The sentiment is heard in arenas across the NHL when the standings and the races for the Stanley Cup Playoffs are brought up:
The Los Angeles Kings are back.
But how? Why?
The Kings are set to return to the playoffs this season, likely as the Pacific Division winner, after missing last season. They're on pace for 111 points, 16 better than they had last season, when they missed the playoffs by one point.
However, the Kings' statistical splits between last season and this season, referred to in the chart below, are close in almost every category.
|KINGS IN 2015-16
||KINGS IN 2014-15
|57 (1.36 per game)
||95 (1.16 per game)
||Goals per game
||Goals against per game
||Shots per game
||Shots against per game
||5on5 save percentage
||5on5 shooting percentage
||Total OT/SO record
The outliers in the chart above are where you find the reasons why the Kings are back to being legitimate Stanley Cup contenders when last season they couldn't even be a playoff team.
Hint: They have nothing to do with changes or improvements in their systems play.
The most obvious difference is the Kings seem to love the 3-on-3 overtime, whereas 4-on-4 overtime last season was a drag. They are 6-1 in games decided in overtime; they were 1-7 last season.
They are 2-2 in shootouts this season. They were 2-8 last season.
Think of it this way: If the Kings had evenly split their 18 games that extended beyond regulation last season, that 9-9 record would have given them six more points and would have gotten them to third, or potentially as high as second, in the Pacific.
Instead they went 3-15 in those games and didn't make the playoffs.
This season the Kings are nine points clear of the second place Arizona Coyotes in part because they have gained eight of a possible 11 points in games that have extended beyond regulation.
They have scored six goals on 30 overtime shots this season (20.0 percent); they scored one on 27 shots last season (3.7 percent).
Overtime counts. Shootouts count. They're huge points that the Kings are getting now. They go a long way.
So does goaltending. It's the most important facet to the success of any team.
The Kings have gotten strong goaltending from Jonathan Quick in the past, but the combination in net of Quick and Jhonas Enroth this season has been markedly better than the combination of Quick and Martin Jones last season.
KINGS GOALIE COMPARISON
.925 SV%, 2.05 GAA
.918 SV%, 2.24 GAA
.930 SV%, 2.18 GAA
.906 SV%, 2.24 GAA
Considering their goals per game, 5-on-5 possession (SAT) and shots-for and shots-against per game listed in the first chart aren't dramatically different from last season to this season, the difference in a few extra saves by Quick and Enroth make a big difference in the Kings' point total.
The Quick-Enroth combination has enabled the Kings to have a .926 save percentage. The Kings had a .916 save percentage with the Quick-Jones combination last season. The Kings are allowing 2.14 goals per game this season, down from 2.40 last season.
To bring it full circle, Quick and Enroth have allowed one goal on 24 shots in overtime this season; Quick and Jones allowed seven goals on 48 shots in overtime last season.
So yes, the Kings are back. All they needed was a few more saves and a couple of extra overtime goals.
Now find out where they rank this week in the Super 16:
DISCLAIMER: Though the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, the focus will be more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail?
All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday:
1. Washington Capitals (32-7-3)
Last week: No. 1
Good: The defense is holding up without Brooks Orpik and John Carlson because Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov, Aaron Ness and Taylor Chorney generally have played well in elevated roles.
Not so Good: Why nitpick?
2. Chicago Blackhawks (28-13-4)
Last week: No. 2
Good: They are the best home team in the NHL with 39 points (19-5-1) and 40 goals-allowed.
Not so Good: Forward Teuvo Teravainen had one goal in his previous 12 games going into Chicago's game at the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
3. Los Angeles Kings (27-12-3)
Last week: No. 3
Good: Center Anze Kopitar has 15 points in the past nine games, including two four-point games.
Not so Good: They've been getting a lot out of one line, Kopitar with Milan Lucic and Tyler Toffoli, and could use some secondary scoring.
4. Dallas Stars (29-11-4)
Last week: No. 5
Good: They haven't played since Saturday, a much-needed break for a team that played nine games in 15 days between Dec. 26 and Jan. 9.
