Three storylines to watch after the All-Star break
Post All-Star Break Storylines
The LA Kings rode into the All-Star break as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Coming off an impressive 4-0-2 six-game road trip, a franchise record roadie in terms of points, the Kings may have wanted to keep the train rolling. But, even with the momentum in LA’s favor, the break gives the team ample time to get key defensemen Mikey Anderson (upper-body injury) and Matt Roy (Covid protocol) back into the lineup and some much-needed practice to work on specific game situations.
The Kings return to the ice on February 15th, when the Edmonton Oilers make their way to Crypto.com Arena. Let’s look at a few storylines to watch for with the “second half” of the season around the corner.
The Corsi Kings
Coming into the season, for the LA Kings to find themselves in the playoff mix, they needed to generate more scoring opportunities. General Manager Rob Blake knew upgrades were necessary after finishing 27th in the NHL last season in shots per game (28.3 Shots/GP). And for that exact reason, he acquired Viktor Arvidsson, Phillip Danault, and Alex Edler.
In Arvidsson, the team added a player who showed no hesitation to shoot the puck. With Danault, the Kings now possessed a bonafide second-line center with the ability to drive play when on the ice. And with Edler, LA found a veteran presence for the left side of their blueline who could slow the game down and make the right decisions with the puck. Combining those additions with another year of experience in the system and a resurgent Drew Doughty, they are generating a franchise high of 35.7 shots per game on the season. And they have outshot their opponent a franchise-record 14 straight games heading into the break. The Corsi Kings from the early 2010s are back.
Of course, Kings fans know, perhaps more than any other fanbase, that dominating your opponent in the shot department doesn’t always translate to more wins. In the first 32 games of the season, although they were among the league leaders in shot attempts, LA possessed a team shooting percentage of 7.35%, well below the league average, which led to a goal per game total of 2.6. That lack of finishing ability contributed to a so-so record of 15-12-5 during that timeframe.
Expected Goals vs. Actual Goals (xGF vs. GF)
When speaking with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in early February, GM Rob Blake pointed to finishing being a vital issue for LA, explicitly referencing the teams’ expected goals compared to their actual goals.
The graph above is exactly what Blake is talking about. The Kings are fifth in the NHL with 2.82 expected goals per 60 minutes during 5v5 play, according to MoneyPuck.com. But, it hasn’t translated to more goals for the team, with their actual goals per 60 minutes at 2.30, making for an xGF vs. GF differential of -0.52, the worst in the league. Call it “unlucky” or the team lacking natural goal-scoring ability, whatever it may be, it needed to change.
Fortunately, the LA Kings have started to turn things around in the conversion department. In the 15 games played since January 1st, they are capitalizing on their chances at a much better rate of 9.15%, averaging 3.4 goals during that time, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. They’ll need to keep up this newfound finishing ability for the Kings to continue their push into the playoffs.