Much has been discussed about the Kings improbable run of sorts under Darryl Sutter, as they’ve earned points in 14 of 15 games under the new head coach. But what that story doesn’t mention is how the Kings have gone to overtime in nine of the 15, and have just five regulation wins, despite three having come some against arguably the NHL’s most talented teams: Chicago, Vancouver and Washington.
So what’s the issue and what can be done for the Kings to avoid dropping games in overtime or the shootout? Are they playing down to their opponents? It could be the case considering that the Kings three best games of the season were the three regulation wins over the Hawks, Canucks and Caps, as previously mentioned. Take into account that the victory over Washington came on the heels of the poorest out of the Sutter era, a 1-0 loss at home to Columbus, and the playing up and down to opponents argument has to gain traction, even though they frankly struggled with the same issues last season against Terry Murray.
So while the Kings under Sutter are superb in playing 60 minutes and forcing overtime, they’re just 2-4 in shootouts and 1-2 in overtime, which equates to a total of six points that have been lost in extra frames. Gann Matsuda of Frozen Royalty spoke of the issue in an article entitled “Los Angeles Kings Can’t Afford To Keep Giving Points Away“, and he provides much food for thought on the Kings.
If you do the math, that’s ten games in which they failed to earn the extra point in the standings [this season]. Even worse for the Kings, that extra point went to a Western Conference rival seven times. Six of the overtime/shootout losses have come under new head coach Darryl Sutter. Given how tight the Western Conference playoff race is, and will continue to be right down to the wire—just eight points separate the 12th ranked team from the fourth-ranked team—although no team is going to win every game, the Kings cannot afford to giveaway too many more points.
Matsuda brings up the standings, where regulation wins play a significant role come March and April, serving as the first tie-breaker. For the Kings, regulation wins were an issue last year as the they won the fewest in the Pacific Division despite having four more wins overall than the 5th place Dallas Stars. The Kings made the playoffs last season practically on the stellar play of Jonathan Quick in the shootout, where as a team, the Kings were 10-2. This season obviously has been significantly different in that regard, but the lack of regulation wins is still key.
Should the Kings be able to pick up the pace of finishing teams off in regulation, they’ll have a loud voice in the race for the Pacific Division crown. But, having played four fewer games than the San Jose Sharks and still trailing them by a point, the Kings are far from being a top-flight team because of their inabilities to win games in 60 minute. The Kings play host to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, a team that they fittingly lost to in a shootout the last time they met, just three weeks ago.
For more on the Kings, go to RinkRoyalty.com.