Not so Good: Forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have combined for two goals and a minus-11 rating in the past five games. Dallas is 1-3-1 in those games.
5. Florida Panthers (26-13-5)
Last week: No. 4
Good: Goalie Al Montoya mostly has been excellent in his backup role with a 7-1-1 record, 1.71 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in 11 games.
Not so Good: Defenseman Aaron Ekblad has missed the past two games because of an upper-body injury.
6. New York Rangers (23-14-5)
Last week: No. 7
Good: Entering Thursday they had scored three or more goals in 26 of 42 games this season to rank fourth in the League with 2.90 goals per game.
Not so Good: Left wing Rick Nash had four goals in 19 games since scoring six goals during a four-game goal streak Nov. 21-27.
7. St. Louis Blues (25-14-7)
Last week: No. 9
Good: Goalie Brian Elliott was 3-1-2 with a 2.09 GAA and .935 save percentage in his previous six games entering his start Thursday.
Not so Good: Goalie Jake Allen has missed three straight games because of an upper-body injury, a result of getting hit by Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry last Friday.
8. Detroit Red Wings (22-14-7)
Last week: No. 11
Good: Goalie Petr Mrazek was 4-0-0 with five goals-allowed in his previous four games before starting against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.
Not so Good: The Red Wings outshot their opponents in 15 games entering Thursday, tied for third-fewest in the League with the Colorado Avalanche.
9. Minnesota Wild (22-13-8)
Last week: No. 6
Good: Rookie defenseman Mike Reilly has played in three straight games, has had his shifts and ice time go up in each game, and hasn't looked out of place.
Not so Good: The Wild are 2-3-2 this month despite allowing 2.29 goals per game, below their season average of 2.35. The problem is they've scored 2.14 goals per game, well below their season average of 2.63.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning (22-17-4)
Last week: NR
Good: Their forwards are healthy and, not surprisingly, the Lightning have found some consistency. They've won three in a row while scoring at least three goals in each game.
Not so Good: Ryan Callahan's scoring problems haven't gone away. He has one goal in his past 29 games and five goals in 42 games. He scored 24 goals last season.
11. Arizona Coyotes (22-16-4)
Last week: NR
Good: They entered play Thursday having allowed the first goal in 21 of their 42 games but they were 9-10-2 in those games.
Not so Good: They allowed at least one power-play goal in eight of their previous 10 games before playing the Red Wings on Thursday. Their penalty kill ranked 25th in the League (77.9 percent).
12. New York Islanders (23-15-5)
Last week: No. 10
Good: Forward Ryan Strome had six points in the past nine games before playing the Rangers on Thursday. He had 10 points in his first 23 games of the season.
Not so Good: Their defensive depth is being tested with Johnny Boychuk (upper body) and Travis Hamonic (lower body) out because of injuries.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins (20-16-6)
Last week: No. 15
Good: Sidney Crosby has 14 points in 13 games since coach Mike Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston on Dec. 12. He had 19 points in 28 games before the coaching change.
Not so Good: Phil Kessel is on pace for 23 goals, which would be his fewest in a full season since 2007-08, his second season in the NHL.
14. Montreal Canadiens (23-17-3)
Last week: No. 8
Good: Goalie Carey Price is skating again.
Not so Good: Entering the game against Chicago, forward Lars Eller had two assists in 16 games since he scored his last goal. Montreal needs secondary scoring from players like Eller.
15. San Jose Sharks (21-18-2)
Last week: NR
Good: The Sharks lead the Western Conference and rank second in the League with 32 road points (15-6-2). The Capitals have 34.
Not so Good: They are last in the League in home points with 12 entering play Thursday.
16. Philadelphia Flyers (19-15-7)
Last week: NR
Good: They've won four games in a row against teams that were ranked in the Super 16 last week (Canadiens, Wild, Islanders, Boston Bruins), including three in the top 10 (Canadiens, Wild, Islanders).
Not so Good: They've been outscored 36-18 in the first period this season.
Out from last week: Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators