Often this season, Kings fans have heard lovable Corsi fan Jim Fox drive home a new talking point: struggles in the second period. He is not alone in this, for sure. It's a common talking point among color analysts in the league. Perhaps most commonly, you hear about it regarding first periods. When a team often "comes out strong" or "flat", you'll hear your local broadcaster tell you all about how they've scored or given up a bunch of goals.
Well, one of the things we have learned over the past few seasons is that goals aren't altogether that trustworthy of a stat when it comes to predicting future success.
The metrics that most mainstream media guys would use to diagnose team strength — goals and points — are about as accurate as throwing darts at a dartboard at picking how well those teams will do for the rest of the year.
With the knowledge that goals are not a particularly useful stat in analyzing a team to begin with, it should be obvious that splitting that sample even further isn't very fruitful. Teams have gotten lucky for entire seasons only to see it come crashing back down to Earth (yes I know they lost Ryan Suter shut up they were the 25th best FenClose team in 11/12). Goals are a miniscule fraction of a hockey game. It's a 3-2 league after all, and -- using some Darryl Sutter math -- we can deduce that 5 goals in 60+ minutes is not much of a sample to work with.
One of the biggest reasons that Corsi and Fenwick are such meaningful statistics is because they expand the sample that we have to work with. Even using just plain ol' shots is probably a lot more meaningful than looking at the distribution of goals between teams.
When we head over to Extra Skater, we see that Shots For% is fairly related to our handy-dandy possession metrics. Since it's pretty difficult to get blocked shots and missed shots by period at this juncture of our statistical evolution, we'll have to rely on shots and shots alone. Just how poorly have the Kings fared?
Not very poorly at all. While it does indeed turn out that the 2nd period is their worst overall, they still control the puck at a pretty healthy rate. In fact, controlling 53.1% of all shots on goal would place them at 7th in the league in SF% in all situations. That's the Kings at their "worst." Certainly doesn't line up with the -8 goal differential that they currently hold.
If you'd like another nail in the coffin, here you go: last season the Kings had the 4th most goals in the league in the second period. Their second period goal differential was the 5th best in the league. I like Dustin Penner, but losing him didn't suddenly make the Kings forget how to play hockey in the middle frame. More importantly: they haven't really struggled in the second period at all. The percentages (as they have for most of the season in many situations) are just riding against the Kings at this point in time.
In all honesty, this one just doesn't pass the smell test. If anything, the Kings should turn out to be a better-than-normal team in the middle frame. Given their propensity to hold the puck and their ability to deny zone entries, they should be able to hold teams on the ice in their own zone for extended stretches as their opponents struggle to make the long change. While I don't think the scenario I just described amounts to anything personally, it certainly makes more sense to me than "the Kings struggle in the second period" with no reason or thought given as to why.
None of this is to say that the Kings haven't made more mistakes than they usually do during the second period to this point of the season. It just is not likely to continue going forward. So, if you were worried about the second period struggles of your Los Angeles Kings, don't be! Relax. Their "struggles" during the second period will probably turn out to be a meaningless blip on the radar.