With the Kings improving to 4-0 in overtime by virtue of back-to-back sudden-death wins over the Blackhawks and Canucks, the discrepancy between the team’s struggles in one-goal games last season and their 9-4-1 record in them this season is once again in focus.
There have been studies – great examinations of data – that more or less come to the conclusion that because of lower scoring across the league, one-goal games are more common, and that teams that are simply good teams (see: higher in the standings, better talent) will generally be more inclined to win one-goal games.
Darryl Sutter seemed to agree with that and eschew any notion of random variance that would suggest arbitrary results when a tied game heads to three-on-three overtime. Last year, the Kings were 3-15 in games that extended past regulation (though, obviously, overtime was a four-on-four format).
“Generally three-on-threes are all teams’ best players on the ice that have the ability to seal the deal for you,” he said. “Who’s been out on the ice when we’ve sealed the deal? Kopitar, Carter, and I guess Gaborik the game before. Usually Drew, Marty and Muzz. It’s no deep, dark story that you’re trying to write.”
No, but it’s also no fun to write “teams with better players are more likely to win,” especially when league parity leaves little to differentiate in a middle-heavy NHL.
In addition to Sutter (quotes here), I also asked Dustin Brown about why the Kings, who haven’t really added or subtracted from their core over the last few seasons (an argument could be made that Justin Williams is no longer around, while Milan Lucic is, but let’s not get away from the point here), could see such a heavy swing from one season to the next in one-goal games. There are interesting takes from someone who is on the ice and experiencing the game, and not just sifting through data.
Dustin Brown, on the variation of one-goal games:
I think it varies year-to-year, but a lot of one-goal games you’re in control of. You look at scoring the first goal in games, and the last couple games we haven’t done it, but we’ve found ways to win, which is important. Last year, if you look at it – and maybe it’s just the way I feel – we lost a lot of one-goal games, but we had to claw back in to get to one goal. It’s a hard thing to do in this league. You do what we’ve done the last two nights, you can look at our record, but there are more games this year where we’ve had to come from behind to win a one-goal game. It’s starting with leading. It’s something that we’ve been good probably prior to last year, we were really good at holding the one-goal leads going into thirds, and last year we struggled with it.
Brown, on whether nine of the last 10 games being decided by one goal, and whether it’s a reflection of the team’s strong play of late:
Well, there are spurts of us playing really, really well. At the end of the day, it’s about getting timely goals – power play and penalty kills. That’s what a lot of the league has become now. If you look at the Florida game, we had a one-goal lead, and Kopi and Gabby hook up for a really nice goal, and it just gives us breathing room. That’s a big goal for us, because little things like that add up like that over the games, and I think we’re much more comfortable this year with being in that situation.
Brown, on what he’s liked about the Kings’ three-on-three overtime play:
I think it’s an extension of our five-on-five play. Especially with three-on-three is starting with the puck and keeping the puck and waiting for that Grade-A scoring chance. Three-on-three, it’s more about having the puck to hold, trying to maintain control of the puck for the whole overtime. If you look at our team, with Quickie in goal, I think that’s a big advantage to have a goalie like him. He has a knack for making those big saves, which in a three-on-three situation is kind of almost like a fast break the other way. We have a lot of ice out there for some of our players that can skate really well.