The first half of the 2013-14 NHL season for the Los Angeles Kings is now complete and through 41 games, we'll take a long at what kind of shape the silver-and-black are in.
Through the first half, the Kings have plenty to feel good about. At 25-12-4, they currently sit third in the Pacific Division and fifth in the West. With that said, they do have some teams nipping at their heels, most notably the Canucks and Coyotes who sit one and five points behind them respectively.
In terms of overall play, though, the Kings are right up there among the league's elite. Plus, no other team has gone through such a successful goaltending carousel in recent memory much less this season like the Kings have.
While they weren't very consistent in October, the Kings turned it up a few notches in November. After losing to Nashville on November 2, the Kings would play their next 11 games without losing in regulation. Their next regulation loss came on November 30 when, unfortunately, they fell to the Flames in the dying seconds of the third. But overall, it was a great run and during said stretch, Los Angeles looked stronger than they ever did this season.
On November 12 during a game in Buffalo, the Kingdom held their collective breath when goaltender Jonathan Quick left the game with an apparent groin injury. The next day, the verdict was released as it was learned that Quick was to miss the next four to six weeks with a Grade 2 groin strain. For the first time in four years, the Kings would have to make due without their MVP. It appeared as though the Kings had finally met their match. But not so fast.
Ben Scrivens, who was acquired by Los Angeles in the summer, was about to get his first real taste at being a number-one netminder in this league. For those fans longing for Jonathan Bernier (who was dealt to Toronto for Scrivens) were in for a very pleasant surprise.
After already posting a shutout a few weeks earlier, Scrivens excelled in the limelight going 7-1-2 in his team's next 10 outings. Then, the Kings gave Scrivs a much-deserved night off as they traveled to Anaheim to take on the red-hot Ducks on December 3, the night of Martin Jones's NHL debut.
Not knowing what to expect, the Kingdom was reticent at best. But Jones picked up where Scrivens left off and earned the two points for his team. Jones would then go on to post a record-tying 8-0-0 mark to start a career before dropping his next two decisions in games where the netminder's efforts were not factors in said defeats. All of a sudden, Jonathan Quick's inevitable return to the lineup wasn't as anticipated as it had been just a few weeks prior. What a conundrum.
Outside of the their outstanding goaltending, Los Angeles's defense is primarily what defined the team's first-half success.
From November 7 to December 21, the Kings played 22 games and lost in regulation just twice during that stretch. They had 15-straight games without allowing more than two goals and 15-straight without allowing a first-period tally.
Through 41 games, the Kings boast a league-best average of 1.98 goals-against-per-game while allowing the league-fewest 83 goals. Their 30.8 shots per game ranks them 11th overall while their 27.5 shots against per puts them at sixth overall. Their .760 winning percentage when scoring first puts them at 10th overall while their .375 winning percentage when trailing first is good enough for eighth. When leading after the first period, the Kings are .813 (7th overall) and are first among teams when leading after two periods batting a perfect 1.000.
Physically, the Los Angeles Kings are a force. So far, the team has registered 1,342 hits, second behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. Unfortunately, Los Angeles's 464 blocked shots thus far ranks them second-last overall leading only their opponents from the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, the New Jersey Devils.
In the faceoff department, the Kings are second overall. Their 53.6 rating trails only the Nashville Predators who boast a 54.1 rating in the dot.
Individually, the Kings were just as impressive during the first half. As per usual, Anze Kopitar leads the way with 34 points and has a three-way share of the team lead in goals with Justin Williams and Jeff Carter (13). In addition, Kopitar is currently tied for the league lead in plus-minus with a +21.
In fact, speaking of plus-minus, of the 23 different position players to suit up for the Kings this season, only five players are on the minus side while 10 of them are in double-digits on the plus side. Depending on who you ask, the plus-minus category may not be taken as seriously as it should be personally, I've always found it to be a reliable stat - so, let's go with that.
As great as the offensive output of Kopitar, Carter and Williams have been, nothing can be taken away from the likes of Dwight King who has already surpassed career-highs in goals, assists and points in this a critical year having come off a less-than-stellar 2013 campaign. Drew Doughty has formed into one of the premier defensemen in all of hockey with his solid play on both sides of the puck while guys like Slava Voynov, Alec Martinez and even Jake Muzzin help form an already-formidable defensive unit.
As great as Martin Jones has played thus far, he's not the only rookie garnering critical attention in Los Angeles. While their stays were brief, both Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey have shown the Kings and their fans that they'll be back with the big club in no time. But it was Tyler Toffoli who led the rookies up front scoring nine goals and adding eight assists in 27 games. His +14 rating is second on the team only to the aforementioned Kopitar. Unfortunately for Toffoli, he is currently going through a slump but fans are confident No. 73 will regain his form very soon.
Some ups, some downs but mostly ups as we look back on the first half of the Los Angeles Kings's 2013-14 campaign. There is still a long way to go and while the road to the playoffs certainly doesn't get any easier, the Kings and their fans are confident of great things in the second-half of the season.
The Kings are in good shape and as long as the goaltending and defense continue what they do best, they'll be in even better shape. Let's just hope the offense can regain some of their scoring touch and this road to the playoffs will be just that more enjoyable for everyone on board.
While their power play efficiency could be better, it is notable to mention that 10 different Kings have scored power play markers so far with five of them scoring multiple times.