Nearly 20 games into the 2021-22 season, we look at some of the advanced analytics for the LA Kings roster.
With a break in the season until Wednesday, we thought now would be a good time to dive into some of the early-season analytics of the LA Kings roster. After falling 2-1 in overtime on Sunday, the Kings are riding a four-game losing streak, this coming on the heels of a seven-game winning streak.
Who are the Kings, really?
Hopefully, Todd McLellan’s group can find some consistency in the win column as the season unfolds. But after nearly 20 games played, we have a good sample size to evaluate analytically. The two advanced analytics primarily discussed are the players’ goals-for percentage (GF%), which essentially equates to their actual production.
How many goals did the team score (GF) compared to how many they allowed (GA) when that player was on the ice.
Then comes the expected goals-for percentage (xGF%) that takes into consideration the shot quality, with 50 percent considered average. If a player had a 65 xGF%, they were expected to outscore their opponent. Under 50 percent, and they left a lot to be desired.
Then what I often like to do is to take the difference in GF% and xGF% to observe how a player is actually performing compared to their expectations. Still with me?
Let’s dive in.
Through the first 18 games of the season, here is the complete breakdown of the Kings’ GF% vs. xGF% metrics via Natural Stat Trick.
Personally, I like looking at these numbers because it’s a good comparison against the eye test. Brendan Lemieux has four goals over his last six games. In 12 games total, he has a net-positive 27.27 GF% vs. xGF%, pacing all skaters.
So let’s start there.
How good has Lemieux fit into his role as a fourth-liner this season? Analytically speaking, very well. When the Kings acquired him mid-season last year, I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I saw a guy with a ton of grit, who would drop the gloves to fire up his team, but his offense has been a welcome contribution to this club.
Adding another advanced statistic to the mix, Lemieux leads all Kings’ players with a 59.53 Corsi-For percentage (CF%), meaning puck possession as it relates to the team. Drew Doughty technically leads the team with a 60.75 CF%, but he only played in four games before the injury.
The 25-year-old has done well establishing position in front of the net to bury home rebounds like in the Carolina game while also featuring a snap wrist shot from the right side against Arizona.
The duo of Lemieux and Blake Lizotte has fit so well together on the fourth line. They are both gritty, tough, annoying players to play against because their motor just never stops. Lizotte takes a lot of heat for his lack of offensive production, but he does a lot of the little things that don’t necessarily make the scoresheet.
The former undrafted free agent has a nose for the puck, skating in fearlessly to win puck battles, despite being massively outsized by the majority of his adversaries. As such, his 17.71 GF% vs. xGF% is third on the team behind Lemieux and Carl Grundstrom.
As a group, the fourth line is playing more like the second or third line right now. Including Arthur Kaliyev, the trio has accounted for a 47.60 xGF% and a 55.42 CF%. You can’t really ask for much more from your “fourth line.”
Bjornfot responded well to assistant coach Trent Yawney‘s request to be more aggressive in the attacking zone. The 20-year-old has passed the eye test in terms of jumping into the rush more often. He likely won’t ever be a significant points producer, always a defensive defenseman first.
But his assist on Alex Iafallo‘s game-winning goal against Buffalo was eye-opening, and he’s played great through the first quarter of the season. He had a couple of defensive breakdowns in the Carolina game and one notable one against Nazem Kadri last year, but that’s all part of cutting your teeth at the NHL level.
His 13.56 GF% vs. xGF% leads all defensemen on the Kings roster.
Danault’s transition from Montreal to Los Angeles has been seamless. He’s brought his reputation as an elite defensive center to the Kings, and then some. Danault is averaging 0.50 points per game, broken down into three goals and six assists through the first quarter of the schedule.
He’s been a great fit at the 2C, boosting Iafallo’s game in the process. And whether it’s been Adrian Kempe or Andreas Athanasiou rounding out the second line, the trio has accounted for a 55.00-plus xGF%.
Individually, his 51.63 xGF% sits as the fifth-best among forwards.
Maatta has just six assists since arriving in Los Angeles via trade two summers ago. Originally believed to be a solid pairing partner for Drew Doughty on the top pairing unit, Maatta’s role is now seventh defenseman at best. He’s been drawing into the top-six defenders lately, though, due to the injuries to Doughty and Sean Walker.
However, it might be time to give someone else a look as Maatta being in the lineup is hurting the Kings, analytically. The 27-year-old has accounted for a 40.18 xGF% and a -3.82 GF% vs. xGF%, both not great, obviously.
And according to Evolving Hockey’s RAPM charts, Maatta isn’t a positive in any category.
And you could argue that Kale Clague is propping up Maatta’s play as the duo has been partnered on the team’s third defensive pairing unit as of late. Clague, without Maatta, is not lighting the world on fire by any means, but he’s accounted for a 43.06 xGF%. Maatta, without Clague, is at a 37.22 xGF%.
The Kings recently called up and sent back down Sean Durzi. It might be time to give the former second-round pick a long look at the NHL level, especially considering he’s in the final year of his entry-level contract regardless if he plays in one NHL game.
Vilardi has been the biggest disappointment this season, and he was recently sent down to the Ontario Reign of the AHL, where he has been playing along the wing instead of at center. I think most believed that the 22-year-old would be a much better fit at the wing, taking some of the defensive responsibilities off his plate and letting him do what he does best, and that’s shooting the puck.
Still, his -33.47 GF% vs. xGF% is egregious when you consider his inconsistencies last year as well. However, he’ll likely get another call-up when he’s ready to be a contributor at the wing. Hopefully, he will start to light the lamp a bit more often, too.