Every coach has his own statistics that he might value over others, numbers that he believes tell the true story of where his team stands. For Darryl Sutter, it’s team goal differential. I accidentally discovered this a few days ago, when I incorrectly interpreted what Sutter meant in terms of the Kings and Dallas Stars being statistically “dead on.” He was referring to goal differential, and later showed me a copy of the league stats, in which he had hand-written the differential of every team. During the course of a season, there will be ups and downs. A team might go on a run or in a slump. Their home-road game ratio might be off. They might have three games in hand over other teams. So looking at the point totals isn’t always the best evaluation tool.
Plus-minus though, is. It might be obvious, but if you look at last season, who made the Stanley Cup Finals? Boston and Vancouver. Vancouver finished the regular season with the league’s best differential (262 goals, 185 allowed, for a plus-77), while Boston had the second-best differential (246 scored, 195 allowed, plus-51).
So there’s a couple ways to look at this season for the Kings. Through 46 games last season, they had 49 points. Through 46 games this season, they have 51 points. Last season, though, the Kings were plus-17 at this point (134 scored, 117 allowed). Right now, they’re minus-1 (102 scored, 103 allowed). The Kings finished last season with the Western Conference’s fifth-best differential (plus-21) and earned the conference’s seventh playoff seed.