October 7, 2013 9:02 am

Early season hockey and small sample sizes

Bob McKenzie tweeted an astute observation last week – even if he based it on “purely anecdotal experience” – that relates to small sample sizes and the often untidy beginning to an NHL season.

It’s an interesting discussion topic, as trends through the first two weeks of the season are yet to develop, and players and teams are still coming off surges of momentum that come with opening a brand new season. The slate has been wiped clean for teams that finished the previous season with disappointment, and for teams that advanced deep in the playoffs and for the one fortunate team that won the Stanley Cup, there’s the oft-discussed “hangover” that has the potential to affect early season play. Over 82 games, the degree to which a team is able to maximize its talent will have much more of an impact than any results gained through the first two weeks in October.

On Sunday, Darryl Sutter and several Kings weighed in on early season hockey, as well as battling through occasionally uneven October play.

Matt Greene, on whether there’s a different on-ice rhythm early in the season:
Not really. It’s important to get off to a good start. That’s it. Whether there’s nothing good in the first two weeks, what doesn’t change is the points are real, you know? So you’ve got to get those points. It’s a lot better to have a good start than have a poor start and try to be making up those points. Whether you take anything from the first two weeks of the season or not, the points are real.

Greene, on ways to tighten up defensively despite the small sample size:
I think we can be better in the D zone, and I think we can be better in the neutral zone. Obviously when we’re playing our best, we’re cycling teams down low and just from a D standpoint, I think we’ve got to be more active in terms of offensive zone play, and then also be smoother coming out of our zone, and that will limit the shots against.

Jake Muzzin, on ways to tighten up defensively despite the small sample size:
I think if we get cleaner out of our zone, we’re going to limit their chances to get shots against. We were working on today transition and defending the rush to prevent shots and some breakout stuff as well. Just tie all that stuff together, and that will bring down the shot total, for sure.

Anze Kopitar, on whether the first two weeks of the season are a “crapshoot”:
No, I mean everybody’s trying to do the same thing. I mean, it’s probably not as sharp as you want it to be right off the get-go, but, yeah. It takes about that amount…of time to get going. But it’s not like anyone’s trying to do anything different, but that’s just the way it goes, I guess.

Daryl Sutter, on whether there’s a “tendency to read too much into the first couple weeks of the season”:
You know what? Just go to Vegas and change it. Who’s going to win the Stanley Cup? Well, probably, who hasn’t lost? San Jose, Calgary, Toronto – they’re all the favorites now. It really has no bearing on anything. Quite honest, the only way you look at it is stay in your next game focus, always. We don’t have any problem with that…We don’t get too much caught up in that stuff. Again, it’s not the outcome. It’s more of the process. I don’t know if that’s the right way of saying it. Hey, it’s like I told our guys today. I liked the way our team played. I think as individuals we’ve got to get better. And it’s like when you talk to guys when you they’ve played as well as they can, well, that’s cause we know how we can play as individuals. So it’s sort of what I expect, and then what they expect themselves. It’s just to reinforce it. It’s not to criticize or challenge. It’s just to reinforce what they’re good at, and do that good. Maximize your skill set. That’s what the game’s about. You can’t make big guys little. You can’t make little guys big. You can’t make slow guys fast. You can’t make fast guys slow. Just maximize it on a game-to-game thing. Quite honest, I really liked the way we played back-to-back. I had no problem with it.

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