Surging second line still a driving force for the Kings heading into stretch run

What if I told you I had a line that controlled more than 62 percent of shot attempts when they were on the ice at 5-on-5? What if those percentages were even better in terms of scoring chances and high-danger chances, with that line outscoring their opposition by a 15-5 margin since January 1? What if that line had the LA Kings leading goal scorer during the 2022 calendar year, as well as its leading point producer, despite two of the three players still being four months into their LA Kings tenure. Is that something you might be interested in?

The trio of Phillip Danault at center with Viktor Arvidsson and Trevor Moore on the wings continues to produce at a high level for a Kings team that is not short on production. Over the team’s last five games, that line has scored a goal that has either tied the game, or broken a tie, a run extended with Danault’s game-tying goal in Vegas and Moore’s game-tying goal in Arizona.

Photo by Justin K. Aller/NHLI via Getty Images

Since the line was assembled just before the New Year, it’s been a revelation for the Kings in finding a second offensive unit to play alongside and support Anze Kopitar’s line. The aforementioned offseason acquisitions, Danault and Arvidsson, were initially tried with different players out of the gates but proved to be most effective when paired with each other, alongside the well-traveled Moore, who has finally settled into a permanent spot in the lineup.

“It’s just a good line right now,” Todd McLellan said earlier today. “They put a lot of work into their goals. It’s not just skate up the ice and shoot it into the net, there’s a lot of forecheck work, reload, winning battles, rolling and escaping, cycling, catching someone from behind and going the other way. They work hard for their goals. It rubs off on other players as well, they do that well.”

It’s something special when three players are able to not only play well as a unit but also have the chemistry to take playing together and have each player excel individually as a result. All three players are good in a vacuum, but having the other two alongside them has vaulted their individual play and as a result, the play of the line as a whole, to new heights this season.

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While not lauded as a goalscorer coming into the season, Danault has a career-high 14 goals with two months still remaining on the calendar. Danault leads the Kings with 10 goals since January 1 and all of those goals have come at even strength, which places him behind only Boston’s David Pastrnak for the NHL lead during 2022. The movement and puck skills of his linemates has freed him up with some space in high-danger areas, with the bulk of Danault’s goalscoring coming right around the blue paint.

“I’ve always liked playing with a little righty and Arvy fits perfectly,” Danault said, of Arvidsson. “We play well together. [He’s] loud on the ice, we speak to each other a lot, he competes hard, he has speed, skill and a quick stick around the net.”

On the left wing, Moore ranks inside the NHL’s Top 10 in even-strength points since January 1, with his 18 points tied for eighth in the league that span. No teammate has more points during that stretch, with his 14 assists one more than he had all of last season. While he’s scored a few highlight-reel, breakaway goals, Moore’s production has come off of assists by almost a 3-to-1 margin, with Arvidsson’s shooting mentality and Danault’s ability in tight spaces helping to bolster his stat line.

“It’s huge, getting off the wall is not easy in this league and getting off the wall in those tight spaces is really hard,” Moore said, of Danault. “With a guy like Phil, it opens up the ice so much [for his teammates].”

Across the ice on the opposite flank, Arvidsson ranks inside the league’s top five in both shots on goal and shot attempts during the new year, categories in which he places in the top ten on the season as a whole. Arvidsson is just one point shy of Moore and is the only Kings player in the Top 3 in both goals and assists during that stretch. Moore’s appetite for feeding Arvidsson the puck and Danault’s ability to make plays in tight spaces has freed up Arvidsson to shoot in volume, leading to increased production.

“He brings a lot to the table,” Arvidsson said, of Moore. “He competes really hard, he’s a smart player, he takes a lot of responsibility, I think all three of us do. He can hang onto pucks, he can make those little plays in tight and it’s awesome to play with him and Phil, it’s working really good for us.”

Each player brings unique traits to the line as well that helps not only their individual play, but the greater good of the LA Kings.

At 54.6 percent in the faceoff dot, Danault ranks inside the NHL’s Top 20 in terms of faceoff percentage this season, amongst players with at least 500 draws taken, and in the top 10 with a minimum of 750 draws. Win the faceoffs, control the puck, as they say.

Moore has a motor that never stops. McLellan commented that he’s “never seen Mooresy tired”, a testament to his engine and ability to provide energy in all situations. His ability to be continuously going was a huge plus for the Kings when Moore was the team’s utility man, and now that he’s found a consistent home, it’s allowed for his motor to thrive.

Arvidsson creates space for scoring opportunities in a unique way to most. He has excellent hands in and around the net and also has the ability to shoot and score off the rush. His willingness to shoot, and ability to do so in different areas and situations, has meshed better with Danault than it did with Kopitar, unlocking all three players in their current situations.

“Each of them complements the other,” McLellan said. “If somebody has a weakness, the other guy picks that up. They discuss a lot, they hold each other accountable, which I think is really important. There’s a lot of really positive intangible parts, and then the skating, the faceoffs, the passing, it’s all pretty sharp. They’re a very good line on both sides of the puck.”

What the trio has done for McLellan and his staff is given them the “horses” they need to effectively execute the system they’ve always envisioned for this team. It’s easy to point fingers over the last two seasons, but doing so without acknowledging a rebuilding roster would be unfair. Now, the offseason acquisitions of Danault and Arvidsson have combined with the now properly slotted Moore to form an outstanding second line for an evolving team. The horses are ready to run.

As the Kings approach the final 30 games of the regular season, the underlying numbers suggest that even if the offensive production dips at times, the trio still can find success by controlling the offensive zone and thus avoiding time in the defensive zone, though the Selke-vote receiving Danault has no issues at that end of the rink either.

That’s not to say that any sort of drop off is expected, however. The Kings will continue to rely on their second line to produce at both ends of the ice as the team continues to push for the postseason. With heightened expectations entering the final third of the season, established by heightened play on the ice, the continued evolution of the second line will be a key towards turning a playoff position in late-February into a playoff position in late-April.

Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

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