'11-'12 Kings and Sharks Season Series Line Matchups

March 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards (10) scores a goal past San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) during the first period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The Kings have a pretty important home-and-home series coming up against the Sharks. I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at how each team has approached the other from a line matching standpoint. Also we'll look at the results of these matchups using Corsi shot differential.

OK so let's take a look at what kind of matchups each team has been going for as represented in this table:

Percentage of Ice Time Versus Specific Opponents
vs Thornton (L1) vs Clowe (L2)
Kopitar Home 65% 39%
Kopitar Away 11% 76%
Richards Home 43% 67%
Richards Away 69% 11%

First let me explain a couple things. I used Thornton as the representative of the Sharks first line for pretty obvious reasons. I chose Clowe as the representative of the second line because he has been the fixture of the Sharks 2nd line all season. The Sharks started the season with a Couture-Thornton-Pavelski top line but have sinced moved Couture onto a line with Clowe and Havlat.

What the table above shows us is that when the Kings have been able to control the matchups (home games) they try to get Kopitar on the ice against Thornton as much as possible. 65% of all Kopitar's home minutes against the Sharks have come against Thornton. Conversely, when the Sharks are at home and can control the matchups they try to avoid having Thornton out there with Kopitar and opt for Richards instead.

This is for good reason, as evidenced by this table:
Zone Adjusted* Corsi Percentage Versus Specific Opponents
vs Thornton (L1) vs Clowe (L2)
Kopitar 59.0% 61.3%
Richards 36.4% 52.2%


What we see is that Thornton has way more success versus Richards. In fact, he has been dominant versus him. On the other hand, the Sharks have no answer for Kopitar as he is just as dominant versus Clowe as he is versus Thornton.

A couple more interesting things to consider.

First, I noticed that Terry Murray was more extreme in how he pushed the Thornton-Kopitar matchup. In the 2nd Sharks game of the season at Staples, Terry Murray matched Kopitar with Thornton a whopping 71% of the time. By the 4th Sharks game, also at home at Staples, Sutter was the new boss. In contrast to Murray's usage, Kopitar was only matched against Thornton 59%. It'll be interesting to see what Sutter does this time around, especially if he doesn't have Jeff Carter.

Another thing to consider when looking at Richards' low Corsi rate versus Thornton is that 3/4 of these games came before the Carter trade. Richards' Corsi rate before Carter was a pretty nasty 47%. Since Carter? 54.3%. An eye popping improvement.


Also, Richards' Corsi in the one game he played against the Sharks with Carter in tow equaled 67.9%. It is then lamentable to acknowledge that the Kings and Mike Richards may be without the services of Jeff Carter for both of these very important games. So another thing to watch out for is how Richards handles Thornton on the road sans Carter.



*Zone adjustment accounts for the tendency of teams to accumulate shots resulting from offensive zone faceoffs. It is an effort to get a more accurate number.

Hat tip to Eric T's recent post at BSH which served as an inspiration for this one.

Corsi stats courtesy of Hockey Analysis and timeonice.com.


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