As the NHL entered its third week of the season on October
23rd, the Los Angeles Kings remained the only unbeaten team in the
league in regulation time. The Kings had racked up 13 points on six wins and a
4-3 overtime loss to Calgary for points in each of their first seven games. It
represents the best start in the franchise's history since entering the league
in the 1967/68 campaign. The Kings also had the best goal difference in the
league as well as the stingiest goals-against average. It's just the start the
club needed after missing the playoffs last year.
The failure to make the postseason cost former coach Darryl
Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi their jobs last April even though they
both won a pair of Stanley Cups with the club. John Stevens was then hired to
take over behind the bench while former Kings' defenceman Rob Blake took over
the reins as GM. The team's veteran players have been at their best even though
forwards Jeff Carter and Kyle Clifford are now out of the lineup for
approximately six weeks due to injuries. The Kings then signed 34-year-old
veteran Brooks Laich for the rest of the campaign after he attended training
camp on a professional tryout contract.
After missing a good chunk of the 2016/17 season, Jonathan
Quick is playing as well as he ever has in net while current captain Anze
Kopitar and former captain Dustin Brown are leading the way offensively.
Kopitar, Brown, and 23-year-old rookie forward Alex Iafallo, who form the
Kings' top line, also led the team and league with their plus/minus ratings.
Centre Kopitar and Brown were each a plus-11 while Iafallo was plus-nine.
Kopitar and Brown also each had 11 points in their first seven games while
Iafallo had three assists. To help things out, veteran defencemen Jake Muzzin
and Drew Doughty had chipped in with eight and six points respectively with
Doughty being a plus-six.
The 30-year-old Kopitar had six goals and five assists while
the 32-year-old Brown had five goals and six assists. Neither player scored
their 11th points until December 1st last season. It took
Kopitar 19 games to hit the mark last year while it took Brown 24 contests.
Kopitar had his worst full-season output ever last year with just 52 points on 12
goals and 40 assists and Brown scored just 36 points on 14 goals and 22
assists. In fact, Brown hasn't scored more than 36 points since 2011/12 and
he's currently on pace for over 100 this season. Of course, he won't be able to
keep that pace up, but there's a good chance he'll reach the 20-goal plateau
for the first time as since 2011/12.
In addition, Brown's plus/minus stats haven't been on the
plus side since 2013/14. As far as the Kings' goaltending goes, the 31-year-old
Quick had a 1.99 goals-against average after the team's first seven games with
a 93.8 save percentage. He played just 17 games last season due to an injury in
the opening week and posted a 2.26 GAA and a 91.7 save percentage. With the NHL
being such a well-balanced league at the moment, the Kings will need every
point they can get to make the playoffs and their best-ever start will
certainly help them out down the road.
Labels: Ian Palmer