The Los Angeles Kings are officially midway through the 2017-18 season and in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt. It’s time to hand out some grades after 41 games.
Los Angeles Kings 2017-18 Midseason Report Card
Not much was done this past offseason to ignite an offence that looked sluggish and old last year, largely the result of payroll constraints. Faith in player resurgences was rewarded, though. Anze Kopitar leads the team with 43 points in 41 games. He only had 52 points in 76 games last season. Kopitar has already scored 17 goals this year while only tallying 12 all of last season.
The Kopitar recovery was always more plausible than what’s been occurring with Dustin Brown, though. Brown is second on the team with 32 points in 41 games. He had 36 points in 80 games last year and hasn’t even cracked 40 points since his 54 point output in 2011-12.
Tyler Toffoli is tied with Kopitar for the team lead with 17 goals for an offense that ranks 14th in the league in goals per game. This has come with their leading scorer from last season, Jeff Carter, playing in only six games so far due to an ankle injury. Imagine what will happen when Carter finally returns to the lineup. Goals do not seem as hard to come by this season as they were last season. While the offence still is not the main strength of the team, at least there’s always a real belief that they can still pull out a win despite giving up more than a couple goals on the defensive end. C+
The Kings play physical hockey and make their opponents work for everything. However, the Kings are giving up more shots on goal this season compared to last season, but the return of Jonathan Quick has limited any damage that could come from that.
Drew Doughty is having another excellent season on the blue line. He is proving once again that he is a perennial Norris Trophy contender. With 30 points in 41 games, Doughty is on pace for a career high in points. He is also third in the NHL with a +22.
Alec Martinez has slowed down his offensive production compared to last season, but Jake Muzzin has already nearly equalled his points total from all of last season. Muzzin has 23 points in 41 games after putting up 28 points in 82 games last year. He’s also on pace for a career season. Another piece could definitely help bolster the unit, but they have been solid. B
Quick is back in the crease and looks better than ever. After playing in just 17 games last season due to a groin injury, it was going to be fascinating to see if he could regain his previous form. He has not disappointed. He ranks 4th amongst qualified goaltenders in the NHL with a .928 save percentage. That total represents his second-best seasonal output of his career and is .11 points higher than his career average. He is also tied for fifth amongst qualified goaltenders in wins with 19 and ranks sixth with a 2.26 goals against average.
Quick’s Quality Start Percentage of 63.6% is his highest for any season in which he has played more than 30 games. Quick is known to elevate his performance during the playoffs, and it’s easy to be intrigued with what he would do between the pipes during a potential playoff run after such an impressive regular season. A+
The Kings finished last season with a 19.1% Power-Play Percentage. This year, that total has dipped to 17.4%. A large portion of that can be attributed to the absence of Carter, who led the team with 10 power play goals last season. No other player had more than five goals last year on the man advantage. This season, Brown leads the team with five power play goals, while Toffoli has four. Kopitar leads the team in power-play points with 12 and Doughty ranks second on the team in power-play points with nine.
There is a bit of an asterisk due to Carter missing a huge portion of this season thus far. It will be interesting to see if the unit is able to climb up the rankings when such a talented goal scorer returns. D
The Kings can feel confident anytime they are sent to the penalty box that it will not come back to haunt them. They top the NHL in Penalty-Killing Percentage at 87.8%. That’s nearly three percentage points higher than the next best squad. The Kings have given up just 17 power play goals through 41 games, which is the fewest in the NHL. This stinginess exists despite the fact that the Kings rank 11th in the league in the number of times being short-handed. They are a gritty team, and their penalty killing prowess allows them to throw their weight around with the reassurance that penalties are not likely to cost them the game. A+
The Kings have been one of the major surprises this season. At the midway point, they trail only the Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division. There were legitimate fears that their championship window had officially closed after looking so plodding last season. However, players like Kopitar, Brown, and Marian Gaborik are in the midst of strong bounce-back seasons. This has given the offence a dimension that it lacked last season. Only Carter and Tanner Pearson had more than 20 goals last season for the Kings. This season, that group could easily grow to five or six players, and that’s not even including Carter. Jeff Carter is not projected to return to the lineup until sometime in February.
This season rested on key players reverting back to typical production levels, and the Kings looked poised for a return to the playoffs. Quick has played like an elite goaltender, and the Kings have given up the fewest goals per game in the league. They also have the 3rd best goal differential in the league. They’ve won two out of the last six Stanley Cup Championships. They know what it takes to win come playoff time. With how they’ve played up to this point, they look like a daunting playoff matchup for any team. B+
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