Through 30 games this year, the Los Angeles Kings have required extra time on nine occasions, almost a third of all games. The good news is that the Kings have already received more points out of extra hockey this year than they did all of last year. What you'll now discover is that this topic is a ploy to talk more about Anze Kopitar.
The Kings' nine games puts them tied for sixth in most overtime games in the NHL. It shouldn't be a surprise that a team like the Kings goes to overtime a lot. Goals are rare events, and even rarer in games in which the Kings are involved. That leads to more tie games, and ultimately, more exasperated breathing as we all try to deal with three on three overtime. Fortunately, the Kings have won five out of the six games that have been decided in extra time. Of the three games that have gone to shootout, they've won two out of the three.
With the poor luck LA suffered in overtime and shootouts last year, it would be easy to say that their recent success has been luck, too. However, three on three is a whole new animal for players and coaches to digest. It seems fair to posit that good coaches may have an advantage early on as everyone adjusts to the format. Most believe Darryl Sutter is a good coach, so maybe that's why the Kings have done well. But besides warm fuzzy feelings, their numbers have been pretty good too.
The Kings have allowed 11 high danger scoring chances in their nine games that have passed through overtime, yet they have registered seventeen. That total is tied for most with the Calgary Flames, which perhaps isn't so hard to believe. They have a lead in all scoring chances of 34 to 28. Their shot attempt generation rate is in the top ten of all teams. In fact, the percentage is remarkably close to their percentage at evens. The numbers aren't overwhelmingly in the Kings' favor, and there's certainly teams with better underlying numbers so far. Of course, it's also probably too early to tell. Yet, all the signs point to the Kings probably deserving their wins, and the biggest factor in those wins is none other than Anze Kopitar.
The Kopitar Effect
Kopitar is playing the most overtime hockey, on average, of anyone in the NHL at 112 seconds per game. If it feels like he never leaves the ice in overtime, that's because he doesn't. In fact, as you read this, just assume he is on the ice for overtime hockey somewhere. His time on ice numbers also rank him third overall in the NHL for total time on ice in 3v3, despite having two less games than the ones in front of him. He's in the lead among all forwards in ice time. He's basically out there every other shift.
By virtue of being on the ice so much, we'd expect Anze to be a big factor in the Kings' overtime results, and he certainly has been. He has scored or assisted on three out of the five winning goals for the Kings. When it comes to the shootout, Kopitar has scored on all three attempts. The Kings' divisional lead owes a lot to him.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Kopitar can continue to contribute to results like this in overtime. Teams will continue to use their best players, and with fewer players on the ice, the individual contributions are magnified. Kopitar is the most complete player on the Kings, and certainly one of the top in the NHL.
What do you think of the Kings' effort in overtime so far? Which player stands out to you? Do you think the Kings' results thus far have been mostly earned or just luck? Vote in the poll!
All stats pulled from war-on-ice.com