The Los Angeles Kings record after seven games this 2017/18 season stands at 6-0-1. Their quick start could be attributed to playing five of their first six games on home ice. The true test will be whether they can continue their winning ways on the road.
They started out a six-game road trip in good fashion by defeating the competitive Columbus Blue Jackets last night by a 6-4 margin. Their road journey continues to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Boston, and finally St. Louis.
Factors causing their success early
Most noticeably the Kings’ resurgence thus far can be directed towards the much-improved play of new captain Anze Kopitar and former captain Dustin Brown. Then, adding Jonathan Quick back into the equation shows the threesome has helped to turn around their fortunes on the ice.
Quick only contributed 17 games last season after falling to an injury after just one game of play last season. That was a lower-body groin injury which kept him sidelined for two months in 2013 and then again in 2016/17.
Kopitar is on fire as is Brown. Anze has six goals, five assists in seven games, and Brown has five goals, six assists to lead the squad’s offense. Their play looks like the Kopitar and Brown of old which helped lead the Kings to their Cup runs in 2012 and 2014.
Quick has been fortifying the L.A. net like a brick wall. He has a 5-0-1 record with an amazing .938 save percentage and a stingy 1.99 goals against average. The ‘old’ Jonathan Quick seems to be back.
That can only increase the Kings’ possibilities of getting back into the postseason after missing out last season and not being able to duplicate their Stanley Cup success back in 2013/14.
Off-season shakeup was necessary
Over the summer, the Los Angeles Kings cleaned house by firing their longtime general manager, Dean Lombardi. They followed that up by showing head coach Darryl Sutter the door.
Sutter held the best record as head coach in Kings’ history at 225-147-53, while Lombardi had the most wins and was the longest-serving GM in franchise history.
Former star player and King’s business executive Luc Robitaille was named team president. The Kings’ organization felt not qualifying for the playoffs two of the last three seasons justified their actions.
This early in the 2017/18 season, the changes have shown remarkable results. It is still early with just two weeks of NHL action under their belts, but the drastic adjustments have paid off.
Could it be that Kopitar and Brown were just fed up with Sutter’s iron-like rule of the team? Or has the team gone into this season with a fresh outlook on what they need to do to be the team they formerly were four years ago when they hoisted the Cup? Perhaps a combination of both.
Enter John Stevens behind the bench
Stevens who has been with the Kings’ since 2010 as an assistant coach got the promotion to head coach when all the changes took place.
He implemented the defensive plans vital to the Kings’ 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup triumphs, a system that became their crutch as they let their offense stagnate.
He possesses a softer style compared to the volatile and gruff Sutter behind the bench. If that was part of the equation to improve the team, it’s working. Players must feel comfortable and with Steven’s guidance, they are producing results.
With Jeff Carter out, things will be tough
On October 19, 2017, Carter was placed on injured reserve after surgery to repair a lacerated left ankle tendon and will miss six-eight weeks. Carter had three assists in six games before going down. His 32 goals and 34 assists last season will be missed while he mends.
Every team must contend with injuries, but to have Quick go down for most of the last season, and now Carter out a significant amount of time, the team will need to have other players step up.
While Tyler Toffoli and Trevor Lewis are off to good starts, they will need to carry the load along with Kopitar to keep the scoring going. Toffoli has two goals, three assists while Lewis has two goals, two assists.
The other option would be for the Kings to make a trade to replace Carter’s offense… not an easy chore. It also could be an excellent opportunity for Nic Dowd to step in and pick up the slack at center ice.
For right now the Kings are playing well
After this current road trip is completed, we will have a better glimpse of whether or not the Kings are for real this season. For the time being, they are playing well, and need to continue with Stevens’ system since it appears to working like a fine-tuned engine.
Once Jeff Carter makes his reappearance, the additional horsepower will hopefully drive the team to its ultimate goal of making the playoffs and re-hoisting the Cup.
Or they could crash and burn like last season.
It’s the NHL, anything can happen.
What is your view of the Los Angeles Kings so far this season? Do they have what it takes to make the playoffs? Did you approve of all the changes made in the front office and behind the bench? Tell us in the comments sections below.
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