way they’re currently playing. At 7-6-1, he hasn’t burned them to a horrible start to the season by any means. The Kings are two points shy of where the team was in 14 games last season, although going into Game 14 last year, the Kings were on a seven-game winning streak. The 15-22 run featured seven losses and just five total points earned as the rollercoaster that was the first three months of last season aggressively went through its ups and downs.
Of course, last year.
This is this year and this year’s team will be who this year’s team will be.
“We’re trying to control a little bit more and be better defensively, but at the same time, in the same breath, we’re scoring more,” McLellan said. “See me. We’re our own team right now, we’re figuring it out.”
While the Kings have decided exactly who they want to be and are constantly working to do so, there is still an element of risk in the way they play.
Speaking to Adrian Kempe last week, he smiled a bit as he corrected himself when discussing the element of risk after the Toronto game. He talked about how a team like Toronto plays with a little more risk than the Kings, but quickly amended to say how the Kings want to play, admitting that there has been more risk in the team’s game than they would like. was
That’s not to say the risk hasn’t paid off at times, with the Kings excelling at putting the puck on net, with a full complement of players contributing. After last night’s game, Trevor Moore pointed to the internal growth of some of the younger players, as well as the team’s depth, as reasons for the early season offensive output.
“I think we’ve got a lot of young guys that are getting that confidence and we’ve got good depth, we’ve got four lines that can score now,” he said. “When you have four lines that can score, it can be rotated and you get more sustained time from the zone or.”
It’s hard to pick a better example than the win over Florida.
Gabe Vilardi scored the game-winning goal in the third period, giving the front line a much-needed offensive boost. The second line managed two goals, including Moore’s deflection in the second period. The third line opened the scoring, with an outstanding flow from Kevin Fiala to Rasmus Kupari and the fourth line accompanied the individual effort of Blake Lizotte, showing determination to stay with a play and put home his own rebound .
Are the Kings the only team suffering from these increases? Not necessarily, and the sample size is quite small at this stage.
Last season saw an increase in goals per game in the league not seen since 1996. Teams scored an average of 3.14 goals per game, tying the 1995-96 mark with the 1993 season -94 the last time the season finished higher. It’s still pretty early, but NHL teams are currently averaging 3.22 goals per game, with an increase in power-play goals more than covering last season’s differential in the early years of this season.
It’s not necessarily surprising to see him score this early in the season. It’s also not necessarily indicative of what’s to come over the course of 82 full games around the league, nor is it necessarily indicative of what will ultimately separate the teams in the postseason. McLellan admitted he’s seeing a lot of the number four when reviewing league results, but despite that in the early going, he believes it will be the number three that remains important as the season progresses.
“I just looked at the results and four seems to be a common number,” McLellan added. “Personally I think it’s going to be a three-way race again, at some point, because I think everybody’s going to take things, but I’ve been wrong many times before. The four are popping up all over the place, so the team that can get to the four and check really well has a shot at the championship, I think, right now if it keeps going like that.”
Can the Kings be that team, the team that can score four goals on any given night but also control effectively and efficiently? Wins over Tampa Bay and Toronto in the last homestand, arguably the top two contenders in the East, showed that exact formula. A pair of 4-2 wins that limited opportunities against elite talent while reaching the four-goal mark. That’s 2 of 14, though. For a team that built much of its success a season ago on structure, predictability and accountability, the Kings still want those elements to be staples of their game, even as we’ve seen the team win games with a different formula here at the beginning. gone Can the increase in offensive production be sustained as the Kings tighten the screws on the other end of the ice? It remains to be seen.
If possible, however, the Kings could be on the verge of building something that is not only different from what was built last season, but with the potential to be even better. And that, should it come to fruition, would be a great sign of progress.
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