Expect Kings to reign in postseason


Anze Kopitar and the Kings thrive on puck possession. (Harry How/Getty Images)

The trade deadline has come and gone, allowing us to turn our attention to the home stretch of the regular season as teams sprint towards the playoffs. For some, the Cup favorites are already set.

But allow me to throw one more name into consideration: the Los Angeles Kings.

The Kings are riding a six-game win streak and 36-22-6 record on their way to the postseason. They acquired Marian Gaborik in a trade with Columbus at the deadline and hope that can give them some breathing room over the Minnesota Wild, which is in wild-card position and just three points behind for the final guaranteed Pacific Division spot in the West. But it is their dominating puck possession that makes them the team to beat.

Ignoring special teams and lead-protecting situations, the Kings have put 56 percent of the shot attempts in their favor (Fenwick Close percentage) by a 1,447 to 1,137 margin, tops in the league. Historically, that puts them right in the hunt for a championship.

 

Year

Champion

Fenwick Close %

Rank

2013

Chicago Blackhawks

56.1%

2

2012

Los Angeles Kings

53.7%

4

2011

Boston Bruins

50.7%

14

2010

Chicago Blackhawks

58.1%

1

2009

Pittsburgh Penguins

50.1%

13

2008

Detroit Red Wings

59.6%

1

The 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins look like an outlier, but they posted a 55 percent Fenwick Close after Dan Bylsma took the helm from Michel Therrien, which would have placed them third that year. The 2010-11 Boston Bruins didn’t dominate possession but rode Tim Thomas and his .940 save percentage straight through the postseason for the title.

This season, San Jose (55.5 percent), Chicago (55.3 percent) and the New York Rangers (53.7 percent) round out the top four with Boston not far behind (53.6), but don’t forget the Kings, who could outlast them all.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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