Between six outdoor games, Jaromir Jagr setting records with, literally, every point he scores, and one of the strongest rookie classes, the NHL has had quite a season thus far. With all of that glitz and glam, it’s pretty easy to miss some of the stranger nuances of the 2013-14 campaign.
The Los Angeles Kings are currently sitting at third place in the Pacific Division and seventh in the Western Conference. If the season ended today, they’d be holding a solid playoff spot. Par for the course for a team that won a Stanley Cup just two seasons ago, right? So what is so strange here?
To start, the Kings have won once in their last ten games. A deeper look into that run reveals something more disturbing for Kings fans.
In their last seven games, they’ve scored a grand total of six goals. Breaking this down shows two things—a definite turning point in the season, and the fact that “advanced statistics” may be flawed.
NHL.com standings show their season peaked on December 18, 2013, where they held third place in the entire league, with 23 wins, eight losses and four overtime losses—a very respectable record. They even boasted a 9-0-1 record from December 2 to December 21. From the start of the season to December 21, they played 36 games and scored 102 goals, for an average of 2.83 goals per game.
Then things got weird.
Since that winning streak, the Kings have posted a 5-13-2 record. That’s right. Since December 21, 2013, the Kings have won five games.
During that span, they scored 33 goals in 20 games for an average of 1.65 goals per game. Kings fans should be very concerned about what is going on.
Sure there have been some key injuries. According to Fox Sports, Stanley Cup MVP and Olympic goaltender Jonathan Quick was sidelined with a groin injury and the team’s highest goal-scorer, Jeff Carter, spent time on the injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
Only thing is, these injuries all took place during the team’s good stretch. The most significant injury during their recent struggles has been to their alternate captain, defenseman Matt Greene, who missed six games with a concussion, but is back now.
Let’s analyze some stats, which make the situation even weirder.
In analyzing everything about this team, the one thing that kept baffling me was their average goals per game, and how many goals they let up per game. According to NHL.com’s stats page, the Kings are first in the entire league with goals against, with a microscopic 2.12 goals per game. This means that no team in the NHL allows fewer goals than the Kings. The strange part comes when you flip that stat. The Kings score an average 2.26 goals per game, which is the second lowest in the entire league.
A term that hockey stats guys love to toss out there is Corsi. Chicago Blackhawks blog Second City Hockey explains Corsi very easily:
Corsi = shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots.
Beyond being fodder for stat geeks, this metric is a great barometer of puck possession, which is, of course, important for winning hockey games.
According to HockeyAnalysis.com, in the 2011-12 season, the year LA won the Stanley Cup, the Kings had the second best Corsi For Percentage, with 54.8 percent. This means that the Kings took 54.8 percent of all shots attempted during games between both teams. Corsi is confusing, I get it. Basically, this means that during all games that year, the Kings possessed the puck for over 50 percent of the game.
Ready for this strange season to get even weirder? The Kings currently lead the NHL in Corsi For Percentage this season, with 56.6 percent. They are possessing the puck and attempting more shots than anyone in the league right now, and yet they’ve scored the second-least amount of goals.
So what does this jumble of weird stats and number mean? Bad luck? Not getting the bounces they need?
It means that the Kings are laughing in the face of advanced stats this year. While Corsi is a great talking point and makes for interesting discussion, it has its flaws.
Los Angeles is proving that a team can score a microscopic number of goals in a game, and somehow still be in a solid playoff spot.
Thanks to Mike Rappaport for the help on the stats (records and statistics current as of 2/6/14).
Ray Waldron can be contacted at email@example.com