There are two perspectives in every sport: offense and defense. Which perspective is synonymous with winning?
The Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanly Cup using each approach.
When the Kings won in 2012 their playoff goals for per game average (GF/G) was 2.85, while their goals against per game average (GA/G) was 1.50. The team dominated, winning the first three games in every series. Formidable defense and superb goaltending led the way. The Kings allowed more than two goals in only three games, and in all three of those games they allowed only three goals. The Kings defense was so superb they outshot opponents in 75% of their games. Jonathan Quick, the goaltender, was named playoff MVP winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Defense can be suffocating and if you can’t get beat, you can’t lose. The Western Conference is known for physical play and the Kings ruled the ice. Led by Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, and Matt Greene the Kings punished opponents along the boards as well as on the scoreboard. It was entertaining hockey. More importantly the Kings were winning perpetually.
After being crowned 2014 champions the Kings finished with a playoff (GF/G) of 3.38 and a (GA/G) of 2.69. Trade deadline addition Marian Gaborik had instant chemistry with Anze Kopitar on the Kings first line. Gaborik led the team in goals with 14. Kopitar led the team with 26 points. Kopitar had a point per game average (26 points over the 26 games the Kings played). During the 2014 playoffs the Kings outshot their opponents 59% of the games they played. They took more risks and gave up more shots, but they managed to score more goals and succeed with an aggressive forecheck. Justin Williams, a forward right winger, was named MVP of the playoffs. He finished tie for second on the team with 25 points, and 9 goals that included 2 game winners; one in overtime of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
The old saying goes, “The best defense is a good offense.” The 2014 Kings system focused around the offensive forecheck, and getting the puck out of the defensive zone quickly. Two passes to get out and dump the puck. Go into the offensive zone hard, hit the defensemen retrieving the puck and cause a turnover. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are the catalysts of this strategy. They’ve built reputations as young talented players because of their disciplined implementation of this system.
Over the past few years the NHL has been pushing more and more offense into the game. Fans love to see goals. But no matter how many rules get changed, teams always acclimate and build defensive walls back up.
Doing whatever it takes to win. Being adaptable. Winning both ways. The Kings have their answer.
But the question still stands. A question all sports minds must ponder; because it’s about instinct and feel. Aggression and caution.
If it comes down to entertainment, different philosophies of the game, or winning; which do you prefer? What strategy is do you think is more effective: offense or defense?