Angeles Analysis – It’s Not That Similar To Last Year, After All

While observing the Kings’ impressive comeback and securing a point in a high-scoring game from the press box, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the start of last season.

At first glance, the similarities are evident. Last season, the Kings took time to establish the identity they had built the previous year. Along the way, they achieved thrilling victories and frustrating draws, with high-scoring games becoming the norm. They were always in the game, but it was perplexing as to why they consistently found themselves in a position where they needed to stage comebacks. However, the initial struggles of the season eventually leveled out by mid-December, and the team regained their form by playing the type of hockey that brought them success in the past.

During the recent game against Carolina, as the Kings overcame deficits of 3-0, 4-1, and 5-2 against last season’s best puck possession team in the NHL, it was natural to reminisce. However, when asked about the differences between the two seasons, Todd McLellan believed that the underlying cause was distinct.

McLellan stated, “This feels a little different than last year, this feels a lot more individual-based than group-based.”

In the 2021-22 season, the Kings rallied together and made the playoffs through their superb structure and a team that was greater than the sum of its parts. Last year’s team was undoubtedly more talented, but they didn’t possess the same level of structure right from the start. It took them around two months to find their overall style of play. Once it clicked, the results came, and the improved roster had a greater impact.

This season’s start has felt different. Rather than the 60 minutes of play itself, it has been individual plays within the game that have cost the Kings. Not every goal can be attributed to an individual mistake, such as Mikko Rantanen’s deflection goal on Wednesday. However, many goals can be tied to individual errors, and they have occurred in various ways.

Regarding the criticism of the Kings’ goaltending, out of the nine goals conceded by the goaltenders, how many can be solely blamed on them? Perhaps a few, as McLellan mentioned that the goaltenders would love to take back at least one goal from their respective games. In both games, it was the third goal that stands out. There might be a couple of other instances where a save was needed, but in those plays, other areas within the game were equally responsible.

For example, consider the first Colorado goal, which resulted from missed coverage against Nathan MacKinnon, one of the best players in the NHL. On Brendan Lemieux’s goal early in the second period against his former team, it was a shot that could have been defended differently, but it also occurred due to a bad line change by the Kings. In both cases, the root cause was a breakdown from an individual or group of players, rather than a lack of commitment to playing the game correctly. In general, the Kings have been trying to do things the right way, even if it hasn’t translated into immediate results.

In the entire 2022-23 season, only three times did an opponent control over 60 percent of shot attempts against the Carolina Hurricanes at 5-on-5. The Kings achieved that feat last night. Additionally, the Kings had over 70 percent control of both scoring chances and high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Last season, no team managed to accomplish this against Carolina. Although it’s still early days and the sample size is small, the Kings have excelled in terms of creating and suppressing quality chances. Over the course of a season, these trends are expected to translate into positive outcomes.

Until that happens, however, trends remain just trends. The individual mistakes highlighted by McLellan align closely with the sentiments expressed by Anze Kopitar and Trevor Moore in the locker room after the game. Although on a smaller scale, there were similar themes in the game against Colorado as well.

In theory, these types of mistakes are easier to correct. They are isolated moments and individual plays, not widespread structural breakdowns or a lack of commitment to playing the right way. McLellan pointed out some areas of concern in the defensive zone against Colorado and felt that the defense was improved in the recent game. Against Carolina, there were two shorthanded goals conceded and the misjudged line change, all of which are correctable. It’s unlikely that these will become regular occurrences, but the plays leading to those goals need to be addressed and rectified. I have confidence that they will be.

If we look at the glass half full, the Kings are one point ahead of where they were after two games last season, and that season ended with 104 points. However, it’s important to remember that there are still 80 games to go. By staying the course, the Kings will be just fine.

No practice today, Insiders. It’s a full team off-day, which I plan to fully embrace. Tomorrow morning’s practice will be an hour earlier at 10 AM before the team heads to Winnipeg later in the day. Expect comprehensive coverage as the team embarks on their first road trip of the season!


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