Can Kings win without good offense?

February, 8, 2012
2/08/12
3:45
PM PT
In the video below, ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose discusses whether the Kings can still be successful without scoring goals.

What follows is ESPNLA's hockey blogger Dan Arritt's analysis on the same issue.

Really, it just comes down to one more goal.

Through 54 games this season, the Kings are averaging a league-low 2.11 goals a game. When they score three or more, they’re 15-0-1. When they don’t, they’re 11-18-9.

That should say it all. If the Kings hope to experience a third straight trip to the postseason, they'll probably need to average at least one more goal per game than they managed through the first two-thirds of the season. And the way the defense has collapsed in the opening round of the playoffs the last two years, the Kings might need to average four just to win a series.

It’s a tribute to Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and a stout penalty-kill unit led by veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell that the Kings are even in playoff contention at this point. Thanks to the NHL’s third-lowest goals-against average at 2.06 per game and the fourth-best penalty kill, the Kings are clinging to seventh place in the Western Conference standings. Five teams trail the Kings by seven points or fewer and the surging Ducks are 14 back heading into their game Wednesday night against Eastern Conference doormat Carolina.

And, let's face it, Quick and the penalty kill can't play much better. That puts the burden square on the shoulder pads of the forwards.

Vancouver, Chicago and Detroit, the heavyweights in the West, average between 3.07 and 3.13 goals per game. That’s a window the Kings need to shoot for the rest of the way, one that’s hardly out of reach for this starting group.

The top two lines are centered by former All-Stars who should be hitting the prime of their careers, Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards. They’re flanked by proven scorers, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner, who have a combined 13 seasons with 20-plus goals. Williams is 30, Penner and Stoll are 29 and Brown turned 27 in November.

Hardly an over-the-hill gang.

One positive sign of late has been the team’s power play, a bastion for wasted opportunities the last two seasons. Over the last 12 games, however, the unit has converted on 10 of 35 man-advantage situations for a whopping 28.5 percent success rate.

Perhaps the addition of former 70-goal scorer Bernie Nicholls to the coaching staff at the beginning of last month has given the power play a fresh perspective, one that might eventually rub off on five-on-five play as well.

In their most recent game Tuesday night in Tampa Bay, the Kings poked enough holes in the Lightning defense to score three even-strength goals in the 3-1 victory. Good night on the offensive end, but the Lightning were already playing like a sieve, allowing a league-worst 3.33 goals per game.

Looking at the upcoming schedule, the offense has an opportunity to build confidence against a few other vulnerable defenses. Over the next eight games beginning Thursday in Miami against the Florida Panthers, the Kings won’t face a defense currently ranked in the top 10 in goals against.

As San Jose coach Todd McClellan said last April before the Sharks took on the Kings in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, the opening game would be “a race to three,” meaning the first team to score three goals would have the best chance of winning. The Sharks went on to win the opener, 3-2, in overtime and clinch the series in six games.

The race to three is starting a little sooner for the Kings this season.

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