Despite starting the season with a 1-5-1 record, the Los Angeles Kings are now fighting for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. The biggest surprise this season for LA has been the stellar play of Jonathan Quick.
While things are going well right now, the Kings are heavily relying on Quick to win. They can’t continue to play this way, and if they do change things, it could push them over the edge for the playoffs. In contrast, if they continue their current play and Quick falls off, things could go very downhill.
Quick’s Play This Season
Heading into this season, it appeared that young goaltender Calvin Petersen was going to be the Kings’ starter. So far, though, he has not lived up to the expectations. Through 11 games, he has put up an .893 save percentage (SV%), a 3.10 goals-against average (GAA), and -4.09 goals saved above expected (GSAx).
Quick, on the other hand, has shown the opposite trend. The past few seasons for him have been rough ones, but even when it looked like it was no longer possible, he has managed to make a comeback. The below table outlines just how well he has played this season in comparison to the few prior.
As demonstrated by Quick’s GSAx over the past four seasons, his game has been slowly recovering since his abysmal 2018-19 season, but I don’t think anyone expected him to play as well as he has to start this season.
Kings’ Defense Has Fallen Back on Quick
The Kings have the fourth-best goals against per 60 rate (GA/60) in the league, sitting at 2.01. However, this stat doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the team’s defense; they rank 23rd in the league for their expected goals against per 60 rate (xGA/60) of 2.58. LA also possesses the eighth-worst scoring chances against per 60 rate (SCA/60) of 29.67 and the fourth-worst high danger chances against per 60 rate (HDCA/60) of 12.31.
Related: Kings Need to Sit Quick and Start Petersen
While in no way am I hoping it happens, it is unreasonable to think that there is no way that Quick will regress at some point this season. If he does and the team continues to play as they have been, the Kings’ goals against would skyrocket and their playoff hopes would vanish.
Kings Aren’t the Only Team Relying on Their Goaltender
Other teams in the top half of the league have also played goaltender-dependent seasons thus far. This list includes teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, and Winnipeg Jets. The below table shows how these teams have played a similar style to the Kings, displaying lackluster defense but elite goaltending.
|GA/60 (league rank)||xGA/60 (league rank)||GSAx (goaltender, league rank)|
|Carolina Hurricanes||1.86 (3rd)||2.47 (18th)||15.73 (Frederik Andersen, 2nd)|
|New York Rangers||2.13 (10th)||2.48 (19th)||16.5 (Igor Shesterkin, 1st)|
|Winnipeg Jets||2.12 (9th)||2.69 (29th)||10.07 (Connor Hellebuyck, 7th)|
The Kings are counting on their goaltender in different ways compared to a team like the Rangers, for example. The Kings have significantly better offensive numbers than the Rangers, so, if Quick goes down, they are still scoring enough goals to stay competitive. So far this season, LA has recorded an expected goals for per 60 rate (xGF/60) of 2.59 — eighth in the league — while New York ranks 27th with an xGF/60 of 2.24.
Despite this, the Rangers have the advantage when it comes to the dependability of their goaltender. Shesterkin is 26 years old and has stayed consistent throughout his young career. Quick is 35 and has been anything but consistent over the past few seasons.
If Quick continues to play well, the Kings should be in good shape to stay in the playoff race. If the team is able to pick up their defensive play, they would be in even better shape and in a good position to make the postseason. On the flip side, if Quick doesn’t continue to post the numbers he has been, playoffs would likely be out of the picture. That is unless the team starts to play incredible defense to keep up.
Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey and Natural Stat Trick