The All-Star game is over and done with, it’s manufactured fanfare a thing of dust on Jeremy Roenick’s overactive and unappealing lungs.
There will be no more extended breaks in the mad dash to the playoffs over the next 32 games. Starting Wednesday the Kings will never have more than 3 consecutive days off without a game and even that will happen only twice. 7 back to backs, all of which involve travel. A March schedule that features games against Boston, Vancouver, St. Louis, San Jose, Chicago and all three of Nashville, Anaheim and Detroit twice. If the Kings thought they were tired before they were mistaken. Tired is what’s to come.
Player-X already wrote an article I don’t think I read about the playoffs, our point totals and some general umbrage toward Hammond. As you have probably noticed I haven’t been around much the last two weeks. If you haven’t noticed, well then I suppose we aren’t as close as I thought and I’m sad. I’ve been busy with work fluctuations and personal onslaughts and my thought time for the Kings has been diminished. So I thought what better way to jump back into this gurgling cauldron I helped concoct than to assess the performance of our Kings before this final respite and what I expect it to be after.
I don’t really want to go player by player here. Overall the Kings have been fantastic in short spurts, strong during a few extended stretches and consistently nonplussed at least once a week. It has been a raucous season thus far with much change. We came in with a fairly large overhaul to the roster with the addition of Mike Richards and Simon Gagne and 1/3 of the bottom six lines getting what were supposed to be upgrades in Trent Hunter and Ethan Moreau. The expectations for offense were vastly higher than in the 2 season’s past, hopes that have since been thoroughly dashed. Just past the halfway mark of the season, Richards is still seemingly recovering from a concussion, Gagne is a footnote, Moreau is in Manchester and Hunter is continually doing very little with his ice time on what has recent been the Kings strongest line. The team’s ability to score goals is as reliable as the bowel movements of a Beverly Hills housewife on a no-fiber diet. We still reside at the bottom of the NHL bowl, sucking lichen off the hull of a sunken ship. Conversely and in keeping with the theme, at 3rd best in the NHL the defense is as solid as the product of a post-Steakhouse trip to the toilet.
Fret not I say, for when you score less than 3 goals per game for as long as the Kings did, improving the standing of an amortized statistic is a lengthy process, and the often maligned concept of “what have you done for me lately?” becomes in its rarest iteration, highly pertinent.
Since the Kings January 9th domination of the Washington Capitals, a game I truly felt was a turning point for this team, the Kings have scored 22 goals in 8 games (I’m including that Capitals game). That’s an average of 2.75 per game. Though one must note that this was accomplished in highly bi-polar fashion (those goals totals were 5, 4, 4, 1, 2, 1, 1, 4), that is a dramatic improvement and not really indicative of the team’s overall measly 2.14 for the season. 2.75 for the season would hypothetically put the Kings’ offense at 12th overall in the league. So recent history suggests the Kings are going to better places than from where they came.
Well, this would be the case if you chose to believe stats I selected. Toss in the shutout against Columbus that immediately preceded that Capitals game and the average drops to 2.44. Count the two games before that and it drops to 2.18. So as always, stats are tricky things and the desires of those shoving them down your throat are as, if not more important than the numbers themselves. What we truly get when we look at the recent Kings is the model of inconsistency. This really doesn’t tell us anything about what to expect for the rest of the season. We can surmise that Kings have a good chance of making the playoffs based off the play of Jonathan Quick the stellar defense in front of him. We can also asses that they have a coin flip’s chance of doing well in the playoffs, entirely dependent upon what type of streak they are on come April and the strengths and weakness of the opponents they draw. I say opponents in a vague nod of optimism I hope the hockey gods will not overlook nor spite.
I already said I didn’t want to talk about individual players, because what is there to say? I want Stoll to score more? Richards to do the same? Penner, Williams, Loktionov, Richardson, Johnson, Kopi and Doughty too? Overall I have liked the synergy Darryl Sutter has brought to the team. The blatant disorganization we saw under Murray’s last months has only reared its upsetting head once or twice since his departure. Cohesiveness wins games. Skill is wonderful. Toughness is important. Strategy is imperative. But what truly makes a team capable of winning more than they lose is for everyone to stick to the same plan and execute that plan well, whatever it may be, offensive, defensive or some ideal combination of the two. It is what gave Murray any success he had here in the first place and its rabid dilution directly led to two first round playoff exits.
Richards will come around the more his head stops humming. I have no real hopes for Penner. I expect Kopi to go on at least one more tear and for Doughty to continue to be more effective offensively. The rest, I think we know what we have and I’m not overly thrilled with that nor overly dismayed. The changes I expect are not so much in player performance as they are with player personnel. On Lombardi’s side of things, Bobby seems to have his head firmly planted in the ass of trade deadline musings. I simply want Sutter to keep whatever group he winds up with playing the same game, the same way, as often as possible and without Murray’s standard departure from the norm in the playoffs. If this team is scoring more and winning with 3 and 4 goals then wonderful, show me 3 and 4 goal games in the playoffs. If they are winning on Quick and defense like they have been, then show me that same team in the post season.
Whatever team comes out on the other side of the next 2 months, if it carries itself over into mid-April and beyond, then I will know we have achieved a level of maturity that has been noticeably absent and is ultimately necessary for success in games 83 and beyond.
Welcome back mother fuckers, let the true madness of the season commence.