Kings: Offense has found the formula for success
March, 21, 2012
By Dan Arritt | ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES—So this is what a fine-tuned offense looks like.
Through the first 61 games this season, the Kings managed just 130 goals for a paltry 2.13 scoring average, good enough for last place in the league.
Then they made a bold move just before the trade deadline at the end of last month, sending a young, puck-moving defenseman in Jack Johnson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for high-scoring forward Jeff Carter.
In the 12 games since Carter arrived, the Kings have scored 42 goals for a 3.5 scoring average. Probably not surprising, they’ve won nine of those games, including the last five, to move back into eighth place in the Western Conference standings with nine games remaining.
Carter has certainly done his part, registering six goals and three assists since arriving in L.A., but others have also stepped up their game.
Anze Kopitar has seven goals and seven assists since the Carter trade. Mike Richards has two goals in the last three games after going 25 straight without hitting the back of the net. Even left wing Dustin Penner is beginning to find his groove after producing just seven goals in his first 73 regular-season games with the Kings. He has scored key goals in each of the last two victories.
So who made the key that finally unlocked the offense?
Instead of a locksmith, it might take a chemist to figure that out.
“We’re doing all the things we were doing before and we’re getting rewarded,” said Kopitar, who matched his career high Tuesday night with a goal in his fourth straight game. “It’s just things are clicking for us. The chemistry is there, the lines are consistent, everybody’s scoring … in this league, with everybody being so close, quality-wise, it’s nice to have chemistry going within the lines and consistency of scoring.”
A change in leadership with the hiring of coach Darryl Sutter in mid-December experienced some growing pains, but the locker room seems to have gone all-in with his philosophies.
One area the Kings failed miserably during the first three-quarters of the season was getting off to good starts. In the 61 games before Carter arrived, the Kings managed just 28 first-period goals, a distant last in the NHL. In the last 12 games, however, they've scored 19 goals in the opening period.
“I think as a group, collectively, we’re better prepared, having better starts, working harder and we’re starting to find some chemistry,” said veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell.
Then he went out of his way to praise two other new additions to the team during the second half of the season, rookie forwards Dwight King and Jordan Nolan. Since getting called up from the AHL, they've used their big frames and young legs to wear down the opposition and get the puck to the scorers.
“They’ve done a tremendous job for us as far as winning puck battles,” he said. [They’re] big guys who can get the puck for us and into the hands of our players who are good with it. That’s what you need, right? You need the puck to score goals and we’re having guys win battles and hold onto pucks.”