One-goal games aren’t going the LA Kings’ way. Kind of. It’s not reflected in neon-lit statistics, but rather the improved detail and structural comprehension. It’s probably more noticeable in the eye test and the competitive levels. But it was a topic the team has referenced recently, there are some worthwhile numbers to take a look at as well as Ben Hutton and Todd McLellan interpretations that add additional color.
Games in which the opposition scores an empty-net goal are viewed as one-goal games largely determined by bounces/fortune, officiating, better goaltending and other criteria that define a game in which the run of play may be even. The Kings have a .413 points percentage on the season and a .417 winning percentage in one-goal games, though those are broad statistics.
“We’ve got to find ways to win the 3-2 games, but we’re in the mix with all those teams, you know what I mean?” Hutton said. “It’s not like you’re playing a top-of-the-standings team and you bet blown out, 8-2. It’s 2-1 with a last-minute goal. If we find ways to be that team that gets that last-minute goal or kills off an extra penalty or something like that to maintain that lead, it’d be nice.”
This season, the Kings are in more games than they were last year. I know. This is where we’re at. But this does demonstrate improvement, even though nothing should really be characterized alongside the abyss that was the 2018-19 season.
Points Percentage: .413
Winning percentage in one-goal games: .417
Percentage of games decided by one or two goals: 69.2%
Record of games decided by one or two goals: 14-17-5
Percentage of games that were three-plus-goal losses: 21.2%
Number of three-goal losses: 11 (on pace for 17)
Points Percentage: .433
Winning percentage in one-goal games: .452
Percentage of games decided by one or two goals: 59.8%
Record of games decided by one or two goals: 19-21-9
Percentage of games that were three-plus-goal losses: 25.0%
Number of three-goal losses: 21
If there’s much to be drawn from these particular numbers, it’s that “one-goal games” is not a good statistic. With some context, Los Angeles is in more games and doing a better job of avoiding blowout losses, which you already knew. There are improvements this season, but the lack of offense doesn’t always reward this team.
“We know we’re not going to score eight goals a night. We know that,” Todd McLellan said. “We’re a team that battles hard game in and game out that the opponent knows it’ll be a grind of a game, it’s going to be a battle. So that’s what we want to do. But we just need to find a way to be on the winning side of those battles.”
It’s an interesting discussion, one that spawned a HockeyGraphs article four and a half years ago that wanted to find depth in the assertion that Los Angeles’ abysmal 2014-15 record in one-goal games (13-9-15) when compared to examples such as Vancouver (22-4-5) or Anaheim (33-1-7) was the reason they narrowly missed the playoffs. One excerpt:
5. It’s largely impossible to guess how many one-goal games a team will play each season.
Of course, all of this would be super-useful information if there was a way to predict which games were likely to be one-goal and non-one-goal games. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. On average, about 42.5% of games are non-1GGs; the only scenario in which the probability of a non-1GG differs much from this is a back-to-back situation, when about 45% of games are non-1GGs. More generally, as shown in the graphs below, teams that drive either a very good or a very bad goal differential will tend to play more non-one-goal games, but the effect is not as strong as you might think.
Todd McLellan, on one-goal games:
The fine line between winning and losing, the number of one-goal games that we’ve played in. When I use the term one-goal, I think of empty-netters, either for or against. There’s one-goal games that occur in overtime, but there are also the one-goal games that you don’t get to overtime, and that makes a difference in point totals and the standings, and as we go forward, we’re going to have to be on the positive side of at least the 60-minute one-goal events, and we’ve discussed it. For me, that’s consistency through all 60-minutes. You can’t have lapses when you are near the bottom of the league when it comes to producing offense. You’ve got to be pretty sharp all over the place, and that can be faceoffs, penalty kill, line changes. All those areas to try and get us over the hump in one-goal games. But it’s good for us to experience it now. It’s not so good that we’re on the negative end, but we’re living it. A lot of guys are getting opportunities to play in pressure situations and with goaltenders pulled – either for or against us – and that’s all part of the experience process.
McLellan, on the power play’s improvement and Adrian Kempe earning a big net-front assist Thursday:
The helper that he had in Arizona came off a puck retrieval scenario. We weren’t in common positions, we were in different spots, so there was motion, there was some pace. I think earlier in the year, whether it’s juice or anybody, in that situation we would’ve grabbed the puck, slowed it all down and tried to set up again. We’re starting to understand when we get teams out of position, that’s the time to attack. It doesn’t have to be out of asset-up or anything like that. We’re beginning to get that a little bit more.