Why the Kings are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders

Why the Kings are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders

Postautor: lucky » 5 sty 2018, o 09:12

When we hear analysts refer to teams' "window to win," it can mean one of two things: Franchise players are in their prime or a good-not-great club has all of its best players peaking at once. For example, the Chicago Blackhawks routinely traded their early-round draft picks at the deadline for role players while superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were at the height of their powers. Last season, we saw the Ottawa Senators ride a hot streak to the Eastern Conference Final -- only to have a predictable slide backward this season.
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It appears that both Chicago and Ottawa's windows to win are either closed or only open a crack. And once that window slams shut, it's rebuilding time. At the end of last season, the Los Angeles Kings' window looked like it was closed, locked and boarded up. They finished 2016-17 with 86 standings points and scored the fourth fewest even-strength goals in the NHL behind three franchises building from scratch (Colorado, New Jersey, Buffalo).
Lacking the cap room to make a big free-agent splash and with few exciting prospects coming through the system, the Kings seemed to be on the cusp of fading to the back of the Pacific Division. But a coaching change from Darryl Sutter to John Stevens and the resurgence of two stars has flung their window wide open again as the Kings have the third-best record in the West and the second-best goal differential. How did they bounce back? Is L.A.'s success for real or will they fade in the second half of the season? Let's have a look.
In 39 games, No. 1 center Anze Kopitar has 28 even-strength points (14 goals, 14 assists). Last season, he scored only seven 5-on-5 goals and added 25 assists in 76 games. Kopitar is on pace to reach totals much closer to his best seasons when he scored 50 even-strength points in 2011-12 and 44 two seasons ago. Beyond point production, the same numbers that clearly demonstrated Kopitar's greatness during the Kings' Cup years were down during the past two seasons. His relative Corsi for 2016-17 was minus-0.3 percent, marking the first time in his career the Kings had a better shot differential without him than with him.
Everything has come back to life for Kopitar this season. He's managed a plus-3.2 percent relative Corsi, and the Kings have outscored opponents 38-25 with their star center on ice Part of Kopitar's jump in production is puck luck. At 20.9 percent, his even-strength shooting percentage is higher than any season of his career, and nearly triple last season's mark. That's bound to come down. But L.A.'s franchise forward is also getting better opportunities. According to the analytics site Natural Authentic Landon Collins Jersey Stat Trick, he had 136 scoring chances in 2016-17, but is on pace for 168 this season. That would be the second-best rate of his career.
Dustin Brown's bounce back has also been driven by Kopitar. Brown has 29 total points and 25 at even-strength in 39 games following four straight seasons with under 40 points. Last season, Sutter broke up Kopitar and Brown, playing them together for fewer than 400 minutes. They have already cleared that mark this season. And when they are deployed at the same time, Kopitar and Brown have outscored opponents 30-17 and have an outstanding 54.2 Corsi for percentage.
Brown is back to playing nearly 20 minutes per game after three seasons of spending fewer than 17 minutes on ice. Stevens has also found a diamond in the rough to tag along with the two veterans. Kopitar, Brown and former Minnesota-Duluth scorer Alex Iafallo have spent the second most minutes together of any line in the NHL (389) and produced a 52.0 percent shot-attempt differential and 17-12 scoring advantage. Iafallo went undrafted, and had a huge senior campaign in college, with 51 points in 42 games in 2016-17. His presence on the top line has allowed Stevens to move other skilled players down the lineup.
Recently, Tanner Pearson has moved up to the top line. He and Kopitar have a 56.1 percent Corsi for percentage in 89 minutes. Kopitar and Brown's chemistry gives the head coach flexibility at the left wing spot on the top line. While the Kings' top line has high shooting and on-ice save percentages, Kopitar's numbers reflect much more of a return to excellence rather than an anomaly. And that's good news for Los Angeles's chances of returning to prominence in http://www.officialducksshoponline.com/authentic-7-andrew-cogliano-jersey.html the West. Los Angeles's system has not created another superstar at the level of Kopitar or Drew Doughty in recent years, but several young players have developed into solid middle-six players, giving the Kings some bite when Kopitar's line is off the ice.
For a large chunk of the season, three of the key 25-and-under players made up an impressive line. Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and http://www.authenticavalanchejerseys.com/Authentic-Peter-Forsberg-Jersey Adrian Kempe -- all drafted and developed by the Kings -- produced a 12-6 goal advantage and 53.2 percent Corsi for percentage in 169 minutes. Recently, veteran scorer Marian Gaborik has joined Toffoli and Kempe. Toffoli has already topped his 2016-17 total of 16 goals, including 13 at even strength, while Kempe has potted 11 goals at evens and Pearson has Erick Aybar Authentic Jersey 19 even-strength points (six goals, 13 assists).
You likely won't see any of them in the All-Star game, but the trio has combined for 30 even-strength goals, which has played a big role in making up for the absence of star center Jeff Carter. It appears Carter is still far away from a return, which could push the Kings to add more depth scoring at the trade deadline.

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