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5 Reasons for the LA Kings Hot Start in 2017-18

Big offensive games, tight defensive games and intense overtime contests have made for a historic and dramatic start to the LA Kings campaign

by Josh Cooper @JoshuaCooper / LAKings.com

The start to the LA Kings 2017-18 campaign has been both historic and dramatic.

Los Angeles got off to one of its best early stretches ever, not losing in regulation until its eighth game of the season. So far, the Kings have won, big offensive games, tight defensive games and intense overtime contests.

No win was more nutty than LA's victory over the Boston Bruins when Tyler Toffoli blasted a buzzer-beating one-timer in OT.

Video: LAK@BOS: Toffoli wins it with less than a second left

Through it all, Los Angeles has beat some external preseason expectations - that the Kings would look similar to last season when they didn't make the playoffs - and given hope that this season could be a nice bounce-back year. 

The Kings just completed a six-game road trip at 4-2-0 and will have seven of their next eight games at STAPLES Center.

Here is a closer look as to why the Kings have had such a strong season so far.


Burying Their Chances

In recent years, the Kings have been known as a strong possession team that tried to throw lots of pucks at the net, but last season especially that didn't equate to goals. Los Angeles ranked tied for 27th in the NHL in shooting percentage at 7.8 percent.

Before the season, general manager Rob Blake and coach John Stevens said they wanted the team to not worry as much about the quantity of pucks at the net and try for more quality chances.

So far this has worked.

Video: NYI@LAK: Doughty taps in Kopitar's pass for SHG

The team's shooting percentage has jumped to 9.6, thanks in part to its emphasis on firing puck from more high-danger spots. This has also helped their goals per-game spike to 3.25 from 2.43 last season.


Offensive Depth

Though first-liners Anze Kopitar (14 points in 12 games) and Dustin Brown (12 points and six goals in 12 games) have deservedly received most of the praise for LA's strong offensive output in the early going, the Kings have gotten contributions from several sources. 

Young forward Adrian Kempe has been a revelation for the team with nine points in 12 games while also shoring up the second line center spot in the wake of Jeff Carter's injury.

Video: MTL@LAK: Kempe nets three in 3rd for first hat trick

Defensemen Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty each have notched nine points have been vital in helping Los Angeles' transition game.

Also it helps that Toffoli has returned to his scoring ways with five goals so far. This type of production up and down the lineup has helped alleviate the pressure from not having Carter.


A Healthy Version of Jonathan Quick

After missing most of last season with an injury, goaltender Jonathan Quick has been superb with a 1.89 goal-against average and .942 save percentage.

Quick has made most of the routine stops but has also been coming up with big-time timely saves.

While Toffoli's goal against the Bruins was the main focus in that win, Quick's heroics in OT also helped deliver a point to the Kings.

Video: LAK@BOS: Quick dazzles with great a stop on McAvoy


Defensive Structure

Though Quick has arguably been the best part of the Kings' defense, everyone else his chipped in towards the team so far having the best goals against per-game in the NHL at 2.00. Los Angeles' 93.0 penalty kill percentage is also a league best.

When Blake and Stevens took over, they said they wanted more offense without giving up their defensive structure. From 2011-12 through last season Los Angeles had the best goals against per-game in the NHL at 2.28.

Overall, it's hard for any team to stay defensive when it opens itself up to more offense, but Los Angeles has figured out a way to still put up its typically strong numbers in its own end, which has helped contribute to their start.


Kopitar and Brown

Video: LAK@CBJ: Kopitar scores off Brown's great feed

Both Kopitar and Brown are playing at career-best levels this season and giving Los Angeles one of the best first lines in the NHL. Overall it's not a stretch to believe they'll more than move ahead their totals from last season when Kopitar had 52 points and Brown had 36 points.

Brown's renaissance has been especially encouraging. Through 12 games he's almost halfway to his goal total of 14 from last season. He hasn't scored more than 15 goals in each of the last four years and should surpass that.

Kopitar is doing more than just scoring, playing almost 22 minutes per-night - over two minutes of which is coming on the penalty kill - and winning over 56 percent of his face offs.

Both players have certainly given the Kings a duo that's tough to stop in the early going, which has helped fuel this strong first month

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