EL SEGUNDO, CA — The Los Angeles Kings will take a seven-game winning streak into the Windy City tonight, where they will face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.
But as positive as a seven-game winning streak is, the fact remains that the vast majority of their scoring has come from one line, not to mention that they have just one goal from their blue line corps.
To illustrate, heading into tonight’s action, the Kings have scored 24 goals this season. 15 have been scored by the line of Jeff Carter, Milan Lucic and Tyler Toffoli, who has scored nine of those goals.
Toffoli’s nine goals matches the number scored by the rest of the team.
Center Anze Kopitar has scored three goals so far this season, but what is very, very strange, if not downright concerning, is that he has zero assists through the first ten games.
When yours truly mentioned that Kopitar not having contributed an assist yet this season was weird, head coach Darryl Sutter agreed, adding, “I still think he’ll get 40. I’m sure if you looked at last year, Kopitar, with an injury, he had a tough start last year, too.”
Although he does not seem to be overly concerned by the lack of balanced scoring, Sutter indicated that more of his team’s forwards need to step up their games.
“Kopi’s been on the ice for a lot of goals,” Sutter observed. “That line, five-on-five, is not—whomever has been on that line [during] five-on-five has scored one goal. But if you look at him, by himself, the number of three-on-three’s he’s on the ice for, four-on-four that he’s on for, power play that he’s on for—his on-ice goals for are good, but his wingers are clearly not up to par. I’ll just continue to—until somebody looks like they’re hot.”
Defenseman Drew Doughty pointed out that facing the opposition’s top line on every shift is having an effect on Kopitar’s line.
“I’m pretty sure that, every single night, the other team’s best defensive players, or their best line, is up against Kopi, trying to shut him down,” Doughty noted. “That’s what’s happened for eight or nine years, trying to shut him down. That gives other lines room to do work. They’re not having to deal with playing against the top center like Kopi has to.”
Doughty indicated that he isn’t concerned about the lack of balanced scoring yet.
“No, no concerns,” he said. “With the depth we have on this team—there’s a lot of things that go into it. Everyone just looks at the points, who scores goals, who doesn’t score goals. But that’s not what a team is about. There’s so many other things that go into it.”
“The reasons we’re winning—yeah, we need more people to be scoring, but the people who aren’t scoring are doing the right things in the defensive zone,” he added. “They’re doing the things the coaches want them to do, so no, I’m not worried.”
As for blue line scoring, through the first ten games, only Jake Muzzin has put the puck in the back of the net.
“We’ve been scoring some key goals on the power play, which is what a team needs,” said defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. “We’re working at it, game by game. We, as a defense, and myself, can do a better job of getting pucks on the net, and creating more second opportunities, and not getting shots blocked, or missing the net. That’s something we can put our focus on.”
As Ehrhoff alluded to, fellow blue liner Alec Martinez indicated that the defensemen need to provide the forwards with more opportunities around the net.
“Throughout the year, you need scoring by committee to be successful, especially towards the end of the year, and into the playoffs,” he noted. “For awhile there, the defensemen were doing a good job of getting pucks [to the net], but I think we can do a lot better job of getting shots through that first layer, getting it to the front of the net. That creates havoc for the other team, and it creates opportunities for us.”
“I wouldn’t say that I’m overly concerned right now, but it is something that we need to produce, as defensemen,” he added. “But at the same time, it’s getting it there. You play against the best goalies in the world. Chances are, if you fire it from the blue line and he sees it, you’re not going to score.”
“I’d be more concerned if we weren’t getting the opportunities to shoot. But we are. We’ve just to do a better job of getting it through.”
Despite the lack of balanced scoring, the fact remains that the Kings are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, scoring 3.29 goals per game during the streak.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re ten games in, and you’ve got guys with zero or one goal,” Sutter lamented. “Basically, it goes back to what I say—that you’ve got to have a good foundation to win hockey games in this league. You’ve got to get it in different ways until some guys who are supposed to [start scoring].”
“I don’t think we need to score anymore,” said Doughty. “We kind of lacked it in the first few games, but this is a 3-2 league. We’re fine with winning games by one goal. As long as we’re playing good defense, giving up one or two goals a night, we should have a good chance of winning. We’re fine with that.”
But how long will that last? Even Doughty knows that the status quo is not sustainable for a team trying to make the playoffs, let alone win the third Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history.
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography/
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