Angeles Analysis – An Interesting Road Trip – LA Kings Insider

For a team in search of better defensive play, last night has to be considered a step forward pertaining to that side of the puck.

Looking strictly at 5-on-5 play, the Kings allowed season lows in scoring chances (13.33) and high-danger chances (4.44) when graded out to a per/60 basis. Those totals led to just one goal against at 5-on-5, a high deflection that sent the puck scurrying away from Jonathan Quick, who had the point shot easily covered had it not been deflected where it was.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when interviewing players and coaches after the Chicago game. In terms of visual appeal, the entertainment factor if you will, last night’s game was among the lowest this season. It was an overtime loss on a night when the Kings should have collected two points but didn’t. Chances were missed, a team was allowed to hang in the game due to a lack of offensive polish and the Kings scored just once against a battling Chicago game. On the other hand, the Kings were much stronger defensively than we’ve seen at other times this season, allowing very little in terms of dangerous chances, as noted above.

The reactions from players and Todd McLellan were generally positive, pointing to the notion of a step forward when it came to progress, but a step sideways when it came to outcome. The Kings were happy specifically with fixing certain parts of their game that were lacking in Dallas and playing more to their identity and structure defensively, even if the offensive side of the game didn’t match the defensive progress. McLellan said before the game that the Kings focused in on specific aspects of the game and he seemed pleased that those things showed up on the ice. For a team that has played its share of high-scoring affairs in the first 12 games of the season, last night was, if nothing else, different.

Looking at the short trip as a whole, McLellan believed the team saw improvements in two of the three games played, with the Dallas game obviously the one that was not included. Blake Lizotte said that he feels that things are coming together in “bits and pieces” but not consistently over the course of a full 60 minutes. Trevor Moore was seeing signs and strides in St. Louis and Chicago, but naturally not Dallas. Signs are good. Strides are good. But consistency is still lacking for the Kings right now and it’s something they’ll continue to address with what should hopefully be a couple of weeks with more routine upcoming.

Improvements, however, were noticeable when it came to the defensive side of the puck. The Kings ranked towards the bottom of the league in goals allowed entering Thursday night’s action, even as the team ranks at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to the expected goals against variety. Thursday’s game against Chicago helped to reverse that narrative as a part of a stronger trip as a whole when it came to 5-on-5 defending. The Kings allowed just four 5-on-5 goals across the 180 minutes on this trip and five in total over their last four games including the win over Toronto at home. It’s not a finished product, but as we’re asking for more on the defensive side of the puck, it’s clear that the Kings are taking steps forward in that area.

Over the next week, we’ll see a trio of rematches against teams the Kings have earned at least a point against on the road, all following a matchup against the defending Presidents Trophy winners, the Florida Panthers. The last time Florida was in town, the Kings were coming off a 5-0 loss the night before, facing a situation where injuries had been mounting and five of the team’s six defensemen from opening night were out of the lineup. The Kings responded with an emotional comeback to win 3-2 in the shootout. Florida is a different team, centered mainly around a Jonathan Huberdeau for Matthew Tkachuk swap in the offseason, but a talented opponent for sure. Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit follow, three games the Kings had varying degrees of success in away from home, but found flaws in their play depite five of a possible six points. I’d bet substantially that we won’t see another 7-6 game against Minnesota and that we’lll see more than two 5-on-5 goals against Chicago. With a week that should lend itself to substantially more routine than we’ve seen over the last trip, the Kings are hopeful to get things running more smoothly back on home ice.

The Kings are off today, but starting with this homestand and looking beyond, we should finally see the group start to establish a bit of routine. The Kings should be able to hold at least three team practices next week and the road trip to Western Canada allows for a pair of practice days as well, should the Kings opt to use them all. The beginning of the season has been all over the map with how the schedule as shaken out. Between travel days, back-to-backs and mandatory off days via the CBA, practice time has been at a premium, especially when on the road. We’re in early-November and the Kings have had seven away games and zero road practices. Expect things to settle down a bit here over the next couple of weeks.

Coming up later on today, we’ll have a feature on Ontario Reign defenseman Jordan Spence, who Reign contributor Jared Shafran reported was a standout in yesterday’s 2-0 win over Colorado, improving Ontario to 7-1-0 on the season. The Kings made one roster move this morning, with forward Rasmus Kupari assigned to the AHL, but as past precedent would indicate, let’s see how things shake out in the morning before we react. Until then, Insiders, happy Friday! Back at it again tomorrow morning in El Segundo.