Last season, the Kings had a pretty balanced attack when it came to shots taken by period. Over the course of the full 82-game regular season, LA posted 2329 shots in regulation – with 33% coming in the first period, 35% in the second and 32% in the third.
Through seven games this season, the numbers tell a far different story. More than 38% of the Kings’ shots have come in the first period and only 27% in the third.
For a team with a 5-1-1 record, you might quickly dismiss it as ‘Oh, they’ve been protecting a lead late in games.’ However, that isn’t the case – as the Kings have only entered the third period with a lead in two of their seven games.
Is the team tired? Have they been instructed to play more defensively in the third period?
Coach Terry Murray offered this explanation – “I don’t want to get into that kind of a mindset (to play more defensively) late in the game. I think it’s just the way the game unfolds. Everybody is a good checking team right now. Heck, you have five guys back at their own d-zone waiting for you to come through the middle of the ice now – it’s a hard thing to generate a lot of shots. There comes a time in the game when they (opponents) pull back even a little bit more and you have to just chip and try to recover pucks and maybe make something good happen off of that. Early in the game, everyone’s kind of feeling their way. So, you can have some possession entries and you have more of a shot mentality. But, if you do have a lead, you’re probably leaning a little more to that defensive first attitude.”
Something still doesn’t seem to be adding up here. If the Kings own lack of production in the third period was tied to them ’leaning’ towards the defensive side of things, you would expect fewer shots allowed than compared to earlier in the game. Yet, opponents are still taking 31% of their shots against the Kings in the third period, only slightly down from the 34% in the first period.
Given Murray’s ‘shot mentality’ speeches over the last few years, LA’s numbers in the third period will be something to keep an eye on over the next five to eight games.