Kings Getting Hot Just At The Right Time

LA Kings Report

For the past three years, Kopitar and Kempe have developed strong chemistry on the ice, with Kempe evolving from a supplementary player to the team’s first choice at right wing after scoring 35 goals in 67 games last season. Both Kempe and Byfield possess impressive length, skate effectively for their size, and aren’t afraid to turn up the pressure when the situation calls for it. They’ve also stepped up defensively, a must when sharing ice with Kopitar, winner of the Selke Award. Each of these characteristics has been outlined by Todd McLellan as reasons why the line is successful.

In 14 of the last 15 seasons, Anze Kopitar has led the Kings in scoring. He’s been doing it again ever since the first of the year.

Now that Kevin Fiala is on the team, the 2022–23 season could go down to the wire. Only Fiala’s 68 points are more than Kopitar’s 61, but with Fiala out injured and Kopitar in such good scoring form, it’s too soon to call that race.

With 32 points (15-17-32) in 27 games played since the new year began, Kopitar is the Kings’ top scorer in that time period. Only Adrian Kempe (18 goals) on his side has scored more than him throughout that time. During the course of the season, Kempe has been Kopitar’s most reliable partner, and the two have been nearly unbeatable thus far in the new year. Over that time period, the duo has a combined +14 while their linemate, Quinton Byfield, has a +9. A simple plus or minus doesn’t tell you much, but in this case we’ll call it a more comprehensive illustration of a general tendency.

The LA Kings’ top line has scored 21 goals when on the ice together at 5-on-5 since their first complete game together on January 1. They have allowed only eight goals during that time. The Byfield–Kopitar–Kempe line is third in the NHL in the percentage of goals controlled among lines that have skated 300 or more minutes together this season.

They are third in fewest goals allowed per 60 minutes while having an outstanding offense (4.19 goals-per-60 minutes). Yet without context, numbers mean nothing.

Kopitar and Kempe have spent nearly all of this season playing together at 5-on-5. Eighteen goals have been scored while twenty have been scored against in the nearly 500 minutes that this line has been in action without Byfield. While they did achieve the desired criteria, which were all above 50, almost every measurable category benefits from inclusion. Byfield’s numbers are also significantly better in his present capacity than they were in his previous one, but the same may be stated in reverse.

If you trust the sources, Money Puck and Natural Stat Trick, that’s fantastic. While such astronomical numbers are unlikely to be maintained over the course of a complete season, it’s also no fluke that all three players’ chance creation, production, and suppression metrics have improved since they were paired together in the third period in Colorado back in late December. Maybe you’ll have something when the financials and output are both higher.

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Gregory Thomas

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