With the Los Angeles Kings recently reaching the midpoint of the NHL season it is time for us to do a midseason review. Where do the Kings stand right now and where are they headed? We have the answers!
Where the Kings currently stand
At the time of writing the Kings are currently 26-13-4 and are in 3rd place in the Pacific Division. With 56 points Los Angeles is tied for 5th in the Western Conference and are in position to once again make the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Kings started the season hot and have been relatively consistent, even with star Goaltender Jonathan Quick sidelined for a substantial part of the first half.
What the 2nd half looks like for the Kings
Quick is back in the lineup, which is huge for the Kings outlook for the rest of the season. While backup Goaltenders Martin Jones, who was recently sent down to Manchester, and Ben Scrivens played incredible well in Quick’s absence, there is simply no substitute for possibly the best Goalie in the NHL. The Kings lead the NHL is Goals against at 2.0 per contest due to the combination of Quick, Scrivens and Jones and the Kings stellar defense, led by Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov.
If the Kings continue to play their game and find a bit more offense there is no reason they won’t end the season as one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference and make a run at a Stanley Cup. There is simply too much talent and experience on this current Kings team to not expect greatness from them.
I would expect that the roster isn’t going to change much going forward other than the occasional call up. The only move I can see GM Dean Lombardi making is trading for another winger who can put the puck in the net. The Kings rank 22nd in the league at 2.5 goals per game. While that isn’t a great number for Los Angeles, it is in line with their performance over the past two seasons. Scoring isn’t the Kings game. Defense is. If Lombardi can swing a deal to grab a scorer without giving up too many assets that would be something he should consider. Otherwise, the Kings should ride with what got them here. No need to shake up a good thing.
1st Half MVP
Anze Kopitar has been the most consistent King and leads the team in points, assists and plus-minus ratio. He has, along with Jeff Carter, been the most efficient and effective offensive option and has carried the Kings through a couple different stretches this season. For this he deserves to be the Kings first half MVP.
Surprise of the 1st half
It has to be Martin Jones, right? Jones, who was brought up after Quick went down with an injury, was suppose to be the backup for Ben Scrivens, however, he played so well he earned a substantial amount of starts and won his first eight starts at Goalie. I repeat, HE WON HIS FIRST EIGHT STARTS at Goalie. For the record, that tied the all-time best start by a Goaltender. Yea, I’d consider that the biggest surprise.
What the Kings need to improve on
Offense. It’s that simple. If the Kings are going to win the Western Conference they are going to have to beat teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks. While the Kings possess perhaps the best goaltending tandem in the NHL, at some point the offense is going to have to have a big performance in the playoffs. The Kings rank 23rd in the NHL in Power Play percentage at 15.2%. That is an unacceptable rate for one of the best teams in the league. Whether the offense comes from within or if the Kings go outside the organization to acquire another offensive threat, it needs to happen and it needs to happen soon.
Olympic Hockey concerns?
There are definitely concerns over the amount of key Kings who are going to be playing heavy minutes in the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Six Kings were chosen to represent their countries in the Winter Olympics. Those players are:
USA- Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown
Canada- Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty
Slovenia- Anze Kopitar (only NHL player on roster)
Russia- Slava Voynov
The Kings six best players, in my opinion, will be playing heavy minutes for their respective nations in the Olympic Hockey tournament. The Kings will be praying that none of them are injured and that they will not be fatigued later in the season due to the extra ice time. The good news? Most of the NHL contenders are dealing with the same Olympic concerns. Let’s hope a couple of them come home with some nice hardware.
Championship! The Kings are built for now. Anything less than a 2nd Stanley Cup in 3 years should be considered a mild disappointment. If the Kings can continue their superior defensive play and find their rhythm on offense there is no reason the 2013-2014 Kings can’t raise another banner in Staples Center.