LA Kings: Face-offs have been key to the King’s success
The LA Kings are one of the top teams in the NHL regarding face-off winning percentage. They are sixth in the League with a 52.8 percentage at the dot.
Despite what some pundits and fans believe, face-offs are an essential aspect of the game of hockey, especially in the NHL. Winning a draw means possession, and possession means your odds of attacking and eventually scoring go up.
Out of the teams who are top nine in face-off winning percentage, only one (Chicago Blackhawks) currently sits outside of a playoff spot. The correlation is clear; if a team consistently wins face-offs, their success substantially increases. It allows for control of the puck, the execution of set plays, and advancement in the offensive zone. The importance of winning a face-off cannot be overstated.
Not only is winning draws important for offense, but in late-game situations, especially down the stretch of the season, defensive zone face-offs become even more crucial. It is critical, therefore, to stifle the attack before it begins, and it often all starts with winning the puck at the dot. This is especially important in penalty kill situations.
The Kings thrive on having the puck and that often all starts with face-offs. Fortunately, the team has, arguably, two of the best players at determining who will have that extra time of puck possession.
Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault are two of the best players in the NHL regarding face-off control and their efforts have led to more possession time, which manifests into more scoring opportunities.
Kopitar once again leads the Kings winning 56.1% of the draws he takes, while Danault’s number is a very solid 53.8%.
While the percentage numbers for the Kings’ top two centermen are impressive, the overall number of draws taken for each player is also remarkable.
Kopitar has taken a total of 1,309 draws while Danault currently sits at 1,084.
Those totals are even more significant considering the gap that separates second from third on the Kings in this category. The player who has taken the third most draws is Blake Lizotte, who sits at 672. Lizotte, who has seen most of his time this year as the Kings third line center, has the lowest percentage, sitting at 50%.
The Kings, for years, have prided themselves on having depth down the middle of the ice, and one of the primary jobs of a centerman is to win possession for his team. Even fourth-line center, Rasmus Kupari, has also been a contributing factor to the Kings’ face-off success, with his number sitting at a notable 53.2%.
As Captain Anze Kopitar said last year regarding the importance of winning the puck, “Face-offs are obviously up there [in terms of importance]…it is pretty simple, whether you start with the puck or not…we want to start with the puck obviously.”
The Kings, last season and so far this year, led by Kopitar and Danault, have done an outstanding job in terms of face-off percentages. And as a result, opportunities open up for LA’s wing players, like Adrian Kempe, Kevin Fiala, Gabe Vilardi, Viktor Arvidsson, etc.
But it all begins with the effectiveness of the four main players tasked to secure a face-off win to control the puck. And so far, Kopitar, Danault, Lizotte, and Kupari have given the Kings the advantage this season.
Main photo credit: NHL.com