Through strong defensive efforts, the LA Kings are being recognized as a competitive team in the league once again.
Years ago, the LA Kings were always one of the best teams in the league when it came to defensive metrics. Time and time again, they were top-10 in goals against, and this was a recipe for success.
During their rebuilding years, however, there was a steep drop-off when it came to limiting the opposing team’s goals. This had a lot to do primarily with player personnel and goaltending struggles.
It has all changed this year, though, as the Kings have allowed just 96 goals against, which is good for seventh-best in the NHL. Just last year, they were 19th in the same category. So what is behind this drastic improvement?
Off-season personnel upgrades have definitely played a role in the Kings’ defensive success this year. Phillip Danault’s impact (who is a perennial top-10 Selke candidate) cannot be overstated.
Viktor Arvidsson is also not afraid to play a 200-foot game, and Alex Edler was arguably the Kings’ most consistent defenseman before he was injured last month.
Improved goaltending has also helped the Kings this year. Jonathan Quick looks like the Vezina candidate he was ten years ago, and Cal Petersen is improving from his somewhat inconsistent start to the season.
Further, LA Kings’ goalies this year (including Garret Sparks’ one start) have combined to post a .916 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against average.
The Kings’ style of play has also improved. They are not as passive as they have been in recent years, and LA is becoming known as a hard-working team that controls puck possession and will limit their opponents’ chances.
Instead of waiting for the game to come to them, they are now dictating the game’s tempo through aggressive forecheck and puck control. As a result, the Kings are again becoming a team that is hard to play against.
Credit also has to be given to the head coach of the Kings, Todd McLellan. Many believed McLellan shouldn’t be judged on his job performance until his third year. Well, his third year as head coach is nearly halfway done, and the overall progress that has been made by his team is noticeable.
This season, the LA Kings are starting to be recognized as a competitive team in the league. Many factors have helped with this improvement, but all of them together prove that the Kings are a threat in the West and deserve the NHL’s respect once again.