It has been a rough ride. To think, just two days ago the Kings had lost the entire 2016-17 season, after just three games!
But all joking aside, despite all the fan overreaction to the slumbery start the Kings have been in, it IS Nice to see the team pull out strong back-to-back performances despite taking home only one win in those two games, and it being of the overtime variety.
This team started slow last year, in an eerily similar fashion. They were thoroughly blown out by Arizona and San Jose by a combined score of 9-1 before losing a lackluster performance against Vancouver 3-0.
But the team came back, as they did this year, in Game four of the season ironically in overtime as well. After that the team settled in, winning eight of the next 10, and hitting an extremely high watermark through the first half of the season.
Knowing the Kings system, being familiar with how rigid a structure it is, it takes time. It makes sense that in the Darryl Sutter era, especially in a time where new players and young players are phasing into the lineup like this season and last season, feeling it out is going to happen. While preseason is obviously a place where you would like to work out those kinks, a lot of the Kings key members were either away from the team participating in the World Cup of hockey, working out injuries, or surrounded by young players trying themselves to learn the system. While preseason was always meant to be a ready check on the team, it has its downsides with the roster uncertainty.
Sloppy passes were absolutely prevalent in the first two games of the season, as the Kings zone exit rate slipped to around the low 60% mark in both games. While the Minnesota games have yet to be put to hard data (Thanks NHL.tv 48-hour blackouts!) the games in a whole looked better from a visual standpoint, as well as a possession standpoint.
The team has steadily climbed in key metrics since game one.
Again, with how structured the Kings breakouts are, and how everyone works as a five-man unit, being sharp right from the get go could be slightly difficult. However, the Kings at their best operate as a well-oiled machine that wears down opponents. Last night we saw the effects of that, as a normally very high paced Dallas team was hemmed in for several long shifts in their own zone, and also struggled to gain the Kings zone at time.
Was all this expected after the shockingly bad three game example prior to Dallas? Well, if you think about it logically, yeah maybe it was.
The Kings are going to face their share of struggles with the absence of Jonathan Quick. That much is certain. They have already seen the effects of it in both games, as big goals that were mistakes pinned on the netminder occurred. While the team can play mistake free hockey, two goalies at or under a .910 career save percentage will lead to a few mishaps here and there. Overall though, the Kings team is capable of dominating play in front of their goaltenders, which is a big relief.
Getting the corsi against mark trending down would also help the team since blocked shots are not generally their forte.
Early trends, after just four simple games, are already all in the right direction. Which is a great sign. If you were feeling anxious before, maybe feel a bit better.
Kopitar has been an absolute stud, unsurprisingly, early on. Despite being without his go-to winger in Marian Gaborik, Kopitar has made it work from a possession standpoint, leading all forwards with a 63.79% CF%. Brayden McNabb and Alec Martinez have also been excellent, both leading the defensive group with similar near 64% numbers. It is early, of course, and as sample size grows numbers will correct. However, early signs of positivity should always be taken positively.
Also speaking of positivity, Nic Dowd has had two killer games in terms of analytics. Taking sample size out of the equation, he has played two games and posted a 67.74% CF%. It is buoyed by an unsustainably high chances for. Which is where we get into the more positive, forward looking things. Dowd looked REALLY good alongside Andy Andreoff and Dustin Brown. The duo of Brown and Dowd in particular were extremely impressive against Dallas, logging chance after chance on the Stars defense. With Andreoff playing the role of retriever, Dowd was able to creatively feed Brown on a number of attempts. Early signs were very positive that line, and the Brown-Dowd duo in particular may be good in the longer term. While Brown and Shore logged similar high chance for numbers, Dowd has something Shore does not: Creativity. Dowd is a bit more of a swashbuckling playmaker than Nick Shore, and it could lead to more open space for a goal starved Dustin Brown. We shall see.
Andreoff, noted above, has also been fairly strong outside of his few ill-timed penalties, while Dwight King has looked sharp early on at getting back to simple, straight-forward, space creating hockey.
While the team is still trying to hammer out what is happening on the bottom pair, Tom Gilbert has looked the stronger of the right handers vying for time while Forbort has looked far more comfortable playing the less risky, stay-at-home safety valve to Gilbert than the adventurous puck mover he was aside Greene. It will be a process on the bottom pair, but Gilbert has looked okay.
There are definitely reasons to be positive about the Kings, even though the doom and gloom that permeated from Kings twitter and message boards was heavy from the start. While a 1-3-0 record does not look at all sexy to start the year, signs are pointing in the right direction. They had two fairly tough opponents (Philly should be better this year) to open the year, and have had to deal with two major injuries and a suspension to Tanner Pearson (Who has looked absolutely devastating in his first two games.) The Kings look better, they are playing better, the numbers reflect that, the eye-test reflects that, the results will soon follow.
Follow me on twitter for news and notes about the Kings, the Reign, and the NHL
Also be sure to like HockeyBuzz on facebook!
++++I AM CURRENTLY LOOKING FOR ADVERTISERS! If you, or anyone you know would be interested in placing an ad on the blog here at HockeyBuzz then send me a PM!+++++