They earned seven wins in each of the first two months of the regular season, but that paled in comparison to the their performance in December as the Los Angeles Kings accumulated 10 wins and 21 points to close out the calendar year in style. The Kings soared high in December, going 10-3-1 as they enter the new year with an 11-point lead in the Pacific Division.
One of the main factors for Los Angeles’s success this past month had been their production-by-committee approach. 18 different Kings scored goals with two of them — Derek Forbort and Michael Mersch — netting the firsts of their respective NHL careers. Even Dwight King scored in his season debut this past week.
Speaking of this past week, Tyler Toffoli scored the Kings’ first hat-trick of the season, netting three tallies in Vancouver en route to a 5-0 rout of the Canucks. Toffoli led the way in December for the Kings with seven goals; all scored in his last seven games before his team’s New Year’s Eve clash in Calgary. Drew Doughty and Milan Lucic were not far behind with four goals each while the new duo of Marian Gaborik and Tanner Pearson each had three tallies in December.
In terms of points, Anze Kopitar led the way for the silver-and-black with 13 — 11 of them assists. Doughty was right behind with 11, adding seven helpers to his four goals. Nick Shore, while he didn’t score any goals this past month, did pick up four assists, rewarding himself for his hard work since the start of the season.
In goal, Jonathan Quick was a difference-maker. Arguably his worst outing of the year came in Ottawa on the 15th, but like any great netminder, he followed that up with one of his best career performances three nights later in Montreal. There, he made 45 saves, shutting down a vaunted Canadiens‘ attack en route to a 3-0 win.
In December, Quick faced 336 shots and stopped 312 of them, posting a 2.15 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage to go along with two shutouts. In fact, the latter shutout — coming this past Monday in Vancouver — gave him 40 on his career, tying him for first all-time among U.S.-born netminders. In November, No. 32’s numbers weren’t as good as his play indicated as he went 5-4-1. That was not the case in December as Quick went 10-2-0, increasing his wins total to 21 on the year, second-overall behind Washington‘s Braden Holtby.
Jhonas Enroth did not have the same luck as his partner, but it’s hardly fair to blame him. In December, Enroth went 0-1-1 with a 3.41 GAA and an .892 save percentage. The veteran backstop lost in overtime in Buffalo but being shelled in Toronto on the 19th by a 5-0 count. In fairness, Enroth had received quite as much support from his defense as Jonathan Quick.
He recorded four goals and four assists this past month but Milan Lucic brought more to the table than his offensive prowess. In December, Lucic added to his already-impressive campaign as he led the Kings with 43 hits, still 14 fewer than his November total. Brayden McNabb finished close behind with 39 — 10 better than his November total — while Jake Muzzin rounded out the top three with 35.
For the third-straight month, Alec Martinez has led the silver-and-black in blocked shots.
Coming into his own as a sturdy defensive stalwart, the native of Rochester Hills, Mich., went from 21 blocks in October to 26 in November to 36 in December. Brayden McNabb is also coming into his own as a solid defensive threat as he recorded 27 blocked shots this past month. His sound defensive prowess mixed in with his physical capabilities prove that McNabb is perhaps the next-coming of teammate Matt Greene. We will see about that in due time but things are definitely looking good for the youngster.
The special teams department could usually see some adjustments and this past month was no exception. With that said, the Kings were solid on the penalty kill, although they still need to curb their amount of undisciplined penalties. Of course, when the team successfully kills off 38 of 46 penalties, few complain. Their 82.6% on the penalty ranks the silver-and-black among the best in the league overall but especially for December. The power play on the other hand has not been anything to write home about. In December, the Kings had 38 man-advantage opportunities, scoring just eight times for 21.0%. In addition, opposing teams have gotten quite a few chances while shorthanded against the Kings. This is one area that the silver-and-black need to improve on.
Despite some setbacks here and there, December was such a strong month for the Los Angeles Kings. They began with a six-game winning streak and finished with one of the four-game variety. Even the resiliency factor came into play when leading-scorer Jeff Carter was sidelined with an upper-body injury. In his absence, all the offensively-strapped Kings did was score 14 goals in the three games minus Carter. Again, the production-by-committee approach worked for the silver-and-black.
If there is anything to be reluctant about, it is entering a month where the Kings faltered last year. However, much has changed in the past 12 months so as long as they stay the course, re-enhance their strengths and even improve upon their weaknesses, then look for the Kings to have a January to remember.
Happy New Year!