According to UrbanDictionary.com, trolling is defined as, among other things, “trying to get a rise out of someone.” Typically, mainstream society reserves that term for people who post intentionally inflammatory comments on the Internet while hiding behind a computer screen. However, Los Angeles Kings players competing for their respective countries in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have certainly given the term a new meaning thus far.
Through the quarterfinal round of action (with each country’s team having played a total of four games), Kings players have generated the following statistics:
Jeff Carter – 3 goals, 1 assist
Drew Doughty – 4 goals, 2 assists, +3 plus/minus rating
Dustin Brown – 2 goals, 1 assist
Jonathan Quick – 3 wins, 72 saves, .935 save percentage
Anze Kopitar – 1 goal, 1 assist
Slava Voynov – +2 plus/minus rating
For comparison’s sake, just before the NHL’s Olympic break, Quick had accumulated 3 wins for the Kings in his previous ELEVEN starts. Carter, similarly, had only scored 3 goals in the Kings’ final ELEVEN games before the break. Brown hadn’t recorded an assist for the Kings since DECEMBER, and had scored a total of two goals in the Kings’ final FIFTEEN games before the break. BUT, Doughty takes the cake: he had scored a total of four goals–the same amount he has scored in four games at the Olympics–during the entire months of November, December, January, AND February, COMBINED.
Not coincidentally, I’m sure–when Dustin Brown registered his last assist on December 21st against the Colorado Avalanche to help lead the Kings to victory, the Kings’ record stood at 25-8-4, but they have since gone 6-14-2. As has been well documented–and eerily reminiscent of scoring droughts in seasons past, particularly during the 2011-12 prior to the Jeff Carter trade–the Kings have been taking plenty of shots, but they seemingly always find a way of getting deflected, blocked, or hitting a post or crossbar.
A popular misconception has always been that the defensive-minded ‘system’ run by Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter is stifling, and players that would otherwise be scoring goals are too preoccupied with defensive responsibilities. The reality is, though, that after acquiring Jeff Carter in late February 2012, the Kings proceeded to score nearly three goals per game during the Stanley Cup playoffs (placing them 3rd among 16 playoff teams). They then averaged nearly three goals per game during the 2012-13 strike-shortened season (placing them in the top-10 highest-scoring teams in the NHL). Prior to the Kings’ prolonged slump after the December 21st victory against the Avalanche, they were averaging 2.65 goals per game–an average that would currently place them in the middle of the pack of NHL teams. Since December 21st, however, they’ve only averaged 1.59 goals per game–which is an historically low per-game average.
The sense most observers have gotten from watching the Kings play during this slump is that they generally play sound defense in front of one of the absolute best goalies in the NHL, and they continue to shoot, and shoot, and shoot, but with every post, crossbar, missed rebound, and glorious save by an opposing team’s goalie, the team seems to lose hope, lose energy, and then eventually, they start to believe that they really weren’t meant to score. This self-fulfilling prophecy became a black cloud that hung over the Kings until they acquired Carter in 2012. No one expected to ever see that type of prolonged slump, and accompanying malaise, again–at least not with this version of the Kings.
So with that malaise as a backdrop, we turn to the Olympics to find competing Kings players–particularly Doughty and Carter–to be scoring in droves. Of course, Olympic play doesn’t directly translate to NHL play, and vice-versa, and four total games is a VERY small sample size. But for Kings players to go from being unable to buy a goal, to scoring left and right, it certainly makes a Kings fan stop and take notice. At the end of the day, teams will have an opportunity to make trades again in a few days (up until March 5th), and when the Kings resume play in a week, they will hopefully have a room full of refreshed, re-energized players who may be joined by a scoring forward who can help the team’s offense the way Carter did two seasons ago.