Analysis of the Angels – The search for perfection
Over the past week, Todd McLellan has used the phrase push for perfection several times. This statement has typically been followed by the idea that achieving perfection, as he describes it, is impossible for the Kings or any other team in the league. Even if things go well, perfection cannot be achieved, things can always be improved, polished or made better.
“There is no such thing as perfection and even though that’s all we want to be, it doesn’t exist.”
This house, however, WAS perfect for the LA Kings as a team.
The Kings played four games and the Kings had four wins and eight points in the standings. Finishing more than eight points would have been impossible given the schedule they have. While some elements of the game weren’t perfect, not every player was perfect every night, the team as a whole, in terms of wins and losses, was perfect.
It kind of reminds me of that famous scene from Remember the Titans.
“With all due respect, you demanded more from us, you demanded perfection,” TC Williams defensive alf Julius Campbell said. “I’m not saying I’m perfect, because I’m not, and I never will be, none of us are. But we’ve won every game we’ve played [on this homestand], so this team is perfect. We got out of it [ice] this way tonight and if you don’t mind coach [McLellan]that’s how we want to leave it.”
Show me that quote wasn’t said in the locker room after Saturday’s win. The words in parentheses, you ask? Audio difficulties, I just don’t want to misquote anyone.
No element of the LA Kings was perfect over the last four games. Not the power play, not the penalty, not the goalkeeper, not covering the defensive zone, not creating chances, not burying those chances. But the LA Kings, of the four games they played, were perfect. And that perfection as a team comes from the pursuit of perfection within specific elements of team play. In Los Angeles last week, that’s what the Kings were aiming for as they worked on certain areas of their game during practice. The results they achieved on the ice reflected their aspirations.
After allowing four goals in 5-on-5 against Florida during a wild, 5-4 home opener, the Kings responded by allowing exactly zero 5-on-5 goals in wins over Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit. If you take the expected goals, pros and cons stat, the Kings had not finished a game this season with an xGA below 1 heading into Tuesday’s game against Minnesota. According to Natural Stat Trick, they accomplished the feat in each of the last three games, finishing below that line with their three season-low totals in all three wins.
On the special teams side, the Kings got what they needed with the penalty kill in wins over Florida and Minnesota, allowing no goals in the few opportunities they had in that situation. When that unit struggled, with three goals against Chicago and Detroit, the power play stepped up, converting twice, three times essentially, to make the difference in a one-goal victory over the Red Wings. Wins over Minnesota and Chicago were closer than they should have been because of a power play that didn’t convert as designed. In an opposite way, Saturday’s win over Detroit was a tight one for the opposite reasons, the power play working as designed and being as productive as could be desired. To fit the theme, perfect results despite an imperfect but improving process.
On the offensive end of the ice, each of the Kings’ front lines contributed multiple goals, with the exception of the fourth line, which was on the ice for one goal and zero goals against. All Kings players were on the right side of 50 percent in terms of scoring chances, about the same with high-danger chances. Finishing at even strength left a bit to be desired over the last three games, but chances and opportunities were constant, a sign of future conversion.
As the Kings continue to create consistency, their goal will always be perfection, even if that goal is unattainable. On nights when parts of the game are imperfect, the other aspects of the team will have to pick them up. That’s what good teams do and that’s what we’ve started to see from the Kings this past home.
Looking ahead, the picture changes a bit, with the stage moving from home to four consecutive divisional games away from home. Northern Canada awaits, with Calgary finally snapping a seven-game losing streak yesterday, followed by the high-flying Edmonton Oilers, top 5 in the NHL in both goals scored and goals allowed, and finally the Vancouver Canucks, who seem to have found themselves neutral after the worst start in the league. The trip concludes in the United States in Seattle, as the Kings will look for a better result than their 4-1 loss at home to the Kraken in October, a night as disjointed as the team looked early on. Last season’s Kings were substantially better on the road than at home. Coming off of this home caliber, let’s hope the reverse isn’t true with major and divisional points. the line
Postgame reactions will be coming from Ontario this afternoon and tomorrow is morning skate in Calgary for the Kings, before the first matchup of the season against Darryl Sutter and the Flames!
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