No one has typified the Kings problem scoring goals more than Tyler Toffoli has this season, but history suggests that’s no reason for the Kings to panic.
After the morning skate Tuesday, which happens to be a very important day on the U.S. calendar, Tyler Toffoli was asked which of his teammates would make the best leader of the free world. “Matt Greene,” Toffoli said. “He’s the best.” And who would least be cut out for the job? “Drew (Doughty),” Toffoli replied. “I think everyone agrees why.”
It was a moment of levity in what has been a rather disappointing season for the Kings’ right winger, particularly given that he’s entering a contract negotiation. Like the Kings, Toffoli has been very good at times this season. But like the Kings, Toffoli has had a dreadful time finding the back of the net. He scored a power-play goal 1:22 into the first game of the season, then scored again two weeks later at the precise second an opposition penalty ended, so he effectively hasn’t scored a 5-on-5 goal all season.
But neither has anyone else on the Kings. Consider that the Kings are led in points by defenseman Alec Martinez with just nine points in 12 games. And they are led in goals with four by Tanner Pearson, despite the fact Pearson sat out the first two games of the season with a suspension. Overall, the Kings have scored just 27 goals in 12 games and sit tied for 26th in goals per game. In fact, if you throw out their 5-0 win over the Calgary Flames over the weekend, the Kings are averaging just two goals a game. That despite the fact they’re, as they’ve always been, an excellent possession team, leading the league in shot attempts by a wide margin.
And if there’s any player who typifies that on the Kings, it’s Toffoli. He has just two goals this season on a team-leading 42 shots for a shooting percentage of just 4.8. But going into this season, Toffoli had 68 goals on 557 shots for a 12.2 shooting percentage. In fact, if you apply his career shooting percentage to this season, Toffoli would be leading the Kings with five goals.
“You’d like to score every game,” Toffoli said. “But I’m getting lots of shots. I just have to get to the net and eventually they start going in. Compared to last year when I had a little bit of a drought, I wasn’t really getting many shots, but I’m still getting three to five shots a game which is pretty good. I just have to keep shooting.”
And analytics would suggest that there are better times to come for Toffoli. His career to this point suggests that his ability to find the back of the net is much better than he has displayed so far this season. He’s on pace this season for 344 shots and players who usually get that many attempts are usually good for about 30 goals a season. And Kings coach Darryl Sutter certainly doesn’t seem concerned about it. “To say he’s stuck on two goals is not really a good word,” Sutter said. “He’s one good game away from being a 30-goal scorer again. That’s how I look at it. Guys like Ty and Tanner, they’re young guys, so it’s about learning for them, too.”
And as a team, the Kings are too experienced and have far too much success behind them to get worried about being one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams. In the two seasons they won the Stanley Cup, they finished 26th and 29th in NHL scoring. What they lack in dynamic, game-breaking players they more than make up for with players who control the puck and frustrate teams with their heavy bodies and ability to stifle their opponents simply by not allowing them to have the puck very often.
“I don’t know, we seem to have these goal-scoring droughts every single season and I can never exactly put my finger on what it is,” Doughty said. “We always end up seeming to get through it, but we just need to get more pucks to the net. It’s the same old thing, get more people at the net, more sticks there. That’s how you’re going to get goals. Playing good defense creates good offense and we don’t need to be cheating to get more goals. It’s just a matter of playing the right way and they’ll come.”