The Los Angeles Kings currently have the 12th-best shooting percentage in the NHL. For a normal team, that’s a normal figure, nothing to write home about. Their 9.7% SH% is just ahead of the league average, and in fact, the 19 teams behind them in the ranking are all below the league average of 9.4%. For LA, though, being anywhere above the average is a cause for massive celebration, and on Monday we saw why that makes such a big difference for this team.
The Kings’ 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers paired their new, improved finishing with their old standby: excellent goaltending. A 9.7% shooting percentage looks pretty terrific when your opponents only convert 7.4% of their chances. Essentially, the pairing of Jonathan Quick and Darcy Kuemper has turned opposing teams into the 2011-12 Kings... the regular season Kings (7.5% full-season S%). And Quick was really, really good on Monday. The Kings more than kept pace with the Flyers at even strength, but if you switch that chart to the “All” setting, you’ll see that Philadelphia generated a ton of pressure on the power play. (Chart via Natural Stat Trick)
The Kings didn’t have a shot on goal on either of their two power plays. Philly, on their five (plus a fraction of a sixth)? THIRTEEN. Quick stopped twelve of them, and it took an unfortunate bounce off Drew Doughty to set up the one shot that got past him, off the stick of Jakub Voracek. Voracek’s goal came near the end of the first, as for the second straight game, LA took a two-goal lead only to see it cut and half right before intermission. As they did against the Islanders, LA came out of the gates strong and was deserving of their lead. The first goal from Alec Martinez, much like Oscar Fantenberg’s versus the Isles, came on a long blast after some offensive zone time, although it was a faceoff play this time:
The second goal was also similar to the second in Brooklyn, but instead of Tyler Toffoli, it was Trevor Lewis beating the goalie clean near the dot. Nick Shore had the primary assist on the play, and he would pick up another later for his first multi-point showing of the season. Lewis, Shore, and Alex Iafallo had a terrific evening, posting the best possession numbers on the team despite starting most of their shifts outside of the offensive zone. (Christian Folin technically had the best Corsi For%, but he left the game with an upper-body injury in the first period and didn’t return.)
So another dominant first (at even strength, at least) gave way to a decent second period showing. Quick still had to be very good, but the Kings managed to outshoot and outchance Philly, and only some great saves on Marian Gaborik and Alex Iafallo kept the score at 2-1. That set up a pivotal third, with LA really hoping they could hold that lead this time. They did, but only after several saves from Quick in the first four minutes. Adrian Kempe went to the box a little over two minutes in, and it felt like the tying goal was inevitable, but Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown did some solid PK work, and Brown led a rush the other way as Kempe exited the box. Kempe was ready.
The Flyers’ loud pleas for interference on Dustin Brown were unheard, which is fair. He just skated forward! They got a small measure of revenge when an apparent fourth goal was disallowed after Brown made contact with Elliott, though there was little argument from LA on that one. The only bummer was that it would have been Kopitar from Brown and Doughty, further padding their team-leading point totals, but Tyler Toffoli made it 4-1 anyway on a beautiful play with Nick Shore.
Toffoli had earned his 99th career goal and 100th career assist on Saturday, so this was a nice way to even out his career totals. It was also a nice way to finish out the game and the road trip, for Toffoli and for the Kings. They won’t play another game outside the Pacific Time Zone until January 30, and with some cushion in the standings already built in, they’ll look to take advantage starting Thursday against Colorado.