Good afternoon from El Segundo, where we arrived at the rink to see that no players got onto the ice for practice. After off-ice workouts, several players met with the media as others had equipment adjusted and met in small groups with coaches.
-So, we’re 41 games deep into the 82-game season. Congrats on hanging in there, Insiders. The Kings are 24-12-5, which means that if their current points percentage holds, they’ll be a 48-24-10 team that will finish with 106 points. It’ll be tough sledding for that to happen. First off, they’re going to have to start winning games against the Pacific Division, against whom they are 5-5-3 thus far. There are 16 games remaining against Pacific Division teams (3x ANA, 3x EDM, 3x ARI, 2x VAN, 2x CGY, 2x VGK, 1x SJS) and 14 remaining against Central Division teams (3x DAL, 2x COL, 2x CHI, 2x NSH, 2x WPG, 2x MIN, 1x STL). Meanwhile, there are only 11 games remaining against Eastern Conference teams, against whom they are 15-5-1.
In other words, the 106-point pace is probably a rosy scenario if any sort of precedent has been set. It’s still fun to look at point projections, should the current pace hold. Of the players to appear in all 41 games thus far, here are their current paces:
Kopitar: 34-52=86; +32
Brown: 30-34=64; +34
Doughty: 14-46=60; +44
Toffoli: 34-24=58; +28
Pearson: 16-32=48; +26
Muzzin: 6-40=46; +18
Lewis: 18-16=34; +2
Forbort: 2-14=16; +16
If Doughty finishes with 60 points and a plus-44 rating, you can start etching his name onto the Norris Trophy in April. (And you can probably take out a second mortgage on LA Kings Cap Space Headquarters.)
It raised a question that I asked John Stevens earlier today. Does the team enter training camp with a set expected range of points? Does Stevens say, “I think we’re going to finish between x and y points this season?” His answer was much more nuanced, but still gave an interesting glimpse into the pace necessary to be a playoff team – preferably one within the division, and not a squad fighting for a wild card.
“We take a look at the past performances in the division and what’s led to playoffs,” he said. “I think the way it’s been in the west here, if you don’t get 96 points, you’re going to be in a fight for a wild card. That’s why we look at segments. Seven points in a five-game segment, you get 16 segments, you can do the math, right? So, 16 segments, that’s … 112 [that] gets you in, right? If you get less than seven, you’re in a wild card race. So, we noticed anywhere from 94-96 is probably a wild card, so we want to get seven-plus a segment. When you don’t, you fall back to the pack, when you do, you pull away, and that’s exactly what’s happened to this point this year. There were 16 segments with two games left over. We hope those two don’t matter, and that was the philosophy before. That’s something we spent a lot of time looking at. Five-game segments, you’ve got to get points. If you don’t get into that seven-point range, six gets you to what, that’s 96? We wouldn’t have gotten in a couple years, right? There’ve been teams that got in with 85, 86, 88 points – not in the west. I don’t see it happening again. If you look at what’s going on in the Central, if you look at what’s going on in the Pacific, if you look at how many three-point games there are, we think you need probably 96 just to get in. Probably need 100 to even be in the top-three in the division. We have a lot of work to do.”
To reach 96 points, the Kings would need 43 points from their remaining 41 games. It would cause them to sweat it out, but there’s a decent chance going 20-18-3 would get the team in. To be a top-three divisional team and finish with 100 points, Los Angeles would need to get 47 points of their final 41 games, going something like 22-16-3. Both of those records represent reduced points percentage rates from what the team has already shown. The Kings are looking pretty good – it’s why SportsClubStats.com gives them a 98.1% chance of making the postseason – but, hey, we all remember 2005-06, when Los Angeles was 25-14-2 and on a 104-point pace at the midpoint before crashing and burning and finishing in 10th place in the conference.
Hey, this is fun! There’s some exciting hockey coming up down the pike. The second half begins with a huge conference game Saturday night against Nashville, a team LAKI thinks has as good a chance as any to come out of the Western Conference.
-Not particularly important, and it’s silly took look ahead to the next break when we haven’t even gotten to the impending bye week, but the Kings are the only team to have a four-day All-Star Break. The 30 other NHL teams will play on Thursday, January 25.
-Christian Folin (upper-body) is essentially healthy and available, Stevens confirmed. “I think so. We’ll see tomorrow, but they think he’s going to be ready,” he said. Should the team choose to activate him in advance of the game against Nashville, they’d need to make a corresponding move.
-Gabriel Vilardi is expected to make his OHL debut in, oh, one hour from now. His Frontenacs debut will come at home against Windsor, the club with whom he won last year’s Memorial Cup. #VilardiWatch and #FolinWatch ends on the same day!
— Kingston Frontenacs (@KingstonFronts) January 5, 2018
More from John Stevens:
On taking four of six points on the road trip but ending the trip on a sour note:
No, we weren’t very good in Calgary. The bottom line is that was one of our poorer games of the year, probably. Got off to a good start, but then mismanaged pucks, didn’t match their level of urgency, spent too much time in our zone. I thought even their third and fourth line created a lot of momentum with the urgency. We need to be better. To me, the Jersey game and probably that game were two games that stand out to me where I didn’t like the way we played, and we need to be a lot better. [Reporter: Did you notice any similarities last night to the second period against Vegas on December 28 at Staples Center?] No, to me, those were very different. Vegas, I just thought we really got off track in terms of trying to make a lot of east-west plays. It was really poor mismanagement of the puck, whereas the Calgary game, we never had the puck to manage it. A little different animal.
On how he’d assess what he’s done as a coach in the first half of the season:
To be honest with you, we came in, and I was talking to a coach the other day. I think it was Dave Lowry who had said that there’s a phrase he has where ‘pressure is a privilege,’ right? I think it resonates with me. I think the fact that we have pressure, it means we have a chance to win, and that we have expectations of winning. Quite honestly, the people that have come before me with Terry Murray and Darryl Sutter, they probably did too good a job, right? Because the expectations for those guys was to win it all, or it’s not good enough, and that’s a good thing. I felt an enormous amount of pressure coming in this year in terms of we have a good team here, and the division’s tough, and we have expectations of trying to return to the playoffs and being a good team. At the midway point, we’re happy with where we are in the standings, but I’ll be honest with you: we’ve got lots of work to do as a team. If I had to look back and go to the year and try and do things differently, I think there are always things that happen during a game where you’re always going to try and analyze, ‘could you do better?’ We’re very comfortable with the intention of the players and the staff of what we’ve done at this point of the season. It’s an enormous time preparing for the year, what the plan was through training camp, going to China, days of work, days of rest. We rely heavily on our support staff to make those decisions. We get lots of feedback from the players. So, we’re very comfortable in hindsight looking back and how we’ve executed the plan to this point, but having said that, we know that we’ve only gotten to a point where we’ve gotten ourselves in the middle of a battle for a playoff spot, and we’ve got an awful lot of work to do to fulfill that goal we set at the beginning of the year.
-Several quotes were withheld for an upcoming LA Daily News story that will run next week.
-Lead photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI