Friday, April 1, 2011

L.A. Kings March Recap

Overall Record: 44-27-6
Month Record: 9-3-2
Division Rank: 3
Conference Rank: 5
Goals For: 201 (Rank 22)
Goals Against: 182 (Rank 5)
Powerplay: 16.7% (46 of 279) (Rank 18)
Penalty Kill: 85.8% (230 of 268) (Rank 4)
Scoring Leaders: Anze Kopitar (25-48-73 – injured), Justin Williams (22-35-57 – injured), Dustin Brown (27-27-54), Ryan Smyth (21-24-45), Jack Johnson (5-36-41), Jarret Stoll (19-21-40), Drew Doughty (11-28-39). Note: Dustin Penner -14 Games with Kings (2-4-6), Season total (23-21-44).
Goaltender Stats: Jonathan Quick (33-19-3, 2.20 GAA, .919 SVG), Jonathan Bernier (11-8-3, 2.46 GAA, .913 SVG).

Overall: In terms of their record, March was a great month for the Kings as for the first time this season they were able to string together two good months in a row. The Kings have only lost five games in regulation in their last 30. Unfortunately for the Kings, it seems like everyone in the playoff race not based on Calgary kept winning this month as well, as despite their great record, the Kings only managed to climb one spot in the standings, from 6th at the end of February to 5th at the end of March. With only 5 games left on their schedule, and a magic number of 6 (that is any points the Kings get plus any points Dallas does not get), they look good for a playoff spot at least. Hell, if they are able to beat Dallas in regulation on Saturday, and get a little help from the red hot Ducks on Sunday, they may have a playoff spot secured by Monday morning. Which would be good, because with five games left on the schedule, everyone of them is going to be a battle – and without Kopitar and Williams, they will be even more challenging to win.

Injuries: The Kings faced a horrid month for injuries – as their leader scorer, Anze Kopitar, went down for the year with an ankle injury. No matter how far the Kings go, Kopitar won’t be back until next season. Right before then, their second leading scorer, Justin Williams, went down with a shoulder injury, although he may be back by late in the first round, but how effective he can be remains to be seen. And, like all season, Scott Parse continues to be injured. What happened to him being ready by late February?

Offense: As it has all season, the offense for the Kings struggled in March. If you can believe it with that record in March, the Kings actually dropped four spots in the Goal For category, now ranking 22nd in the league. And you cannot really blame that on Kopitar’s absence – he was only out for 2 ½ games. The Kings play a defense first system, and it has worked for them, but they have to find a way to generate more goals – with Kopitar and Williams out, that means if you’re a forward not named Dustin Brown (who has been on fire recently), you have to step up your offensive game – and it wouldn’t hurt to get some more points from the defense.

Defense: The defense is the reason why the Kings are in the position they are. They have the fifth best goals against in the entire NHL, and we have seen them this season be able to silence even the most potent offensive teams on a good night. With the goals for not coming, this needs to tighten up even more. The top 6 d-men have all played great – perhaps a little more is needed defensively from Jack Johnson, and Drew Doughty could stop turning the puck over at the other teams blueline, otherwise keep up the good work.

Goaltending: The first half of the year, it looked like if the Kings wanted to win, they needed to put Jonathan Quick in net, as he was having a great year, but rookie Jonathan Bernier was struggling a little bit. Now, Quick is still having a great year, but Bernier has stepped up his game and looks confident in net as well. It is great to have two solid goalies in your line-up – sooner or later, one will have to go, but for now, everything is great.

Powerplay: Quite honestly, I have no idea how the Kings powerplay is ranked 18th in the league. Quite simply, their powerplay sucks. It is disorganized and ineffective and has been all season. I don’t know why I’m so happy when the Kings get one, because more often than not, it actually acts as a momentum drain on the team. It’s awful.

Penalty Kill: When the Kings are winning, it’s due in large part to the penalty kill. The two long, bad streaks the Kings had – in November and January – were when the PK wasn’t getting the job done. Now they’ve killed something like 80 of the last 85, and have a penalty kill that looks pretty much unstoppable. This will need to continue.

Looking Ahead: It is has a mixture of elation and agony for the Kings this month. It started off on a high note when we finally got the Left Winger we needed in Dustin Penner. He seemed to fit in well for the first 6 games on the Kings, but has struggled in the last seven. It can be tough to join a team late in the year, so I for one, am glad we have next year as well. On the ice, the Kings have done great this month. You really cannot ask much more than they gave – only losing 3 games in regulation – and two of them being against Vancouver. The agony came when Williams and then Kopitar got hurt, and the realization that the Kings have no one in their system to replace them (well, that’s not true – we have two people who could – but Loktinov is hurt for the season, and we can’t recall Schenn). The truth of the matter is, the Kings are looking good to make the playoffs. If they don’t, I’m sure everyone will say it’s because they lost Kopitar. But in reality, if they don’t make the playoffs, it will be because they gave up after they lost Kopitar – they have a good enough team to compete even without him in the lineup. I have liked what I have seen in the first two games post Kopitar injury – even if we did lose one of them (but seriously, even with Kopitar, beating Vancouver would be hard). I fully expect the Kings to be in the playoffs this year. I just hope they don’t face Vancouver, San Jose or the red hot Ducks in the first round. Against anyone else (Red Wings, Coyotes, Predators, Black Hawks and Stars), I still think the Kings have a chance to win. And that has got to be their goal. Everyone faces injuries – it’s how you deal with it that defines your team.

I just over a week, I’ll be back with a season recap, and a look ahead at all the playoff matchups. Go Kings Go!

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