The scoring malaise that has affected the Los Angeles Kings at the midpoint of the 2013-14 season is likely a temporary one, not that the call for additional offense has fallen upon indifferent ears.
“It’s not where we want to be. We know that. We’ve talked about it,” Jeff Carter said. “We’ve been putting a lot of pucks at nets, but the bottom line is we’ve got to bear down and put ‘em in the back of the net. I think I saw that we’ve averaging one and a half goals a game or something like that in the last 10. That’s not good enough. We’ve got guys on the team that can put the puck in the net. It needs to go in.”
With 16 points (9-7=16) in the last 15 games, Carter has supplied the most consistent scoring output of a group that has combined for 15 goals over the last nine games. The main culprit? An unsustainably low shooting percentage. Ranking 27th in the league with a 7.72% percentage – St. Louis leads the league with a 12.1% percentage – the Kings have scored 15 times on their last 310 shots, a 4.8% rate that represents the nadir of their offensive opportunism.
It bears a striking resemblance to the 2011-12 season, when the Kings ranked last in the league with a 7.5% shooting percentage before seeing their numbers progress to the mean in the postseason – though, to be fair, Carter also arrived in February, 2012, and recovered from an ankle injury that spring to raise the competency of the attack in advance of the Stanley Cup run.
Similar to the 2011-12 season, the Kings’ secondary scoring hasn’t consistently produced. Is it possible that Tanner Pearson could be inserted into the lineup for Monday’s home stand finale against Vancouver? Yes, it’s possible. But don’t expect any profound effect on the team’s offense.
“I’d like to get all those guys in tomorrow, but it’s ‘where do they fit?’ and ‘how could they help?,’” Sutter said. “That’s the key against your opponent. How can they help? It’s easy to say ‘this guy scored six goals in the American Hockey League.’ This is a whole different level. We have guys here, for example, a boy like Tyler hasn’t scored in 10 game, King hasn’t scored 10, and I know top guys – guys ask about Richie, but quite honest, those guys that are trying to find ways into this league, they have to produce more than proven players do, and when you’re a team that doesn’t score a lot, and they’re known as that, then they better do it.”
“Instead of being concerned with Tanner, I’m more worried about Tyler and [Dwight]…guys like that. And the same thing on the back end. Slava, Drew, Martinez, Muzzin are known as offensive guys. You know what? It’s been very inconsistent. Hey, it’s sort of what we talked about at the start of the year as a group. We’re going to play young guys in situations, and they’re going to have to respond, or we’re going to have highs and lows. That’s kind of how it’s been.”
There was discussion during the 2011-12 season over the lack of secondary scoring having an impact on the top players, and whether it makes them grip the sticks tighter. For Carter, that hasn’t been the case.
“I think our top six guys are looked on to score every game,” he said. “Our other guys, our role players if that’s what you want to call them – our bottom six, whatever – they do a lot of things for us. They do a lot of the dirty things that don’t get recognized. We’re in a funk right now. Even our top six guys are having trouble scoring.”
With a significant difference between a 2-2-1 or a 2-1-2 home stand and a 3-1-1 home stand, does that make Monday’s game against Vancouver a “must-win” challenge?
“Yeah, absolutely,” Carter said. “They’re only two points behind us now. It’s a big game. We obviously saw them last week or whatever it was. We know what they bring. We know what we have to do to be successful. Yeah, I’d say it’s a must-win.”