This team has gotten off to a fast start in the 2011-2012 NHL season, beginning with a record of 5-1-1, a total of 11 points, good for 2nd place in the Pacific Division, just one point behind the first-place Dallas Stars. The strong record to begin the season is even more impressive considering the fact that the Kings were one of several teams to begin the 2011-2012 season overseas in Europe to promote the NHL throughout Europe. If things continue like the way they are now, finding Kings tickets can become very difficult.
LAs’ first game was in Stockholm, Sweden against the New York Rangers on October 7, 2011. Rangers’ G Henrik Lundqvist, who hails from Sweden, was very tough playing in front of his home crowd, but C Anze Kopitar was impressive, hitting one goal past Lundqvist and assisting on the overtime goal that gave them a 3-2 victory over the Rangers.
Theys played their second game in Berlin, Germany the next night against the Buffalo Sabres, who also won their first game overseas, a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks in Helsinki, Finland on October 7. Their winning streak would come to an end, as the Sabres posted a 4-2 victory, as Sabres’ C Luke Adam scored two goals in the span of 2:20 early in the second period. Sabres’ G Ryan Miller stopped 31 of 33 shot attempts to help drop them to 1-1-0 on the season.
After they returned to the U.S.A., they didn’t resume play until October 13 at the New Jersey Devils, a game that they lost in overtime 2-1, resulting in 1 point to give them 3 points after 3 games. Head coach Terry Murray commented that his team seemed to lose energy during the second and third period, possibly due to the jet lag returning from Europe earlier in the week. In the loss, Jonathan Quick lived up to his name and played quite well, stopping 36 of 37 shots in regulation, including a couple of great saves on Devils’ RW Petr Sykora and LW Ilya Kovalchuk in the third period and another great save on LW Patrik Elias in overtime to get them to the shootout.
After a bit of a slow start, however, LA has really taken off in their last four games, as they have won all four by a combined score of 11-2. The first win during this current four-game winning streak was a 3-2 victory at the Philadelphia Flyers. C Mike Richards, who was acquired from the Flyers in what most considered to be a shocking trade in the off-season, got some revenge on his old team by assisting on D Jack Johnson’s winning power-play goal with 1:39 left in overtime to break Philadelphia’s undefeated record. The trade of Richards was shocking because Richards was considered a captain of the Flyers and had been with them since he was drafted by them in the 1st round (24th overall) in the 2003 NHL Draft.
The Kings have shut out their last three opponents – St. Louis Blues, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars – outscoring them by a combined total of 8-0. The 5-0 win over the Blues on Tuesday, October 18 was the home opener, and the new addition of LW Simon Gagne in the off-season to help the offense was on full display in this one, as Gagne had two goals and one assist in the win. G Jonathan Quick continued his stellar goaltending, making 27 saves to record his 15th shutout in the win.
In the 2-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday, October 20, Quick continued to be quick enough to record his 16th shutout and second straight on the season, making 28 saves in the win over the Coyotes. In Quick’s 100th NHL win, Quick became the first Los Angeles goalie to deliver consecutive shutouts since G Mathieu Garon did it on April 1-3, 2006.
The LA’s recorded their third straight shutout with a 1-0 win over the first-place Dallas Stars on Saturday, October 22. Quick became the first goaltender in their 44-year franchise history to record three straight shutouts. D Jack Johnson scored the goal in the third period to give them an important victory over the Stars, narrowing the division lead to just 1 point in favor of the Stars, 12-11.
They have scored a total of 17 goals in 7 games (2.43 average goals per game), which is tied for 16th in the league in scoring offense. Considering that they only ranked 25th in scoring offense to end the 2010-2011 season, this is certainly an improvement, and is partly to explain the early success the Kings have enjoyed so far in 2011-2012.
However, the arguably bigger factor in the Kings’ early success in 2011-2012 is the stellar play of G Jonathan Quick, who is only allowing 0.81 Goals Against Allowed (GAA). This is a major reason why they have been in every game they’ve played this season, and have only lost once in regulation and once in overtime through their first 7 games of 2011-2012, despite the offense only being middle-of-the-pack scoring-wise in terms of rank. In fact, Quick’s 0.81 GAA, 3 shutouts, and .970% save percentage in 2011-2012 helped them to rank first in the NHL in all three respective categories.
In order for the LA to continue their winning ways, Quick needs to continue to display stellar goaltending, while the offense needs to continue to keep mistakes to a minimum. One improvement could be offensively, as they have only scored more than 3 goals in a game just once, and have only scored 3 goals in a game twice on the young season (all three games resulting in wins). This would help to take the pressure off of Quick, as it’s unrealistic to expect him to continue keeping his GAA below 1 for the whole season, especially since his career GAA is 2.38.
LA will host the New Jersey Devils in their second matchup of the season on Tuesday, October 25. Buy your King tickets today! Having been back in the U.S.A. for the past two weeks, they should be much more rested and have more energy than their first meeting on October 13, a game they lost in overtime 2-1. Game time is at 10:30 P.M. EDT/7:30 P.M. PDT.