LA Kings: MoneyPuck shows second line ranks fifth-worst in the NHL

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports) /

Secondary scoring has been an issue as the season has progressed, and the LA Kings’ second line is the fifth-worst line in the NHL.

Outside of the team’s first line, it’s been an unpredictable start to the season in terms of production for the LA Kings. Jeff Carter has looked like a younger version of himself, but that only goes so far as who his linemates are. The offseason saw the Kings sign Andreas Athanasiou in an effort to score more goals. He proved just that, scoring three goals in the first three games.

But the issue has been Blake Lizotte, who was promoted to full-time 2C duties this season. It hasn’t paid off, as the 23-year-old undrafted free agent out of St. Cloud State owns a 33.5 xGF%. Both Lizotte and Athanasiou recently landed on the NHL’s COVID protocol list, but the damage was already done in terms of analytics.

According to MoneyPuck, the Kings second line ranks as the fifth-worst in the entire league.

It’s something we discussed before the numbers were crunched.

The combination of AA – Lizotte – Carter just hasn’t worked for the Kings, producing a 32 xGF%. With Athanasiou and Lizotte missing from the lineup, Los Angeles plugged in Michael Amadio at center and Austin Wagner along the left-wing on the second line. The results have been about what you’d expect.

A little further down the list lies another Kings’ line of Andersson – Vilardi – and Brown. LA just hasn’t been able to find the right combination of lines, especially for their middle-six forwards this season. When Athanasiou and Lizotte return to the lineup, some serious shuffling of the lineup is in order.

In all honesty, Lizotte is a 4C at best. Analytically, Amadio is above average, but the results just aren’t there. The Kings should try a second-line combination of AA – Vilardi – Carter or Carter and Vilardi switched, with the thought process of moving Vilardi to the wing because of his struggles to consistently win faceoffs.

Carter is a former center. He knows how to win faceoffs, and we knew the Kings were so deep up the middle that some of the centermen prospects would need to convert to the wing – we just didn’t know the reasons they would need to.

With Martin Frk back into the fold, a third line of Brown – Andersson- Frk makes a lot of sense to see if any offensive production can generate from that group. That leaves a slew of players competing for fourth-line time, with Moore – Lizotte – Grundstrom likely the best grouping. Moore has shown good speed this season and Grundstrom the ability to crash the net. With an experienced player like Lizotte leading the effort in that group, that line has a real chance to be productive.

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With evaluation comes trial and error. It’s a small sample size, but the results show the initial second line just isn’t getting it done anymore. It’s time to change things up when Athanasiou and Lizotte return to the lineup.